Universal Audio Moog Multimode Filter Collection by Diogo C
Product: Moog Multimode Filter Collection
Developer: Universal Audio
Formats: AAX, AU, VST plug-ins for Mac and Windows
Demo: Fully functional for 14 days
Price: $249 MSRP - Upgrades from legacy for $99
The scope: Universal Audio brings back the glorious Moog filters to our UAD2-powered systems, but unlike their previous collections of revamped classics this one not only updates the emulation process with their current technology but it also has an entirely new product to offer. The Moog Multimode Filter collection comprises the following products:
Moog Multimode Filter (pictured above) & Multimode Filter SE: now “legacy” plug-ins, released almost ten years ago back in 2008. For those unfamiliar with these plug-ins they’re basically identical in terms of functionality but the SE version is slightly modified (most notably removing the saturation circuit) to be lighter on resource consumption. With borrowed features from the Minimoog, Voyager and Moogerfooger MF-101, both plug-ins feature three filter modes (BP/HP/LP) with 2 or 4 poles and step/track, syncable LFO with five shapes, offset and amount, a mono/stereo switch and a single knob envelope control.
Moog Multimode Filter XL: an entirely new plug-in, combining fresh features with others from the Sub 37 synthesizer, “The Ladder” 500-series filter and the obscure Sonic Six mono synth, all done with the meticulous circuit modeling that Universal Audio is known for. This plug-in was developed in partnership with Moog’s chief scientist Cyril Lance, according to the UAD User Manual it’s the “only Moog endorsed and authenticated third-party design” and greatly extends previous Moog multimode filter designs, so here goes a quick breakdown of its core features:
- Updated saturation: saturation has been reworked with UA’s latest analog circuit emulation technology. Push the Input Drive to taste and it will go from subtle to extreme. To help us out there’s some visual reference with LED indicators on the input and output to show how “hot” the signal is - no LED blinking means things are mostly clean, green means it’s gentle and “safe” saturation, yellow for mild overdrive and red as you enter the heavy distortion territory.
- Reworked envelope: what once was controlled through a single knob on the legacy plug-ins is now a fully-feature section, with sensitivity control, bipolar amount, attack, release and up to four possible destinations (amount, rate, cutoff, resonance).
- Dual-LFOs: two highly flexible LFOs with up to +5/-5 octaves of range, tempo tap and sync from 16/1 (that’s right, sixteen bars!) to 1/64. There are seven shapes now including sine, saw, square and S&H, along with A/B balance and a (stereo) “width” control which separates their action on the panorama.
- Reworked filter section: now with four modes (BP/HP/LP/notch), four slope (poles) options including the classic Moog 4-pole, “smooth” option for analog-like frequency shifts and “spacing” control which offsets by up to three octaves the cutoff frequency on the L-R channels - borrowed from the Voyager synthesizer.
- Extended output section with a mono switch, mix (dry/wet), volume and stereo balance controls. It's important to note that by turning the mix knob all the way to the left (dry position) you’ll still get a potentially saturated signal. The same applies to the bypass button, so if you really want to turn this plug-in off you have to do so with the power button (below bypass) or use the controls provided by your DAW.
- Step sequencer: a highly flexible 16-step sequencer with up to four control lanes, each lane with independent length and capable of commanding any parameter within the plug-in. Each row is also equipped with “amount” and “glide” knobs. The sequencer also features DAW tempo sync, tempo tap, six possible directions (Forward, Reverse, Ping-Pong 1&2 and Random 1&2), step length from 1/1 to 1/64 and many intermediate options.
As you can imagine from the feature set quickly described above, this XL plug-in has quite a lot going on, so let’s take a look at the signal flow to have better understand its inner workings:
Moog Multimode Filter XL Plug-In signal flow. Taken from the UAD Powered Plug-Ins Manual.
On top of everything you have the sequencer, which isn’t depicted above as it can literally control everything within this plug-in. So we effectively have two modulation engines running along each other, which enables many different possibilities for this plug-in. If modulation is not your cup of tea and you just want a great sounding filter with saturation then don’t worry, as you can simply ignore them and use it statically - set your desired frequency cutoff, mode, resonance, drive it to taste and enjoy it for all its sonic goodness.
You can get insanely complex modulations with the new step sequencer, it controls basically everything inside the new XL plug-in and greatly rewards creativity. You can also use it to “play” the plug-in i.e. have it making noise by itself by running the sequencer and cranking up the resonance on the desired steps.
Sound quality: All three plug-ins are excellent sounding, but as expected the new Multimode XL takes it to a whole new level in all areas. The saturation is beefier, adding an unprecedented weight to the sound, and the filters feels much more organic and alive when you’re applying modulation through LFOs, sequencer or simply by manually turning that cutoff knob. The resonance is also better sounding and you can maintain a good level of musicality even on more radical peaks, something I miss in the legacy plug-ins as the overall emulation has drastically improved. There’s a certain charm to the legacy plug-ins, their sound is definitely very good, they have a quirkiness of their own and they’re great to use because they’re simple and fast to work with, but in terms of sound they can’t really stand their ground against the new tech and the analog emulation present on the XL is definitely a big step up in sound quality. You can drive it very hard and the distortion holds up beautifully, and filter moves feels more realistic than ever. It’s a great plug-in to complement any synthesizer because it brings a great tone and a ton of fun modulations to play with - bad rime intended. Besides their obvious synth-related applications these plug-ins should also work great with anything you throw at them and it will welcome anything that needs filtering, meaningful distortion or extra action as they heavily favour creative uses, the XL being particularly great in this regard with its rich feature set.
Ease of use: As hinted above, perhaps the bigger challenge here is to keep things focused - I could play all day with this new XL plug-in and not get a single loop done! It’s fun and rewarding, which implies it’s also pretty easy to use, and that’s precisely the case. Perhaps the only difficult aspect is hitting the sweet spot on the saturation and envelope depth, on the XL this can be a bit tricky and it will take some fiddling until you get used to it. Saturation is now more level-sensitive than before, and you can hit it gently for a softer sound but it can also be slammed with high levels for dramatic distortion. Fortunately there’s a good degree of control here with the input gain knob/+20dB button plus the output button along with a LED that lights up accordingly from green to red depending on the levels, so it’s all very controllable, it just takes a bit of time until you figure out its behavior. Besides that it’s an intuitive to use plug-in and if you know your way around multimode filters you should face no adversities here other than maxing out your DSP power - the XL takes roughly 30% of a single chip at a sample rate of 48kHz. On the other hand the legacy plug-ins are quite light and you’ll be able to run more instances without major concerns. One small improvement that I’d like to see on the XL is a tweak to the knob position indicators, which are really tiny and the color choice is kind of blurred with the knob itself. Other than that it’s hard to find any flaws, it’s a well designed plug-in that is fun and very easy to use. I’d also like to point out that the documentation is really good, with many great tips on how to make the most out of these plug-ins.
Features: Hard to complain about anything, XL really nails it and it’s a deep plug-in full of nuances with all the highly flexible sequencer, two LFOs, extended envelope controls and reworked analog saturation - not to mention the filter itself, which is quite amazing as well. The XL is definitively one excellent plug-in that gives the classic Moog sound a feature set that’s up to date with today’s demands. All the new features on the XL are really cool and totally amazing for creativity, but on the other hand this plug-in can be a bit of an overkill sometimes when you don’t need or want complex modulation and there’s also the fact that its DSP load can’t be overlooked. In that regard, one wish that I have is an updated version of the legacy plug-in, perhaps a “HQ” mode function to enable the new circuit modeling tech could be implemented as it’s an effective, straightforward to use filter plug-in with its own cool sound. My other wish would be MIDI support, something that would facilitate automation and add easy integration to the generic controllers that many of us have available. Nevertheless, it’s something we can achieve with many of the current DAWs, which might come easier or harder depending on the choice, but some of them stubbornly lacks the infrastructure for controlling plug-ins with anything other than universal or proprietary - I’m looking at you, Pro Tools. For those who don’t know, EuCon and MIDI are the only ways to control plug-ins on this particular DAW.
Bang for buck: This collection is nothing but spectacular and if you’re a filter or synth lover you’ll definitely enjoy it. The new XL plug-in is not only excellent sounding but also a big step forward for UAD plug-ins, as it takes a classic design and puts it up to date with current functionality by breaking away from the hardware to create something entirely new, that doesn’t limit itself to simply emulate the past and that truly embraces what digital tech has to offer. It’s a very laudable effort and the result is really amazing. In case you’re a newcomer to the Moog Multimode Filter plug-ins the asking price might be a bit steep but it’s easily worth every cent if the Moog Filter sound is what you’re looking for, as you won’t find a better representative of it. In case you already own and enjoy the legacy plug-ins then the upgrade is really a no-brainer at $99. Regardless of where one comes from this is one of the very best plug-ins for the UAD2 platform and it will immensely reward the investment.
Recommended for: electronic music producers and mixing engineers looking for the ultimate version of the Moog filter in all its glory or anyone looking for a highly flexible multimode filter with a gorgeous analog character.
Click below for full resolution screenshots.