Rant re: UAD plugin activation

Warning: Rant Ahead!

Last December, I purchased the UAD Essential Elements plug-in collection. My plan was to use it both live and in the studio. Licensing is managed via iLok.

The first time I pulled one of these plugins into a rackspace in Gig Performer at home, everything seemed to work just fine and I started building some additional things around it in the rackspace. I did not put this rackspace into production for my next show.

At my subsequent show, I went to open my latest gig file, which had this rackspace present and GP kept hanging when I was trying to load the gig file. I was starting to panic when I thought to myself, “What is the most recent change I made that might be creating this issue”. I realized that the latest change was the rackspace with a new plugin (UAD) in it.

I went into my plugin folder locations for both VST3 and AU and removed the plugin I’d used. I then was able to get GP to load, then remove the offending rackspace and get on with my show.

I’ve been looking into this, and apparently you cannot do a computer specific activation of any of these plugins via iLok license manager (or any other method). You either have to be connected to the internet or use an iLok USB key. I have several other plugins that I use offline live activated to specific computers via iLok license manager. UAD apprently doesn’t and never intends to support this. I do not plan on getting an iLok USB key for one vendor’s plugins when every other iLok enabled vendor I do business with doesn’t have this same restriction.

Shame on you UAD!

The rant is over, you may now go about the rest of your day.


The same with Eventide+iLok. Without iLok or internet connection you’re dead in the water. Eventide, however, does show the activation dialog, so one doesn’t have to search for the culprit.

1 Like

Once again, this highlights the reality that plugin developers rarely develop and/or test their products for live use. Most of these big companies are focused on studio work only–static location, dedicated networking, no zero/low latency required etc. You have to be very selective with the plugins you choose to use live as a result.


That’s why I use an iLok key, which among other things solves the problem of having to do without plugins that you think are necessary.

I’m not convinced by the arguments against using an iLok key: it’s unbreakable (metal, no moving parts) and if you’re capable of losing it, you’re just as capable of losing anything else, such as an external hard drive, which these days is the size of a USB key.

We can consider all the other possible disasters, but in this case let’s also consider them for the rest of the equipment if we want to be logical. It’s the rigour of our behaviour that’s important, to avoid the casualness that can come from avoiding problem situations.

My problem with the iLok key is that it was sometimes not recognized on my former desktop PC. My Slate plugins required the key. I couldn’t license them to the PC. Now, on my new laptop, iLok refuses to recognize it. I can’t even deauthorize the Slate plugins for which I bought licenses, but were never able to use reliably. When iLok added Cloud licensing, Slate updated the plugins I had to support it, but never added machine licensing support. Repeated attempts to communicate with them all went into a black hole. They never responded once, not even an automated response. F’em.

I go all the way back to the app-specific iLok dongle for 25-pin Centronics printer ports. I had two apps that used them. They were supposed to be chainable, but that never worked. Only the dongle directly connected to the printer port was recognized. I was always having to unplug my printer and swap dongles. iLok dongles sucked then…and still do. I’m happy for those who can use them reliably, but I will never again purchase an iLok-protected plugin that doesn’t support licensing to the machine. I have about 100 of those, and have ZERO problems.

Concerning UAD… Oh, Lord, but was I ever sorry I installed their download and licensing manager. For a compressor plugin I picked up for free, no less. It was just about the most intrusive app I’ve dealt with in YEARS. I wound up uninstalling the plugin and the app. Did that end my problems with UAD. Nope. I had to spend 15+ minutes with RegEdit cleaning up the Windows registry and getting rid of a ton of crap that they installed but didn’t remove during the uninstall.

So, UAD joined Waves and Slate on my short list of plugin suppliers to avoid like the plague.

1 Like

I wouldn’t use a dongle-sized external drive either. The concern for me (apart from the unreliability issue) is that if you’re participating in a festival or any other kind of event where there can be a rush to get off stage, it’s way to easy for small things to get lost…the dongle might fall out unnoticed, someone might bang into your laptop by mistake in the rush, etc.
Then you typically don’t find out until the next night (if you’re on tour) at which point it’s too late to do anything about it.

I understand your situation because you have a lot of equipment.
For me, who plays with compact equipment (PC+Babyface+hub+pedalboard), everything can be placed on the pedalboard to enter and leave the stage.
I sometimes play at festivals where the artists follow one another every 15 minutes (this is a particular case of literary festivals, but it’s a frequent occurrence for me).