What Are Your "Desert Island" UAD Plug-Ins?

If you were stuck on a desert island with your recording studio, what UAD plug-ins could you not live without? We asked some of the top mixing and mastering engineers from the recording industry to share their top UAD plug-ins, and they responded with some great insights that anyone can incorporate in their projects.

Phil Tan — Producer/Engineer (Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Ludacris)

SSL G Series Bus Compressor — Almost every mix I did in the first ten years of my career was done on SSL's, with the bus compressor on the mix bus. When I switched to digital, I initially had problems finding plug-ins that gave me what I was used to hearing in the analog world. I was on the verge of purchasing the rack version of the SSL bus compressor when a friend suggested I check out UAD plug-ins. I never did buy the rack version.

SPL Transient Designer —The original hardware version was almost impossible to live without — it's magical what it can do with just those simple controls. It's just as indispensable in plug-in form.

FATSO Jr./Sr. Tape Sim. & Compressor — If you need to infuse some warmth, punch, and well, fatness into your digital tracks, this is one you definitely have to check out.”

Joe Chiccarelli — Producer/Engineer (The Shins, My Morning Jacket, The Killers)

"The Pultec Pro EQ is the best emulation on the market. It's perfect for vocals, bass, and drums. The Pultec Pro EQ is easy to use for a novice — you can't be in danger of overusing them. Of course everyone knows 1176LN Classic Limiter, but the new 1176 Classic Limiter Collection of plug-ins offers some new options. The Blueface is aggressive and great for heavily tweaking drums and vocals, while the classic 1176 Blackface is almost perfect for any application. Lastly, any of the UAD reverb plug-ins are great. My favorites are the EMT 140 Plate and the EMT 250 Digital reverb plug-ins. They are warm and musical and slip right into any mix."

Eli Janney — Producer/Engineer (Jet, Ryan Adams, Wilco)

“My plug-ins that truly go on EVERY session are the Ampex ATR-102 Tape Recorder, the Neve 1073 EQ, and the Precision Limiter. The Ampex ATR-102 tape emulator adds beautiful compression and saturation that is missing from most of the tracks I get sent to mix. Often I can use that without a mix compressor because it adds such a wonderful glue to the mix.

The Neve 1073 — what can I say? It's authentic and it rocks! Can't make rock music without a Neve somewhere in the mix! Crunchy and delicious. And the Precision Limiter is the slamming finisher when you need to send out tracks without mastering. It can be used subtlety to bring up overall levels without overcompressing."

Paul Blakemore — Mastering Engineer (Esperanza Spalding, Ladysmith Black Mambazo)

“For mastering, the UAD plug-in I use most frequently is the Precision Limiter. It is the best sounding, most transparent digital limiter I've ever found, and is particularly useful for acoustic music where coloration is not desired.

The second is the emulation of the SPL Vitalizer. This is a very powerful and great sounding tool — the "stereo expand" can open up mixes that sound 'boxy' or 'claustrophobic,' the 'MID-HI TUNE"' and 'LC EQ' sections can add subtle sparkle to vocals or instruments depending on choice of turnover frequency in both, and the bass control can clarify or intensify bass timbres.

The third go-to plug-in is the Precision De-Esser, which is especially valuable in preparing master audio for vinyl releases. Vinyl records just don't have the high frequency headroom that digital does, and so preparing a special set of sound files for lacquer cutting can make the vinyl version much better-sounding and more playable on lower cost cartridges. Simply using the CD release version as source audio for lacquer cutting frequently produces inferior results.”

Ryan Hewitt — Engineer (Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Avett Brothers, Flogging Molly)

“My favorite compressor of all time has to be the 1176. I have a Blackface Rev F that I love, but when I need more than one, I reach for the UAD 1176 Classic Limiter Collection. Vocals, guitars, drums, bass, piano — it does everything. The addition of the Rev A, E, and Anniversary models really gives me options!

Another plug-in set that I use on nearly every mix has to be the EMT reverbs. I can't live without a plate reverb, and the UAD EMT 140 is the closest I've heard to the real thing. The length adjustment feels real and not digitally manipulated. The 3 different models are subtly different and give me tonal flexibility to have a bright, dark, or clean sounding plate.

In the Neve® Classic Console Plug-In Bundle I have all the tone shaping tools that I need to do a great mix. I use all of them and for different reasons, just like I would with the hardware. You can't beat Neve 1073 EQ and 33609 Compressor on drums and guitars. The Neve 1081 EQ is great for vocals and acoustic guitars. The 88RS Channel Strip is fantastic for surgical precision.”

Garret “Jacknife” Lee — Producer (R.E.M., Snow Patrol, The Cars)

“I would break down the UAD plug-ins that I use into three categories and I would pick one from each to give a little sample of what's out there.

