Cubase plugins vs UAD plugins

I recently switched from a desktop to a laptop and lost use of my old UAD card and it’s plugins, which I used almost exclusively, and really loved. I never did any comparisons of plugins like the 1176 between the UA version and the Cubase version. I’m curious if anyone has done blind tests or formed well-considered opinions about the quality differences?

I recently saw someone comparing Cubase’s plug-ins to UADs, including at least an 1176 and I think one or two others, if you scout around on youtube I think you’ll find it. Guy with a beard and maybe a Middle Eastern accent.

Having said that, there are other ITB options as well, and for sure there are many vids on line comparing UAD to those. I can’t speak to those, as I don’t have them (just the UAD-2 plugs themselves). I like using the EMT-140, FC 660/670, 1176s, and LA-2A more than the Cubase stock versions, but I can’t speak to that on the basis of any rigorous testing (do I like them because of the distortion they add that Cubase’s don’t have? … or just confirmation bias? … I’d be the last to know until I do a blind test, which I haven’t yet …).

I’ll also add the Pultec EQs, but I’m definitely enjoying the new Cubase “Frequency” plug-in while I try to figure out whether it replaces them or not (I don’t have any UAD-2 Dynamic EQs).

Sorry not a lot of url-type detail here, but just to let you know the info you are wondering about is definitely out there.


I couldn’t really find anything on youtube. I guess I’ll have to do my own comparos after I get a new UAD rig.

Yeah, demoing them is obviously the best solution.

In the meantime here is at least one that in a way compares Cubase stock comps with UAD-2:

I’ve used UA’s plugs for many years. Since they were distributed by Mackie in fact. Every once in a while I’ll do a comparison by mixing the same song with only the included options vs only UAD. It takes me way longer to get in the ballpark with the native stuff. At first I thought this was due to just being more familiar with the UAD stuff and knowing it inside and out. Not the case. IMHO, The UAD stuff in general has a much wider sweet spot. More forgiving. Set it and forget it type of thing. I kept having to go back and tweak things in the native mix where the dynamics of a particular part of the song would sound pinched or out of control. I ended up having to automate things where as the UAD stuff just took it in stride and sounded great doing it. Then I got the Neve RND bundle and that changed things a bit. Clearly a step up in the “more forgiving” arena. The RND Stuff is my goto when I run out of UAD DSP. Quality stuff.

Time may not be a factor for you if you are working on your own stuff with limitless hours to get things proper. I run a small studio where time is definitely a big factor.

Hi Rotund - Thanks for that very helpful post. I was wondering (noticing the RND Portico Steinberg plugs came out 6-7 years ago) - do you think they are as good as the new UAD-2 plugs? Do you know if you would buy the RND today if you were in the market, given all the other high quality alternatives around nowadays?

Thanks for your thoughts!

I have. The UAD 1176 has a much faster attack time. Cubase is pokey slow. To be fair, few plugs I’ve demoed can match the sound and/or attack time of the UAD 1176.

Cubase EQ is fine, as are delays and modulation effects. Compressors are the real weak spot though, IMO.

Well I got them on discount, less than $400.00 for both. Not $ure where they are today. The full price was a little ridiculous when they came out. If I were buying native stuff today I would definitely check out Softube’s offerings. Klanghelm makes some nice stuff for very cheap. Check out Mjuc if you haven’t.

do you think they are as good as the new UAD-2 plugs? Do you know if you would buy the RND today if you were in the market, given all the other high quality alternatives around nowadays?

I would say definitely not, the RND bundle hasn’t been updated in quite awhile. They did add Side Chain support at some point so that is a definite plus over the UAD stuff but the newer UAD plugs are superior. The RND stuff is very good but stuck back in time I’m afraid. Better, cheaper options are available today.

I agree the compressors are the best thing about UAD plugs. When they first came out I did a shootout of the 1176 against my hardware 1176 and I could not hear a difference. It was on eBay within an hour!

Yes the compressors are good and to be honest there is a heck of a choice. Likewise I like the eq’s and again there is quite a wide choice. I think that if you are using the same Compressor or eq on everything the sound can get a bit generic/bland. If I have a number of guitars I like to have a different set -up on each.
Actually the new Steinberg Frequency eq is very good - although to be honest when I want a non character eq I tend to reach for Fab Filter’s Pro EQ 2. I don’t think that I use any of the Cubase efx. I don’t even use the channel strip. The thing with UAD is that they sound good and they work. I have never had an issue. Plus the extra headroom I get with the DSP is very handy on a big project.

I have been using the UAD Pure Plate reverb a lot recently. It sounds very similar to the EMT 140 but is easier to use. I really love the AKG BX 20 Spring Reverb especially on guitars. The Ampeg B15N Bass Amp is fantastic. Although I do not like much of the guitar emulation on UAD. The Thermionic Culture Vulture is a fabulous distortion beast. The Chandler Curve Bender and the Zener Limiter are fantastic when used sparingly.

