Review – UVI Vintage Vault 2
UVI’s Vintage Vault sequel is a vast and sprawling collection of legendary electronic instrument recreations – it’s full of treasures that await the classic synth enthusiast.
by David Baer, Nov. 2017
UVI has an extensive catalog of software instruments based upon classic synthesizer and sample-playback devices. Actually, some of these “classics” are not all that old, but others go back to the dawn of the synthesizer age. The UVI recreations are available in packages of various sizes and prices. Some packages feature just one synth (or synth line) and others are bundles of as many as seven unrelated original instruments.
UVI has long had a super bundle called the Vintage Vault. A new version of Vintage Vault was released in August that brings that collection up to date with respect to instruments that are new (or recent) now being included. If Vintage Vault was large, Vintage Vault 2 (hereafter VV2) is utterly mammoth.
Let’s first get the essentials out of the way. All instruments in VV2 run in the free UVI Workstation but they can also run in UVI’s Falcon hybrid synth. 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). VV2 instruments work with all major DAWs and there is a standalone option as well. Authorization is via iLok account (either software or dongle) and you get a generous three concurrent activations per license.
Let me make a few comments about the free UVI Workstation. In the past, I may have seemed a bit dismissive about it because compared to Falcon, which is one of the most impressive hybrid synth/sample-playback instruments known to man, Workstation is less than impressive. However, it really is a very capable framework for hosting UVI instruments, especially if you are running outside a DAW. It can stack multiple instruments, it has a suite of internal effects, it has a bus architecture with FX sends, and more. And did I mention that it’s free? If you are contemplating purchasing VV2 and don’t own Falcon, the capabilities of Workstation may be of importance. They are nicely demonstrated in this 12-minute UVI video:
List price for VV2 is $599 USD, but sales of 25% off have been routinely encountered in the past. Now, $599 may seem like a lot of money for software instruments, but, as I think you’ll see, VV2 is so massive the price is quite reasonable for anyone who finds the content to their liking. There are eighteen components in VV2. Some of these components are themselves bundles, if purchased separately. The components are individually priced in the $79 to $199 USD list-price range. The VV2 bundle price gets you each individual instrument for about $33 (and more like $25 if purchased on sale). From that perspective, VV2 is actually quite a bargain.
We will look at the individual components in a bit. But we can generalize about the instruments because they typically share much in common. We are talking about the tonal instruments in this section – there are several drum/percussion components for which some of this discussion does not apply.
VV2 instruments use sample playback but also offer limited conventional synth programming options like filters and LFOs. The sample quality is uniformly excellent and the quantity is generous.
There is little in the way of modulation routing and other programming niceties one might expect in a software synth. The modulation sources and destinations are pretty much hard-wired. As I have observed before, this is either a deficiency or a feature depending upon your perspective. For sound-design novices the simplicity will be beneficial. And even veterans will appreciate how wonderfully simple building/modifying a preset is. For the most part, one need not read the manual before plunging into sound design. Almost everything is obvious across the board.
As for the UIs, a few instruments have everything on one screen. But most have things spread out over several tabs. In addition to the main Edit tab, there will often be a Mod tab (modulation), and Arp tab (when there’s an arpeggiator or two) and sometimes a separate FX tab.
The FX options are usually limited in number and are fairly basic in control parameters available. But they are of high-quality, especially the reverb which is very nice indeed.
A single filter is supplied which can be LP, HP or BP and which has adjustable resonance. Cutoff can be further influenced by note velocity. Key tracking cutoff is not an option on most instruments.
Each individual instrument typically has two dedicated envelopes of the basic ADSR variety, one for amp and one for filter cutoff.
A single, simple LFO is normally present, and it can modulate pitch, loudness and/or filter cutoff. Drive (a pleasant distortion) is available on many instruments and LFO can often target Drive amount as well. The LFO waveforms are sine, triangle, square and sample-and-hold. Sync-to-host-tempo is an option, as one would expect. A step sequencer, sometimes called a phraser, is often also present that can modulate volume and/or filter cutoff, so it can also fill an LFO-like roll in certain cases.
