To list all the classic, quintessential rock 'n' roll recordings that have been tracked at Sound City Studios is beyond the scope of this review – but trust me, you’ve heard them: Nirvana's Nevermind, Fleetwood Mac's Fleetwood Mac, and multiple Tom Petty albums just to name a few. Now available natively for Mac and Windows, Universal Audio brings to your favorite DAW the sought-after room sound that has dominated rock charts since the ‘70s. Though I’ll probably never get the chance to track drums in Sound City’s A-room, I was immediately excited to strap the UAD Sound City Studios plug-in onto a drum bus in a recent session so I could hear this magic for myself.

Much in the way UA’s Ocean Way Studios [Tape Op #128] dynamic room modeling plug-in brings the essence of a famous and well-known studio’s sound within reach for us non-famous engineer types, UAD Sound City offers a studio simulation that includes models of tasty vintage mic choices from Sound City’s locker, often-used gobo setups and room placements, a built-in Mixer, and a main section with Equalizer, Dynamics, and effects – even providing an emulation of the studio’s unique echo Chamber (cool!).

The plug-in GUI offers a large graphic representation of the Source you choose from the drop-down menus at the top of the window: Drums, Acoustic, Guitar, Vocal, and Ensemble. Two plug-in modes, Re-Mic and Reverb, provide the ability to “replace” your recordings’ mic and room characteristics, or simply apply a taste of UAD Sound City’s flavor to your source. In most instances, I preferred Re-Mic mode on a bus. At the bottom of the plug-in’s window are selections and settings for a Close mic and two pairs of Room mics; all offering modeled vintage Neumanns, AKGs, and RCAs. There are a vast number of presets to choose from, from 1176 Gobo Snare to Yacht Rock Piano. I recommend starting with presets. I began my exploration of the UAD Sound City Studios plug-in by muting my live-recorded drum room mics, and then pulling up the Big Rock Drum Room preset on a bus – drums done! This emulation's depth and sonic character is convincingly realistic – definite keepers. True-to-life results were also achieved with vocal, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and bass source tracks. Warning: it’s easy to overdo it with these sorts of plug-ins, and yes, sometimes it can feel like cheating – however, if it sounds good then it’s “anything goes” in my book!

We labor over stuffing mics into every drum position possible just to hedge our bets at mix time. However, we can only do so much with the spaces we are “given.” We find the best-sounding position in the room to mic the kit, then capture what’s there. Don’t get me wrong, I do subscribe to the “get it right the first time” philosophy – but we don’t always get to record every source in the same room. A cohesive mix “atmosphere” really pulls a track together for my ears. With a subtle hand and a keen ear, the UAD Sound City Studios plug-in can help bring out a lively everyone-is-in-the-room-together vibe to your close-mic’d and overdubbed sessions!

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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