7 May 2019

Universal Audio UAD-2 Live Rack


Universal Audio UAD-2 Live Rack

by Nikita Miltiadou.



Nikita Miltiadou is a studio and live sound engineer based in Melbourne. Currently working out of the Aviary Recording Studio and Creative hub, his live/studio clients list includes Tash Sultana, Client Liaison, Crooked Colours, Hayden James, Running Touch, Holy Holy, Ash Grunwald, and No Mono, among others.


I come from a studio engineering background, and UAD products are all through my work; I use them for processing, A/D D/A conversion, and I/O. It was a natural progression for me to apply the same processing for artists I’ve recorded in the studio to their live performances.


Using UAD processing live creates a studio quality result. In a studio, with small speakers, there is a real art to getting the right kind of impact. It’s easier to create impact live because PAs are big, the subs are there, and the stage is so wide. Now that these sonic tools are crossing over, studio tools are having a huge effect in live production. It’s been amazing to realise just what’s possible when you push that already large, tall, and wide soundscape even further.

Live, I’ve always used Waves plug-ins, and I’ve always felt built-in effects have been lacking on digital consoles. Honestly, even Waves plug-ins don’t quite cut it for me effects wise. My first live use of external UAD plug-ins was via LiveProfessor, a plug-in host for Win and Mac, which I ran with a UAD-2 Satellite DSP Accelerator and used for a couple of effects.


The Set-Up


In designing my ideal touring rig, I wanted something with as close to zero latency as possible. It was a no-brainer to adopt the UAD-2 Live Rack, as I rely on UAD effects in the studio.

I’m now touring a DiGiCo SD11 and the UAD-2 Live Rack, which is hosted on a rack-mounted Mac Mini, with control via Thunderbolt. I take the MADI out from the Live Rack into a Sonible ml:mio which converts optical into coaxial MADI. The coax goes into the DiGiCo.

I have 16 channels of UAD-2 Live Rack processing, which is expandable up to 64 channels if you daisy-chain Live Racks.

My live rig is constantly evolving. It has to be rack mountable and flyable. It took a while for me to settle on a set-up and get that stable. I’m big on touch control and integration with analogue gear. At the moment, I’m running two screens with touch support, one controlling Waves, and one for the Mac Mini running the UAD-2 Live Rack.

It’s a great workflow – I just power everything up and I’m immediately touching and interacting with settings. My set-up is always evolving; it’s an application I enjoy perfecting, and at the moment it’s doing exactly what I want it to.

Live Rack main inserts screenshot

For effects, I set up sends and returns via aux busses back into stereo or mono channels, and I run insert effects on both individual channels and busses.

For some acts I’m using the Waves LV1 mixing system via DiGiCo hardware, giving me native Waves control, with insert points wherever I want them for the UAD software. Other acts I’m using the DiGiCo for control and summing, while the Waves software is used for EQ and surgical adjustments.

UAD plug-ins are used to create sonic ‘character’ processing – on vocals, anything synth based, and over playback tracks and master. UAD plug-ins give the signal a lot of harmonic information, and they handle dynamics in digital audio in an acceptable way – they just feel right and with me having to do less.


The Plug-Ins

I find the Neve 1073 Preamp & EQ Collection and Neve 88RS Channel Strip Collection really nice for EQ; they’re subtle and even very small changes have a big impact. I use the Neve 33609 Compressor not even compressing, just inserted on the master buss, in conjunction with the Pultec Passive EQ.

Those two plug-ins just inserted without doing much have a huge sonic impact. It’s hard to put into words, but the result is just ‘better’, and if you look at the results in Smaart, there’s more harmonic information and harmonic excitement in the upper midrange.


Live Rack channelstrip screenshot


With the EQs, I’m not doing drastic cuts. When using the DiGiCo channel EQ, I find if I have a problem, I’m cutting and cutting, and before I know it, there’s an 8dB reduction. With UAD plug-ins, changes of just 1 or 2dB have a big effect.

My go-to compressor is the UA 1176 Bluestripe Edition and AE Edition. They’re absolutely magic on vocals. I also use the Shadow Hills Master Compressor, often not on master buss, but on kick, snare, and bass guitar. I use the SSL Channel, API Channel and the Manley Massive Passive for EQs.

For reverbs, I like the AKG BX20 spring reverb and EMT 140 plate reverb. The Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb and AMS RMX16 are probably my favourite plug-ins from UAD – both sound incredible.



When it comes to the question of UAD versus Waves, it’s down purely to sonics. Waves has been in the market longer, the integration is tight and the support is there, but the big point of difference is just that UAD sounds a lot better.

The UAD control interface is built specifically for touch, with its cascade plugin view and functions all built specifically for touch interface. Waves lacks that in its MultiRack support. The user interface of UAD-2 Live Rack 2 is superior, and it sounds better.


Live Rack auto tune screenshot



The UAD-2 Live Rack doesn’t have a coaxial MADI output, which makes it harder to integrate into some setups. I’d like to see it natively support more than 16 channels without having to cascade more boxes.  I think it’s limiting that you get 16 channels for $7,000 and having to cascade Live Racks to get more channels gets expensive.

Regardless of that, the sonic integrity is worth it.

I’m all about compact touring, which is why I have the DiGiCo SD11 and LV1 builds, especially for international tours. If I could run more than 16 channels of UAD affordably and in less space, I’d completely replace my Waves processing and invest in more UAD plug-ins. I can’t do that and keep it compact in my touring rig at the moment.



Australian UAD distributor CMI have been great through purchase, and the support is always there. They’re a great team. I’ve had no issues with the UAD-2 Live Rack, and nothing’s gone wrong, which is reassuring when you’re on tour.


Brand: UAD
Model: UAD-2 Live Rack
Product Info:
New Zealand:


UAD-2 Live Rack – the Specs

•   16-channel MADI effects processor for live mixing w/ Realtime UAD QUAD Core Processing and UAD plug-ins
•   Process with acclaimed UAD Powered Plug-Ins while mixing live sound — including no latency pitch correction with Antares Auto-Tune Realtime
•   Includes a suite of UAD plug-ins including Antares Auto-Tune Realtime, Teletronix LA-2A and 1176 compressors, Pultec EQs, and more
•   Allows use of any licensed UAD plug-in(s) in users’ UAD accounts
•   Combine 4 units for up to 64 channels of Optical MADI signal processing
•   Store configuration Snapshot files for easy recall of all show settings
•   Load Snapshot configurations via MIDI or Soundcraft Vi CUE function
•   Connects to Soundcraft Vi consoles via Ethernet for Snapshot CUE control
•   Thunderbolt 3 connectivity for Macs (for plug-in control only)





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