Common Use (ones I use everyday that are my regulars — compressors, EQs, tape emulations etc.) — The 1176 Classic Limiter Collection, I use these 1176s all the time. Almost essential. I am mixing at the moment and noticing the Neve 33609 Compressor on quite a few busses though. It's like sonic gelatin.

Problem Fixing (not used all the time but when needed are like an emergency response team) — I love the Transient Designer. For recording, I use the hardware, but for mixing I love the UAD plug-in. It's a superb tool, it works and I need it. The Little Labs VOG Bass Resonance Tool has my back when the low end is lacking.

Sprinklers (used when I can't get something to 'pop' in a song) — I would pick the EMT 140 Plate Reverb, it's my go-to reverb. It’s rich and has depth."


Neil Dorfsman — Producer/Mixer/Engineer ( Dire Straits, Paul McCartney, Sting)

“The 1176 Classic Limiter Collection, the Neve 31102 EQ emulation, and the EMT 140 Plate Reverb. The reason is simple — this was the basic "go to" set-up in Studio A at the Power Station (now Avatar) where I really learned how to become an engineer. While that studio was comparatively basic, it was also so user-friendly and amazing sounding. Incredible records were made there, with not much more than those three devices I still rely on and love. The UAD versions help give me that classic sound (and feeling) again.”

Steve Levine — Producer (Culture Club, Beach Boys, Patch William)

“If you are trying to create the lush soul vocals of the 1970's and early 1980's (pre-digital reverbs), then look no further than the UAD EMT 140 Plate Reverb. Here’s a tip to remember— set the predelay to suit the track’s tempo to maximize the effect and roll off some of the top using the built in EQ for old school flavor!

The must-have bass compressor is the UAD 1176 Classic Limiter Collection. The Rev A is my number one choice — it's an old favorite at CBS studios where I learnt my craft. I had one and I always go back to that sound, this time without the burning smell and the background hiss!

My next favorite is the dbx 160 Compressor. I have the real thing so I can vouch for how accurate this is with absolute certainty.

I have just finished producing a '60s-style soul session and it would have been impossible without the Ampex ATR-102 and Studer A800 tape emulations to match the digital overdubs (vocals, strings, and brass) with the analog backing tracks. I was able to recreate the sound of heavy soul tape compression with those wonderful plug-ins.

One final must-have — the UAD EP-34 Tape Echo. This is surely the best dub tape echo unit around. I'm able to easily create and automate classic dub-style feedback on guitar and vocal tracks.”

Ryan West — Engineer (Eminem, Usher, Jay-Z)

"The UAD plug-in that makes it into absolutely every mix I do is the Ampex ATR-102 Tape Recorder plug-in. Sometimes I'll add it into the mix early on so that I can 'mix into' the tape saturation, or I'll apply it much later in the process where it helps to glue the mix together.

Secondly, the Manley Massive Passive is my go-to EQ on the master and I often use it on string sections, vocals, and acoustic guitars.

Finally, every mix I do will also use the 1176 Classic Limiter Collection — they ooze character, and breathe like the hardware does."


Darrell Thorp — Producer/Engineer (Beck, Radiohead, Charlotte Gainsbourg)

"My first choice is the 1176LN. What can't you do with this compressor? It’s amazing on everything — bass, drums, vocals, guitars — from soft compression to stun.

Secondly, the Neve 1081 EQ — my favorite UAD EQ. Sweet, sexy, and smooth, but still has some dirt and bite when you need it.

Finally is the Little Labs Voice of God. Problems with the kick drum? No problem. Problems with the bass? No problem. Problem with a thin vocal? No problem. The Little Labs VOG is the most powerful tool in the UAD arsenal. I love it."


Vaughan Merrick — Engineer (Jason Mraz, Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson)

"I've been telling pretty much anyone who is remotely interested that the 1176 [Classic Limiter Collection] is really amazing. I use those plug-ins all the time. There is an immediate sound that comes from them that I don't get when I put other compression plug-ins on. These emulations are really impressive. I hear plug-ins like this and I think, 'Another 1176 just went on Ebay.'

I always now need the Neve 88RS [Channel Strip Plug-In].  Not only is the EQ a totally unique 'round' kind of sound, but the compressor does something very specific — a sort of hamfisted sound which, while not appropriate everywhere, has its very relevant place. The plug-in also has an immediate mellowness to it that is so characteristic of the 88RS console. I love being able to mix and match console strips while I mix.

The Ampex ATR-102 tape plug-in is fantastic as well. For guys who are relying on more 'in the box' mixing, this emulation does an amazing job of gluing everything together.  UA has done a great job with this tape emulation, and the tape width and formulations are great ways to 'size' a mix or even an individual sound. The plug-in brings an immediate warmth and cohesion that I have not heard anywhere except for the real thing."

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