Review – Synth Anthology II by UVI

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If you long for the actual sounds of keyboards that are both legendary and on the leading edge, this may just be the definitive collection for you.

 

by Rob Mitchell, Jan. 2017

 

When UVI released the original version of Synth Anthology some years ago, it contained a large collection of sampled hardware synths. They went to great lengths to capture these classics, multi-sampling many famous synths (and some lesser known) along the way. A few of these included the JD 990, Jupiter 8, PPG Wave 2.0, Casio CZ1 Prophet VS, OBXa, and there were many more. With their latest release, 25 more synths have been added to the list. These include the Moog Sub 37, Alesis Andromeda, Ultranova, Polymoog, Korg Triton, and several others.

In total there are 77 synths, 2,500+ presets, and over 20,000 samples included. If you’re interested in the specific file size of all those samples, it is a whopping 15 gigabytes of content in WAV format. This has been reduced down to around 8 gigabytes in file size using FLAC lossless encoding. UVI also added the effects Sparkverb, Thorus, and Phasor with this new version of Synth Anthology. The GUI has been updated with a whole new look, and it is much more intuitive.

Here are the system requirements:

For the PC, you’ll need Windows 7 (or higher) 32 and 64-bit.

For the Mac, you’ll need OS X 10.7 (or higher) 32 and 64-bit.

It requires 9 gigabytes of disk space, and at least 4 gigabytes of RAM.

8+ gigabytes of RAM is recommended for the larger UVI soundbanks.

The supported formats are Audio Units, AAX, VST, and Standalone.

To start using Synth Anthology II, you have to make accounts on UVI’s site and the iLok site before you can install it. It will work from within UVI’s Falcon, but if you don’t have it, then you can download and install the free UVI Workstation from UVI’s site. The Workstation software works with all of the UVI products, allows unlimited parts, includes its own mixer section, and many effects. UVI lets you authorize Synth Anthology II on up to three computers at once, and it doesn’t require an iLok dongle.

You will also have install the iLok License Manager, download the Synth Anthology II file, and then activate the license. Once that is all set, it is very easy to use. You can use it with the standalone UVI Workstation, or load the Workstation plug-in in your DAW. As I mentioned, you’re also able to use Synth Anthology II with UVI’s Falcon; an awesome product that we have covered in other issues. For this review however, I will be using it with the free UVI Workstation.

 

First Impressions

Once you’ve started the UVI Workstation, either in the standalone version or in your DAW, you open the browser at the top of the screen and click on Synth Anthology II to see its presets. These are sorted into categories, some of which include Classic Analog, Modern Analog, Analog Modeling, FM and Formant, Wavetable and Digital, and Vector Synthesis. Once you select one of those, you’ll see the different types available under that category, such as Leads, Pads, Polysynth, etc. In the preset names, there is an abbreviation for whichever keyboard, synth, or sampler they from which the sound originated – here are just a few examples: MTX stands for the Oberheim Matrix 6, MEM is for the Moog Memorymoog, and AAX is the Akai AX80.

Once you’ve selected a preset, you’ll be on the main oscillator page. This shows you an image of the keyboard that was sampled, and there are some controls to adjust various items. The main volume and panning are here, and over to the right is a sub-oscillator section. You can enable this if you want to beef up the sound a bit. There are twelve waveforms to choose from, letting you add another dimension of sound to the patches. It seems many of the included UVI patches don’t even use it, but it’s nice to have it there as an option.

Below the two oscillators are the Amplitude and Filter envelopes. These let you adjust the ADSR (attack/decay/sustain/release) settings for either of the two oscillators and for the filter as well. In the Amplitude section, you can enable/disable velocity, and route the velocity to the attack amount. The filter settings include low, high, and band pass, or the filter can be switched off if you don’t need it. Cutoff and resonance controls are at the bottom-right, along with velocity sensitivity and a bipolar filter depth control.

 

Turn the Page

 

On the Edit page, you’re able to adjust the pitch and stereo settings of the main oscillator and the sub-osc. The “Octave” setting has a range of three octaves in one octave intervals, and you can adjust the pitch by semitone using the “Semi” control. The “Mono” button enables mono voicing. Using the bipolar “Depth” control, setting it to a negative amount will make the pitch glide up to the note you play, while a positive value makes it so the pitch will glide down to the one you are playing. A higher Depth value means it will have a larger interval between the notes. The “Time” control adjusts how fast it will get to the note you’re playing. Both of these work well, except I found that if I set the Time setting to around 25% or less, I couldn’t hear any difference at all. It was if the Depth setting was suddenly turned all the way down, even though I had it at the highest setting.

