What happens when you trim all the fat away and reduce a synthesiser down to its purest form? A simple patch with essential controls would be rather boring, right? As it turns out, less really is more. Synth Anthology 2 offers an endless array of possibilities…if you think outside the box a little.
Hi, welcome back to StudioWise. This week we take a look at the amazing Synth Anthology 2 collection from UVI.
Synth Anthology 2 is a synthesiser collection library for UVI’s Falcon or the free UVI Workstation player, both either free-standing instruments or VST plugins for your DAW. The company should be well known to you if you have any degree of interest in vintage synthesis, developers of an array of extremely detailed sampled instruments libraries using their own proprietary Workstation platform. In particular the outstanding Vintage Vault bundle features over 100 modeled synths and drum machines that is a must for any aficionado.
Synth Anthology 2 offers an unique global control interface that largely removes the complicated nature of synthesis, offering a patch focused library with simple controls almost anybody with rudimentary knowledge will immediately be a home with. You get a wonderful selection of 77 classic and modern synthesiser models sharing over 2500 unique patches. The GUI is broken down into 6 tabs, each divided between two synth oscillators – Main and a second phase distortion sub oscillator, coloured bluey/green and orange respectively. Enabling an effect or process is a simple matter of clicking the title to illuminate it.
The first tab ‘Osc’ contains the main and sub oscillator controls. Each has ADSR controls, velocity on/off, amp and filter ADSR, plus you get a choice between three filter shapes (hipass, lowpass and band), with your traditional cutoff, resonance, velocity and depth controls. In addition the sub engine allows a further 12 wave-shape variations choices.
The ‘Edit’ tab features typical pitch, width and modwheel controls for each oscillator. The ‘Step’ tab allows you to modulate the volume, cutoff, rez and drive with an interesting stepped bars style interface. ‘ARP’ features a simple dual arpeggiator and finally ‘LFO’ and ‘FX’ tabs are fairly self-explanatory, again all using the same global controls for each engine, requiring clicking of an effect title to turn it on or off. The ‘FX’ tab contains a good selection of UVI’s high-end processing engines Thorus and SparkVerb, with a bit crusher, distortion, phaser and delay included.
Nothing too challenging to understand and is well laid out and fairly simple to navigate. After short time the instrument is second-nature and you will want to start experimenting with movement and layering to achieve richer sounds.
- Access: Virus C
- Akai: AX80
- Alesis: Andromeda, Fusion
- ARP: Chroma Polaris, ARP Odyssey, Quadra
- Casio: CZ-1, VZ-1
- Clavia: NordLead
- Dave Smith: Prophet 6
- Elka EK44: Synthex
- Emu: Emax, Emulator 2
- Ensoniq ESQ-M, Fizmo, SQ80, VFX
- Fairlight: CMI IIx
- Formenta: Polivoks
- Kawai: K3, K4R, K5000
- Korg: DS8, DSS1, DW8000, Minilogue, MS20, M1, PS-3200, Triton, Wavestation
- Mellotron: M400
- M-Memory, M-Mini, M-Polymoog, M-Source, M-37
- NED: Synclavier 2
- Novation: Basstation 2, Nova, Ultranova
- Oberheim: Matrix 6, OB6, OB-X, Xpander
- OSC: OSCar
- PPG: Wave 2.3
- RLD: D-Fifty, JD800, J 60, J 106, Jup 4, Jup 8, JX8P, RLD 3o3, VP330
- RSF: Kobol
- SCI: Prophet 5, Prophet VS
- Seiko: DS301
- Siel: DK80 • Studio Electronics: ATC, Boomstar 5089
- Yamaha: AN1X, CS-80, CS20m, DX7, DX100, FS1R, SY77, SY22
- Vermona: Tiracon 6V
- Waldorf: Microwave XT, Pulse, Q
You can think of Synth Anthology 2 as ‘synthesis easy-mode’, in that the controls for each of the included synth models share the same interface, so no mountain of manuals to pour over, thankfully because the downloadable manual is nothing more than a patch list and reinforcement of the same information you get when you run your mouse over any of the controls. While this could technically be called a rompler, there’s way more to it than just sample playback.
