Review – CS-M 1.5 by UVI
UVI calls the CS-M a “Vintage Japanese Power Synth”. With its authentic raw waveforms from the CS line of hardware synths, dual-layer design, and expanded preset library, does it live up to the hype?
by Rob Mitchell, Nov. 2015
Over the past few issues, I have reviewed some of the various synthesizer plugins from UVI. In case you missed those reviews, I will give you some background on the company behind those products. The French-based company, UVI, has been producing music software for around 20 years. They have an enormous software catalog with over 40 releases to date. Nearly all of their plugins are sampled-based, and they use their own software’s filters, envelopes, and effects to shape the sound.
I will continue my trek through their lineup with this review of the CS-M 1.5, which they say is inspired by the CS line of synths by Roland. Like their other plugins, it is based on the actual samples from the hardware synthesizers. It boasts a dual-layer design, a step sequencer, two arpeggiators, effects, and over 200 presets. Now that we know some of the basics behind the CS-M, let’s jump in and see what this synth plugin has to offer.
Before you can check it out, you will have to create (free) accounts on UVI website and the iLok website. Then you will also need to download and install the UVI Workstation. It is free, and the Workstation software works with their other products also. It allows for unlimited parts, includes effects of its own, and it has a mixer section. UVI lets you authorize CS-M on up to three computers at once. For instance, if you need it on your desktop PC, and would also like it on your laptop, it is no problem. It does not require an iLok dongle.
For the PC, CS-M requires a Core Duo CPU (or faster), 4 gigabytes of RAM minimum (8 gigabytes is recommended), Windows 7 or higher OS, and an iLok account.
For the Mac, CS-M requires an Intel CPU, 4 gigabytes of RAM minimum (8 gigabytes is recommended), and Mac OS X 10.7 (or higher), and an iLok account.
To get CS-M up and running, you must run the UVI Workstation first. The CS-M Soundbank file should normally be saved to the UVI Soundbanks folder. After opening that folder from the menu, you just double-click on CS-M in the list. After it is loaded, you are presented with the Edit page, which is the main display. In addition, there are the Mod and Arp pages that I will get to later in the review.
The Edit page will have an initialized preset loaded when it first appears. You can check out the other presets by clicking on the preset name field in the upper-right, or by clicking the buttons to the right of the preset name field. The presets sound great, and there is a large variety available. The only thing I’d wish for is a regular browser window instead having to use a drop down menu. You have to scroll through the long list to get to a preset you want, or skim though one-by-one with the buttons on the right side. To be fair, scrolling through the list does work pretty well. I personally just like being able to see all the presets in a browser window.
Along the top of the display are CS-M’s Layer Global controls. These include various knobs and buttons for adjusting the volume and panning for each of the two layers, changing the octave settings, enabling/disabling of the two layers, and the master volume control.
Below those controls is the Layer Edit section. There are two buttons to switch between CS-M’s layers. The “AB” button lets you make changes to both layers at the same time. Underneath the layer buttons, you will find two menus to select the sounds to be used in the oscillator. The first field is where you select the category of the wave type, and the second field lets you select the actual wave itself. There are ten categories to choose from, some of these include Ensemble, Raw Poly, Raw Solo, Unison, and Waves.
After you pick a category, you are then able to select a wave type. There are a goodly number to choose from in each category, and the basics are here if you wish to build something using standard, sampled waveforms. Some of these are Saw, Sine, Sine-Saw, and other various waveforms sampled at different pulse widths. You might not be able to adjust the pulse width, but if you use the three variations they’ve supplied, at least you have a decent number of options to use when designing your presets.
Other sampled sounds are here as well; brassy sounds, strings, ensemble, noise samples, and many others. There a lot of them to choose from, and using combinations of these within the two layer structure can provide many possibilities in sound design. I haven’t even gotten to the filters or envelopes yet!
To the right of the Layer Edit section you’ll find the Pitch section, Amp envelope, and Drive controls. In the Pitch section, you’re able to adjust the pitch, glide time and depth, as well as the play mode (Mono/Mono2/Poly).
The Depth control works only with the Poly mode. If you use a negative amount with this control, it will glide up to the notes you play. If you use a positive amount, then it will glide down to the notes you are playing.
Envelopes, Filter, and Effects
The Amp envelope is a standard ADSR configuration, with sliders to adjust the different stages. They’ve also included a couple of buttons to control the velocity in different ways. The first button will make it so all notes play at the highest velocity setting, and the other button makes the velocity of the key strikes affect the attack time. Softly hit keys result in longer attacks, while the keys that are struck harder will have a shorter attack time.
