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Universal Audio Plate 140 • Prosoniq Morph • Wave Arts Power Suite
By Duncan Williamson, Martin Walker & Paul White

UA Plate 140 plug-in.

Universal Audio Plate 140

Formats: Mac & PC UAD1

When I visited the Universal Audio offices in California a few weeks ago, they were getting ready to ship the new Plate 140 plug-in for the UAD1 card. Like most of their other plug-ins, this is very closely modelled on real vintage analogue equipment. Although convolution technology makes it very easy to replicate vintage reverb devices exactly, convolution is still very processor-intensive, and only captures the sound of a device for one set of front-panel settings. Instead, the Universal Audio team have used modelling, to replicate not only the sound of a vintage reverb plate but also its interaction with the physical dampers used to control the decay time.

Perhaps the most revered reverb plate of all time is the German-built EMT 140, which dates back almost half a century. Audio was fed into a transducer attached to a suspended metal plate, thus making it resonate; then the vibrations were picked off using surface mics and fed via EQ into the reverb returns of the mixing console. Such plate reverb systems were expensive and bulky, and also needed to be housed in such a way as to isolate them from outside sound or vibration. As soon as digital reverb came along, almost everyone ditched their plates before realising what they'd given up!

Universal Audio's Plate 140 is designed to replicate the sound of three specific EMT 140 plates still owned by The Plant Studios in Sausalito, near San Francisco. Even the graphical interface is based on the controls of a real plate, but of course the sound is what really matters. The plug-in works with all the plug-in formats supported by the UAD1 card, namely Audio Units, VST, DX, MAS and RTAS. As plug-ins go, the controls are very simple, with a pointer knob used to select which of the plates ('A', 'B' or 'C') is in use. Each has its own mechanical damper which can be adjusted to make it longer or shorter using two buttons or, if you are less patient, by grabbing the indicator and dragging it to where you want it. The reason all three plates have their own dampers is so that you can set them up as you like them, then switch between them to see which works best.

In addition to the dampers, there's a two-band shelving equaliser with adjustable frequencies (20Hz to 2kHz and 200Hz to 20kHz) and a pre-delay control of up to 250ms, followed by a stereo width knob and a wet/dry balance control (which has an 'all wet' button for when you're using Plate 140 on an aux channel). The EQ has a bypass switch, while a 'power' switch bypasses the whole plug-in. A nicely antique meter monitors the output level from the plate and there's even a Bakelite fuse holder that serves no purpose other than decoration!

Though all three plates are EMT 140s, they sound very different, with plate 'A' being quite light and bright. 'B' has more depth, while 'C' is almost cavernous at the bottom end. Heard in isolation,...

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Published March 2005