If anyone is thinking that my reviews on UVI products are coming thick and fast, you’d be right. No, they’re not paying me! But they do seem to be ramping up releases of late. Maybe it’s the result of a winter spent in hibernation, ensconced in a sound proof bunker, producing instrument after instrument.
Well, whatever it is, it’s bearing sumptuous fruits. This particular offering, entitled Electro Suite, is a particularly large one, weighing in at over 4GB and retailing for a cool $199 USD/€179. It works with UVI’s own UVI Workstation (which allows you to run it as a standalone onstrument as well as a VSTi/AU/RTAS plugin) and MOTU’s MachFive 3 sampler. The name implies a large collection, but of what? Let’s take a look and see what our investment yields.
Electro Suite is billed as “a unique compilation of powerful instruments and a huge sound library – featuring construction kits, loops and single elements – exclusively dedicated to Electronic Dance Music. Simple use, rich sounds and inspiring tools” And there is no fear of UVI being pulled up under the Trades Descriptions Act as this is no lie at all. It is a huge collection of stuff. But, in typical UVI tradition, it is packaged and sorted in an incredibly intuitive way, making it easy to get results fast, but also equally rewarding for the digger, wading their way through a myriad samples & loops.
So, let’s start from the top. (Click on the thumbnails for more detailed images)
First on the list are construction kits. I always shudder at that term. It smacks of amateurish teenagers assembling loops in pre-determined keys and thinking they’re the next Daft Punk or David Guetta (like the world needs another David Guetta… funnily enough, the team behind Electro Suite are the same team behind Guetta’s iOS app, Electrobeats). So, I opened up this folder with some trepidation. What you get presented with are five further folders. These contain Drum Construction Kits, Musical Construction Kits, Elements, Loops and Samples. Select a construction kit folder, be it Drum or Musical and you are then presented with a choice of folders with names that hint at the style of the contents, along with their root BPM and key. Open these up and you can then choose an instrument that contains a selection of loops, or you can choose the Elements or Loops folder to gain access to the individual WAV samples. And this is where the kits become very useful. Find a particular element you like? Then the UVI Workstation allows you to drag and drop it outside of the application and into anything you like. So, you could drop it directly into Ableton Live, ReCycle or an audio editor. Furthermore, selecting one of these elements or loops in the UVI Workstation (I do wish they’d chosen a shorter name for it!) and you can open up an audio editor to further tweak the sound. This is a side to the instrument I had not yet seen before and it certainly was a pleasant surprise.
The Musical Construction Kits are the same, but the instrument you load up, rather than having the individual drum hits mapped across the keyboard, has three sections mapped out. One for single drum hits, one for drum loops and one for instrument loops. It’s very quick and easy to start making simple music right here. There is also a selection of controls that allow you to tweak such parameters as loop volume, filter frequency and a button marked “Xtra Power” that gives the whole sound a nice, big, fat boost. Quite how you might use all these loops is anyone’s guess. Some might use them as inspiration, delving into the elements later to construct their own, unique loops. Some might use them as a basis for a complete track. I’m no fan of this type of musical creation, but I do see how UVI have given the user carte blanche to mess around with this stuff as they see fit, and that deserves some credit.
The elements, loops & samples are sorted very neatly, ensuring quick access and speedy navigation, the samples being given their own instrument patch, with controls over amp, filter, LFO, pitch envelopes, modulations and other parameters. The depth of control is pretty awesome.
Ok, so that’s the construction kits. Next up we have the five big, sample based instruments of the package, starting off with the UES CarminePoly Synth.
This is, as its name suggests, a polyphonic synth that comes with its own front panel. It contains two oscillators, each with a choice of 23 waveforms and each can be pitched across three octaves as well as coming with their own volume, tuning, pan and coarse controls. Then there’s and amp & filter section, both with velocity > Attack controls and envelopes. Then there’s an LFO section with 7 waveforms and some other tools such as Glide, Phaser, Delay & Sparkle that are applied to the entire sound. It comes with 20 useful presets, all of which are very capable sounds. But, of course, you can play around to your heart’s content and come up with your own sounds.
