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UVI Sounds & Software Falcon

UVI Falcon 2

4.5 4.5 out of 5, based on 2 Reviews

With a myriad of possible destinations, this bird can fly so far!


1 week ago

UVI Falcon 2 by Lady Gaia

UVI Sounds & Software Falcon

Falcon 2 at a Glance

Falcon 2, referred to hereafter simply as Falcon, is a modestly priced instrument with a lot of range and occasional surprising depths. It features a wide range of high-quality algorithms and comes with a creative array of presets that showcase what it’s capable of.

The diverse range of synthesis techniques is ideal for those who appreciate the kind of complexity you can most effectively visualize and manage in software. If you’re looking to construct a drum kit where every key uses a different signal path, including round-robin variation not just among samples but of synthesis strategies? Or hoping to craft a patch where chords are automatically spread out over time, and to modulate that spread with a looped envelope? Falcon can do all that and a lot more besides. It rewards time spent crafting expressive sounds and evolving soundscapes.

It might not be my first recommendation for a beginner unless they bring an analytical mindset borne of a technical background in another field. That same conceptual complexity may also work against those who feel that technology quickly gets between them and their music. Both groups may prefer instruments that start out with a well-defined character, a simpler signal path, and knob-per-function design. It’s also possible they’d find inspiration in presets that are bundled with Falcon, or available in numerous packs from UVI. Each one exposes ways to tweak the core sound through clearly labelled macro knobs.

It’s refreshing to see a major update provided free of charge to existing customers, but in reality the major version number bump is as much about recognizing all the incremental improvements since 1.0 as it as the major additions with this release. There have been thirty-two releases since Falcon 1.0, so anyone who hasn’t looked at Falcon in a while may be quite surprised to see how much has changed.

Getting Started: Installation

It’s worth reading the manual for the recommended installation process using UVI Portal. I charged in blindly by downloading the standalone installer, which is presented alongside a RAR encoded preset package. It turns out the documented path is much simpler, and it leads into material you’ll want to read to get comfortable with the software in any case.

Falcon uses iLok for copy protection, which is something I normally try to avoid. I was pleasantly surprised that it was less painful than expected, as UVI allows allows host-locked authorization rather than requiring an iLok dongle.

Falcon Boot Camp: Documentation

The first 75 pages are a well-written introduction to the synthesis capabilities and user interface conventions of Falcon, and are well worth at least skimming before sitting down to use the product. You may want to go even further, digging into 30 pages of tutorials that build sounds from scratch while touching on core concepts that will come in handy when you’re ready to dig deeper.

The final 175 pages form a terse reference that briefly covers the huge array of available oscillators, effects, event processors, and modulators. Each module is presented independently, with levels of detail that vary from informative to somewhat sketchy.

Getting Oriented in Falcon

Falcon offers a broad toolkit suitable for learning about and experimenting with a wide range of synthesis techniques in one coherent package. The basic structure and terminology used is as follows:

  • One Multi is a complete multi-timbral configuration of the instrument, consisting of one or more Parts.
  • Each Part can be assigned to an independent MIDI channel. Every Part is actually a reference to an independently saved Program, allowing the same Program to show up across a variety of Multis.
  • A Program consists of a collection of Layers, all of which are triggered together.
  • The Layer is a collection of Keygroups. It also determines whether sounds trigger monophonically or polyphonically, with unison and portamento options. A layer can add restrictions on polyphony if desired.
  • Down at the Keygroup is where you get to the process of producing sounds with one or more Oscillators. A Keygroup can trigger on key down or up, can be delayed to trigger on beat or bar, and the oscillators contained within can all sound together or be chosen among in a predictable cycle or random order.
  • Oscillators produce raw sound through a variety of synthesis and sample playback techniques.
  • Effects alter sound on either a per-voice or summed bus. In Falcon terminology filters are considered to be effects.
  • Modulators range from LFOs and envelopes to external MIDI CC control, and provide real-time change to virtually any parameter.
  • Script Processors are programmable means for changing MIDI input by filtering out, altering, or creating additional events. Arpeggiation is just one of many creative applications for Script Processors in Falcon.
Every step of this hierarchy has independent gain and panning control, and can define its own array of Effects and Modulators. The flexibility afforded by the deeply nested set of concepts becomes apparent as you dig in and start building sounds from scratch or exploring presets. It’s complex, but capable of expressive, layered sounds with a high degree of control. Indeed, Falcon leans into stacking sound to achieve desired effects, often with intricate patterns playing out in response to a single key.

