Review – UVS-3200 from UVI

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UVI delivers yet another classic analog synth: an amazing-for-its-time, rare, expensive and temperamental instrument, the UVS-3200 from Korg.

 

by David Baer, May 2017

 

In this review we look at the just-introduced software recreation of the Korg PS-3200, the UVI UVS-3200.  In the last issue of SoundBytes Magazine, we explored another recent UVI classic recreation, that of the PX Apollo (http://soundbytesmag.net/pxapollofromuvi/ ).  There are numerous similarities here, both with respect to the original instruments and the design decisions made by UVI in realizing a modern software recreation of them.

Both the UVS-3200 and PX Apollo hailed from the latter half of the 1970s.  Both implemented a divide-down oscillator scheme that provided unlimited polyphony (or more precisely, limited only the number of keys on the keyboard).  And both offered a per-note amp envelope capability that was quite advanced for that time.

In the modern version, both the PX Apollo and UVS-3200 expand on the possibilities of the original while keeping the spirit of the original’s native capabilities.  Both were based on loving and no-doubt painstaking restorations of vintage hardware.  Both instrument UIs are very consistent and once we get beyond the oscillators, so are all the on-board bells and whistles.  Oh yes … and they are priced exactly the same.

Before getting into the thick of it, let’s get the essentials out of the way.  UVS-3200 runs in the free UVI Workstation but 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 profoundly increase the value of this instrument (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).  It works with all major DAWs and has a standalone option as well.  Authorization is via iLok account (either software or dongle).  List price is $79 USD, but sales have been known to happen.

 

The Original Instrument

Korg called the original the PS-3200 (PS for Polyphonic Synthesizer), and I don’t know from where UVI got the UVS designation, but I assume it is just a concatenation of UVI and PS.  The PS-3200 was in the middle of a line of PS-3n00 synths.  The PS-3100 was the little brother and lacked the program-retention capability of the PS-3200 (a very advanced feature at the time) and was limited to one oscillator rather than the two found in the 3200.  The PS-3300 was even more robust than the 3200.  The PS line has attained a near-legendary status over time, having been used by the early gods of synthesis, names like Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre and Keith Emerson.  Today a PS-3200 may be acquired only by those with a five-digit budget and a willingness to be very patient with all the attention required to keep them operational (and the additional funds to make that possible).

The PS-3200 had a 48-note keyboard (an F to an E).  The upper register supplied an oscillator, the oscillators being referred to as signal generators, for each note of the octave.  Actually there were pairs of them for each pitch, or 24 signal generators in total.  For each of these in the highest-octave register, an electronic circuit cut the frequency in half for the next lower octave, and this happened twice again for the next two octaves below that.  With enough fingers, one could have played all 48 notes at one time and gotten sounds out of all of them.

The instrument was semi-modular.  What that means is best illustrated by the following.  There are two on-board LFOs, referred to as Modulation Generators.  The first of these offered several wave forms and had hard-wired connections to three possible destinations: filter cutoff, pulse width and oscillator frequency (i.e., vibrato).  A second LFO offered only a triangle waveform and it had no hard-wired modulation targets.  To use the second LFO one needed to use a patch cable.  So, on the one hand, the instrument could be programmed more quickly than a fully-modular instrument in which all connections were via patch cable, but it had yet to fully achieve the ease-of-programmability that would be enjoyed with synths produced in the decade that followed.

The other big deal, and it was a rather big deal at the time, was that sixteen presets could be retained in memory.  Of course, to take advantage of these, one could not use any patch cables in the setup.  But for those few well-healed performers who could afford it, this opened up a world of possibilities for more sophisticated instrumentation during live performance.

Each oscillator (two per note with fine-tune variance between each pair if desired) offered a small set of the usual waveforms including variable-width pulse waves.  As stated earlier, a per-note amp envelope appeared later in the processing chain.  Korg has kindly made the original manual available in PDF form on-line, and here is a sample of that documentation that contains a delightful image showing the oscillator output as waves in a water trough and a filter that smooths that output.

 

Those wishing to explore the original instrument in detail can find the full manual here:

http://www.korganalogue.net/korgps/manuals/3200/PDF/KorgPS3200.pdf

If nothing else, reading through this will provide a deep appreciation of just how good we’ve got it courtesy of the advancement of technology.

