Tips about mixing epic orchestration with UAD plugins


Active Member
Hi all..

This is a message mainly for UAD users..but I'm pretty sure that other composers could also contribute a lot with their experience with other plugins...

I wonder if you could share your experiencience about mixing strings within soundtrack compositions to make them fit better into a mix with electronic and drums..
What kind of uad plugins do you mainly use for strings channels, brass, master, and mastering..?

I was reading a lot of article in uaudio web page about every of their plugins, but they only explain tips for guitars, vocal, drum, bass, guitar.. But I could´t find anything about mixing an orchestra or how to treat strings..

Thanks a lot for you help! :)


Senior Member
I don't do a ton of processing to strings even when mixing with electronics and drums. The most important thing, as in other situations, is whether or not your can hear everything in a balanced, musical way. To that end, I usually roll off the low end to clean up and get out of the way of bass synths/drums etc. I also do some LIGHT surgical EQ if I have any masking issues. I don't use any UAD for this as I want something transparent, so I usually go for Fabfilter Pro-Q2. Then if I want to add a little sparkle and sheen I'll throw on the UAD 1081 or Pultec EQ and add a subtle high shelf.

I virtually never compress my strings directly with an insert but sometimes if I want a bigger, more aggressive sound I'll mix in some parallel compression with the UAD LA2A and sometimes the 1176. I'll also sometimes blend in a little saturation with the Studer A800.

On the master bus, in terms of UAD I usually have the SSL G-bus compressor and sometimes Studer A800. In combination with good reverbs, I find I need nothing else to blend all my elements.

I'd advise being careful with processing of orchestral samples. They've already been recorded and processed to a certain extent to sound as sonically pleasing as possible out of the box. Usually all you need to blend with non-orchestral elements is a little EQ and parallel processing.


Senior Member
prodigalson has some good advice!

Heavy UAD user here.
Where applicable:
- A800 on stems
- EQ: Roll off lows
- EQ: Accentuate frequencies you think sound good
- I like to send stems to the new RS88

As much as I love UAD, I've found that orchestration is far more important than EQ and compression.

Above all this, experiment, experiment, experiment.



Senior Member

An oft repeated word of advice regarding plugs and processing: if you don't know why you're doing it, take your hand off the mouse and back away from the computer. ;)


my office these days
It depends (man we see that a lot around here<G>) on what you are trying to accomplish. Are you trying to capture a performance or create one? Is the setting conventional or contemporary, the latter suggesting the presence of guitars or synths or modern sound design.

My very general, and oft disregarded rules of thumb for mixing the conventional orchestral sections:

Tracks vs Stems - I tend to mix from tracks these days, mostly because I can combine them logically to accomplish the same result for which I used to pre-mix to stems. I have not had to deliver stems in quite a while, but when I have I did a two step mix, first to stems, then to stereo, just to make sure that the stems worked<G>.

Strings, winds, or brass in a conventional setting
- I almost never apply dynamics processing, never in fact if it is live players, and can't remember needing it recently with current libraries.
- I will apply filters, probably more than I ought too, mostly to fit things together. This is one of those tasks where I treat the section as a stem even if I am mixing from tracks.
- I can't remember the last time I applied a time based effect in a conventional setting, although I am certain I have.

Percussion in a conventional setting
- I will apply limiting, or maybe compression at extreme ratios, to help fit percussion into the mix. I prefer not to, but if I didn't do a good job tracking (real or virtual) then I cheat.
- On the other hand, I find the only filter I reach for is a high pass, because sometimes I get a little heavy handed composition wise, and need to remove some of the mud. Recently I've used a notch filter on specific tracks, it works a bit better to my ears, but it is a lot of work.

In a contemporary setting I'm probably not trying to mimic the Philadelphia Orchestra, so all bets are off, and really, as I sit here trying to think of rules of thumb I realize I have none. I use all the tools exactly as I would use them on a rock and roll track.

You mentioned UAD specifically. I use them a lot, but I've never really thought about them from an application specific task like this. A big part of my choices would be based on the licenses I own<G>... so I'm not sure how helpful this will be.
dBx 160 - I use this for low strings, low brass sometimes, and percussion when I want a little flavor - so more useful in contemporary settings
UA 1176 - I use this on pretty much everything where I don't want the compression/limiting to be obvious - of course I can certainly set it to be really obvious as well, hmmm... gotta give that a spin!
UA LA-2 - I use this on high strings and winds for a nice effect.
Neve 33609 - another one that can be used on any section, but mostly for effect, somewhat difficult for me to make it transparent (can someone help me?)

Pultec - a tad obvious no matter what you do, but terrific in the lower registers
Cambridge - useful anywhere, and can be absolutely invisible
Neve 1073/1081 - very obvious, I think, but I have used them both on probably everything but percussion
Harrison - another one that can be used everywhere
API - use it everywhere, including (especially?) percussion
And if someone wants to make a deposit to my paypal account I'd really like to add the Massenberg, Brainworx and Tube Tech to my bag of tricks!!

I do use the Studer Tape Machine, almost always on percussion, and brass is next - I just recently bumped up to a Quad card, so I may start using it everywhere.

If I am working with stems then I may use the Ampex Tape Machine or the Studer on the stems. I do not use both, I've tried that a couple of times and found it to be quite heavy handed,

The effects that work best - to my ears - on orchestral sections are the Cooper Time Cube, the EP-34, EMT 140, and DreamVerb. I really like the combination of EMT 140 and DreamVerb - the plate on sections and Dreamverb to glue it all together. I have heard others make the 224 sound like absolute magic, I have yet to figure it out. I do keep working on it.

A couple "tricks" -
Transient Shaper - I use it on tracks, especially string tracks, to create effects. Most of my percussion samples already have such a sharp attack I don't need it - doesn't mean it can't be cool<G>!
Voice-of-God - sometimes fun to apply it to an entire mix to make the bottom end a little heavier.

Lastly, Ocean Way Studios. Jay and I spent quite a bit of time figuring this one out. Not sure if he is still using it or not. It can add a real sense of "real" to certain libraries. but getting it to sound good is really difficult. It tends to work better, for me, on sections or soloists. Perhaps they never recorded a full orchestra there? Not possible<G>!

That's UA stuff, I also use the SoundToys and PSP plug-ins a LOT for special effects, along with a handful of one-offs (Voxengo, Rob Papen and Camel Audio come to mind.) but I've been trying lately to thin the herd a bit.

Have fun!


Active Member
wow... thanks a lot for all your feedback and help!

Other issue that I'm having is related about how to fit different sample libraries regarding the reverb or the presence..
I own several spitfire audio libraries .. (I love their sound), but also things like 8dio cage, east west choirs, and so.. So the challenge is .. how to fit all of them as they were created by the same sample company.. because the taste it´s so so different at the beginning between them..
Sometimes I've tried to use ocean way to re-calibrate the reverb but it´s hard to do..
what about sw like mir or parallax vss? will it help?


my office these days
an observation, nothing more...

we do not yet have the technology to accurately reproduce the complete effect of a specific space, we're getting closer, but the same limits that prevent us from creating a 100% accurate instrument apply to physical spaces. So I'd suggest you don't fret too much about trying to reproduce the sound of hall XYZ.

Instead, try to create a nice environment that mimics some characteristics of your favorite place. That makes it somewhat easier to accept the blend of room imprints from different libraries and developers. You are creating an image of multiple spaces, in effect creating your own space.

There are certainly combinations of libraries where that won't work, but I think it can work for an awful lot of them.