There seems to be a growing trend amongst software instrument developers in recent years of bundling their goods up into an “ultimate” package and offering that package at a considerable discount to their customers over the combined prices of the individual, component items. This has a number of effects. Firstly, the user community tend to lose their mind over the sheer awesomeness of the bargain to be had. Secondly, people who own a number of the component parts get concerned that they’ve been screwed over. And finally, a segment of the internet bemoans the pricing of the individual instruments, protesting that they can’t be worth “all that” and “how criminal it is that they get away with it”.
I can agree with all of these points from a certain perspective, but as you all well know, my preferred composition and production environment is Propellerhead’s Reason and so we’re not normally privy to such bundles and therefore I’ve never really had to think about it that much. I suppose that if you really like all the tools a developer makes, it’s a worthwhile investment, and given the significant discount over the individual products, it certainly comes across as very tempting.
And now, a developer who gets a lot of “air-time” on this blog (and deservedly so) is tossing its hat into the “mega-bundle” ring. Over the last few years, UVI have been steadily releasing sample libraries with beautiful front ends, all of which are derived from classic vintage synths and samplers. Everything from a Minimoog to a Fairlight, a Korg M1 to a Yamaha CS-70m and a Synclavier to a Mellotron have been used as not-so-subtle inspirations for a wealth of great sounding libraries that offer a reasonable amount of tweaking not often seen outside of Kontakt instruments.
Towards the back end of 2014, UVI launched Vintage Vault. This collection gathered up all 36 of their vintage branded instruments, which also included their Beat Box Anthology package, giving you in excess of 5000 presets across 63GB of content (originally 114GB in WAV format before being losslessly compressed to FLAC) and all usable in pretty much every plugin format there is (except Reason’s Rack Extension, sadly). These libraries use UVI’s free UVI Workstation as a host, and it is that workstation that is available as a VST/AU/RTAS/AAX plugin, working on both OSX and Windows (32 & 64bit) as well as a standalone device. That’s pretty flexible. All of this content is protected by iLok, but before you add your voice to a collective groan, you don’t need an iLok key, although it’s very handy if you have one. iLok is now a protection system that allows for a software “key” so as long as you have a free iLok account, and as long as you download the iLok Manager software, you can store the key for this package on a computer as well as a key. In fact, you can also store it on a second machine if you wanted to use this in two locations. Will this see the end of the bitching and moaning about copy protections systems? Probably not if those systems get in the way of pirates and hackers.
So, if you were to add up the total cost of all these instruments, you’d be looking at the thick end of $2500. That’s a fair chunk o’ cash, even though you would be getting a sizeable sonic arsenal. But UVI are asking for nothing more than $499. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being flippant. I know that $499 is a sizeable wedge but it IS one fifth of the value, perceived or otherwise.
For that $499 you get the following instruments (Instruments they are based on in parentheses):
CS-M (Yamaha CS-70m, CS-40m, CS-20m, CS-01)
FMX1 (Yamaha DX1)
Synthox (Elka Synthex)
Energy (DK Synergy)
Kroma (Rhodes Chroma)
U1250 (Kurzweil K250)
DSX (Ensoniq VFX)
DS90S (Roland D50)
DS77 (Yamaha SY77)
DS-1 (Korg M1)
Ultra Mini (Moog Minimoog, Moog Voyager)
Waverunner 2.0 (PPG Wave 2)
Waverunner 2.3 (PPG Wave 2.3)
Orange (Waldorf Microwave XT)
360 (PPG 360A Wave Computer)
UVX-3P (Roland JX-3P)
UVX-10P (Roland JX-10, MKS-70, and JX-8P)
Emulation One + Drumulation One (Emu Emulator and Drumulator)
Emulation II + Drumulation (EMU Emulator II and Drumulator)
Darklight IIX (Fairlight CMI IIx)
The Beast (NED Synclavier)
Vector Pro VS (Sequential Prophet VS)
Vector Pro VX (Sequential Prophet VS)
Vector Pro 22 (Yamaha SY22)
The eagle eyed amongst you will see that doesn’t quite add up to 36 instruments. That’s because some of those libraries contain multiple functions. For example, The Beast, which is an extensive Synclavier library, has separate modules for the sampling, FM and drum functions. Either way, it’s still a metric shed load of instruments that you’re getting.
And how is all this delivered? Well, if you have a fibre connection and the necessary disk capacity, you can download it, but UVI have also seen fit to supply this on a very convenient USB stick. The stick itself is UVI branded and entirely metal in its construction and looks capable of withstanding a bit of a battering, but the laughable thing is that it is supplied in a box measuring 24cm x 19xcm x 5cm! Slide off the glossy, picture laden sleeve and you have a delightful blue box with subtle silver logos. Slide the lid off and 4cm of that 5cm depth is taken up by a black cardboard insert topped off with 0.5cm of grey foam that has a small USB stick size hole in the middle, within which the Vintage Vault USB stick lays. On top of that is a small colour poster, a 4 page quick start guide with the serial number stuck to it and a sheet of white stickers, containing logos of most of the instruments contained therein. It’s an awful lot of packaging for such a small amount of stuff and even though it’s nicely put together and will stand out on a shelf, be it in a store or in your studio, I can’t help but think that the more environmentally aware users might be slightly critical. But hey, if you read this before you buy, you can make that choice yourself and get the download version!
And the contents?
Well, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I’m sure you’ll be aware of all the reviews I’ve done of the UVI Vintage line, including the videos. If not, then here are the links!
So, is this lot worth $499 of your heard earned dollars/euros/pounds?
I guess it all depends on your current situation and what you already have in your sonic arsenal. Unlike some other mega collections, these are, at their core, just elaborate sample libraries. Now, that said, they are exemplary in terms of sonic quality and sheer size. They also feature exquisite GUI design, a comment which is not just reserved for the styling but also the consistent and simple functionality. I’ve said it many times that the front ends of UVI libraries are deceptively powerful. What looks pretty simple and basic is actually extremely well thought out and can be dived into with a fair degree of user manipulation. I often get questions on my YouTube reviews as to whether these are actual software emulations and they are not. They are malleable sample libraries that allow the user to get instant gratification along with a good degree of tweakability.
When you line this lot up against some of the true heavyweight soft synths out there today, the UVI material stands up quite well, but it would also be a tad unfair on UVI. I don’t know of any other developer who is making something comparable to the Vintage Vault instruments. I first discovered UVI when I was introduced to Emulation II. I had been searching for a good Emulator II library, and had found barely a few contenders, such as Digital Sound Factory’s Emax library, so Emulation II really ticked a box. As a Fairlight aficionado, I found Darklight to be an interesting take on the love of my life. There has never been a significant Synclavier library until The Beast and the Waldorf inspired Waverunner is still, as far as I know, the only worthy Waldorf library out there, certainly one that covers a number of their machines.
I think my favourite thing about the UVI range is that it is very, no… INCREDIBLY easy to mess around with these sounds and come up with something inspiring. That deceptive interface can very much be a wolf in sheep’s clothing and you can soon find yourself coming up with some superb sounds, especially as the UVI workstation has some cracking effects built in as standard. Remember, UVI Workstation is completely free.
Of the instruments included here, I can think of very few soft synth emulations where paths cross. Korg’s own M1 soft synth is one, GForce’s Virtual String Machine and M-Tron Pro are others. I won’t even bother to compare these because it just isn’t fair. Both the Korg and GForce products are vastly superior due to either their size, quality or ability to be programmed. If you’re in the market for an M1 in software, the Korg wins every time. Ditto the String Machine and M-Tron. But there are few, if any, Synclavier type instruments, or good quality libraries of the Rhodes Chroma or DK Synergy. The sheer volume of stuff on here that isn’t available elsewhere in such quality makes it worth having. And don’t be put off too much by the vintage label. Whilst these instruments are rooted in the 70s, 80s and 90s, many of the patches have a very modern flavour.
I was slightly disappointed to not see UVI’s cracking little WaveFrame AudioFrame library included here. I know it doesn’t have the pretty interface, but it certainly fits the classic and vintage criteria and I highly recommend it. Maybe UVI might do an update soon?
I was hoping, very much, to talk here about how well these played with MOTU’s Mach Five 3 sampler. Until very recently, all UVI’s instruments have been immediately compatible with Mach Five 3 as it utilises the UVI Engine. In fact, it always used to be a big selling point, but it seems that is no longer the case. When you try and launch a Vintage Vault instrument into MF3, all seems well until the load process has finished. At which point, you sometimes receive an error stating, “This script was created with a more recent version of MachFiveScript: 13. Please upgrade your software”. It then appears, once this error has been dismissed, that the instrument has loaded fine, but when you try playing it, all the individual note sustain loops have vanished! Hold down a note and after a few seconds, the note shuts off dead. Updating to the latest (at the time of this post) version, 3.2.1, yields no improvements. I don’t have any information based on facts, but it seems that, possibly, the relationship between MOTU and UVI may have cooled somewhat. UVI recently employed new compression & scripting techniques in their instruments, and it appears that the necessary update to Mach Five 3 hasn’t been implemented and it doesn’t look like it will either. I contacted both companies and UVI told me that everything works fine with the UVI Workstation (which it does) and MOTU told me they had no public plans for an update to fix these errors. Reading between the lines, I just get the impression that the relationship has cooled. This just suggests to me that maybe MOTU are either abandoning Mach Five or that they plan to release a new version with something else at its heart. Of course, there is the possibility that MF3 will carry on as is, and just not support UVI’s libraries. I’m unsure as to how this might affect 3rd party libraries that are UVI licensed. Either way would be a shame as I really do like Mach Five 3. It presents a far more friendly and powerful interface than its arch rival, Kontakt. Its powerful sound shaping abilities, all of which use the UVI Engine, are pretty mind-blowing. So, to lose this compatibility is a bit of a blow for us MF3 users But on the plus side, the UVI Workstation is much more than just a VST/AU/RTAS/AAX wrapper and provides an excellent host for everything in this box.
This set will appeal to nostalgia freaks like me. It ticks many a box in that department for sure. But if the vintage tag puts you off, or the fact these are (elaborate) sample libraries makes you hesitant, please reconsider. There is enough material and content here to keep any music maker happy, whatever your style or genre. And the instant gratification one can get from just tinkering with the pattern sequencers or arpeggiators can be truly inspirational. It’s a gold mine of brilliantly sampled analogue and digital fun.