As always, there were gobs of new products on display at the NAMM show a couple weeks back. Arguably the most significant one in the area of music production and pro audio was Universal Audio’s Luna system. What is Luna? It’s a music production system based around DAW-like software and any Apollo Thunderbolt interface running on a Mac. When it ships, probably in April, it will be available for free to all current Thunderbolt Apollo and Arrow owners and to anyone who buys an Apollo subsequently.
The UAD folks don’t like using the word “DAW” for Luna because, they say, it encompasses more than that. It leverages the DSP power of the Apollo as well as that of your Mac. The result is an audio and MIDI recording system that promises virtually no latency, lets you access your UAD plug-ins, and adds new virtual instruments—the first ever for UAD—as well as emulations of analog tape and Neve summing. Luna incorporates the functionality of UAD’s existing Console software in its main application.
I saw a demo at the UAD booth at NAMM, where producer/engineer Fab Dupont played keyboards along with another keyboardist/guitarist and a vocalist. All the mics and instruments and MIDI controllers were connected to Luna, and the keyboard sounds came from one of Luna’s MIDI instruments. The output from Luna was sent from the Apollo’s physical outputs to the P.A. system. Overall, the sounds were excellent, and the performers were able to play seemingly without any latency.
The Luna software looks very much like a DAW. It has track lanes for audio and MIDI, and a separate console view. You can click on a MIDI track and get a piano roll editing view. The demos didn’t drill down to show the finer details, but based on the rest of the design and UAD’s well-deserved reputation for quality, you can be pretty sure Luna will offer robust functionality.
The bet that UAD is making is that the integration of its hardware and software and the lack of latency issues (Luna doesn’t even have a buffer setting, as, apparently, it’s not necessary) will be enough to pry people away from their existing DAWs.
I’ve only seen it from a distance and haven’t played with it yet, so it’s a little hard to guess how people will end up integrating the system into their workflows. One could speculate that folks might use Luna for the recording and arranging parts of a project and then export the tracks to Pro Tools or Logic or Cubase, whichever DAW they’re used to, and do their mixes there. But who knows?
It’s also not clear yet whether Luna will support other plug-in formats, although if I had to guess, I’d say it won’t. That could certainly be an issue in terms of getting people who have already invested a lot in plug-ins to switch over. There’s also no word on whether a Windows-compatible version is being developed.
This is a pretty bold step by Universal Audio, and it will be interesting to see how much traction Luna gets when it’s released. In the meantime, you can get more details on the system and its various components from the UA site.