Universal Audio has released a new version of its UAD-2 Satellite Thunderbolt hardware DSP accelerator. The unit, which makes it possible to use UAD plug-ins without – or in conjunction with – an Universal Audio interface has been upgraded with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. This enables a straightforward connection to current Mac computers and newer Windows 10 PCs with Thunderbolt 3 support (either factory or via expansion cards).
Switching to Thunderbolt 3, the new UAD-2 Satellite doesn’t require a TB3 to Legacy TB adapter and cables for connection to Type-C ports, which brings convenience and removes a considerable expense. On the other hand, you will need the opposite adapter for connecting to Thunderbolt 2 computers.
Beyond that and a nicer-looking box, the UAD-2 Satellite Accelerator with Thunderbolt 3 doesn’t seem to be any different. With its 20Gbps throughput, Thunderbolt 2 already was well beyond ridiculously fast for hi-def digital audio, so I’m not sure if there’s any benefit to squeeze out of Thunderbolt 3’s doubled throughput in terms of channel counts and plug-in instances. You can, however, take advantage of the unit’s dual Thunderbolt 3 ports to daisy-chain up to 6 devices per port, including other UA gear. You can learn more about this over at Mac Performance Guide.
The accelerator is sold in QUAD and OCTO configurations with four and eight SHARC processors, respectively. UAD gets a lot of flack for selling “outdated technology”, but seeing that all its plug-ins are coded specifically for these chips, migrating the whole library onto newer, faster DSPs would be a major hassle for the company and users deep into its ecosystem. Some argue DSP boxes have become expensive dongles following the exponential increases in CPU processing power and algorithm refinements, but there’s still merit in offloading a bunch of resource-hungry plug-ins to your interface and/or accelerator. It frees up CPU for lower buffer sizes and more virtual instruments, very appreciated in a busy session. However, I have my reservations whether this is worth the asking price.
Price and availability
UAD-2 Satellite Thunderbolt starts at USD 800 for the QUAD version and USD 1200 for the OCTO verson. Both include the Analog Classics Plus bundle with 13 plug-ins, although OCTO owners get additional plug-ins during product registration. The products are available from UA dealers worldwide.