Computer software relies on the host computer processor for its power. The faster the machine, the more the software can do. This is almost always the limiting factor in the number of audio tracks and effects you can run at once. The next move is the introduction of computers with so much raw power that nothing you can throw at them makes 'em sweat. Imagine 100 audio tracks, each track with various effects. This has always been an issue for home studios: How many tracks and effects can you use before the computer starts to choke?
The day has finally come when you can create the music you want, regardless of the limitations imposed on you by your computer. Do you believe you'll never use fifty tracks in your music? You might be surprised that many of the “pro” albums that you know and love used 60 to 150 tracks of audio! Who knows what's around the corner, but one thing is for sure — as more power becomes available, developers will find creative ways to eat it up, which in turn will help you enrich the quality of your music.
If you have a recent computer that seems to get bogged down by your audio projects, consider using the new breed of PCI (peripheral component interconnect) and Firewire interfaces. They are a great way to give you a boost of power. These cards contain extra DSP (digital signal processing) chips to take the brunt of the audio effects off your CPU. If you have a slower computer that can't keep up, adding one of these power-saving cards and offloading the processing to the card can breathe new life into an old machine. Universal Audio manufactures the UAD-1 card while T.C. Electronic makes the Powercore card. Both cards do the audio processing for you without affecting the computer's CPU. They also come with special plug-ins specifically built for those cards. Since Powercore comes in a Firewire version, even laptop studios can have power to spare.
Universal Audio has a long reputation of making some of the finest hardware audio gear around. Its UAD-1 is Universal Audio's attempt at digitizing some of their most famous products for use in a computer system.