Back in college, I spent a lot of time researching Universal Audio interfaces and plugins. As a music recording student, I was acutely aware of the advantages of zero-latency DSP processing. At school, the recording studio was equipped with a high-end Pro Tools rig with a variety of hardware outboard gear, so there was no need to track with plugins.

Working on my own projects at home was a different story – I didn’t have a decked out studio at home. At the time, I was doing a lot of work with vocalists, so I wanted an audio interface with DSP capabilities. Universal Audio products were out of my price range, so I used a Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 DSP. It offered basic EQ, compression, and reverb effects through the onboard DSP chip, and it was good enough for tracking purposes.

The Univesal Audio Arrow audio interface.
The Universal Audio Arrow's built-in DSP emulations are stellar podcasting.

Fast forward to 2020 – I finally picked up my first Universal Audio interface! I decided on the UAD Arrow because it’s a super portable and powerful unit at an attractive price. Right now, I mainly use it for podcasting, though I hope to get back to recording vocalists and producing music when life returns to normal. Right now, my favorite Universal Audio plugins are the Neve 88RS channel strip, 1176 compressor, and LA-2A limiter/compressor.

I really like this signal chain for podcasting. The Neve channel strip sounds amazing, and the included gate is great for reducing background noise. The 1176 and LA-2A are dynamics processing staples, and I use them heavily to get a broadcast-ready sound. Since all the effects are provided by the onboard DSP chip with zero latency, I don’t have to worry about messing around with plugins during post-production. After using Universal Audio’s stuff for a few weeks, I’m hooked. The presence of DSP chips and the impeccable emulations of vintage hardware is a combination that’s impossible to beat.