Hive Review – EDM Synth U-he Style


Hive is a slight change of direction for one of my favourite plugin designers, U-he. Previous offerings have been focussed on original presentations of analog emulations, with either great attention paid to sound quality (think Diva; unparalleled analog-emulated sound quality in my opinion) modulation (Zebra and Bazille) and other analog hardware (Satin, Presswerk). Hive, their latest incarnation, is pushing forward along a decidedly more digital path.

In my opinion aimed more squarely at EDM production (and the myriad spin-off genres), Hive is a beautiful Neon Blue single window subtractive synth, and introduces itself with a treasure chest of almost 3000 presets. That said, I’m sure there will be thousands more 3rd party presets available if patch creation isn’t your bag.

A big Hexagon dominates the centre of the GUI – this contains the effects, arp, and sequencer. To the left and right are two oscillators, each with up to 16 voices that can be set in unison to create those massive EDM supersaws that are popular right now. There are 8 other waves to choose, with Pulsewidth and tuning options. Each oscillator has a sub OSC to thicken the sound. One thing I particularly liked about the oscillators (and indeed every other module of Hive) is that it has its own preset dropdown menu specifically for that module. This is fantastic for the user, as you can very quickly create fresh sounds, without having to work from the ground up. You can save your own presets; if you create an oscillator setting you know you’re going to use again – save it! Another fresh idea within Hive is the character settings for the oscillators, and they’re a lot of fun to switch between the three as you build your patch. They add varying amounts of harmonic distortion, and can create fairly different sounding patches.

Below each oscillator on the left and right are filters. 7 different types of filter for each side, and the filter can be applied to either side, to both Oscillators, and/or to the sub oscs. Nothing too fancy here, just solid filters. Below that are single LFO’s, AMP and MOD envelopes for each side.

The U-he attention to modulation is very present, with no less than 12 MOD sources, each with 2 target slots. The modulation process is as simple as click and drag – from the source to the target. Done. Modulation assignment made easy. There are 20 sources to choose from, and the targets are limited to whatever highlights as a target as you drift over it with your mouse. (There’s not much that doesn’t light up). Amazing. Have you always wanted to modulate the vibrato rate at the same rate as changing the oscillator waveform? Easy as two clicks. Even though Hive has a very standard subtractive soft synth form to it, U-he can’t help but make it more special with the modulation capabilities. Absolutely excellent here.

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Back to the centre piece effects unit and arpeggiator. There are 7 fairly basic but useful effects that can be arranged in any order you like by click and drag. Reverb, comp, distortion, delay etc. All modulate-able! The arpeggiator is a powerful 16-step version. A highlight is step CC control. Applied to expression, for example, it can really breathe life into sequences. The one thing I would have liked to see on the arpeggiator is a chord sequence arpeggiator. I still think that Access Virus contains the king of arpeggiators, and other designers would do well to take inspiration from there.

The sound
Hive is an EDM sound designer dream synth. I think it tends toward the in-your-face dance floor filler smash sound. Want a screaming in your face super saw lead, or bootyshaking bass wobble? Hive’s your synth. Ambient layered evolving soundscape? Nah. A lot of the sound is piercing – and would cut through a mix beautifully. This conclusion is of course very generalized, and Hive is very capable of much more than I’ve given credit for here. However it has a Forte – is made for dance music, and excels at it.

U-he have released a set of 10 videos on youtube that walk you through every element of the plugin. Very useful!

First one here:

Hive is a killer subtractive synth that is a slight change of direction for U-he, but doesn’t suffer for it. Excellent quality and beautiful sounds in a neat little package that doesn’t tax your computer. Recommended if you are into modern digital sounds!

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