Stereo Tapped Delay for UAD-2
By Alex Hawley
For this guitar-centric issue of Recording, we’re reviewing an often-overlooked plug-in from Universal Audio that’s fantastic on guitars. The A/DA STD-1 Stereo Tapped Delay was developed by Brainworx for UAD-2 DSP engines and Apollo/Arrow interfaces, and is based on a vintage bucket brigade delay unit which was originally released in 1980.
Famed guitarists like Allan Holdsworth and Kirk Hammett used the STD-1 hardware in their rigs. It wasn’t until about ten years after production ended that the STD-1 truly started to become recognized and sought after. This plug-in fills the gap left by the hardware’s extreme rarity.
The STD-1 is nothing like other analog delays; it creates truly unique effects using a series of 6 bucket brigade taps. The 6 taps have delay times ranging from 1.3 to 55.5 milliseconds, that can be panned to either channel for a stereo widening or doubling effect. The idea behind the STD-1 is similar to the old technique of duplicating a recording, and nudging the duplicated track a couple frames down the timeline for a stereo effect.
The STD-1 adds another dimension to this technique—implementing 6 taps allows sounds to bloom on top of one another in the full stereo field, which creates a unique 3D layering effect. This effect can be pushed a stage further by using the built-in Sweep Mod, which quickly takes the STD-1 from subtle chorus and flanging all the way into the sound design realm.
The Input section features an LED meter, Level control, bypass, and a Stereo/Mono input switch (stereo sources are summed to mono). The Output section comes next, with individual dry/effect Mix knobs for Mix (L or Mono) and Mix R plus a master Level knob.
The Regeneration section loops one of the six taps (1, 3, or 6) back into the input when it’s enabled. There are knobs for feedback Level (zero to infinity) and for Hi Cut (10 kHz down to 900 Hz) to shape the frequency content on the signal being fed back. Next comes the Tap Assign section, which lets you choose which taps are active (in mono) or sent Left or Right (in stereo).
The final Delay section has a lot of interesting parameters to play with. The Fixed setting adjusts the delay time for each tap. The Sweep Mod superimposes an oscillator of a slightly higher frequency than the source, which results in a thick chorus. This can be bypassed by turning the Mix parameter all the way left (Fix). There is also a Delay Sweep, which sets the oscillation speed from 25 seconds to 0.1 seconds for everything from subtle chorus all the way to Leslie effects.
As a guitarist, I found this plug-in very intriguing. I love the sound of a fat chorus or Leslie, so I was very excited to try out the STD-1 to see what kind of practical sounds it could produce for guitars and beyond.
I started out with a rhythm guitar track within a full band arrangement. The delay taps have a really unique widening character, unlike other doublers that I have used before. Even when used minimally, the mix fills out nicely, adding a really impressive depth. For this application, I usually leave the Sweep Mod off, and Regeneration Level on the lower side.
However, I like to automate the Regeneration Level to more dramatic settings when the arrangement calls for it. Pumping it to infinity can create some really interesting textures, almost like a jet taking off as the feedback loops start to pile up and get out of control. It doesn’t sound like a normal delay circuit like when you turn the number of repeats to infinity for an endless loop; it has a different character to it. Automating that parameter can be a really cool tool for a ‘tension and release’ build in the bridge of a tune, but it’s not something I leave high in the mix full-time!
For rhythm guitar doubling, the STD-1 is easily one of the best effects I’ve come across for enhancing a mono source to achieve a much wider image. For a rhythm guitar track laid back into the mix, it’s kind of a secret weapon.
Next, I experimented with a more aggressive treatment, using some of the Sweep Mod settings to go for a fat chorus sound. It took some practice to find the nuance in the Sweep Mod functions and how they interact with the Tap settings; they’re easily overdone, but once I found the sweet spot I had a lot of fun getting into some fat chorus and flanger guitar tones.
There is a very fine line before this plug-in crosses into sound design territory, so it took some practice before I was adjusting the settings with confidence. I had success by turning off the Regeneration circuit and Sweep Mod, and then working with a slow Sweep time and the Mix parameter driven a touch past 12 o’clock to lean more heavily on the Sweep. The resulting fat chorus and flanger settings sounded great on lead melodic lines and synth lines.
Of course, after all those words of caution, every once in a while you have to throw subtlety out the window and just see what this thing is capable of. It can create some seriously unique textures by completely reanimating the original sound in an oscillating wide wind tunnel that becomes your new sound. This can be really fun on vocals in the right context, and especially on synth lines. This wasn’t a sound I knew I was missing out on until I heard it!
The A/DA STD-1 is my new secret weapon for making sources vibey and wide. I love the lush chorus and flanger tones, along with cool slap echoes and unique reverb effects. Like most great things, this one works best in moderation; if you are looking for a realistic reverb or classic analog delay, look elsewhere.
I felt myself often pushing the STD-1 into sound-design territory just for the thrill of it, before dialing it back to achieve more musical sounds. Not to say the wacky modulation effects don’t have their place—I simply used it more often as a doubler and chorus when it came to my guitar tracks. Whether subtle or over the top, the STD-1 brings sounds to your guitar and synth that you didn’t know they could make.
More from: Universal Audio, www.uaudio.com