Universal Audio A/DA STD-1 Stereo Tapped Delay by Diogo C
Product: A/DA STD-1 Stereo Tapped Delay
Formats: AAX/AU/VST Plug-ins for Mac (10.9+) and Windows (7+) with UAD-2/Apollo systems
Demo: Fully functional for 14 days
Price: $199 USD MSRP
The scope: In this plug-in world flooded with effects it's becoming harder each day to come up with something truly unique, but Brainworx went through the depths of audio effects inventory and re-discovered the A/DA STD-1 Stereo Tapped Delay, a rather singular hardware effects unit from 1980 focused on delivering short stereo modulated delays. The STD-1 is a bucket brigade delay (BBD) with up to successive six taps, which are initially offset by 1.3ms, 2.2ms, 4.6ms, 5.8ms, 8.3ms and 11.1ms, and those timings can be increased by a factor of up to five, putting the longest offset time at 55.5ms. Those are really short timings, at least for current standards where we have myriads of options, but that gives us a hint of what the STD-1 is all about. Taps can be individually assigned to the left or right side of the panorama, which enables a range of stereo tricks and on top of that there’s a LFO with variable rate that modulates the output signal, a feedback level with an internal limiter and high-cut filter for taps 1/3/6, noise level and independent L/R mix controls. It’s quite an intriguing set of features and there’s some good depth to it in terms of how parameters interact with each other. Guitarists were at least initially the greater chunk of STD-1’s audience, it was used by the likes of Allen Holdsworth, Kirk Hammett, among others, but it also sparked the interest of synth-aficionados looking for strange effects with the added bonus of CV inputs. Mixing engineers also turned their eyes and ears to it because of the stereo-opening tricks that the STD-1 offers, and they found out that it worked wonders on vocals or any element needing some extra width. Lately they’ve been hard to find and I’ve seen some listings going for a substantial amount of money (around 500-750 US Dollars), so having a plug-in version is definitely welcome.
Sound quality: Quirky and exotic, this plug-in has a very distinctive sound which I don’t think I’ve ever heard anywhere else - and this is coming from a plug-in addict who owns Soundtoys 5, Eventide Anthology X and many other modulation plug-ins. It’s unique and I can’t think of any alternatives for this one, it’s really one of a kind. On the other hand, it’s limited in its range of application - I wouldn’t go as far as saying that this is a “one trick pony” kind of plug-in as it can do quite a few different things, but they’re all within a certain domain i.e. short stereo delays, chorus, flanging, all with a particular sonic signature. I found it to be really cool on guitars when inserted right after the amp signal for a more dense sound, it usually worked better for me when inserting it directly instead of using an auxiliary bus for it. The STD-1 is also very good as a widening effect for vocals, keys, snares and percussion parts, with the LFO adding some nice movement options. It can also work really well on electronic-based music and really favours experimentations with synthesizers, loops and other non-acoustic/synthetic elements. Nevertheless, it’s best to keep expectations in check here - just look at the feature set to realize that this is not a regular delay for evolving and prolonged ping-pongs or a unit meant to deliver conventional reverbs.
Ease of use: Not exactly the easiest effect you’ll ever use since it feels a bit cryptic if you’re not familiar with the hardware or with its core concepts. The learning curve can be more steep than usual and reading the documentation was mandatory in my experience - fortunately there’s a concise and well-written manual that helps a lot to figure out what’s going on. One area that bothered me a bit was the interface, which feels a bit cramped with very small labels that aren’t easy to ready from a distance - this is a prime case to show that a 1:1 copy of the hardware layout may result in poor plug-in ergonomics. In terms of resource consumption this is not the lightest effect plug-in out there and it will take roughly 20% of a single SHARC chip (at a sample rate of 48 kHz), which isn’t a negligible amount, so you have to balance its use wisely before running out of UAD2 juice. Besides those points the STD-1 should be straightforward to use and dialing good sounding settings from scratch shouldn’t be a problem once those initial hurdles are overcome.
Features: I’m a bit torn here, on one hand I appreciate the fact that the authentic is seamlessly preserved, but on the other hand I’d appreciate some deviation from the original hardware and would like to see some added features. A reworked interface layout, more metering options, a global dry/wet control and a proper browser for presets would certainly add a lot here without sacrificing any of the authenticity. With that out of the way, this is a unique plug-in in that sense it delivers a feature set that’s hard (if possible) to find out there and there’s certainly significant value to that. Brainworx has also modeled the tone of the box in all its analog glory and the STD-1 definitely has a tone that responds in different ways depending on the input levels - it sounds particularly good with “hotter” levels, so don’t be afraid to push it.
Bang for buck: It’s hard to determine the value of something like the STD-1, it’s a highly distinctive processor and precisely because of that it might not be for everyone. What is safe to say is that the STD-1 is definitely worth trying out, because it does things that I found really hard to be done somewhere else - at least not as effortless as loading one single plug-in.
Recommended for: Mixing engineers and electronic music producers looking for an interesting and unique effect. Guitar and keyboard players or vocalists producing their own work might also find it useful.