I have found that UAD suits the way I work. I have been using their plugins right from the start so I have an investment there. Which wouldn’t mean anything if they did not sound good.

Never found a use for the UAD B15N, I prefer the Cubase bassampVST which is superb, the UAD svt-vr is killer to my ears - great for edgy attacking bass I’ll layer over the bassamp VST used to hold the bottom end. The UAD/softube bassroom amps are rubbish. (Other opinions are available :laughing: )

While it’s not impossible to get good results with the stock plugins they do need a bit more finesse to find that sweet spot. Which isn’t a bad thing; good results come from understanding how to use a given plugin not so much the plugin itself. That is in most cases… if you’re a Pro working with deadlines then the UAD stuff will get you there faster. If you’re an enthusiast working material in a home studio restricting your resources will have you looking at things differently and refine your mixing skills. It did for me; a while back I decided to start tracking composition “ideas” with a minimal setup and use stock plugins. I was amazed at just how little I understood things!

But, you are looking for comparison input so I’ll echo some of the previous comments and give you my take. It’s hard to describe why I like the UAD stuff over stock plugins, the processing just “sticks” to the audio in a more pleasing way.

The UAD compressors have better response and offer a wide variety of vintage vs modern choices (I really like the elysia mpressor!). I still use the Steinberg basic stock compressor for light side-chaining, the built in integration’s make it much easier to setup.

From an Amp sim standpoint UAD wins again especially if you record Bass/Guitar with the Unison enabled plugins (you mentioned UAD “Card” so I’m not sure if that applies…). The Engl Amps are great for Guitar. The VST Bass Amp Rack isn’t bad but the UAD Ampeg B15N is my go-to on Bass and even Synths. You also have Unison emulations of pedals such as the TS808.

Tape saturation is another win for UAD, the Oxide sim is a staple on almost every track.

For channel strips I only own the API Vision, again it’s amazing. I also put together my own strips: UAD 610 Pre Amp, UAD 1176 or LA2A, SPL Transient Enhancer, etc… lots of options.

UAD also has some great special processing plugins that have no equal stock equivalent like the Thermionic Culture Vulture, UAD Precision Enhancers, and Vertigo VSM-3 to name a few.

But I will say that the new Steinberg Frequency EQ is very good, I’ve been favoring that over the UAD Cambridge EQ for uncolored/surgical processing. The new Maximizer is nice too. Hopefully they’ll keep this going and put in more upgrades like those. I also find the Steinberg stock Gate very usable.

I just wish there was a clean integration with the UAD and Cubase Mix Consoles; it’s a drag switching back/forth when I want to track with the UAD Console.

That’s just not going to happen because there’s latency going through the UAD DSPs which Cubase has no control or viability of.

The stock plugins which I think are useful/high quality and often get picked by me ahead of UAD equivalents are…
Quadrafuzz v2
Multiband expander
Datube (surprisingly!)
VST Bass Amp - I love it!
StereoEnhancer (a gem)
Reverence (get yourself the free Bricasti convolution IR files off the web,load 'em up and you’re cooking without spending a penny!)

I prefer cubase stock plugins over UAD since it runs faster and less CPU. If you get to know the cubase stock plugins really well you don’t need UAD in my opinion.

What a strange comment! How can something running on a separate bespoke CPU use more CPU?

Strange urself!

Yes I’m very strange for pointing out a 100 mile wide flaw in your statement - you didn’t explain how a stock plugin running on your computer’s CPU rather than offloading that processing to the UAD hardware constitutes using “less CPU”.

This is a very old argument. I don’t know how to locate them, but there used to be lots of videos of blind tests where it was shown that one could duplicate the ‘sound’ of various EQs with any decent built-in EQ. And also the more important truth that the built-in plugs in many cases may be distinguishable on their own, but in a full mix a good engineer could make just as nice a final mix with either boutique plugs or cubase included plugs.

And it’s also been shown that users are HIGHLY influenced by the look of the GUIs… even when they aren’t user-friendly (like Neve or Fairchild plugs)

Also, UAD plugs (the ones I have) suffer from a lot more latency which bugs me more and more as years go by.

That said… I have to admit that I usually get a LOT more instant gratification with UAD plugs. Although I probably -could- get similar results in a lot of cases with built-ins it seems to take FOREVER to tweak with built-ins, whereas most of the time, the UAD plugs ‘just sound good’ without a lot of finessing. Of course, that may be because I never put in the time to master the built-ins… as I was obliged to do with UAD–since I shelled out the money it made me study more. So some of that may be psychology as well.


Yes, you’re right it’s more about workflow and speed rather than sound (although I’ve always thought the stock character compressors are a bit limp) a good producer could mix commercial quality tracks using just stock plugins - but he’d need to do some overtime! :laughing: