The Australian Chamber Orchestra on harnessing Universal Audio technology

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The Australian Chamber Orchestra on harnessing Universal Audio technology

Australian Chamber Orchestra UAD
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

The Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) is one of the top tiers of orchestral music in Australia.

World-class musicians are assembled to perform in their own right, as well as support bands, musicians and artists who need a real orchestra behind them. Melding genres, as well as artistic mediums. The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s performances are transformative, though they’re always looking to push boundaries and integrate sounds (and therefore equipment) that you may not traditionally hear in an orchestra. We spoke to keyboardist, producer and member of ACO Underground, Paul Beard, about the ACO incorporating Universal Audio Device’s (UAD) equipment into their live performances and rehearsals.

Read up on all the latest features and columns here.

“ACO Underground is an avenue for us to explore and experiment with our music, and we want to bring our audiences in on the experience. The aim is for audiences to encounter the unexpected – beautiful at one end and shocking at the other – but where the music is always at the forefront.” – ACO Principal violinist and vocalist, Satu Vänskä

ACO photo

While touring the US, Paul happened upon a 1955 Fender Deluxe amplifier, and in a moment of magical inspiration, amplified Artistic Director of the ACO, Richard Tognetti’s electric violin through it. Some time later, Paul was introduced to the Universal Audio Devices (UAD) UAFX Woodrow ’55 Instrument Amplifier pedal – a faithful reproduction of the same amplifier that’d inspired him in the US.

In the past Paul had used UAD’s hardware and software to record and produce music, with the brand’s Unison plugins allowing users to capture great preamp emulations before their DAW, and the Console software having powerful routing options available.

The quality of sound from the Woodrow pedal specifically inspired a turning point in the ACO’s performances, allowing them to harness the sound of a loud vintage amp on stage without the upkeep of tubes or the sheer volume of it all. And after bringing in a UAD pedal – he thought, why stop there?

Thanks for taking the time Paul! How did the ACO get involved with UAD? Was there a problem that resulted in Universal Audio equipment needing to be involved? Or were you just looking to augment your sound and experience?

During a U.S. Bryan Ferry tour I’d found this gorgeous 1955 Fender Deluxe in Arkansas. We tried it as an amp for Richard Tognetti’s electric violin and it sounded magic. He adored it and threatened to steal it on several occasions! The issue we had was that, amazing as it sounded, it was severely acoustically challenging for the rest of the orchestra – especially the violas!

How did Universal Audio specifically come up?

I’ve been using UAD plugins to make records for years. I was recording The Seasons album by Alexz Johnson at my studio, Aviator in Sydney. The guitarist Ollie Thorpe was loving my Fender Deluxe. He told me about the clone version he’d bought. It sounded almost identical and was road worthy too. Then he pulls this Woodrow pedal from his backpack and tells me “and this just changed my life. It plays as good as the real thing. I can’t tell the difference, the crew can’t tell the difference and the audience can’t tell the difference.” It’s a total game changer. We realised that this could be the perfect solution to using a loud amp on stage with the orchestra.

What UAD equipment are you running? How is it being run?

For anything to do with triggering samples and playback tracks, we are running an Ableton Live setup through the Universal Audio Console software. The flexibility with the Virtual tracks for monitor routing has been invaluable in Rehearsals for sending the desired headphone mix is to the Drummer. In fact it worked so well that we stuck to using it for the band monitor mixes and it worked flawlessly

Richard Tognetti’s electric violin setup has been revolutionised by the Woodrow guitar pedal. It effortlessly achieves the classic tone of the Fender Deluxe without the sonic issues of having a live guitar amp on stage with orchestral instruments. Everyone is so much happier, especially the violists!

Australian Chamber Orchestra UAD Feature

Has any of the UAD stuff surprised you? Maybe sounding less digital etc. than expected?

The tone of the Woodrow pedal has literally blown our minds. All the sonic satisfaction of the real thing, without the stress of transporting a vintage guitar around the country.

Has the UAD equipment inspired anything new?

Whenever we have a Satu In The Beyond concert, there’s a period of rehearsal beforehand. This is time we try out new sounds and ideas.

What has made the UAD technology such an integral part of Australian Chamber Orchestra concerts?

With something as fundamental as violin tone, the Woodrow pedal has redefined Richard’s approach to his electric sound. We’d love to try the other amp pedals and of course the new Galaxy 74 Tape Echo pedal. And personally, I would love to see something like the Moog Filter as a pedal!

How does modern technology like UAD fit into more ‘traditional’ music like a chamber orchestra? Are you using traditional sounds or does it inspire more modern effects and sounds?

The electronic part of the band tends to focus on sounds from a more modern palate, although I do get a bit indulgent with the vintage [Roland] Space Echo!

Keep up with the Australian Chamber Orchestra here.