I was very excited to hear about Kush Audio’s first venture into the plugin world. UBK, the man behind Kush Audio sometimes comes across as an analog fanatic. Rather than thinking he had sold his soul to hypocrisy, I figured he had found out about something that digital could do better than analog. Enter UBK-1.

Tech-talk

This is not a regular review, it’s the story of how a single plugin would dramatically change a session and, as it turns out, would change how I approach future mixes as well.

I won’t go over the full feature list. If you’re interested in reading boring details on every knob then I’m sure someone else covers it. A detailed (and not boring) description is also given in the video above. In short, what the UBK-1 is could be described as a dynamics tool (compressor) with saturation features, though such a narrow description won’t really make it justice. The best way to give you an idea, while avoiding writing a book, is to explain the three processors that make up the plugin:

  • The Saturation is the first in the chain. It’s a simple one knob design.
  • The Compressor is also a simple one knob solution (more or less compression) but also has five characteristics, from splat to crush and everything in between. What’s crucial to realize is that these are actually five different compressors, not just five different ratios!
  • The Density lets you shape either the top or mids. It must quite simply be heard to be understood.

For those of you thinking that this is a software version of the UBK Fatso – it’s not. I’ll dig into that in a later post.

Excited to try this new plugin I fire it up on the master and bam! It sucks… I was thinking this would be a flexible design. OK, so maybe it’s not for the master. I insert it on a track and… No. It’s simply not what I want. Maybe it will be fun to crush something with sometime but I got plenty of nice tools for that (Devil-Loc Deluxe, FET Compressor, depending on how I want it crushed). I can’t help but feel a little disappointed.

Headroom, headroom, headroom…

Well, I promised a review and I never just run something once – I give everything a fair shake. I load it again on another day, in the same session I believe, but this time with a purpose and intention – not just to “try a plugin”. First on piano. Without changing a thing those high notes pop through. I start tweaking, adding a little saturation before backing off with the dry/wet control. Same with compressor, it’s almost fine the way it is. Add some thickness. I bypass and… It sucks. The bypassed signal that is! How could I have listened to that thin piece of crap this entire time? The UBK-1 version kills it! Throw it on bass, an acoustic upright, same thing.

Now I’m very interested. Just by paying much closer attention to two things this plugin went from suck to rock: dry/wet controls (each processor has one) and the Headroom knob (basically a trim before the processors) everything is different. The Headroom control is absolutely crucial.

With these new insights I have new hopes for the master fader. I toss it in there, giving plenty of headroom, start tweaking the control then blending everything so it’s actually mostly dry. The result? A punchier, wider, fatter and just plain simply better sounding mix. In a minute. I’m so blown away that I open Safari to email UBK and say “holy shitballs, it’s a betterizer!” but change my mind and start writing this post instead.

The UBK-1 is a plugin that oozes with character. You will toss it on something and it will change the sound right away. Either it will sound better or it will suck. If it sucks you need to change the Headroom control, then it will sound better. After that you start tweaking the controls and it will kick ass.

As I’m typing this I feel like tossing most of my saturation and dynamic plugins to the unused folder. Seriously. The last few session I’ve been working on is filled with UBK-1. No Twin Tube, no Analog Channel, no FET Compressor, no CL1B. While I’m sure all these fine plugins will appear in my mixes again – and I wouldn’t suggest to use the UBK-1 as your only dynamics tool – it speaks volumes of how I feel about Kush Audio’s first plugin.

Conclusion

This is not just another drum squasher. If you want more character, crunch, snap, pop, saturation, thickness, groove or swing you owe it to yourself to give the UBK-1 a go. This is a bad ass that will fit any genre of music. It gets two thumbs up from me and a short round of applause for actually bringing something new to the plugin table. For completely rearranging my plugin folder and my sessions, I also feel confident in handing out the third ever wicked approval.

The good:

    + Excellent sound, it’s a betterizer.
    + Flexible as a Russian gymnast.

The bad:

    – The meters are too small to be useful.

The ugly:

    * Again, the meters.

Price: $299

Kush Audio