Although LFO can affect pitch and level, there are separate, dedicated vibrato and tremolo functions that have independent speed settings and have level controlled with the mod wheel. The mod wheel may also be used to influence filter cutoff. However, reassignment to another MIDI CC is not supported – it’s the mod wheel or nothing. Likewise, using aftertouch as a modulation control source is not an option. MIDI learn is supported for continuous controls (knobs, sliders) on the UI.
An arpeggiator is often present, and in some cases there are even two independent ones. A number of the instruments, particularly the more recent offerings, have a two-layer structure in which two sounds can be stacked. Having an independent arp operating on each layer can produce some pretty elaborate, even wild, sound animation.
One final thing to consider is the factory content. There’s normally a whole lot of it and it’s well organized into the usual categories: leads, pads, keys, brass, strings, etc. Upwards of 200 presets for a single instrument is not uncommon. But as pointed out earlier, creating your own sounds is not rocket science and you may easily increase the sound options through a bit of uncomplicated and fun sound design efforts of your own.
The Grand Tour
We will now look at the individual eighteen components. This examination will necessarily be cursory; otherwise this review would become nearly the size of a book. We have done full reviews of a number of these components in the past and will include a link to them where appropriate. More full reviews of individual instruments are forthcoming in future issues of SoundBytes Magazine, you may be sure of that.
There is no particular order to the components in what follows other than those things new to VV2 will be listed first. Screenshots of the primary (or only) UI page for each individual instrument will be included, but you won’t see every panel. To see the full set, visit the UVI page (URL at bottom). Click on any screenshot image below to see it full size.
Let’s begin with what is not only UVI’s most recent instrument but one that may be worthy of the designation “jewel in the crown”. There are actually six instruments in this bundle:
- XP-12 (original synth) – Xpander (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
The individual instruments vary in size – some have one-page UIs while others are more elaborate. We plan to offer a full, in-depth review of OB Legacy in our next issue of SoundBytes Magazine.
This is a recent addition to the UVI catalog. It’s based upon an early Moog polysynth known as the Polymoog keyboard. The UVI implementation does not attempt to be a faithful recreation of the architecture but offers a most useful dual layer take on the original. You may find a full SoundBytes review here .
The UVS-3200 is another recent addition to the catalog, this one based upon the Korg-3200. Like the PX-Apollo, UVI avoids attempting a faithful recreation and once again offers a dual layer “tribute” to the original that presents wonderful sound possibilities. The full SoundBytes review is here .
The UVX80 completes what I think of as a trio of instruments from UVI (the other two are those listed immediately above). They appeared within a year of each other and took a simpler original instrument to new places with a dual-layer rendering. They are also highly complementary. If you like one, you will almost certainly like the other two and will be glad you have them all. Full SoundBytes review here .
Digital Synsations 2
This is an embedded bundle consisting of three separate instruments. We have:
- DS-890 – based on Roland JD-800 (which was itself based on the Roland D-50)
- Dzmo – based upon the Ensoniq Fizmo (implements transwave synthesis)
- DK5S – based on the Kawai K5000S additive synth
And, yes, there was an earlier Digital Synsations bundle, but since we are listing what’s new to VV2 first, we mention the sequel before the original. Read the full SoundBytes review here .
Cameo is a three-instrument collection based upon a number of Casio synths: the CZ1, CZ101, CZ1000, CZ2300S, CZ3000 and CZ5000. The UVI instruments consist of the Cameo CZ, the Cameo CX and the Cameo CM. The CZ and CX are reasonably conventional UVI implementations; the CZ is uses programmed patches from the original instruments. CX offers less programmed sounds, sounds closer to the raw waveforms, but those sounds are made available on a two-layer platform. Finally, there’s the CM, which is off the beaten VV2 track. In UVI’s own words: CM reflects our own perspective on the phase distortion sound. Another dual-layer instrument, but this time utilizing the wavetable oscillator and DSP shaping tools from Falcon. Cameo CM isn’t sample-based in the sense of the CZ and CX, rather it utilizes a hybrid approach designed to create wholly new and unique sounds with the capable architecture of the UVI Engine.