So a well rounded, dual-oscillator instrument with easy controls and great sounds. But the real magic happens when you start layering instruments. Thanks to the very light CPU load and shared interface controls, it’s extremely easy to layer two or (many) more as multi’s devices, creating monster synth walls of sound. In the UVI Workstation software you’re limited to only four layers, whereas with Falcon they sky’s the limit. You can of course set individual pan, volume and pitch for each layer, plus an absolutely mind numbing array of extra synth controls within the Falcon UI – with quite literally endless possibilities.
The overall sound is excellent, if somewhat too polished – analog fans will miss the hiss and noise associated with hardware synths. Also, with a combination of the built-in FX’s and layering of instruments, it’s easy to create other-worldly patches that are so far removed from the original hardware unit it’s not even fair to call them emulations any more.
The presets included are excellent – and there’s millions of them (well, 2500 odd) – which does make finding the right sound somewhat tedious. The patch library is separated out by synth structure (ie classic analog, FM, Wavetable, additive etc) plus a duplicated ‘categories’ folder where the patches are further separated by sound type (bass, lead, pad, strings etc). However finding that ‘sound in your head’ is difficult due to the nature of the patch structure. This is more a ‘wade through patches until something pops up you can use’ approach. If you a very familiar with the characteristics of the various synth included you could start your search with a little more insight, but largely its a matter of learning the sounds and remembering the best patches – unfortunately there is no way to mark or highlight your favourites.
Unlike a typical synth emulation, you don’t have anywhere near the same level of onboard control. There’s no modular cabling, matrix editor or multi-oscillator patching here – just your basic ADSR and modulation controls. Each patch is set, you can’t completely redial a sound from scratch or anything like that. The focus is set squarely on presets and then mucking with the built in LFO and ARP controls to create unique modulations.
And while on paper this might sound limiting, in reality its actually fairly flexible and creative. It’s refreshing to have the controls take away from you so you’re forced to think outside the box a little, the limitations force you to bring in more modulation and layers to form sounds. Of course you could always layer multiple VST instruments in the past, but the thought of having to understand and program complicated synths often relegated that idea to the bin. The simplistic global controls are actually a stroke of genius and clears your thinking for making music, not studying manuals.
Overall the sound is outstanding, hyped and very clean. I own a couple of the synths included (Juno 106 and Yamaha TG77) and I don’t remember them being as big sounding as this. No doubt a lot of the credit goes to the FX section, but a lot has to be said for the excellent source recorded material, clearly a lot of time has been spent to ensure the highest quality.
CPU overheads are very low, in the sub-10% for each patch on our test system, up to 12-15% for holding a chord on a complex patch. Even layering up a 5 patch monster with modulations and FX galore didn’t push too hard on the resources, and I never encountered any staggering.
Sometimes I’m reluctant to use a particular synth because it’s basically too taxing for my brain when all I want is a decent sounding lead or pad. Though there are some fantastic synths sampled here, as well as a few interesting rarities, there is also a tonal balance between them all – they work well together as multi’s.
A perfect partner for Falcon, Synth Anthology 2 patches beg to be layered and effected with the extended synth controls it offers. As a cool bonus, when you buy Falcon from the UVI store you get a $100 USD/Euro voucher for the purchase of any sound banks – so if you can stretch your credit card just a little bit more at checkout for both you will have a spectacular setup.
The included step, arp and FX controls push the sound towards a very contemporary result, which might not sit well with vintage purists looking for analoge offerings. Hardcore synth-heads might also grumble at the limited controls on offer, but they won’t complain about the sound quality.
For $149 USD Synth Anthology 2 is an absolute steal. There is no doubt this is one of the best value synth preset libraries available right now, and when teamed with Falcon arguably the best sounding too. While there’s plenty of other excellent synth collections out there (including UVI’s own Vintage Vault), nothing comes anywhere near as easy to use as this.
If you already own a few in depth synths, now might be a perfect time to give your brain a break and try easy-mode synthesis at its best.
Test Machine Specs
Core i5-6500 3.20 Ghz 16gig RAM. Library installed on secondary 7200 drive.
Propellerhead Reason 9.5
Windows 10, 64bit.
Focusrite Scarlett 214 Interface
Roland Jupiter 80 and Akai MPD218 controllers
Presonus Eris E44 and Aventone Mixcubes monitors
Shure SRH940 headphones