UVI SubCulture by Diogo C
The Scope: UVI continues to further the options for Falcon users and now with the SubCulture expansion we are presented with previously uncharted waters for this fabulous synthesizer platform. Despite what the name hints, SubCulture is not only about subs or synth bass patches as it stretches beyond the low-frequency territories to cover a big chunk of modern or contemporary sounding synths with a rough edge and darker hues to its palette - as UVI puts it, SubCulture is set to deliver deep and dark basses over the course of its 110 patches. As with other Falcon expansions, SubCulture offers a streamlined interface that wraps up nicely all the complexities running behind the curtains, but this time it feels more polished - previous expansions were mostly very good but ultimately they looked more like well-done macros with an image overlay than anything, while SubCulture looks and feels like an actual synth of its own. In that regard, its scope is focused than previous expansions, with very clear goals and targets which reflects its simple design. At its core there are three sound generators with a big fader for each on the center of the interface, and this is where you do the balancing for each of the sounds or enable/disable them. Right below them we have 4-stage ADSR envelopes for the filter and for the amp along with two one-knob reverb and delay effects. Right side of the interface houses the filter, which has its a depth control for the envelope besides the cutoff and resonance controls. In terms of sound this filter reminds me a bit of the Moog ladder-style and it’s definitely capable of putting up some nasty resonant sweeps. Left side of the interface offers further options to tweak the sound with up to six different controls which are mostly related to gate and chorus amount (the latter derived from the great UVI Thorus), envelope speed and other patch-specific settings.
A very concise interface and straightforward interface
Sound quality: This is easily one of my favourite set of patches for Falcon along with Ether Fields and Cinematic Shades, which along with SubCulture would make for my top-three best Falcon expansions up to now. SubCulture is instantly rewarding and a very enjoyable ride from the first patch to the last, it’s a great show of Falcon’s excellent synth and sampling engines coming together to build something amazing. SubCulture might look simple on the surface wits its slick interface, but under the hood we have wavetables, granular synthesis and time-stretched samples to deliver immensely powerful sounds, with lots grit on the midrange and plenty of bottom-end might. Needless to say that it is definitely catered towards very particular genres and styles, it’s not an “universal” bass sounds library by any means and that’s something important to remember. Having said that, it absolutely delivers the goods in form of earth-shaking low end that will perfectly fit on many modern productions, most notably those of the synthesizer-centric kind, providing a quick path to great sounding bass lines, leads that can cut through the busiest of mixes and plenty of great sounds in general for the all the possible variants of electronic music.
Ease of use: SubCulture is at first extremely ease to use, its set of controls is simple and intuitive, all very familiar territory even for the least experienced synth user. However, as we advance there’s one major problems to be encountered here - and that is the LFO. On many patches there’s simply no parameter to control the LFO rate or sync/retriggering behavior, and that becomes a bit of a problem since modulation is a major feature on many patches. Each patch has its own settings for the LFO and since such parameters not readily available for editing it really becomes a problem when modulations kicks in and you want to have control over it. This takes a bit of the fun away from a synth that’s otherwise very enjoyable. It’s important to note that we can compensate for the missing features by going through Falcon’s depths and patching the desired elements to our liking, but that it will depend on how proficient one is with Falcon, so I’d really like to see UVI addressing these issues on a patch. One other aspect that needs to be ironed out is CPU performance, with some patches being more demanding than it should be. I’m not using the latest and the greatest computers but the two computers used for these review should be more than adequate to run a single patch, which sometimes wasn’t possible without resorting to high values (1024+) on the buffer size. In this regard, an easy way to pick a global “quality” or voice limit setting would be of great - not only for this particular expansion but for Falcon as a whole.
You have to go through Falcon’s innards if you wish to get further control over some of the modulations, notably the ones who needs tempo-synced LFOs, triggers and loops. On the screenshot above there was a looping on the sample that needed adjustment, which required a bit of diving on Falcon’s edit (tree) view.
Features: Here we are presented with a streamlined feature set that is effective on most situations, except for the aforementioned difficulties with the modulations and CPU consumption. Moving past that, SubCulture packs enough features to fulfil its purposes, which doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t like to have more filter modes, more filter slopes, more control over the effects and a second envelope and other bells or whistles, but I’m totally okay with it as it stands since the bulk of its power really comes from the mix of oscillators and from the excellent presets.
Bang for buck: It’s hard not to recommend SubCulture when I look at the very reasonable price tag of $39 (USD/MSRP) as it adds something that the current Falcon library was missing, but once again this is a specific set of instruments designed for a few key tasks.
Recommended for: UVI Falcon users making electronic music, film score or sound design should definitely put SubCulture on their watch lists.
*Mighty sounding synths to move tons of air from your speakers
*Very good presets with some very creative patches
*Great interface that enables a fast-paced workflow
*Adds even further options to the Falcon library
*Needs a better way of handling modulations
*Some patches can make your computer cry
Format: Falcon Expansion
Requirements: Windows 7+ or Mac 10.7+
Size: 840mb (unpacked)
Number of patches: 110
DRM: iLok - three concurrent activations, USB dongle optional
Price: $39 MSRP
Click below for full resolution (1080p) screenshots.