Beatbox Anthology 2
Beatbox Anthology 2 is a replacement for the only instrument in the original Vintage Vault to be removed from the collection. Obviously that would have been the original Beatbox. Beatbox 2 is an expanded version of the original, which was, of course, no longer needed.
Beatbox is said to include samples from fully 111 hardware drum machines too numerous to individually mention. It incorporates a 64-step sequencer grid appropriate to a drum machine and includes 160 pattern presets in addition to the drum sounds.
We now are back in original Vintage Vault territory. From here on, the listed VV2 components were in the original VV collection.
We start with Darklight IIx, which offers the sounds of the Fairlight CMI (Computer Music Instrument). With the exception of the instrument we cover next in this survey, the Fairlight was probably the most expensive and elaborate digital instrument ever created and available only to the elite (i.e., well-healed) musicians of the late 1970s.
The UVI recreation consists of three components: Page P – a digital synth, Page B – a drum machine, and Page U – a three layer sequencer device for presenting loops, phrases, etc.
The only machine that eclipsed the Fairlight CMI in high-ended-ness and cost was the Synclavier which offered several sound-production technologies plus full workstation capabilities. Depending upon configuration options chosen, the Synclavier was priced far beyond the means of all but the most financially successful performers/composers.
Of course, you wouldn’t think for a moment of trading your computer and DAW software for a fully-loaded model. Everything about the Synclavier was primitive by today’s home-studio standards – everything but the gorgeous sound of the FM and additive synth technology, which is the principal attraction of UVI’s recreation. That recreation consists of three components: The Beast FM II and The Beast Terminal, both offering synth sounds, and The Beast Box, a drum/percussion unit.
This one is a Mellotron – what more is there to say? Well, maybe just that this instrument was sampled from three different original machines and presents 28 classic Mellotron sounds. Mello was a freebie on at least one occasion (it lists for $99 outside of VV2).
- DS90s – based upon the Roland D-50
- DS77 – based upon the Yamaha SY77
- DS1 – based upon the Korg M1
- DSX – based upon the Ensoniz VFX
Like Mello, this one was a freebie on at least one occasion, so it is probably familiar to a great many soft-synth enthusiasts.
Like Emulation One (if a bit inconsistently named), this is sampled from an E-MU original, this time the Emulator II, which advanced the state of the art to 12-bit samples. Also, like Emulation One, there is an accompanying drum machine instrument (not pictured), Drumulation (keeping the inconsistent numbering tradition intact). Read the SoundBytes full review here .
Want some sounds from a classic string machine synth? You’ve found the motherlode in this one. Sampled sources are comprised of eleven machines from the likes of Korg, Roland, Siel, Eko, Solina, Yamaha and more.
WaveRunner is all about wave table synthesis sound recreation. The promotional material and documentation is a bit light on what hardware was used other than it seems likely two original instruments were a Waldorf Microwave XT and a PPG Wave 2.3. Seven component instruments make up this sub-bundle: WaveRunner 360 (pictured right), WaveRunner Terminal D, WaveRunner Terminal U, WaveRunner Orange, WaveRunner X, WaveRunner 2.0, WaveRunner 2.3.
The UltraMini is two nearly identical instruments. One was sampled from a 1971 model D Minimoog, and the other from a 2011 Minimoog Voyager XL. The sampled sounds share the same programming but the inherent differences between the two pieces of hardware make for sufficient variety that the two sibling versions were warranted. Read the full SoundBytes review here .
Three Roland synths were the sample source for this instrument. These are the JX-10, the JX-8P and the MKS-70. Each sound was sampled twice, once naked and once sent through the on-board Roland chorus which garnered much praise in its day.
