Universal Audio had been teasing us with this mysterious entity called Luna and at NAMM 2020, we’ve finally got our answers! The UA Luna is an entire recording system (DAW) that has been engineered to run on the DSPs that make the Apollo Interfaces unquestionably the best. UA describes it as “Full-featured music creation, recording, and analog-style production system”. They’ve developed this new feature called ARM or “Accelerated Real-time Monitoring” which uses the onboard DSPs to do all the work and with imperceptible latency! This feature changes the perspective which we’ve been recording music and now with no monitoring and latency issues and the huge library of plugins that UA has to offer.
What’s in the box?
Unfortunately, Luna is only restricted to the Thunderbolt Apollo and Arrow devices and exclusive to macOS. But on the bright side is that it’s free for the owners of these thunderbolt devices and will be available for download early spring 2020. That said, it’s UI is very familiar to the UI of the UA Console App and has got it integrated directly into Luna for seamless routing of the cues in your monitoring path and the processing on the recording path.
Luna is also a platform to showoff UA’s virtual instruments. This is UA’s first release of a Virtual Instrument and by working with Moog to get an accurate and inspiring emulation of the archetypal 1971 Moog synthesizer. Their Ravel grand piano is a virtual instrument based on the new Ultra-Resonance technology, physical modeling and UA’s proprietary sampling of an awe-inspiring Steinway Model B grand piano. And their Shape Virtual Instrument, a complete catalog of instruments from vintage keys, drums, guitars to orchestral ensembles, and so much more, from Universal Audio, Spitfire Audio, Orange Tree Samples, Loop de la Creme and many more, included free with Luna.
The Recording System
UA has emulated the Neve 1272 summing amplifier circuity from the classic Neve 80 Series consoles give you the aura and energy that made the music created in the magnetic era the best music ever created! And to top that, Luna’s audio transport features an integrated Multitrack Tape emulation using the included “Oxide Tape” emulation has that fat 2.5” tape sound. UA also has a Studer A800 Tape Recorder Extension which is more malleable but is sold separately.
Luna’s ARM allows you to add plugins to your input chain that lets you print the effects and also has an insert section that allows you to listen to plugin’s effects non-destructively! These plug-ins that we’re familiar with are called Luna Extensions which means they run in the fabric of Luna that is on the DSPs and when ARM is off, these extensions play natively on playback but via DSPs in realtime. And with their Virtual Instruments, they process natively but they can be run through ARM and have Luna Extensions process their sound with close to zero latency! Note that this is the first time, something like this has been offered to musicians without the worry of latency and gives so many more colors to play with as a creator.
Looking at the arrangement (Edit) window, its a fully featured audio and midi editor. There is a piano roll window that allows you to manipulate velocities, note lengths, add more notes and many more standard midi manipulation options like quantization, humanize, etc. The Audio clips can be edited and have a clip gain control. This window also has a feature to show the respective fader from the mix window on the hand side of the window and gives you full functionality of the track as if you were in the mix window. The right-hand side of the window shows the master track level which is very similar to the master meter seen on the UA Console give you the ability to alter cue sends and other options. Of course, these windows can be turned off to have a discrete screen for mixing and editing. And last but not the least, UA has given so much exclusive Luna but Luna isn’t exclusive to UA. UA has given Luna compatibility with third-party audio and instrument software!
UA has given the world it’s first almost zero latency digital audio recording workstation with all the sonic integrity of the magnetic era and complete digital control. UA in the 5 years of development and the conception of Luna even before that, has given us the best of both worlds, which seemed impossible till now! Is there anything more than Luna could add? Their package at the launch of Luna “Mark 1” is almost perfect! Though Luna is Thunderbolt, Apollo or Arrow, and macOS exclusive for now is upsetting. But their mission to make a Universal Audio Ecosystem is worth the sacrifice of being MacOS for all the benefits that UA Luna offers. We can still pray and hope that Luna comes to Windows.