To the right is the Stereo section. This is where you’re able to enable either the “ALT” or “UNI” features.  ALT will alternate the notes left and right in the stereo field when they are played. The width of this feature is controlled by the Spread control. UNI will generate extra layers of the audio, and the Spread control can be used to achieve a large panoramic sound. The “Color” control acts somewhat like a tone control, and the “Detune” will detune the unison layers to get a thicker sound. Down below those controls is the modulation wheel control section. From here, you can set the amount for the vibrato, tremolo, filter, and pulse width modulation (PWM).

 

Step and LFO pages

 

The Step page is where you can modulate the main and/or sub-oscillator. The amount of steps can be between one and sixteen. The sequence speed can be adjusted, and you’re able to specify a delay amount before the sequence actually starts up. Using the “Rise” control, you can adjust the speed of the transition for whichever target modulation you’ve selected. “Smooth” will blend the modulation from one step to the next.

The choices for modulation targets include volume, filter cutoff, filter resonance, and drive amount. You just click the corresponding tab to enable whichever target you’d like to use, and then dial in the amount. All of the controls in this section (except Volume) are bipolar. Also, UVI swapped out the Drive with a PWM control for the sub-oscillator.

The LFO has four wave shapes available: sine, sawtooth, square, and S/H (sample and hold). It can be synced to the host, and you can choose between trigger, no trigger, and legato modes. The rate for the LFO can run at a decent speed, but won’t get into the audio-rate territory. The targets for the LFO modulation include volume, filter, pitch, and panning. These controls work basically the same way as the Step page. You can select between the main and sub-oscillator, and (apart from volume) they are all bipolar controls.

 

Arpeggiator and Effects

 

There are two separate arpeggiators; one for the main oscillator and another for the sub-oscillator. You can enable either one, or have both running at the same time, which can yield some interesting pattern combinations.

The controls are identical for each arp. On the left side you can adjust the step amount (one to sixteen steps), octave range (+/- 3 octaves), speed, and gate amount. The patterns available are Up, Down, or Up/Down. You can use the mouse to draw the velocity amounts for each step, and each of the sequence steps can also be tied/linked. 

 

For effects, there is a bit crusher, delay, and drive. UVI also added their acclaimed Sparkverb, and two new effects: Phasor and Thorus which have both been recently added to Falcon. You might guess what these are by their names, but in case you didn’t: Phasor is a phaser (just slightly obvious), and Thorus is a chorus. The main controls for each of these six effects are on the FX screen, but there are many additional controls located in the UVI Workstation’s own FX section. You can get there by clicking on “FX” in the upper-right. Just as an example of the amount of controls that are tucked away up there, on the main FX screen Thorus only has two controls available. However, if you go up to the FX section you’ll find ten controls available for that same effect.

 

Besides the six standard effects included, the Workstation has a wealth of additional effects you can use. The only downside to those extra goodies is that they are tucked away, and not as readily available as the six main effect’s controls are. If you are using Falcon 1.2, you get over 80 effects, and many of those include graphical displays that aren’t in the Workstation versions.

 

Conclusion

I went through many of the factory presets and made changes to the sounds with the settings available in Synth Anthology II. First of all, the sound quality is excellent, and UVI really knows what to sample and what makes for a useful sound. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great emulation, but there’s nothing like having the actual sounds that originated from 77 actual instruments. Some of these are not so well known, but other signature sounds you might recognize right away. The varied controls let you tweak the existing patches in many ways, and combined with the large number of effects, you have a wide spectrum of sounds from which to draw. I also really like the way UVI updated the display since the first incarnation of the Synth Anthology, as it is much more modern looking and seems more intuitive.

If you also happen to have Falcon, you are in for a real treat. After you load Synth Anthology II into that powerhouse, you can design patches to your heart’s content. Falcon has nearly anything you can think of to tweak, warp, and design patches while using any UVI sound bank. Synth Anthology II retails for $149 USD.  It had an intro price of $99 USD until November 2016, but if you missed that special pricing, UVI is known to have sales now and then. You can get additional information and sound examples of Synth Anthology II from UVI’s website here:

http://www.uvi.net/en/synth-sound-design/synth-anthology-ii.html

 

 

 

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