Universal Audio was limited to Digital Signal Processor (DSP) technology for years. Thanks to spark, you can now get UAD plugins natively and free. Here is our Universal Audio Spark Review.
Now or Never
Universal Audio appears late to modern computing. Digital signal processors enabled producers to get more out of their main production computer. This was done by freeing up the processing needs of high-end plugins through incorporating separate mini ‘CPUs’ known as ‘DSP’ processors.
Technology has modernised and with it has come technologies such as Apples new M1 processors based on the ARM architecture. These processors allow users to run 1000+ track sessions with more plugin instances than we would need in our lifetimes. Universal Audio were famously stubborn and somewhat reliant on DSP technology to sell their hardware in order for users to access their UAD-2 plugin platform. Despite of course the likes of Plugin Alliance and other companies showing just how good native plugins can be.
It seems as if the fans have been crying for ages and now UA has finally given us what we all wanted. No more need for DSP.
How much is Universal Audio Spark?
Free. Well… if you have previously purchased some Universal Audio UAD-2 plugins. If this is you then you may be able to redeem some of your existing licenses under the new ‘UADx’ native platform. The catch? Only a few plugins are available on the UA Spark platform.
Can I buy plugins natively? Not yet. It seems as though Universal Audio Spark is UA’s gateway into providing a subscription model that starts from 19.99 USD per month. Unlike Plugin Alliance, there is also no way to eventually purchase plugins if joining the subscription.
Are there any alternatives?
Yes, many companies such as Plugin Alliance (my personal favourite) and Slate Digital offer subscription services and perpetual licences. When comparing all three including UA, it definitely appears as though whilst quality is absolutely guaranteed with Universal Audio. Also, in terms of the amount of plugins you get from your monthly expenditure, you get a lot more bang for your buck elsewhere. At least for now.
The future is bright. Like a bright spark.
Could the spark lead to a flame? A flame of many more plugins? A way of being able to earn vouchers through subscribing? Potentially, a way of being able to access new plugins early? There is a lot of potential with Universal Audio Spark.
Universal Audio Spark seems like a great first leap into not only providing native plugins, but also into the native market. But for now it seems as if you will get much more value joining Plugin Alliance, Slate or any other plugin company of your choosing.
As these are early days, keep an eye on spark as we don’t know what the future holds. It could be extremely bright for Universal Audio and provide native plugin manufacturers some long-awaited competition.