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Universal Audio UAD 2 SOLO Laptop ExpressCard DSP Accelerator

The UAD 2 SOLO is the “easiest, most affordable way” to make your laptop one seriously capable DAW.

The Universal Audio UAD-2 SOLO/Laptop is a single-processor PCI ExpressCard that provides the mobile Mac or PC user easy access to the industry staple UAD-2 DSP powered plug-ins platform.

The UAD library includes licensed emulations of hardware by Empirical Labs, Helios, SPL, Teletronix, Neve, Fairchild, Harrison, Little Labs, and many others.


The heart of the high-bandwidth SOLO/Laptop card is an Analog Devices 32-bit, floating-point architecture SHARC processor that provides processing power for the UAD plug-ins, thus freeing up the Mac or PC’s internal processor to handle the DAW, virtual instruments, and/or other processing. The card is PCIe 2.0-compatible and runs on Mac OS X Tiger/Leopard and Windows XP/Vista machines. The card supports 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, and 192 kHz sample rates and is VST-, AU-, and RTAS-compatible. [According to UA, “It’s been tested with Snow Leopard and Windows 7,” but “with caveats” at the time of publication (in early February 2010). Visit this link to read more on these minimal concerns — Ed.]

The SOLO/Laptop card offers 2.5 times the power of UA’s previous UAD-1 card, and it requires no additional cables or external power supply. [According to UA, performance of the SOLO/Laptop has increased nearly three times in power over UAD-1, “as efficiency has been improved with software updates.” — Ed.] Included with the card is the “Mix Essentials II” plugin collection, comprised of the Pultec EQP-1A program equalizer, the UA 1176SE compressor/limiter, the CS-1 Channel Strip, and the Realverb Pro room modeler.

Version 5 of the UAD Meter and Control Panel (also included with the card) provides management and system-monitoring tools for the SOLO/Laptop card. Its drivers are optimized for modern multi-thread and multi-processor architectures, and support both real-time and faster-than-real-time processing for mix bounces. The Control Panel provides quick and easy plug-in purchases or demo authorizations, as well as access to support and help resources and software updates. Powered Plug-Ins are available from the UA website and 14-day free demos of all of the UAD plug-ins are included with the card.

In Use

Between the UAD 2 SOLO/Laptop Card and the UAD Meter and Control Panel, Universal Audio has done an amazing job of making the software and hardware integration seamless and simple. I found the software to be simple to install. All of the plug-ins are actually included in the package, so purchasing an additional plug simply requires authorizing something already on your computer. It can be done in just a minute or two, any time of the day or night. While I’ve spent most of my SOLO/Laptop card time working in Logic, I’ve also successfully used it with Pro Tools LE and Steinberg Nuendo; in any instance, it’s a pleasure to use.

Even with high expectations, I was amazed at the power of the SOLO/Laptop card as it can simultaneously handle up to 32 channels of the UA Neve 88RS channel strip plug-in: all this without taxing the host computer at all. The four included plug-ins provide a great foundation. After spending several weeks with the entire collection, I found a few that jump out as my favorites. The Helios Type 69 and 1176LN sound famous on electric guitar; the Pultec Pro EQ is wonderful on acoustic instruments and vocals; the Trident A-Range and SPL Transient Designer are fantastic on drums; and the EMT 250 is a killer all-around reverb.

If you use Pro Tools LE or M-Powered, you are probably painfully aware of the latency issues involved. For that, UA includes the Mellowmuse ATA plug-in. While using Mellowmuse adds an extra step to your workflow, it makes it possible to flawlessly use the UA plug-ins in a Pro Tools session: simply insert it on the master fader and let it “ping” each audio track.


At $499 street, the UA plug-ins provide a smooth, rich, analog sound quality largely believed to be unattainable on a computer (much less on a laptop) just a few years ago. Regardless of your DAW platform of choice, the UAD-2 SOLO/Laptop is the easiest and most affordable way to transform your laptop into a serious audio workstation.

Price: $649 list
Contact: Universal Audio | 877-MY-UAUDIO |

Russ Long is a producer, engineer, and mixer. He owns the Carport studio in Nashville.