The Drive control will give your preset a distorted type of sound, depending the amount used. It’s a good overdriven tone which can be used to easily spice up a lead preset, or whatever other type that you’d like.
Down below those controls are the Stereo and Filter sections. The Stereo Mode section has a setting on the left side to control the way the notes work within the panoramic spectrum. It can be set to off, so all notes are balanced in the middle. “ALT” (Alternate Pan) will make each note alternate from the left to the right side, and “UNI” (Unison mode) which fattens it up by layering and detuning the sound. The Color control acts much like a tone control, while the Spread control adjusts the stereo width. The Detune slider will let you adjust the tuning of the Unison mode.
To the right of the Stereo mode section is the filter. CS-M includes low, high, and band pass modes. Standard cutoff and resonance controls are here, as well as a bipolar envelope depth control, and a velocity sensitivity control. The filter envelope itself is a standard ADSR type (attack/decay/sustain/release). I never owned any of the CS line of hardware synthesizers, so I can’t attest as to how close the UVI filter gets to any of those original filters. It does sound very smooth however, and works well in all of the three modes.
The modulation wheel and effects sections are in the next row of controls. Using the mod wheel, you can control the amount of vibrato, tremolo, and filter cutoff. There’s an on/off button for each, and sliders are here to control the vibrato and tremolo’s rate, and the filter depth amount.
To the right of those controls are the effects. It is basically setup the same way as the modulation wheel section. They’ve included a phaser, delay, and reverb. There are sliders to control the mix amount of each of the effects, but there no other controls available to adjust the effects.
When I reviewed the UltraMini, I remember that it was possible to adjust the effects in more detail by clicking the UVI Workstation’s “FX” button in the upper right of the display. With the CS-M, when I click on the FX button, it is a blank page, so you’re not able to make adjustments to the effects the way you can with UltraMini. However, you can add other effects from that same FX page, and make many changes to their settings. You could then disable the effects on the main CS-M display. I would just like it to work the same way as the UltraMini, as this is a bit counter-intuitive.
LFO, Sequencer, and Arpeggiator
In the upper-left of the Edit page there is a switch to change the display. From there, you can switch to the Modulation or Arpeggiator page. After switching it to the Modulation page, you will see settings for the LFO and Sequencer. You can sync the LFO to the host tempo, adjust its rate and envelope depth, and make adjustments to the attack/decay times. There are four waveforms to choose from: Sine, Triangle, Square, and Sample & Hold. The LFO can be routed to the pitch, drive amount, volume, and the filter. This all works with either (or both) of the two layers.
The Sequencer is right below the LFO section, and lets you have sequenced modulation using up to 16 steps. You’re able to draw in the modulation amounts for the steps using the mouse. There are controls to adjust the step length, and to change the amount of the steps. Also included are controls to delay the start of the sequence, while the Rise and Smooth controls will smooth out the steps. The two destinations you can select from are the volume and filter for either (or both) of the layers.
When you switch to the Arpeggiator page, you’ll notice there are actually two arps on the page. You can set it to either mono or dual mode. Mono mode means only the first arp is used, and it is routed to both layers. When you switch to the Dual mode, the first arp is routed to the first layer, and the second arp is routed to the second layer.
The controls for both of the arps are identical. You can draw in the step amounts with the mouse (they affect velocity), choose up, down, or up/down modes, and change the step length. They’ve also included an octave range control (+ or – 3 octaves), a tie function for each step, and a gate control. The arpeggiators work well, but I do wish they included a control to add an amount of swing.
Overall, I really like CS-M 1.5, as it has a good sound, and a decent amount of modulation sources and targets. The layout is good, and is actually very easy to use. The presets they’ve included sound great, and there is a nice variety to keep most people satisfied.
I only have one other nit-picky issue with CS-M. I wasn’t sure why they made it so the “No Velocity” and “Velocity>Attack” buttons could be enabled at once. If you do that, the Velocity>Attack works like it should, and the No Velocity has no effect, even though it still looks enabled. I would think you’d just want one or the other. If you enable one, it should disable the other automatically (which seems to work), but it should also switch off the light that indicates it is enabled.
Other than my small problems with it here and there, CS-M definitely has a many points in its favor. The layout is easy to figure out, and it looks great. It’s relatively light on the CPU usage as well, which is always a good thing. I think between this one and their UltraMini, it is a toss-up … I can’t decide which one I like better! When you get down to it, UVI makes some awesome plugins that are worth taking the time to check out. Don’t miss this one.
CS-M 1.5 retails for $79 USD. It is also included as part of the Vintage Legends collection which retails for $349 USD, and includes five other synth plugins. You can check out the demo version for CS-M on their website here: