UVI Key Suite Electic & Key Suite Digital – Double Down
Hi and welcome to StudioWise. UVI is taking Native Instruments squarely head-on by working overtime to pad out their fantastic Falcon platform with as many usable expansions as possible. Last month we took a deep dive into Key Suite Acoustic library; today we will run through joint new Key Suite Digital and Key Suite Electric titles
UVI Falcon and its free for use stablemate UVI Workstation are my favourites of the sandbox platforms out there, mostly because Falcon is a full-blown power synth at heart.
Key Suite Acoustic was a great expansion library, so I am expecting that these twin follow-up releases will be much the same.
UVI Key Suite Digital and Key Suite Electric are expansion libraries for the free UVI Workstation or Falcon ($349) platforms. Each one weighs in at around 15GB and recommends 8GB RAM on a fairly modern PC/Mac to run. An SSD HD is suggested. However, we run all of our UVI libraries from a 7200RPM drive with no noticeable performance issues.
I was able to try out the brand new “UVI Portal” software manager this time and everything works like a dream. The download app monitors all of your libraries, offering updates when available, and in addition, it makes downloading new products and registering through your iLok account a breeze.
Exploring the Sounds
I will not cover everything that I discussed in our full Key Suite Acoustic review last month so I recommend you to read that review for more detail on the inner workings of the library. These new titles operate in the same way with the same control functions.
The thing to keep in mind is unlike Key Suite Acoustic which is primarily instruments that require rich natural room ambiences and skilled miking techniques, both Key Suite Digital and Key Suite Electric are essentially synthesiser collections which are ideal for processing with loads of the built-in rack effects. On the whole, most patches sound a little dated and thin but respond very well to layering and processing. I prefer to not judge them on the immediate patch sound, but more on their potential scope in my workflow.
If the supplied editing and effects are not enough Falcon users can draw on the excellent internal FX presets for deeper mixing, mastering and wacky modulation effects as desired.
Key Suite Digital and Electic both feature the same easy to navigate UI workflow as Key Suite Acoustic, featuring the main front page, a functions page with filter, envelope and MIDI controls, and finally an effect rack with tailor-designed processing units.
Both expansions are directly sampled from the original hardware keyboards, but I will briefly go over each of the patches.
Key Suite Digital:
Taken from the Roland MKS-20, a sound module mostly passed up by professionals in the day, though it did have a few sounds to die for. The Electric Piano patches are fantastic, possibly the best replications I have heard.
I absolutely love the Electric Piano tone on this instrument. Presumably taken from the Korg SG Stage Piano, this has a really playable collection of presets.
An Akai SG01 by the looks. I confess that this one is not my favourite. It is quite thin and plonky sounding, but I am sure there are plenty of uses to be found by some musicians and sound design producers.
This is a strange choice! The Alesis NanoPiano was the cheapest of the cheap bad in the day and never known for its high-fidelity. It was very mobile due to its tiny size, so popular with live bands. I am not crazy about the electric piano, but the grand piano sounds quite nice in a cool artificial way.
E-Mu Performance were all the rage back in the day. The amazing bell-like tone is back and sounding better than ever. This is possibly my favourite of the lot, as it certainly brings back memories.
Surely an Ensoniq ESQ, but I am not sure as I have never played the real synth. This variant has plenty of retro vibe, with a very nice electric piano selection. Excellent Electric Piano presets.
I am not sure of the origins of this instrument but it reminds me of my old Kurzweil 1000px sound module. Quite dated 80’s tone, but very usable never the less.
A little thin sounding, but nice to play. Nothing to do summersaults over, but a nice little selection of retro-sounding presets.
Clearly, a Roland MKS-20 piano module. These things were all over the place back in the 90’s, but are getting pretty rare these days. The buttery smooth EP was the main reason you would lug this beast along to your gigs, and UVI has really nailed those presets here. A real joy to play.
This is the only instrument of the lineup of which I still own the original hardware variant (well, the Yamaha TG88, which is essentially the same thing).
It’s difficult to compare apple with apples, as the hardware patches are very affected with chorus and whatnot. It is possible to achieve a very similar sound with the effects included with the software, but out of the box they are very different. The core sound is very good and quite recognisable as Yamaha, but the UVI effects do not sound the same, being mostly far too clean and modern sounding.
The TXP Vibes are bang on the money and sound fantastic, nobody does 80s vibes like Yamaha.
I am really happy this unit has been included. It is definitely a lot easier to open the plugin than it is to patch in the old girl to my console again. Great sounding instrument and one I’ll be using a lot of in the future.
Key Suite Electric
This library contains a lot more patches and is hence separated by more generalised categories. It would be too much to look at each of the 63 instruments separately, so I will look at each section as a whole.
Possibly the most distinctive of the range, tine keys are very characteristic and recognisable. Each of the 14 patches included has multiple presets to choose from, each with variations of reverb, chorus or modulation effects applied.
I am a big fan of the Ml2 Rhodes that is well represented here (3 models), that buttery smooth bell tone is so distinctive and playable.
Tine patches benefit greatly from the layering of the bass keys. The drive effect included on the EQ3 rack unit is great for adding a little more grit to the usual bell-like crystal tone.
A surprisingly warm sounding and playable group of patches. I am not familiar with the real-life counterparts for these instruments, but they sound similar to tine Eps, just a little thinner perhaps.
Not as prone to breaking up at higher velocities as the tines are, these are a lot more consistent sounding. I particularly like the W200 Studio model, but all sound a lot nicer with a touch of drive added to break them up slightly.
Very nicely detailed recording. The electric pianos feature all the nuances you would expect on their real-life counterparts. I am not a fan of the electric piano tone personally, but I do love how UVI have captured all the string resonances and slight mistunings which add to making a very lifelike sounding group of patches.
The Cpiano 80 is probably the standout for me here, having a wonderfully soft and dark tone. It was for me the most immersive of the range.
Not my thing, in general, but certainly a very well recorded selection
A wide range of Clavs are on offer, all sounding authentic. The D6 with a hint of reverb is outstanding, my favourite of the bunch. The interesting E7, with its quite guitar-like tone is also worth mentioning, an unusual sound, but likeable.
The L series are included, all with the distinctive harpsichord-like character – perfect for your Beach Boys surf rock.
Quite an eclectic selection of very unusual sounding instruments. A cross between EP and Clavs, with slight toy-like qualities, this sections will appeal to a select group of musicians. Full of character, with full resonance and release noises recorded, these all sound wonderfully retro.
This is a really fun category. Some of the included synths are pretty wild. The Analog P16 features a ton of great presets, probably the most flexible of the library.
The AP-09 has been snuck in, probably a resampled edition of the excellent freebie expansion available a few years back. Nice to see it fully fleshed out in this collection.
The rest are a mixed bag of oddball semi-synth electric pianos, all begging for plenty of processing with delays, reverbs and whatnot.
I particularly like the little Cpiano 35, which includes a number of really nicely designed patches.
A nifty selection of smaller, bass orientated instruments. The wonderful Moog Torus has been included, with only 7 patches, unfortunately, but still nice to see such a monster bass machine here.
The rest are bass variants of previous Epianos, all sounding good and well suited to either solo work or as a layer enhancement to other instruments in the library. I quite like the little tuning variances on these bass instruments, not so noticeable at first until you layer with another instrument which adds another dimension of interest to the sound.
This is a pair of excellent additions to the UVI catalogue boosting the ‘Key Suite’ collection to cover the full gamut of pianos and keyboards. UVI’s selection of bundle suites, Vintage Vault 2, Anthologies and Falcon specific sound design title is comprehensive now, to say the least.
While the original Key Suite Acoustic feels like the flagship of the series, both Electric and Digital have a lot of content to bring to the table. There is no real need to consider which one to buy: you get all three, of course.
Key Suite Electric comes in at $199 which is pricey, but the amount of content feels like good value for money. Key Suite Digital is only $79 but reflected in only 10 instruments. I hope to see a full “Key Suite bundle” at some stage, but for now, UVI has the most complete and premier sounding collection available.
Fantastic sound quality, good selection of instruments and well-optimised performance. Not only another great reason to consider the switch to Falcon but collectively the Key Suite range offers a wealth of historically important instruments, enough to satisfy any keyboard connoisseur.
Highly recommended, as per usual.
Visit UVI for full details and purchasing options https://www.uvi.net
Header image courtesy of Jeff Fielitz https://unsplash.com/@jfielitz
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