We have been asked to do some comparitive tests between the new Slate Virtual Tape Machines (VTM) and the UAD ATR-102. We’ve decided that it would be better to give you the chance to listen and then decide which one you prefer, rather than a pointless debate about which is best - that’s a matter of opinion, one man’s meat is another man’s poison.
A few things to note.
- You need a UAD card to be able to use the ATR-102, so that’s an additional cost, however some of our users already have the card and therefore would want to know if they should buy, one, both or neither. So in terms of cost from a standing start the UAD will be a greater outlay, however a UAD card is far more than a single plug-in and a worthwhile investment for those wanting to take processing load away from the host computer.
- There are other tape emulation plug-ins available, so this is not an exhuastive test, simply putting two units side by side for a shoot-out.
How we tested.
We loaded stereo content into 3 tracks and inserted the Slate on one track, the UAD on another and left the third track clear of any processing. All tracks were bounced Linear PCM, 24 bit little-endian signed integer, 2 channels, 48000 Hz
Here are examples of the same audio but processed in the following way.
2 of the examples are using tape emulation plug-ins and another is using no processing.
All the example numbers always use the same number for the same plug-in, so for example all number 3 examples could be plug-in X, example 1 plug-in Y.
Which do you prefer? Have your say…
I want to add a note to those who may be new to recording. Over time audio practitioners, be they sound engineers or producers, develop critical listening skills, in other words they learn to take apart complex sounds and identify tone and timbre - this is an essential skill which can be learnt, partly by some basic understanding of how sound works, but largely through experience, which leads to greater confidence in identifying the audible components within sound.
If you are taking this survey and are finding it hard to hear anything then here are some pointers to help you.
- Make sure you are listening on appropriate equipment; you might find the test easier if you have a pair of high quality headphones. Not wishing to name any names, but many of the popular desktop monitors, by colouration, will mask vital components of the sound and make the job almost impossible. That’s why using good mastering facilities is essential.
- In the Acoustic mix, listen for the low end extension in the low kick loop, it differs on all three, as does the mid range in the vocal, listen to the second ‘Surrender’.
- In the Bass mix, listen for the low note early on the part and also the clanking of the strings, they all differ.
- In the Drum mix, listen the centre of the sound occupied by the snare and the hi-hats.
- In the Pop mix, listen to the relationship between the bass guitar and kick, listen also to the crunch electric guitar descending at about 1:02.
- In the rock mix, at about 5 seconds listen to hear how the mix crushes on some examples and not on others.
I hope that helps those of you who feel a little like you looking at one of those ‘Magic Pictures’ for hours.
As we promised here are the answers to which examples were which. PLEASE REMEMBER THIS WAS NOT A COMPETiTION, simply an opportunity for you to say which YOU preferred.
- Example 1(s) Slate VTM
- Example 2(s) UAD ATR-102
- Example 3(s) No plug-in
We’re glad you had fun - now we suggest you download the plug-in demos, try them out for yourself and buy what you like.