The promise of Universal Audio’s Arrow is strong; A smaller, more compact version of the Apollo, perfect for laptop producers looking for a way to take the UAD platform on the road. Of course, desktop users are not excluded but Arrow clearly points to the void left by UAD’s current rack-mount and desktop offerings. And just like with any love affair, whether or not the Arrow will go straight to your heart or mortally wound your wallet depends greatly on your mindset – and financial status. I love mine but the relationship had a rocky start.
Plugging in my guitar for the first time, I was blown away by the lack of perceived latency. Working with Logic Pro, with UAD’s Console running, I had set up a new audio track in an existing project which was heavily laden with software instruments. Using the UAD Marshall Plexi Classic plugin, I was able to track and record with no perceived latency. And to my further amazement, I later realized I had inadvertently left my systems’ buffer settings at the system maximum. Based on experience with other interfaces that I work with regularly, there’s no way this recording should this have worked! And yet, it worked flawlessly, thanks to Arrow’s monitoring capabilities. My lust for Arrow was now in full bloom!
While I won’t spend time (here) on UAD’s marketing strategy, it’s painfully apparent that this device is merely a gateway drug. So, if you’re looking to join the throngs of UAD users …er… addicts, prepare to relinquish your wallet. That low price tag is deceiving…
The unit boasts two Unison pre-amps, which do sound great. The ability to use classic channel strip emulations from API, SSL and Neve with the Unison pre-amps was enticing and a primary motivator for my purchase. Arrow is buss-powered over Thunderbolt 3 for the convenience of laptop users. But the unit only includes only 1 SHARC DSP chip which seriously limits your ability to use more than one plugin at a time.
In my case, (working from a desktop computer) I added one instance of the Neve 1073 Pre & EQ but any other plug-in I tried to use threw up an error message stating there was not enough DSP to power both plug-ins. (Note: UAD just released a stripped down version of the 1073 pre amp in March of 2018 that uses far less DSP.) Wah-Wah!
If you are hoping to mix with an assortment of UAD plug-ins, or multiple instances – you’ll want to seriously consider additional DSP power. While there are options, suddenly, that $499.00 price tag becomes A LOT more expensive. UAD recently announced it has plans to offer a way to link the Arrow to its rack-mount systems. That’s great – if you already own one. But otherwise, you cannot link two Arrow units. So, your only options are to buy separate DSP processors like the Quad or Octo Satellite or wait until the thunderbolt option card is available from UAD sometime later this year.
UAD has done a masterful job of producing plug-ins that emulate legendary and illusive hardware. They’ve bound that software to their hardware with ties that would make even fans of “50 Shades” blush. If UAD is the call that beckons you, and it’s your first foray into the UAD ecosystem, I’d strongly recommend you weigh your desired uses against your maximum budget before purchasing this unit. You’ll need to figure in cash for plugins and processing power, on top of your investment. Arrow takes aim squarely at the laptop user but for all it offers in portability, it lacks adequate processing power to run proprietary plug-ins and isn’t that the primary reason you’re considering UAD?
Check UAD’s handy chart of DSP power usage to see how much processing power you’ll need to run your plug-ins.
Sweetwater.com provided a Thunderbolt cable at the time of my purchase which was an excellent touch. For those already part of the UAD ecosystem, this could be a great addition to the family. But if Arrow is going to be your starting point, be warned. You are entering the exotic world of UAD. It’s kinky, intoxicating, expensive and definitely not Vanilla. You probably shouldn’t go in wearing a blindfold.
I’ll update this post with a brief video overview of the Arrow soon.
[Portions of this review appear on as feedback for my purchase on Sweetwater.com]
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