When it comes to the raw sound of Falcon, it all starts with an Oscillator…

Oscillators, the Birthplace of Sound

Falcon provides an impressive array of Oscillator types, perfect for experimental sound design or exploring unfamiliar territory without committing to expensive hardware in order to get into esoteric sonic territory.

The options start with a variety of pure synthesis techniques:
  • Analog and Analog Stack offer a familiar array of clean, aliasing-free waveforms as a solid starting point.
  • Wavetable synthesis starts with a wide array of wave tables as well as single-cycle waves, and offers some unique tools for altering the raw character of these waves.
  • Additive synthesis with up to 256 algorithmically generated partials.
  • Karplus-Strong style models of resonant plucks start with an initial sample to excite a complex physical model.
  • Drum modeling combines colored noise with a pitched component.
  • Four-operator FM with adjustable feedback.
  • Dedicated noise sources in mono and stereo select among fifteen familiar and exotic noise models.
  • Basic organ modeling with adjustable percussion.
Two of these Oscillator types could be well served by their own review. The virtual analog and wavetable types are quite deep and sound great when animated appropriately. A brief summary for each will have to suffice:

The Analog Oscillator begins with saw, square, triangle, sine, noise, or pulse waves. Pulse width modulation provides continuous shaping for all of these waves, and hard sync can be simulated. Oscillators act entirely independently in Falcon, so the master sync frequency is specified in terms of a frequency offset, either in cents or semitones. Multiple waves in unison with stereo spread can be automatically generated using a single Oscillator. Likewise, stacks of up to eight waves of different shapes can be defined together with a single Analog Stack Oscillator. While you won’t find classic analog oscillators modeled in minute detail down to saturation and drift, you do have a wide range of tools at your disposal to bring otherwise stable oscillators to life.

The Wavetable Oscillator starts with a traditional wavetable. Falcon ships with a wide variety of examples, and custom tables can be imported trivially. The wave index can be used to select among distinct waves, or can fade smoothly between them. FM and phase distortion also form part of this oscillator, further adding to the creative possibilities. Unison with stereo spread and detune capabilities rounds out a very capable oscillator.

Sound exhaustive? It’s actually just a good start, as Falcon also has a variety of additional Oscillator types dedicated to sample playback:
  • Conventional pitch shifting by altering the sample rate used to play back samples.
  • Automatic time slicing for beats and other rhythmic content.
  • Time stretching as an alternate pitching shifting technique.
  • Granular playback.
Granular sample playback combines numerous brief fragments of a longer sample to preserve the timbral character while creating a moving wash of sound that can be swept forward and backward through the original recording. Falcon’s implementation also provides a time stretched variant that attempts to preserve transients.

Sculpting Further with Effects

If the array of Oscillator types seemed exhaustive, with more than 90 Effects algorithms there’s just no way to do them all justice here. They run the gamut from the familiar time domain effects (delay, reverb, chorus, flanger, and phaser) to panning effects, equalizer, distortion/drive, and dynamics processing. Delays can be synced to a clock source in familiar divisions including dotted and triplet subdivisions.

The effects include 18 filters that cover familiar low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, peak, and notch territory. There are also specific emulations like the Sallen-Key and Xpander filters, and more exotic fare like the Vowel filter which provides formant processing sweepable between selectable vowel sounds. Combined with a little subtle compression and drive, it’s easy to achieve punchy parts up there with the best virtual analog options available.

By default, Effects are chained sequentially. Keygroup effects are applied per-voice, and subsequently summed for processing through insert effects at the Layer, Program, and Part levels in sequence. To run Effects in parallel, a logical grouping called an Effect Rack with multiple parallel chains can be added anywhere an Effect can be used, and at the Multi level there are four additional buses available in the form of master effects sends.

Bringing it to Life with Modulators

Virtually every Oscillator and Effect parameter in Falcon can be modulated, and the array of modulation sources is impressive. Multiple LFO and envelope types allow shaping with a lot of nuance. For example, the Multi Envelope allows an arbitrary number of segments with can be individually adjusted from logarithmic through linear to exponential in shape. The Step Envelope enables a repeating sequence of modulation values that can be smoothed if desired.

The effect of all these modulators can get complex, making some of the creature comforts associated with them especially welcome. They can be individually disabled without deleting them (also true of effects and oscillators), and the effect they’re having on parameters are animated in real time - with a moving dot around the parameter knob for each distinct value when multiple voices are moving independently.

External sources like MIDI CC input can also be treated as modulation sources, and Falcon also makes it easy to create a page of easy adjustments to your Programs they call Macros. One Macro can affect a range of individual parameters, so they can affect dramatic changes in a sound. They show up as screen of knobs that can be labelled and arranged to taste to let you surface important ways that a sound can be altered without digging deep to understand the hierarchy I’ve described above.

The presets included with Falcon, and presumably those available for sale as well, make good use of Macros to make it easy to explore variations on a sound. These are often tied to MIDI CC so the mod or pitch wheel can be used to bring a sound to life. If you’ve seen Yamaha’s SuperKnob for the Montage or MODX demonstrated to great effect, you can think of Macro along similar lines - but you can create a number of them and the ability lay them out visually makes tweaking an instrument self-explanatory.

Going Beyond with Script Processors

Anything that transforms or generates MIDI events in Falcon is considered to be a Script Processor. The most familiar example is the arpeggiator, but triggered sequences and micro tuning are other helpful facilities built into Falcon that make use of scripted behaviors.

Beyond these conventional uses, there’s a full LUA-based scripting language for the adventurous. If that sounds like more depth than you’re likely to explore, it may be a relief that there are a variety of scripts provided that you can use as-is to produce effects like spacing out notes in a chord to simulate strumming.

Taking a Step Back: Limitations and Quirks

While flexible, Falcon isn’t a truly modular system, nor are all the component parts uniformly deep (some Oscillator types, like the Organ simulation, are pretty bare bones.) Where Falcon’s architecture excels is making it easy to layer numerous sounds together, stacking individual parts as deep as your CPU allows. Each of these parts remains independent, with no cross-modulation of audio signals and a largely fixed signal path. The lack of oscillator cross-modulation is a hint that the modulation capabilities are strictly sub-audio rate. The classic and Parametric LFO types have maximum rates of 20Hz and 50Hz, respectively.

The number of options in Falcon can make it hard to find exactly what you’re looking for. For example: with so many filters, it takes some experimentation to figure out the difference between them and the naming isn’t especially helpful. SVF isn’t a continuous state-variable filter but rather a discrete choice between low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, notch, and peak. So what’s the difference in character between this filter and Analog Filter? The latter seems to a ladder filter emulation, but that still leaves the question of how steeply either of them cuts. It takes some experimentation to figure this out because it isn’t actually documented anywhere, either.

As Falcon has grown over time, it’s evident that in many cases a new Effect or Modulator is added rather than modifying an existing one to add more capabilities. This is doubtless welcome for compatibility reasons, but it does make the product a little less approachable for someone coming at it for the first time. Thankfully, many of the oldest Effects going back to earlier UVI products like MachFive are categorized as “legacy” to make their history clearer.

The user interface is attractive and reasonably laid out, but there’s no hiding the complexity. It can be tricky to find your way around a moderately complex preset and a large screen can be a godsend when trying to visualize everything.

Falcon serves as a broad, largely neutral palette to draw from, leaving it up to you to shape the results to your will. While it’s not hard to point out additional features that might be welcome, the huge variety of what is present makes it a compelling package in its own right. It’s extremely capable and sounds great, so if you’ve been eager to tap into a blend of virtual analog, wavetables, and granular capabilities for your next project - Falcon can definitely bring all of that to the table and a lot more besides.

Review Copy Provided

UVI provided a copy of Falcon 2 for the purposes of this review. They were offered an opportunity to review for factual errors, but had no editorial control over the content or final scores.

  • 5
13th November 2015

UVI Falcon 2 by Diogo C

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
UVI Sounds & Software Falcon

  • Product: Falcon
  • Developer: UVI
  • Format: VST, AU, AAX for Mac and Windows
  • DRM: iLok software and/or USB with up to 3 concurrent activations
  • Price: MSRP $349
  • Website: UVI - Falcon

The Scope

Falcon is UVI’s definitive step into the workstation/workhorse category. Despite having its own “Workstation” plugin, Falcon is their bet on the “one instrument that does everything” race, but let’s go back to the Workstation to better understand what Falcon tries to accomplish. Workstation is a free multi-timbral instrument that can host samples, instrument libraries, provide effects with some decent mixing capabilities and good control over MIDI and automation. Workstation is open to third-party developers and also fueled by UVI’s own libraries as well. Workstation couldn’t do much on its own i.e. no synthesis, no modulators and so on, it was basically a shell for further completion through libraries. Falcon is UVI’s true instrument workstation. It does all of that. Sampling, synthesis, modulation, effects, mixing, performance and so on, it’s a one-stop solution for your virtual instrument needs. As you can imagine, Falcon’s scope is huge and this bird can cover a really large chunk of territory, so I’ll summarize what I consider to be its key aspects and then head on to our score breakdown.

Key points
  • The sounds made by this big bird will come mostly from its myriad of oscillators. There are 16 different choices here covering basically everything, from simple analog-like waveforms to complex wavetables, FM, drum-optimized synths, granular and sampled based options...you name it. There’s literally a ton of built-in choices here that can be combined in basically any imaginable way and if that wasn’t enough you can load UVI Workstation libraries, to further expand its range of operation.

  • Sound effects are provided by a huge number of excellent sound processors, from bread and butter equalization and compression to rich sounding delays, elegant reverbs, waveshapers, distortions, enhancers and so on, all brought together through its open framework. There’s also a decent mixer inside Falcon, with faders aux sends and inserts for each of the parts, and each part can also be routed to any of 16 sound outputs. I often complain about developers not exploiting this wonder of digital audio with deep and flexible audio signal routing options but Falcon leaves little room for complaints to be made with its truly awesome paths for your sonic experiments.

  • Falcon offers a ton of modulation options and basically any parameter can be controlled by its rich set of modulators. It also makes parameter modulation something really easy and engaging, with easy visualization of the modulator that is done either through right clicking a parameter or simple left click if bottom-menu is set to display modulation options. The way it arranges it makes this synth one of the most accessible and effective when it comes to making things move on their own, be it through traditional LFOs and step-sequencers but also with some fresh ideas for envelope followers. The system as a whole has to be praised a lot as it really gives the users parameters “on the fly” - sorry but I couldn’t resist using that analogy...especially since it holds so much truth to it!

