UVI’s new Attack EP88 plugin offers a unique twist on familiar electric piano sounds. Greg Scarth puts it to the test.
There are plenty of electric piano plugins around, but UVI’s newly released Attack EP88 might just be unique. In the company’s own words, EP88 is based on “a fully restored Rhodes Mark I 88-key electric piano outfitted with brass tacks on the hammers, giving the instrument a rich, bell-like tonality”. Tack pianos are more commonly created by pushing tacks into the hammers of upright pianos, but the process is similar on a Fender Rhodes, with the tacks striking the metal tines that generate the sound for each note. That immediately sets EP88 apart from the standard electric piano instruments on the market. In practice, it offers a break from the norm in terms of sound, while retaining most of the versatility, charm and character of a standard Rhodes.
EP88 is a multi-sampled sound library which can run in either UVI’s flagship Falcon plugin or their free Workstation player. A free iLok account (but not an iLok key itself) is required to run the software, and the extensive sound library takes up 10 GB of disk space, but installation and operation is otherwise straightforward.
The plugin’s user interface is clear and intuitive, spread across pages for the main controls, voicing, effects and other settings. But before exploring the options further, what about the sound itself? Flicking through the 71 presets, it’s clear that the plugin is capable of a broader range of sounds than you might expect from the average electric piano. Patches such as ‘Warren G Funk’ and ‘Full Contact’ demonstrate the versatility nicely, the former being a bright but smooth sound, the latter really bringing the percussive, slightly metallic tone of the tacks to the fore. Both are recognisable as electric pianos, but as with most of the patches here (and indeed most sounds you can create by tweaking the settings) there’s a certain subtle edge to them that sets them apart from the standard Rhodes and Wurlitzer sounds you’ve heard before on hundreds of tracks.
In terms of customising the presets and creating new sounds, EP88 is nice and deep if you want it to be. The instrument has been extensively multi-sampled via a contact mic, a mono mic, a pair of stereo mics and a direct signal. These can be combined in any way you choose in order to emphasise different elements of the sound, while the acoustic and electric signals can also have their tones and amplitude envelopes adjusted independently. In the effects section, you’ll find five virtual guitar pedals (Crunch distortion, Korus, In Your Phase phaser, Ecto delay and Printemps reverb) for the direct signal, plus two sets of EQ, delay and reverb for the mono/stereo and contact mic signals. In combination with the powerful Voicing page – which allows you to adjust the balance of fundamentals and overtones on a per-key basis as though moving the position of the tines relative to the pickups – it’s a thoroughly versatile setup.
You could argue the relative merits of a multi-sampled instrument like EP88 versus a real-time physical modelling synthesis approach like Applied Acoustic Systems’ enduringly popular Lounge Lizard EP-4, but this is a case where the results are much more important than the method of generating the sound. Either way, it’s a bit of a moot point given that EP88 sets out to break with the norm and replicate distinctive ‘tacked’ tones. UVI have gone to great lengths to capture the sound of their uniquely modified piano, and the result is a characterful and distinctive twist on the classic Rhodes sound. At €149, it’s fairly priced and it offers more versatility than you might expect.
Purchase: UVI Attack EP88
The Final Word
A versatile, user-friendly and great-sounding electric piano plugin with a twist.