First Look: Universal Audio LUNA
For starters, the system I’m using is a MacBook Pro with macOS Mojave 10.14.6 installed.
The initial download and installation were pretty straight forward compared to most DAW workspaces. The first night, I was able to get as far as basic installation, but getting iLok cloud working was a bit of a challenge (luckily there is step-by-step documentation). I’m not that excited to have to be dealing with iLok again, but iLok cloud worked after tinkering around with it and a few reboots.
I’m old enough to remember first-generation iLoks, I felt they were undependable and often only a system reboot would get them back in working order. Securing system licenses for a vendor should never impact the use or stability of the system. Their iLok cloud is a vast improvement, I do appreciate the developer focus and seamless integration with such a commonly used licensing system. Moving on.
The first time the license activation kicked in and LUNA launched, it was a beautiful thing. With Universal Audio (UA) plug-ins, I have come to expect high aesthetics on top of powerful, easy to use software that delivers sound consistent with the plug-ins’ analog counterparts. A prompt for an immediate upgrade is available, good we are now in the cloud where all decent software is version-less.
Another nice touch that cannot be overstated is UAs strong documentation and the useful tutorials that load to help provide an overview of the system. I’ve found their support in the past to be robust fast and responsive (reminder, UA is not paying me, I’m, just a happy customer). The Luna Basics videos are a detailed enough walkthrough to get started, with the promise of in-depth tasks and workflows explained in longer videos and tutorials. Remember to RTFM, in this case, the videos.
After watching the videos, I moved on to the remaining tabs (Create, Discover, Manage, Settings) on the left of the LUNA UX. The dashboard is a highly organized front end to plug-ins and extensions. I already own a number of UAD plug-ins, so they are all there active and reference-able when I click on the UAD Plugins tab. I like that there is a search, filtering, with options to show/hide purchased plug-ins. Plug-in lists can be unwieldy. The dashboard has the potential for Universal Audio to deliver tutorials and recording templates as well as the purchase options, thus far I like what I am seeing.
The discover tab is like going into your favorite gear shop, so you’d better watch your tail and buy only essential tools (we all want to get all of them). Plug-ins are valuable investments, they should be looked at as tools which can increase efficiency, reinforce productivity, creative output, and automate the creative workflow. Any time you try to put a dollar sign to the value each tool brings to the table, look at the time spent completing your normal tasks. The time spent manually achieving the sound that the plug-in natively produces with a flip of the switch and a couple adjustments often saves time. The most useful plug-ins pay for themselves (in time saved) in short order.
There is a bundle that looks intriguing. The LUNA Creator Bundle may look like a lot at first glance, but at $549, that’s $149 more than the essential Neve Summing plug-in (a decent value for what it does). I’m going to practice restraint and forgo any purchase until I’ve gotten acclimated to the DAW. I already own the Studer A800 which should get me some mileage on my recording projects this weekend. On day one of installation and use, I have more than enough to work with with my pre owned plugin library.
Moving onto the Manage tab I see the details of all of the items I own installed, along with available demos. Cool, I can try out the Neve Summing be for I buy it. I appreciate the try before you buy option. It’s a good thing to know the size of the items in the install base, should I need to move anything to an external drive in the future. This is made easy by right-clicking on any item which brings up your base hard Drives for reference. There are two tabs, My Products, and Installed Products at the top of the page. They both seem to do the same thing, assuming they will provide value at a future date.
Anyone who has used the UA Meter and Control Panel or their Console UX should feel at home in the settings tab. It’s nice to have the Hardware, I/O Matrix, and Options all in an organized area for quick changes and review. Another feature that I like might not sound like much but it speaks volumes about what type of company Universal Audio is. Feedback is persistent in the upper right-hand corner of the system, allowing their customer base to help developers deliver a better product.
This is very important to me and this point should be to all of you. To someone that develops software (my day gig is software UX/design), direct customer feedback is a sign of true integrity. This tells me Universal Audio is a customer based company focused on continuous improvement. It tells me that I can trust them as a company and that my investments in their products and services are in good standing. I’ve worked in cloud software since 2007. Leaders in cloud-based software (like Fred Luddy from ServiceNow) built themselves a loyal customer base by empowering the customer with innovative tools and listening to the customer’s voice. Feedback is about continuous improvement. It’s really cool to see Universal Audio developers following that tradition as professional recording moves to the cloud. It’s about time, cloud-based software gives customers the opportunity to harness the power of UAs development efforts. If done correctly, its a mutually beneficial partnership of developers and the professional customers they serve.
I’ll work on finishing my first few LUNA projects by the end of April, which gives me about a week. Along with one of the projects, I will write a review of the experience in LUNA compared to Logic Pro X. Judging by what I have seen thus far, this is going to be a fun system to work with and should result in the highest quality output. Quarantine has added some completion obstacles to a current album project, so I’m going to use this as an opportunity to play and compose in the singer-songwriter format. With LUNA, I hope to complete a new set of songs I have written for an album that I just dubbed Canadian Tuxedo. The big challenge is if I need a drum track I may need to import from Logic Pro X’s virtual drummer or another program like Superior Drummer 3.
Canadian Tuxedo Cover
We’ll see how it goes, it’s all about the creative process and if I can stay close to my muse. Here is the album cover, cheers until later. I know, its a shameless nod to Nathanial Rateliff’s album, but I don’t give AF. I love that album and his work as an artist, his latest album is on constant rotation here at the house.
A few Useful Hints…
As Mentioned above, you may want to take a look at some of the tutorials out there. I’ve viewed a considerable amount of them. This one is one of my favorite overviews on editing. This video has a UA developer and designer to describe the backend file system that powers LUNA projects. They go into the flexibility available when importing and exporting projects using mix down commands to move files between your preferred DAWs.
A considerable effort on rethinking complex menu systems for ease of use, search-ability, audio workflow, and visibility into all aspects of the UX. Track editing is intuitive with efficient pitch, gain, fade tools built directly into the clip. The first time I have ever heard of unlimited un-dos in any editing software, especially in auto-saving. The spill feature easily shows all tracks and sub-mix signal flow of each bus for a highly organized view during the mixing process. powerful. The midi editing capabilities are gone through. On first glance they look intuitive.
Luna Office Hours
If you have time, the LUNA Office Hours videos provide a casual discovery forum with some of the early adopter power users of the LUNA system.