  • Everything is displayed on a very elegant interface and one that actually enables a good pace with the use of layers to sort out each of the sections. It’s very easy to sort out, organize, show and hide things. The way Falcon approaches modulation and automation should be highly praised, and parameter assignment and editing is readily done with a right-click menu that displays all the necessary menus for such operations. There’s also the very helpful “Tree” view, that allows the user to quickly glance and access everything that makes a given patch. Icing on the cake is the interface size selection, with options for regular, big and full screen sizes, allowing Falcon to be optimal for basically any screen under any resolution.
Scores

Sound quality: Falcon sounds very good all around - by very good I mean it ranks very high in today’s competitive virtual synthesizer scene. Great oscillators, awesome filters, very nice effects such as the Sparkverb (which I reviewed here) and Dual Delay, a mixing-grade eight band parametric EQ, interesting clippers, dynamic processors and distortions ranging from soft and subtle to totally brutal, excellent envelope shapers, and the list of great sounding options within Falcon can go on and on. The good news here is how good the oscillators and filters are - I already knew about UVI’s excellence when it comes to sampling, but it came to me as a pleasant surprise that they are also very good on synthesizers.

Ease of use: This is a surprisingly welcoming plugin and one that can’t really be call hard, something I wasn’t fully expecting given how large the scope is. On the other hand, I had some good knowledge about UVI’s philosophy from using and reviewing their products over the past couple of years, so I also thought that they might have figured some way to put order in the almost inevitable chaos that the open framework generates. Falcon can be a complex if you want it to be, but even then it manages to provide a very slick of dealing with overly-complicated patches and make them easy enough to digest. I really liked how easy it makes to visualize (and hide) the desired parameters and all their modulations and subsequent blocks. One other aspect to praise is the “Tree” view, that makes layering out a synthesizer from scratch something very accessible and also provides a great way to keep a complex patch well-organized. Assigning parameters to MIDI is very easy, again using the right click with the option of MIDI learn, and right click also enables the user to assign parameters for DAW automation, with instant renaming according to the chosen parameter so it’s easy to see what’s moving on your DAW edit window. I can’t comment on the scripting aspects but from what I could see UVI is offering a very thorough guide to Lua scripting for Falcon, but we can all agree good documentation can never be a bad thing regardless of the field of expertise. Speaking of which, Falcon’s end-user documentation is also very well done and there’s also some good video tutorials from UVI to ease things even further. It’s also worth adding that UVI’s support is very professional and responsive and Falcon has already received its first patch, so rest assured that this product will be supported further down the road.

Features: Falcon offers an abundance of options to create and shape sounds in almost any imaginable way. The number of oscillators, filters, effects and modulators are simply staggering and enough to keep one busy...for life! Add to that the features available on each of the libraries offered by UVI or third parties and that feature list gets pretty much endless. As for Falcon’s bundled content, the factory library packs a lot of despite its “humble” 500mb size, which is modest for today’s standards but more than enough to showcase its strength. The overall assessment I’d like to make here is that Falcon offers so many great parts for one to build a modern synthesizer patch, but the sum is even greater than the (great) parts it offers.

Bang for buck: The price tag might be a scary sight at first, but it gets very attractive once one considers how much Falcon can deliver and further expanded. UVI has definitely done a brilliant instrument with a very clever concept that is comprehensive enough to warrant a ton of value over the years.

Pros:
*Tons of awesome sounding modules and possibilities.
*Friendly and intuitive to use.
*Expandable with the UVI Workstation catalog and future in-house and third-party libraries.

Cons:
*Such quality and enormous diversity inevitably comes at a price.
*Factory library a bit too short on patches.
*No demo.

My wishlist
*Send audio from one part to the other to open up sound-triggered modulation possibilities.
*Dedicated outputs for the auxiliary buses.
*More patches on the Factory Library would be nice.

Recommended for: Any electronic musician/producer has to seriously consider Falcon.

Listen to Falcon in action:


Click below for full-size 1080p screenshot.

Attached Thumbnails
UVI Sounds & Software Falcon-screen-shot-2015-11-12-10.40.38-pm.jpg  

  • 5
 
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