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Century Tube Channel Strip from UAD [Plugin Overview]

Century Tube Channel Strip from UAD [Plugin Overview]
Century Tube Channel Strip from UAD [Plugin Overview]
Hey there, Ian Vargo here from The Pro Audio Files.

Today, I’m going to introduce you to the Century Tube Channel Strip. This is a new plugin from Universal Audio. I’m going to be using it on a variety of sources including vocals, guitars, and drum buss.

The Century Tube Channel Strip has pretty much everything you would want in a channel strip plugin or piece of hardware.

Let’s start with the preamp section. So we’ve got a choice between low and high gain, mic and line level, a low cut, a polarity invert, and a pad, and this level knob. So if you want, you can drive this and dial back the output, and we’re going to try doing that. Tube gear of course is known for imparting a lot of color and harmonic saturation onto your material, and this plugin definitely delivers that.

The equalizer could not be simpler. We have low, mid, or high. We can boost or cut at 110Hz. We’ve got the option in the mid-range anywhere between 300Hz up to 7.2kHz, and the high band is 10kHz.

Next up is the Opto Leveler. Again, incredibly simple. One knob. I find this to be somewhat comparable to an LA2A, perhaps a little bit quicker. So if you want to level a vocal where it’s a little bit too dynamic where the singer doesn’t have great mic technique, this is a great option.

And of course the master section right here.

So again, if you want to drive your preamp section and dial back the output, that’s a great way to add some mojo to your material.

I should note that this plugin works in unison, meaning you can apply the Century Tube Channel strip to your recordings on the way in, and it will be applied real-time and recorded into your DAW, so if you want to add some color and mojo to your signal on the way in so that you feel a little more musically inspired, as with all of the other UA Unison products, it does a great job, but in this case, we are going to use it for mixing today.

So let’s see how the Century Tube Channel Strip works on vocals. I’m going to start from the chorus of this mix. This track is Star Gazing by the band, Pushing Static, I just mixed their record. We’re going to notice that the vocal definitely needs some work. It’s a little bit buried, it’s a little overly dynamic, and I need it to come forward in the mix, and be a little bit brighter and juicier. So I’m going to push the tube preamp to add a little bit of harmonic saturation so that it cuts through the rest of the mix better.

Here we go.



Let’s hear that soloed. We’re going to bypass it.

[vocals, no channel strip]

And let’s bring it in.

[vocals, processed]


Alright, so as we can hear, I made really quick work of that vocal. I would probably hit it with a de-esser and ultimately apply some reverb and delay, but really, within a couple of minutes, we can get a solid vocal sound.

Okay, so next up is guitars, and I’m really excited about this. So let’s listen to the guitars soloed, and then in context.

[guitars, soloed, then full mix]

Okay so it’s a really cool part, but it seems to have a little bit of trouble cutting through, and simply bringing up the volume isn’t going to cut it. So I want to add a little bit of grit. I might try to push the tube preamp pretty hard. I’m going to maybe add some bite somewhere between one to 2kHz, and we’ll see what else I do with it. Here we go.

[guitars, processing]

Alright, so I really dig that. Those guitars definitely bite and cut through the entirety of the mix better now. I simply pushed the level until I saw that I was overloading, and then dialed it back so that I wasn’t. I wanted some of that crackly, fizzy distortion, and that harmonic saturation, but not too much of it. It then boosted at 2kHz, roughly, and added some 10kHz, especially for that picky guitar. Needed help coming through.


I didn’t use the Opto Leveler, and then really important, I dialed back the master to compensate for everything I was adding here at the preamp stage, and I’m definitely happy with the result.

So before I move on and show you how I would actually use it in a mix on drums, I did want you to see that you can definitely push this thing and go a little bit nuts.

So I have it switched to mic, and I’m just pushing it pretty hard on this drum signal, and I want you to hear what it does. First we’ll listen to it without, and then I’ll bring it in.

[drums, without and with channel strip]

Yeah, so for any sane person’s standards, that would sound horrible and awful, but I like the ability to do that. I like to be able to drive a plugin. I bet this thing works fantastic on fuzzy, distorted bass.

What you could do is push it not so hard, drive it not so hard, then bring the level down, maybe mix it in parallel, and you just have another flavor.

So next up is the Century Tube Channel Strip on drum buss. So I’m going to mute all the other busses so we’re only going to hear the drums, and I’m just going to follow my intuition and get to work, and we’ll see what happens.


Alright, so I really like what’s happening there. I’ve got a little bit of grit, because I’m pushing the tube preamp. I’ve got a subtle boost at 10kHz to open up the drums a bit. I wanted to pull some more out of the tone of the snare, so I have this boost at about 6, then I really noticed something cool happened when I boosted ever so slightly at 110Hz. Just helped with the warmth and the overall tone of the drums. Just help them sit better and have a little bit more authority.

I’m barely, barely applying any more compression. Maybe kissing half a dB here, and then again I just dialed back the overall output to compensate for whatever boosting I have in other spots.

Alright, so even in my limited time with the Century Tube Channel Strip, I can tell I really dig the character and color that it adds to your material. I can see it being a lot of fun while recording, but definitely works well while mixing too.

If you noticed, the track that I used was a little 80’s inspired. A little more modern sounding. Just because this plugin has a vintage vibe to it, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work on all types of material.

So I hope you’ve enjoyed this. Make sure to check out Pushing Static, Star Gazing. I have a new course on The Pro Audio Files in which I mix this track and another from beginning to end, so make sure to check that out, and well done Universal Audio on the Century Tube Channel Strip.

This has been Ian Vargo with The Pro Audio Files. Thanks.


Ian Vargo

Ian Vargo is a Producer, Mixer and Audio Professor based in Los Angeles. He has worked on numerous major label and independent records. Get in touch on his website or learn more from him in Mastering in the Box and Mixing Pop.