Review – OB Legacy from UVI, Part 1
UVI has come up with their biggest and quite possibly best synth collection recreation yet, a veritable history of the Oberheim line of instruments.
UVI is probably best-known for its excellent virtual sample-based recreations of vintage (and sometimes not-so-vintage) hardware synthesizers. In OB Legacy, UVI has produced what is certainly is its largest single product, and arguably the best one yet. This collection captures the sound of an impressive variety of Oberheim synthesizers in a single package.
What we have in this collection is actually six separate software instruments based on a ten original hardware instruments spanning a production period of nearly 40 years. These are:
- Xpander (original synth) – XP-12 (UVI instrument name)
- Matrix-6 and Matrix-1000 – M-6k
- OB-X, OB-Xa, OB-SX – UV-XXX
- Two unnamed synths (one from 2000, another from 2016) – Six-12
- OB-1 – UV-1
- MSR-2 – UVSR-2
Given the size of this offering, this will review will be presented in two parts. In this installment we will look at the UV-1, M-6k and the Six-12. The remaining trio will be covered in our next issue, available mid-March.
Let’s first dispense with the essentials. The instruments in OB legacy run inside the free UVI Workstation but they can also run in UVI’s Falcon hybrid synth. In the former case, a certain amount of low-level customization can be made with additional FX on tap. In the latter case, the wealth of programming possibilities of Falcon can be brought into play that can considerably increase the value of this instrument assuming you know Falcon well (my own testing was exclusively using Falcon). PC and Mac are both supported as is both 32-bit and 64-bit operation (64-bit only when using Falcon). UVI Workstation and Falcon work with all major DAWs and there is a standalone option as well for both. Authorization is via iLok account (either software or dongle) and you get a generous three concurrent activations per license. The nearly 50,000 sample files will consume 16.7 GB of disk space.
OB Legacy retails for $199 USD. Initially, UVI initially put it off limits to 2017 seasonal holiday sales. Right around Christmas, however, we saw it available for 25% off. UVI’s normal MO is to offer the occasional 30% off sale. I will venture a prediction that you will see OB Legacy for $140 at some point in 2018. Note that OB Legacy is part of the UVI Vintage Vault 2 bundle, which lists for $599 USD and which will quite possibly (but no guarantees) be put on sale for 30% off during the coming year.
Let us begin with a look at some things all six instruments have in common. Right at the top of the list must be the gorgeous, rich sound. Anyone who dislikes the sound of the OB Legacy instruments probably simply doesn’t like synths, period.
There is simplicity here, however, that on the one hand makes the presets easy to tweak and makes it quite simple to build sounds from scratch. Counterbalancing that is the relative lack of modulation options. You get no more than one general purpose LFO (albeit vibrato, tremolo and filter cutoff have dedicated simple cyclic modulators). There are no aftertouch possibilities and mod-wheel is hard-wired. However, MIDI learn is available of pretty much every control in sight. The six instruments vary considerably in certain areas like arpeggiation capabilities, those ranging between zero arps and two arps on board. Each of the six offerings has a fairly generous amount of factory preset content; there are nearly 1,500 in total, with the majority being immediately musically useful.
There are two quirks common to all six. One is the Velocity toggle that controls velocity-to-loudness. When off, there is volume response to velocity. When on, there is not. I encountered this with another UVI synth and was told by UVI that the behavior was intentional. So, go figure. The second quirk also appears to be intentional. If you select Filter-off, there is still an active 3 dB/octave filter in operation behind the scenes that may exhibit an audible presence in response to velocity differences. Turn the filter’s Velocity control down to make it go away.
So, let’s look at the first instrument, the biggest of the lot (at least in terms of number of tabs).
The UV-1 is a bit of a unique offering from UVI. Most of their synth recreations start with a collection of fully-formed sounds made from original patches on the source instrument. With UV-1 we have a collection of fundamental waveforms: triangle, a couple of saw-like waves, and three pulse waves of varying pulse width. There are three oscillators on board, plus noise. The original instrument is not faithfully recreated, in that it had but two oscillators.
Let me say one thing up front and get it out of the way. This is a more complex instrument for the non-expert user to use to modify sounds or create them from scratch due to what was explained in the preceding paragraph. As such, UVI has not normally really needed to devote attention to much low-level detail in the documentation. That kind of attention is actually needed here, and in several critical cases it is lacking.
Back to the instrument: the three oscillators are independent and have their own ADSR amp envelopes. The noise capability also has a controlling amp envelope, but more on these later. On the Osc tab seen above, you can see the wave Shape control (seven options) and the Range control (+/- 24 semitones). To the right is a distortion unit with a Drive control. Distortion types (presumably modelling guitar equivalents since they are labelled Pedals) have the four options shown.
