UAD Plugins are Overpriced

Are UAD plugins overpriced? When the idea of hardware accelerated plugins came about the price was pretty good relative to (a) the limits of native processing power; (b) the quality of low-cost plugin suites; and (c) the high costs of the big players. Instead of buying one piece of hardware you could get many instances of software emulations at a lower cost and with comparable performance and not tax your CPU.

However, with the steady growth of native processing power, and the flood of moderately-priced plugins the giant hardware dongle and high-priced UAD plugin just doesn't seem like the great deal it did years ago. 

UAD plugins perform and sound fantastic, for the most part -- there are a few duds, in my opinion, but many or most really do work well, if, that is, you're after spot-on virtual replicas of vintage hardware units, and, generally, that's fine by me.

I own a bunch of UAD plugs but I waited until Universal Audio had a new year's deal where they threw in a bunch of free plugs (about $1K worth) and also a freebie I wasn't expecting (a nice Helios EQ) as well as a $100 voucher toward another plug-in with the purchase of an Apollo interface. It was a good deal in my estimation.

I did use that coupon toward a Shadow Hills compressor but I couldn't see buying any more until another sale came around.

The key is patience: do not buy a UAD plugin at full price unless you absolutely need to. Just hang on and let a sale swing around (e.g., the delay, chorus, and reverb sale was pretty good but if you wait until the summer sale, things get even better). And if you go a good long time without buying any plugins, UA will email you a coupon. The best deal is when the biannual sale corresponds to a coupon or two. 

Are they still overpriced when discounted? Yeah, probably, maybe, kinda, but not always. When you compare what you can get for 90% less from Jeroen Breebaart (ToneBoosters) and a bunch of other small developers it seems kinda silly to be shelling out $150 to $300 for a single plugin. Kinda like shelling out $900 for ProTools when you could have Reaper for $60.

But there are great deals to be had. For example, on the last day of this summer's sale I checked to see if another coupon was available and there was. In conjunction with the sale and another $50 off, I bought the LA-3A compressor for $20. That's a sweet deal on a killer processor.

Do not buy a UA plugin that you can get in native form somewhere else for less. For example, the Cooper Time Cube is unique and I haven't found an alternative for that. On sale, you can get it for about $75-$100 (still kinda pricey but better than the $150 they normally charge) but the idea of shelling out $150 for a Tube Screamer plugin or a Rat distortion pedal is simply laughable. And $20 for a guitar tuner plugin? As they kids say these days, UA must be on the pipe. 

If you want that old vintage sound from the 50s-70s then UAD is still your best bet. But you have to realize that once you go down that road you're stuck for a good long while. Every plugin you buy is only going to work with their hardware. Switch to an Apogee interface and you're kinda screwed because those UAD plugins are not going to work. You'd have to buy an accelerator card and to get an octo would set me back something like $1500 on top of the cost of, say, an Apogee interface. The best approach is simply wait until UA offers a bunch of free plugins at the end of a hardware lifecycle, with the purchase of an interface, but resist buying any more of them and only for those you cannot find a native alternative -- and you frequently can. For example, the Voice of God plugin -- you can do as well without shelling out hardly anything