A second per-note envelope for filter cutoff, something we’ve come to expect as a given, was not part of the package, but the amp envelope could optionally be used to also modulate filter cutoff.  Here’s a delightful visualization of that in the Korg manual.

 

A Modern Rendition

We could go on at some length about the architecture of the original PS-3200 – it is rather fascinating if you are interested in how we got to where we are today.  But we must turn our attention to the UVS-3200.  The manual is pretty lightweight, and normally I would find that grounds for serious criticism.  But the good news is that the interface is so intuitive, few will feel the need to even resort to the manual.

UVI chose to take the notion of presets in the original and implement two independent oscillators, one of them with 24 more-or-less bread-and-butter staples in one and 69 presets of a wider variety in the other.  You can see the main oscillator page below.

 

The two UVS-3200 oscillators are not to be confused with the two signal generators on the original instrument.  The upper and lower oscillators, as presented on the UI, offer a selection of sounds sampled from PS-3200 patches that (presumably) used both signal generators.  Oscillator one, on the top, presents 24 buttons from which to select the preset.  This is reminiscent of the sixteen-button saved-preset selection mechanism on the original.  The bottom oscillator offers a selection of 69 programs selectable via a context menu.  Other than the manner of program selection, the upper and lower oscillators are largely identical in terms of modulation, filtering, and so on.  The image on the right shows the 24 programs present in the top oscillator and the categories of the programs present in the bottom one.

For each oscillator, the envelopes, a filter, unison control, portamento, an arp, etc. are all fully independent.  The tabs offering various edits like pitch control and the arp can be seen in the following two screen shots.


 

Somewhere in the middle of things is a modulation capability that includes an LFO and a step-modulator that are partially shared between the oscillators.  The modulation page is shown below.  Once again, the layout is quite simple and these facilities can be used effectively without needing to first read the documentation.

 

A five-effect FX stage, seen next, processes the mixed output of the two oscillators.  Like what we’ve seen so far, these effects and their controls should be familiar enough to all that no further explanation is needed.

 

The overall capability of the UVS-3200 might seem a little lightweight – there only two LFOs, for example, one per oscillator which must be shared between filter cutoff, volume (tremolo) and pitch (vibrato).  Certainly if you compare this with a state-of-the-art supersynth, like UVI’s own Falcon, for example, there’s no competition.  But all one needs to do is listen to the presets to appreciate just how much can be accomplished with respect to sound design, even with these relatively humble capabilities. 

Of course, anyone running the UVS-3200 in Falcon has all of Falcon’s extraordinary facilities at beck and call – really the best of both worlds.  But those running UVS-3200 in the UVI Engine will have little about which to complain. 

The sampled sounds are the real star of the show here.  It doesn’t take a whole lot of “tarting up” to come up with a compelling preset.  Many of the sample sets readily reveal their vintage origins when listening to them soloed and unadorned.  So if that vintage-sounding quality is what you’re going for, such is easily exposed.  But with the addition of a second stacked sound from the other oscillator and/or the application of FX, you can easily coax a rich and deep, but not overtly vintage, sound out of the UVS-3200.

The UVS-3200 comes with a generous selection of factory presets, nicely organized into the following categories (preset count in each shown in parenthesis).

  • Internal Presets (24)
  • Animated (29)
  • Bass (16)
  • Bells (23)
  • Brass (12)
  • Keyboards (20)
  • Lead (15)
  • Pad (24)
  • Polysynth (25)
  • Stepped (15)
  • Strings (10)
  • Sweeps (9)

 

Is the UVS-3200 for You?

For starters let me point out that anyone who has and loves the UVI PX Apollo will most certainly want to add the UVS-3200 to their arsenal.  They are both brilliant instruments that can deliver both vintage goodness and up-to-date sonic excitement.  Furthermore, they complement each other superbly.

For those with limited experience with the PX Apollo, just head over to the UVS-3200 page at:

https://www.uvi.net/uvs-3200.html

At the bottom of that page is a plentiful collection of demo tracks that reveal all the UVS-3200’s capabilities.  No surprise: probably about one fourth of these tracks do some serious invocation of a Jean-Michel Jarre sensibility.  If that’s the direction in which your musical aspirations tend, this one hardly requires further thought.  But there is much breadth of genre possibilities with the UVS-3200, as I believe the demo tracks aptly demonstrate.  Even at full list price of $79 USD, this instrument offers wonderful value.

To summarize, with the UVS-3200 we have another winner from UVI – much recommended!

 

 

 

 

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