Let’s talk about the waveforms. The triangle looks very like a triangle with a little analog looseness thrown in. The two saw-like waves can be seen to the right (left column). To the right of these, you can see the three pulse waves, and it looks like UVI got the UI wrong here. On the panel, the pulse shapes go in the order: widest, intermediate width, narrowest. The actual shapes, captured with a virtual oscilloscope happen in the opposite order. Now, the original instrument did not have wave shape selectors like the UV-1 recreation in the first place. So clearly UVI got creative but got things a tiny bit incorrect – not a big deal, but one they might think about correcting in a future release. Finally, the wave shape labelled Oct is like the 50% pulse wave but one octave down.
Noise is the final component on the Osc tab. The meanings of the controls are obvious. We’ll discuss the envelope considerations shortly.
The Env tab is the other primary location of basic sound controls. We find Pitch controls, Color, Filter (and filter envelope) and Amplitude envelope. Pitch control is straightforward. Color is not specifically documented, but appears to be a per-oscillator tilt-EQ effect.
There are two filters. These are in series, although the user must verify this via experimentation to be sure because the documentation doesn’t bother to say. One thing I find interesting here is that we have a Keyfollow control on the panel. This modulation option is rarely found in other UVI virtual synth instruments, and I wish it were more commonly provided. The filter selections are of the resonant LP, BP and HP 24 dB/octave variety.
At the bottom we have the amp ADSR envelope controls. This is another point of mystery. There is the option to edit All, 1, 2, or 3. The documentation is totally lacking in an explanation of how these affect things if the noise sound source is turned on. As best I can tell after a bit of experimentation is this. If you are using noise in a preset, turn the oscillators off, set the envelope edit selector to All, and set up your envelope for noise. There is in fact an envelope somewhere that affects the noise source. Then turn the oscillator(s) back on and use the numbered selections to set ADSR values for each of the oscillators in use.
The FX tab is entirely straightforward. On the left we have some non-FX controls for the stereo disposition on the three oscillators. To the right are the FX offerings. They should require no further explanation.
The Arp tab (above, click on it to see full size) has two sub-tabs: Phraser and Arpeggiator. The arp is pretty basic and easily understood. It can be routed to any or all of the three oscillators. The phraser is a step sequencer, also routable to any combination of oscillators. The circle icon is a record button (the forward icon next to it skips a step in the recording process). When recording, the first note is taken to be 0 pitch offset and subsequent notes are relative to it.
A second sequencer is found on the Step tab. This time, the modulation targets are filter cutoff, oscillator volume, oscillator pan position, oscillator pitch and distortion drive. If the playback Mode is set to Legato, an additional three controls become active that can be used to introduce a delay, gentle attack and subsequent interpolation between the steps in playback.
Lastly we have the LFO tab. In the upper right are some hard-wired routings to control LFO depth via mod wheel. Note we again have a playback Mode control, with additional options available when Legato is selected. The remainder of this panel should be fairly obvious.
As far as presets go, there are 220 or so, most of them musically useful (as opposed to interesting curios that would rarely be relevant in a mix). The OB Legacy page (URL at the bottom of this article) has a series of per-instrument demo tracks created by the irrepressible Torley. If you follow a link to Soundcloud, there are over fourteen additional demo tracks for your consideration. However, most of these do not have any indication of which of the six UVI OB instruments was used in their creation.
The 220 UV-1 presets are allocation in categories as follows:
- Arp-based (27 count)
- Bass (26)
- FX (21)
- Keyboard (20)
- Leads (27)
- Miscellaneous (17)
- Pad (22)
- Phraser-based (31)
- Pluck (15)
- Polysynth (14)
The next instrument in the collection we’ll look at here is the M-6k. This is based upon samples taken from patches created for the Oberheim Matrix 6 and the Matrix 1000. Both were introduced during the late 1980s. The Matrix 6 was a six-voice keyboard instrument. The Matrix 1000 was a rack-mount version of the 6.
In this recreation, UVI has followed the pattern used in a number of recently introduced instruments (PX-Apollo, UVS-3200 and UVX80) in that there are two layers. The top layer offers a relatively small set of basic waveforms and sounds (36 choices in this case). The bottom layer has a much more extensive list (over 130 if I’ve counted correctly). The bottom sounds include basic sounds and waveforms, but fully-realized, complex sounds predominate here.
You could get a credible sound using either layer alone, but of course the real possibilities open up when sounds are stacked using both layers. The frosting on the cake is the fact that each layer has an independent arpeggiator. When both arps are in action, the results can be exuberant fun, as several of the presets (e.g. Joyeux Lutin) immediately demonstrate.
