We explore the highlights of UVI’s latest upgrade to their classic synth sound collection.
Vintage Vault 2 is UVI‘s one stop shop for classic synth sounds, both analogue and digital. Featuring 20 individual products that span 50 instruments and more than 300,000 samples, there’s a hell of a lot to get to grips with. The recent upgrade features the addition of seven of them, five of which we’ll take a closer look at here (the sixth is Beatbox Anthology 2, which we already reviewed separately back in June).
Of all the instruments included in Vintage Vault 2, OB Legacy is the only one that’s never previously been available, including six instruments inspired by legendary synth designer Tom Oberheim: the XP-12, M-6K, UV-XXX, SIX-12, UV-1 and UVSR-2 (it doesn’t take too much brainpower to deduce which classic Oberheim model each one is based on). Each instrument has a very different look and feel, though the interfaces essentially feature the same controls, offering a similar workflow when switching between them.
In most of the instruments there are two oscillators from which you can select a number of different waveforms, and sound sources that are organised by instrument, allowing for some creative patch layering, such as adding an FX layer to a string or a voice layer to a bass. You can also lock layers together, allowing for global control, which is useful for making the two individual layers sound more like one single stacked patch. The Mod section features both an LFO and Step Modulator. As well as the usual pitch and filter destinations that you’d expect, the LFO can quite usefully be assigned to drive either one or both of the oscillators, for some more unique modulations. There’s also an arp on board for each oscillator, that you can again link to control both simultaneously.
UV-1 is slightly different from some of the others, with three analogue-style oscillators, featuring a really nice distortion section on each for added grit and attitude. The waveshaper option in particular sounds great. SIX-12 is notably different from the others, with a vastly stripped down GUI and a single page featuring just the one oscillator, though it does have a great sounding bitcrusher section, with sweepable frequency and bit reduction controls for an instant lo-fi feel.
Across the board, OB Legacy features numerous sounds with lots of movement and depth, plenty of wonky funk basses, lush pads, gritty keys, stacked chords, giving a nod to many classic 70s, 80s and 90s synth sounds along the way.
I wouldn’t have minded some modulation controls on the SIX-12 to add some movement to that tasty bitcrusher, but in all the other more feature-rich instruments, editing and designing sounds was intuitive and generally would yield very useable results. There’s tons of production-ready sounds in here. Thanks to the double layers present with each preset, many patches actually sound more like two independent sounds doing their own thing, though the link controls allow for global editing, meaning you can very quickly add top or bottom layers to beef up whatever patch you’re creating.
OB Legacy gives a nod to many classic 70s, 80s and 90s synth sounds along the way.
Digital Synsations VOL. 2
Digital Synsations Vol. 2 features a collection of three instruments – Dzmo, DK5S and DS-890 – inspired by digital 90s classics – the Ensoniq Fizmo, Kawai K5000S and Roland JD-800 respectively. All three instruments feature a simplified GUI with identical controls. There are envelope and filter sections along with pitch, stereo and modwheel assignments and a selection of effects. Being a big fan of UVI’s Thorus effect, I love that they’ve included it here, albeit a slimmed down one-knob version, serving alongside drive, bitcrusher, delay and reverb effects for dialling in space or grit to your sounds.
The Dzmo uses transwave synthesis, as did the Fizmo. Tweaking and customising sounds is very efficient thanks to the streamlined controls (which is faithful to the hardware). The presets give more than a subtle nod to their origin of inspiration (‘Calvin Bass’ for example), and perfectly demonstrate the retro stylings of this instrument. The pad and string sections in particular sound great, possessing an amount of depth and colour not usually associated with digital synthesis.
The DK5S, an advanced additive soundware instrument, has a real funk to it. A collection of awesome sounding plucks, including synth guitars with added fuzz. Some of the sounds in here remind me of many P-funk classics, oozing squelch, but these sounds would sit equally well in modern electronic productions. There’s even a selection of vocal presets, for formant and vowel sweeping tones.
The DS-890 possesses a slightly darker sound to the others, reminding me of some classic 90s electronic hits. Capable of rich and thick tones, with a number of piano presets making for a retro rave feel, there’s a wide selection on offer, everything from dreamy and effect-slathered keys and pads to tight, percussive basses and stacked clavinets.
The sound quality present with these instruments is excellent, thanks to the meticulous multi-sampling undertaken, resulting in layered patches demonstrating a production ready complexity. Many of the presets seem to have been lifted straight from so many classic songs from that era, meaning you can conjure up that retro feel in an instant. With such a focus these days on analogue hardware emulations, it’s all too easy to forget how great sounding and influential some of these digital synths were.
Based on the Akai AX80, which was a rare Japanese analogue polysynth released in the mid 80s, UVX80 features two oscillators. Oscillator 1 is triggered by selecting one of the 28 sound sources, whilst you can select from a number of sound presets for oscillator 2. Each oscillator or layer features its own filter and envelope generators, whilst the edit page lets you dial in mod wheel assignments, stereo spread and tuning.
Of the five effects on board, the overdrive is particularly nice, sounding great on pretty much every sound I trialled it with – turn it on and dial up the amount for instant fatness. Added to this there are step and LFO modulators, as well as a per-oscillator arpeggiator section. The two-layer architecture allows for some really creative sound design, being able to set individual portamento, unison detune and even apply different arpeggiator patterns per oscillator is really creative, though I would have loved an option for locking the two layers together, for times when you want to make edits globally.
To quickly get an idea of what UVX80 is capable of you just need to dive around the presets, which are excellent: big, squelchy analogue basses, 80s-sounding digi keys, housey organs, weird sci-fi arpeggios… It makes you wonder, if the original hardware sounded this good, why wasn’t the AX80 more successful?
Influenced by the Korg PS-3200, an extremely sought-after synth from the late 70s, of which it’s rumoured there were only ever 200 produced. Identical in layout to the UVX80, except we have 24 sound sources to choose from for oscillator 1. The main page allows you to do most of your sound sculpting and preset browsing without being presented with a daunting number of parameters and controls.
Where the UVS-3200 does differ from the UVX80 is in terms of the sound, it’s much more fuzzy and old-school and less 80s-sounding. Again, you miss not being able to lock layers, but the quality of sounds on offer more than makes amends. Super warm and wide analogue strings, thick and fizzing leads, gritty lo-fi keys – there is plenty here to inspire many an electronic production.
Is the first of a promised PX series from UVI, recreating a number of extremely rare or unreleased instruments, PX Apollo is based on the Moog Apollo synthesiser from the early 70s, of which only two are known to exist.
PX Apollo features the same architecture as the UVS-3200 and UVX80, only differing again in the oscillator section. This time, oscillator A features 14 different sound sources, whilst in oscillator B you can select from 12 different analogue-style waveforms, ranging from standard triangle and saw to various pulse and noise shapes. There is also a dedicated bass section, which switches the bottom three octaves over to a independent bass oscillator.
There wasn’t the instant wow factor when browsing the sounds in Apollo compared to the UVS-3200 or UVX80. That being said, it does have a very Moogy sound, raw and rich, which sets it apart. The selection of arpeggio presets are particularly fun to play around with and start tweaking.
Vintage Vault 2, €599, uvi.net