The UES DirtyMono is, as its name implies, a monophonic synth. Like its polyphonic brother, it has 2 VCO’s but also a Sub & Noise level control as well as filter, LFO and envelope controls. VCO 1 has a choice of 13 waveforms. But more interestingly, it has its own FX and Phraser sections. The former gives you direct control over bit crushing, delay & sparkle as well as a phaser. The Phraser is a very neat addition. Essentially, it’s a 16 step pattern sequencer with a groove and gate function. Very quickly, you can create neat little phrasings that make this synth superb for bass lines as well as leads.
From synths, we move on to drums and the UES DrumShaper. This is one of my favourite devices in the whole suite. Quite simply, you get a kick, snare, clap and hi-hats. But there is so much more to it. Basically, you get to tweak each of those, and in some detail too. For example, the kick drum. You get to choose a sample for the attack and another separate sample for the body. Each of those samples can be tweaked individually to suit. Then you can mess with the tone and volume as well as its own amplitude envelope. There are nearly 100 kick samples to choose from too. Now the snare is a whole new kettle of fish. Again, you can choose three samples to combine, with individual tuning and filtering, plus global filtering and tuning and well over 150 snare samples to choose from. The clap function is a bit more simplistic, but it still allows you to combine two clap samples and mess with their filtering and tuning on an individual level as well as globally, and then throw on some delay and sparkle. Finally, the hi-hats give you similar degrees of control for closed and open hats. It’s enough to get lost in for hours. You could become your very own version of Tears For Fears and spend 6 months getting your snare drum “just right” 😉 And then there’s the pattern sequencing for each of these four parts. 808 style interfaces abound for all the sounds and added groove and clap shift functions. Once again, visual simplicity belies amazing depth and power.
The fourth instrument is Mission Control. Not so much an instrument but more of a pattern and phrase sequencer. Basically, you have six areas. Kick & Snare, Hi-Hats, Percussion, Bass and two synths. Each of these has a strip in Mission Control, with their own individual volume, pan, low & high pass filter and tune/octave settings. You can also solo or mute each element. Finally, you can pick from any of the hundreds of loops to populate each of the elements, with the combinations running into their thousands. Hitting a key on the highlighted area of the keyboard gives you the full 12 semitones, which you can also select at the top of the instrument. What seems to be quite simplistic at first, becomes very deep once you start digging in to it. A seemingly familiar characteristic of UVI instruments. I envisage this being used either as an inspiration tool or possibly a live performance tool in the right environment.
Here’s UVI’s own tutorial video on how to get the best out of Mission Control…
Finally, we come to the last instrument, the UES SweepMachine. Noise sweeps are a staple of many dance floor anthems and this device allows you to create your own unique noise sweep or use one of its own. You can choose from white, pink, brown, blue, violet, band, sample & hold, Rossier & Lorenz noise, add a sub noise and also a metallic effect before determining the length of the sweep in bars, using an LFO to modulate it and then feeding it through a flanger, delay and sparkle FX devices. you can create up to four sweeps and flick between them all at the click of a button. Whilst it’s a very limited device musically, it does what it sets out to do very well indeed.
So, that’s it. Electro Suite is a huge instrument and makes use of the fantastic abilities of the free UVI Workstation. This scores highly in the visual stakes, being typically intuitive and easy on the eye as all UVI instruments are. There is significant depth in all of the functions and even if electronic dance music isn’t your thing, I still think you could get something from this. Dismiss this as a loop/hit machine at your peril. There is much more to this than meets the eye. And with the UVI Workstation’s own layering and FX capabilities, as well as its arpeggiator, this is a formidable tool.
As has been customary of late, see below for a review video and some sonic examples.
(Apologies for the very brief and occasional audio anomalies… Not sure what was going on!)