UVI UVX80 - User review - Gearspace.com
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UVI digs once again into analog synth history and comes up with another interesting finding.

6th July 2017

UVI UVX80 by Diogo C


  • Product: UVX80
  • Developer: UVI
  • Format: UVI Workstation/Falcon instrument
  • Requirements: Windows 7+ and Mac 10.7+
  • DRM: iLok (3 activations, optional USB dongle)
  • Price: $79 (US Dollars, MSRP)
The scope: After reviving a nearly-forgotten Moog and one exotic semi-modular Korg, UVI sets their sights on another obscure synthesizer, and this time they’re bringing an instrument based on the AKAI AX80, a rare 8-voice polyphonic analog subtractive synth from Japan with two digitally-controlled oscillators per voice, the famous Curtis low pass filters and a wealthy feature set that was largely enabled by digital tech but running on top of a fundamentally analog heart. It was launched on the same year as the Juno 106 and shortly after the Roland JX-3P, which was sort of a bad coincidence since the AX80 ended up being overshadowed by those synths, despite being at least as capable as they are, which happened for a number of reasons which I’d love to talk about someday but since they’re beyond the scope of this review I’ll spare you of my historian-slut digressions. Case in point, the UVX80 has a somewhat similar architecture when compared to the real thing, but it’s important to know right from the start that we’re not dealing with a 1:1 clone or emulation, so it’s a virtual synth based on the AX80, fueled by its waveforms and featuring a layout that’s definitely reminiscent of the original keyboard, which is strengthened by the very 80s LCD bar graph displays. The UVX80 offers two oscillators which are divided in two edit layers, where the first oscillator’s shape is chosen from a bank of 28 waveforms and the second oscillator can be picked from quite a big library with 111 options that includes everything from the first oscillator plus a bunch of other interesting waveforms including both regular instruments (bass, keys, etc) and some less conventional shapes. Each layer controls their respective OSC, offering volume, panorama, ADSR amplitude envelope with a velocity to attack option, a multimode resonant filter with ADSR envelope, variable depth and velocity assignments. Following the sound generation section we have an edit section with per-layer controls for octave, pitch, portamento, mod wheel assignments (vibrato, tremolo and filter), stereo spread and unison. Then we have a mod section, with one LFO with four shapes (sine, square, triangle, S&H) that can be assigned to the volume, filter cutoff and pitch of each OSC. The mod section also features a step sequencer with variable length and speed that can modulate the volume and filter cutoff frequency for each OSC. The UVX80 also features an effects section with drive (subtle to heavy distortion), chorus, phaser, tempo-synced delay and reverb. Wrapping up there are two arpeggiators (one for each OSC) with independent sequence length, gate time, speed, octave, and up/down/up-down direction options.

Sound quality: As usual UVI has done a great job on the sound quality department and the UVX80 is a very good sounding soft-synth. In terms of sound character I’d put it more towards the Juno 106 and JX-3P with some Dave Smith Instruments hints on the filter and envelopes. It reminded me vaguely of the digital waveforms on my Evolver, so in this regard some patches don’t exactly scream “analog” - it feels more like a modern hybrid than a vintage analog, with its own 80s feel that makes it quite charming. It’s definitely a bit limited in terms of patching, there are no overly complex modulation schemes to play with but it has more than enough to make some rich leads, captivating pads and powerful bass lines. One pleasant surprise was the quality of the “drive” effect, which great to crank up the distortion when things needs to get rough. The chorus is also quite good sounding, albeit a bit too dramatic, and the other effects are good enough for most sounds. Overall it’s another hit for UVI that sound at least as good as their previous offers in this “obscure and rare synth revival” line of products.

Ease of use: A relatively easy to use instrument once you’re familiar with the oscillators and how each option sounds, but after that it should be a breeze. It’s not a complex instrument in terms of internal routing or patching options, so it’s quite straightforward to program. Pick the OSCs, set the amplitude envelopes, filters, a bit of LFO or mod sequencer to give it some action, mix effects to taste and you’re set with a nice patch. In case you’re not on a mood for synth programming or if you’re more of a preset-person (there’s no shame in that!) then UVI provides almost three hundred presets for your convenience, and since tweaking is quite easy achieving the desired sounds shouldn’t be a problem. In this aspect UVI always scores high and it’s no different this time around — the interface is clean, neatly organized with tabs for the core functions for easy access and there’s nothing beyond that unless you have Falcon and want to get creative with it. Computing performance is also good, with fast loading times even on my aging 7200RPM HDD, and it’s also super light in terms of system resource consumption, just a bit more taxing when used with Falcon but that goes without saying it.

Features: Overall a nicely featured, self-enclosed synth that brings it all together with effects, some modulators and enough flexibility to do a good variety of sounds. A few things I missed were mostly about the hands-on/usage aspect, such as visual cues for the mod sequencer action, a linking function for the layers would also be nice and similar reasoning applies to the arpeggiators - I wouldn’t mind a link or a “copy/paste settings” for copying settings from one arpeggiator to the other. And the gearslut in me wouldn’t mind extra (and freely assignable) envelopes/LFOs and dedicated outputs for each OSC, but the current feature set is satisfying and fun to play with thanks to the great ease of use.

Bang for buck: A sensibly priced instrument at $79 (MSRP - $49 intro offer) that delivers some good bang for reasonable bucks as we come to expect from UVI. Needless to say that bang for buck will increase exponentially increases if you’re a Falcon owner, since it adds a whole new world of depth and a ton of flexibility with all its modulators and effects, but on its own the UVX80 ranks as high as the previous PX Apollo and UVS-3200, offering yet another good taste of a rare and quirky synth from a bygone era. If you liked those two you’ll probably like this one as well, but I’m also willing to accept that it’s precisely why one decides to skip it, and perhaps go for a different approach such as the one taken on Synth Anthology 2 that covers more vintage synth ground instead of focusing on one particular machine.

Recommended for: virtual synthesizer fanatics and electronic music producers looking for odd synths to further their options.

Click below for full-resolution (1080p) screenshots.

Attached Thumbnails
UVI UVX80-screen-shot-2017-07-05-10.12.07-pm.jpg   UVI UVX80-screen-shot-2017-07-05-10.12.25-pm.jpg   UVI UVX80-screen-shot-2017-07-05-10.12.22-pm.jpg   UVI UVX80-screen-shot-2017-07-05-10.12.10-pm.jpg   UVI UVX80-screen-shot-2017-07-05-10.12.13-pm.jpg