The Edit tab is the other main place for controlling timbre. The Voicing section is global. Everything else is per-oscillator. The only mystery control is Color, which according to the documentation “shifts color based on adjacent samples”, whatever that means – in other words, set by ear. I found the Modwheel section to be extremely confusing, and the documentation doesn’t help a bit here. It says only easily route your controllers Modwheel to control common parameters such as Vibrato Rate, Tremolo Rate and Filter Depth. But as you’ll see on the next tab, we have a single LFO with volume (tremolo) and pitch (vibrato) as two of the three targets, and filter cutoff as the third.
As best I can tell, the vibrato and tremolo control here governs separate, independent LFOs with only a sine (or maybe triangle) wave and a non-syncing adjustable rate (as set in the lower box below the on/off switch box and not influenced by the mod wheel). The operation is nothing like that described in the documentation. In fact, you may actually have two sources of modulation for pitch or loudness, one being the official LFO on the next page and the other being the vibrato or tremolo control on this page.
On this tab we have an LFO and a step sequencer. There are just three modulation targets for the LFO, and volume (tremolo) and pitch (vibrato) are implied on the previous tab. See the comments just above that address this confusion.
The step sequencer is easy to grasp, with targets being oscillator volume and filter cutoff depth. A minor cosmetic error labels the Step routing section as “LFO Modulation Routing”, but it doesn’t take a sleuth to get to the bottom of this enigma.
Next is the FX tab, which should require no further commentary.
Finally we get to the arpeggiator control tab. As you can see, there are two independent units (that may be linked). The arpeggiation notes are controlled by the mode (Up, Down, Up/Down) and Octave. The graph area is for control of the loudness of the individual steps.
Factory preset-wise, M-6k is loaded. We have just under 320 presets in total, distributed as follows:
- Animated (32 count)
- Bass (31)
- Bells (30)
- Brass (25)
- FX (11)
- Keyboard (27)
- Lead (24)
- Miscellaneous (20)
- Organ (12)
- Pad (26)
- Pluck (17)
- Polysynth (21)
- Stepped (18)
- Strings (9)
- Sweeps (14)
The dual layer architecture seen in other recent UVI offerings has proven to be most effective in delivering rich, intriguing sound. It once again delivers in this instrument. I would be hard-pressed to name a favorite instrument in the OB Legacy sextet of instruments, but if I had to, M-6k would probably get the nod. It has a glorious sound, it’s easy to program and the collection of presets is more than enough to keep one occupied for a very long time, even if programming is something wished to be avoided.
Lastly (in Part 1 of the OB Legacy coverage, anyway) we get to Six-12. This one is totally easy to review. It has one panel, limited programming options, and its strength lies in its collection of presets, many of which sound absolutely marvelous. The two source instruments sampled to create Six-12 are not specified, other than one of them comes from c. 2000 and the other is a very recently introduced instrument.
You will note that there is no preset selector control. The presets are organized a little differently here, and come up as sub-selections in the Workstation or Falcon library selector. Don’t worry, it’s completely obvious on how to work things in Six-12 when you fire it up.
There’s little that needs explanation about the UI panel. The effects may seem paltry (Thorus, by the way, is a UVI rich, luxurious chorus-like modulation effect), but we have only Depth parameters visible. For a delay, for example, would it not be great to at least be able to specify the rate and whether or not to use sync-to-host?
The capability actually is there. In both Workstation and Falcon, there is an Edit button immediately above the instrument’s UI panel. Click on that and you will see one of the two displays below (click on image for full-size). For Workstation (left screenshot), the necessary low-level, per-effect controls are pretty easy to find. With Falcon, it might be a somewhat scarier undertaking, but explaining the Falcon UI is far beyond the scope of this review.
Preset-wise … well I’ve already said they are good. We have just over 140, allocated in categories as follows:
- Bass (19 count)
- Bellish (11)
- Brass (12)
- FX (12)
- Impulse (8)
- Keyboard (17)
- Lead (13)
- Organ (6)
- Pad (23)
- Polysynth (15)
- Vox (5)
See You Next Time
That wraps up our coverage of half of the OB Legacy instruments. We’ll finish our survey in the next issue of SoundBytes Magazine. However, I’ll give you a heads up about what to expect. If you’ve formed an opinion based upon what you’ve read so far, there’s nothing in the second part of this review that will change your mind (in other words, if you want it, go for it – you have my permission 😀 ). For now let me just sum things up by offering the opinion that the instruments in OB Legacy sound wonderful and the presets show off each of the abilities of them to great effect. OB Legacy is not cheap, but the size and scope justifies the price.
For more information or to purchase OB Legacy, go here:
For Vintage Vault 2, go here: