UVI Workstation – A Monster in the closet
VST Instrument Review: UVI Workstation
Hello and welcome back to StudioWise, hoping you’re enjoying our series of in-depth reviews. As always, comment on Facebook, and let us know anything you’re interested in – software/hardware, I’m sure we can sort you out.
This week, the incredible UVI Workstation. This is a virtual instrument interface for PC or Mac that either runs in your DAW of choice or in stand-alone mode (32 & 64bit), perfect for live performance or when you run want to muck around with ideas quickly in the studio.
UVI Workstation is free to download and use, plus they give you a sample pack from their expansion libraries to play with – and it’s a pretty good selection. Even if you had no intention of buying anything, this alone is well worth the download and makes a great free instrument set for your collection. Sadly you would be only scratching the tip of the iceberg if that’s as far as you went.
The free pack includes highlights from the PlugSound Pro pack, various synths and organs, loops, some weirdness from the Toy Museum collection and a single instrument from the amazing IRCAM collection. Great value for no money.
Expansion libraries range from $120 NZD to a whopping $420 depending on what library you buy. The Vintage Vault bundle is the best deal at a portly $610, however, you get nearly $3000 worth of instruments, so relative to the cost of buying them individually it’s a great deal.
You will also need an ilock account (free) so you can choose between your computer and/or USB dongle to activate any libraries you buy (3 activations per license allowed). If you want the dongle, get ready to throw another $60 onto the credit card. In the past I have purposely avoided any software that made me buy an extra device to counter piracy, I mean why is honest guys need to pay for security? So the dongle isn’t compulsory, but if it helps ease the pain you do get a $95 (NZD) credit towards UVI products. So if you were thinking of going down the ilock route for this or other products, this is the best deal on the Internet at the moment (as you’re technically getting one for free)
So, yes – it’s expensive as hell, but is it worth the cost? Let’s have a closer look at some of the expansion sample libraries.
Yes, UVI Workstation is a sample library playback engine, the libraries are not actual synth recreations. I must admit at first when I saw the UVI products come through I thought this is going to take a lifetime to review, knowing how complicated synths can be to understand – and the Vintage Vault pack has 36 of the buggers to go through! however the bubble burst fairly quickly once I found out that no, they are all sampled instruments, meaning in effect all the UVI libraries are romplers….wha-waaaa.
But wait, is that a light at the end of the tunnel?
If like me you’re thinking samples suck, they’re normally looped really badly and you’re going to hear the same sounds on every remix coming out for the next two years, right? Well, hold the phone Batman – Papa got a brand new bag, baby.
The UVI Workstation is a very clever synth in its own right. It’s not going to offer you heaps of LFOs and filters, but it does give you enough knobs and sliders to twiddle so you almost feel as if you ARE using an actual synth. And what’s really cool is the interface architecture, which UVI calls ‘Scripted Instruments’, carry over to all of the other sample libraries – once you become familiar with a single instrument you can operate them all.
For instance, loading up a synth like the UVX-10P you get amplitude and a single filter ADSR, a stereo enhancement section, pitch control, noise, mod wheel and four effect types (drive, reverb, delay and phase). Loading any other synth gives you the same controls, though it will be arranged differently as UVI models each GUI close to the original machine they sampled, but the controls are more or less the same.
You quickly become attuned to the way everything flows, and it’s not long before you’re leaving the presets behind and are off creating your own sounds….and that’s really where the magic begins.
Each preset has an effects section and arpeggiators, but the most powerful feature on the UVI Workstation is the multi-mode. You can load up an unlimited number of libraries, each having its own effects, arpeggiators and mixing capabilities. You have two AUX send and returns, patch effects and overall master effects- giving you the ability to create absolute monster creations.
This is a totally different way of using soft synths from what you could be used to. Sure, ‘real’ soft synth emulations will allow you to muck with the algorithm building blocks of sounds, which is great. UVI Workstation instead gives you a simple, but well-recorded sample to work with, some basic filters, ADSR and a selection of effects to morph the sound into your creation. On a single instrument, this is fine and quite usable, but once you start layering up multiple instruments, that’s when your mind starts exploding.
I love how you can pick and choose styles of synths and then mix them up – say for instance, we can pull up a Mini Moog lead sound, then mix in an SY77 bell pad and a Mellotron violin – with a dirty big old bit crusher over the lot. It’s a different way of thinking, but I love it. Simple, fast and truly creative – plus you don’t need to be a synthesis geek to understand all the deep workings of a modular analogue behemoth.
The sampling is top notch too. The guys at UVI have toiled for years gathering incredible recordings of the real deal synths. These are actual Moog’s, Synclaviers, TR909, and Fairlight’s. If you want an authentic tone, you won’t find better.[divider]The Vintage Vault real life comparisons[/divider] [column size=one_half position=first ]WaveRunner
– WaveRunner 2.0/2.3 (PPG Wave 2)
– WaveRunner 360 (PPG 360 Wavecomputer)
– WaveRunner Orange (Waldorf Microwave XT)
– WaveRunner X (Subtractive synth)
– WaveRunner Terminal D (PPG Waveterm)
UVX-10P – Roland JX-10 with PG-800 programmer
UVX-3P – Roland JX-3P
– DS1 (Roland D-50)
– D77 (Yamaha SY77)
– DS90s (Korg M1)
– DSX (Ensoniq VFX)
CS-M – Yamaha CS20m
– Solina String Ensemble
– Roland RS-505
– Roland VP-330
– Korg PE2000
– Crumar Performer
– Eko Stradivarius[/column] [column size=one_half position=last ]Darklight IIx – Fairlight CMI IIx
Emulation One – E-MU Emulator
Emulation 2 -E-MU Emulator2
Drumulation – E-MU Drumulator
Ap-09 – Roland EP-09
Mello – Mellotron
The Beast – Synclavier II and later model with terminal inteface
– Classic (Minimoog Model D)
– XL (Minimoog Voyager XL)
– Pro22 (Yamaha SY22)
– Pro VS (Sequential Prophet VS)
– Pro VX (Duel layered Sequential Prophet VS)
– CS-M (Yamaha CS-70)
– Energy (DK Synergy)
– FMX1 (Yamaha DX7)
– Kroma (Rhodes Chroma)
– Synthox (Elka Synthex)
– U1250 (Kurzweil K250)[/column]
UVI have an incredible array of expansion packs available on their site. The mentioned Vintage Vault is probably your best starting point if you’re interested in analogue synths, or you’re in a Frankie Goes To Hollywood tribute band 😉
Stand-out instruments for me are the UltraMini (Moog Classic D and Voyager XL), FMX1 (Yamaha DX7), the Darkligh IIx (Fairlight CMI IIx) and the UVX-10P (Roland JX-10).
In the Music Nation studio, we have a Yamaha TG77 and MOTIF ES8 with the DX7 expansion card installed, both of which are covered in the Vintage Vault pack. Doing an A/B comparison was difficult as, presumably to avoid copyright problems, non of the patches are named anything like the originals. But one or two sound banks did marry up with the original hardware, and yes – it’s right on the money. The hardware still has an undeniable width and presence the UVI version lacks, but to be fair that’s not a UVI issue. You’re dealing with a computer running a 44.1k sample rate through a digital interface, it’s never going to sound as good as the real-deal analogue comparison. Obviously buying the real hardware would cost you prohibitively large amounts of cash, even if you could find them, and then of course who has time to study and understand all that hardware (our TG77’s manual is nearly 300 pages long, and the MOTIF has 3 (!!) 1 inch thick manuals)
So there we have it – I love this software, it sounds great and is simple enough for me to use without melting my brain, it looks good and allows incredible flexibility. It’s a shame the stand-alone version doesn’t offer a MIDI player or even a sequencer so you can write material outside the DAW. The price might put it outside the reach of all but the most ardent synth fans, but if you can budget in the investment cost, the rewards you reap will be tenfold.
Check out our video below, we run through a few presets and show you the basics of the interface.
Check out our overview and preset play-through videos below