We find two instruments as the sources for Vector Pro and three component instruments. The star of the original show is a Prophet VS, which was first seen in the mid-1980s and provided a significant advancement of sound creation techniques via waveform crossfading controlled with a joystick. Two renditions of the Prophet VS are offered: Vector Pro VS (a basic recreation) and Vector Pro VX (a dual layer extension of the Prophet VS concept). Rounding out this package is the Vector Pro 22, based upon the sounds of the Yamaha SY22.
Finally we are at the end of the list. We wrap things up with Vintage Legends: six instruments based upon eleven original pieces of gear. In no particular order there are:
- Synthox – based upon the Elka Synthex and EK-44
- Energy – based upon the DK Synergy
- CS-M – based upon the Yamaha CS-70M, CS-40-M, CS-20M and CS-01
- U1250 – based upon the Kurzweil K250 and D1000
- Kroma – based upon the Rhodes Chroma
- FMX1 – based upon the Yamaha DX1
Is Vintage Vault 2 for You?
Let’s start this section by acknowledging the elephant in the room. Until recently, UVI had little mainstream competition for a sizeable collection of the types of instruments offered in VV2. There was competition, to be sure, but that was primarily in the form of small, economically priced sample libraries from boutique operations, and a full Kontakt license to run most of these libraries was required.
All that changed a very short time before VV2 was released. IK Multimedia came out with Syntronik, a package solidly in competition with VV2. Syntronik, like the VV2 instrument collection, was sample-based and offered limited but easy-to-understand sound design possibilities. Syntronik recreates the sounds of many classic analog and early digital synths, just as does VV2. While there are differences, there are many, many similarities between these competing products.
Syntronik lists for $299 USD while VV2 lists for $300 more than that. Both will almost certainly go on sale from time to time, but it remains to be seen what sale-price comparisons will look like.
Now, VV2 is the larger of the two by a huge margin. Syntronik boasts a bit more than 2000 presets. VV2 has over 7000! Furthermore, Syntronik lends itself to preset modification, but creating sounds from scratch is something far more readily done in the VV2 world. But a competition definitely exists between these two offerings, and given the price difference, UVI has its work cut out for it in conveying why the potential VV2 owner should shell out that extra money. Both Syntronik and VV2 are excellent products, so quite a few potential buyers are probably going to go with the costs-less option.
If I were in a position of influence at UVI, I would lobby for a VV2 lite option, or perhaps a small selection of scaled-down configurations at lower price points to directly compete with Syntronik’s pricing. It might be time, perhaps, for UVI to assemble some focus groups to discover what the VV2 greatest hits collection would be (I certainly have some definite opinions on this one).
Syntronik aside, though, the size VV2 is both a strength and a weakness. On the con side, VV2 requires one hell of a lot of disk space for all those samples (120 GB to be exact), and the auditioning 7000+ presets to find some favorites would be an almost Herculean effort. But, oh, what delights are to be found within this vast collection.
The component instruments of VV2 can be purchased separately and individual sale prices can be very compelling. But this is not the way to go for someone who will end up owning a good number of the instruments. You’ll spend a lot to acquire them all up front by just buying the whole VV2 collection, but you’ll save a whole lot more in the long run.
Fortunately for the perspective buyer, UVI has much in the way of demo tracks and tutorials on their site. Hopefully the perspective customer would have picked up Mello and Digital Synsations when they were out there for free, and will therefore have a good idea of the quality to be expected from similar VV2 instruments. In fact, another thing I would do if I had influence at UVI would be to create and release a freebie VV2 sampler package as an enticement to the prospective buyer (IK Multimedia has a free lite version of Syntronik, as I’m sure UVI has noticed).
In the final analysis, I believe that anyone who intones names like Carlos, Vangelis, Jarre and Tomita with almost hushed reverence is probably going to have a magnificent experience while exploring the sound riches to be found in the vault. Vintage Vault 2 is a wealth of treasures just waiting to be plundered.
Find out more and purchase VV2 here:
UVI products are also available from retail outlets that specialize in computer music technology.