The name of this plug‑in gives you a hefty clue as to what it’s about, but as with most of its apparently simple United Plugins stablemates, there’s more going on under the hood than it might at first appear.
Urban Puncher’s primary role is in beefing up drum and percussion sounds, though it can also work well on bass parts or to add a sheen of analogue warmth to other instruments. Supporting all the usual plug‑in formats, and with a generous authorisation system that allows you to run it on multiple machines, Urban Puncher was designed by United Plugins boffin Boris Carloff, and combines saturation based on transformer emulation, with dynamic processing that seems to combine elements of compression, transient shaping and spectral manipulation.
The presence of a Wet/Dry control indicates that Urban Puncher is quite happy working as a parallel processor as well as a serial one. Other than a variable output level control, the whole thing is controlled by just two knobs and one button, with a further slide switch acting as a bypass. When no signal is passing, the plug‑in relinquishes its hold on CPU resources, and operating bypass causes no clicks or changes in latency. Helpfully, the GUI can be freely resized.
There’s more going on under the hood than it might at first appear.
Punch is where the dynamic processing happens and, to my ears, turning it clockwise introduces what sounds like a blend of progressively heavier compression/limiting and transient attack enhancement. At its maximum setting, the sound is quite aggressive and ‘smacky’ but that can be just what you need when mixing in some of the dry signal. Dialling in a little saturation can beef up the sound even more, but if you’re after a more overt effect, then pressing the Destroy button essentially triples the amount of saturation, making for a sound that adds crunchy to punchy. Again, this can work for you in lots of different ways, from treating a dull snare track to making the whole drum kit sound pleasingly trashy.
As suggested earlier, the ‘beefing up’ capability of Urban Puncher often lends itself well to processing bass synths or bass guitar too, but it is well worth experimenting to see what it can bring to other instruments — just try it where you might normally opt for compression and see what you get. Instruments with well‑defined attack sounds, such as guitars, are definitely good candidates for treatment, but it can be useful just about anywhere that you need to add a bit of analogue‑style warmth, and where you want to lift up those lower‑level details that add interest and attitude.
There’s enough control range to go from super subtle to quite hard hitting, so Urban Puncher turns out to be a very flexible tool with more applications than its name might suggest. I also love the immediacy that its simple controls offer — the learning curve is so flat you could climb it in carpet slippers!