UVI’s Falcon hybrid instrument is the latest incarnation of UVI’s ‘Engine’, a sampling and synthesis engine found in UVI’s Workstation.
Workstation is free, but UVI supply a large collection of premium content for it. UVI also license the engine to Motu whose Mach Five v3 is in direct competition with NI’s Kontakt. In fact, Falcon could be seen as Mach Five v4 in that it expands upon Mach Five’s feature set, while retaining a similar appearance and workflow.
What do you get with UVI Falcon?
You get both sampling and synthesis on steroids.
On opening, you see a large central panel with sidebars left and right. The colour scheme is mostly monochrome with blue highlights and is a clean, efficient look. The top bar allows you to select presets, show sidebars and all the usual master gain and stuff. There are also three radio buttons to choose between ‘MAIN’, ‘MIXER’ and ‘PERF’ modes.
‘MIXER’ mode is a full-on mixer with aux channels, and ‘PERF’ is a parts view with quick-edit keymapping and basic mixing functions. “MAIN’ mode is where all the editing takes place and where I spent most of my time.
In ‘MAIN’ mode, the left-hand sidebar is where you load or select ‘Parts’ in the ‘Multi’ you are working on. Into a ‘Part’ can be loaded a ‘Program’ consisting of key-mapped layers of sounds and effects. So we can load a ‘Program’ from the browser (which is located in the right-hand sidebar) into a ‘Part’ slot. You can then load other presets into other ‘Part’ slots and selecting them brings up the edit panel for that part in the centre panel, plus FX and modulation for all the layers and oscillators within the selected ‘Part’.
This is all clearly laid out, but there’s a lot to take in if you’re not used to large, workstation type instruments. So if, like me, you find Falcon too much at first, I suggest you fetch yourself a drink and some snacks, get the excellent UVI Youtube videos up (https://www.youtube.com/user/UVIofficial) and settle in for a while…
Rolling your own
For me, Falcon’s big selling point is its synthesis options. From the website blurb:
‘Falcon offers 15 highly-optimized oscillators’.
I decided to load an ‘Analog’ oscillator and play with that. Simple. I found the oscillator section in the browser easy enough.
The Analog oscillator has 17 presets, I click, drag and drop the oscillator onto the key-map at the bottom of the centre panel and immediately Falcon made sense. I was quickly dropping oscillators all over the key-map, even layering some and it all works like a charm.
Then I started slapping filters onto the key-groups, with LFOs and all the normal synthy stuff, which again, worked like a charm. Then effects on the layers. You can even find arpeggiators and MIDI file players to drop in.
This is great, but can get a little confusing after a while. The centre panel sections become full of tabs and modulations very quickly but fortunately help is at hand. Not only are there tabs for effects and modulations, (so you can see and edit every modulation in the patch at once) but there is the Tree view in the left-hand sidebar, which is essential once you get to any level of complexity. In fact, for me, it is the perfect way to see what is going on in a patch.
If you can imagine a sound you can probably create it with Falcon
To the heart of Falcon
*SAMPLING – Drop a sample onto the keymap and the ‘SAMPLE’ block opens up in the Oscillator section. A waveform view with a time bar and basic pitch, amplitude and triggering controls. Right-click on any of these controls and a context sensitive sub-menu appears with options to add and remove modulation and automation, MIDI learn and OSC stuff. Left-click on the waveform and loop points become available, right-click and extensive sample editing functions appear, including applying the full range of Falcon’s FX.
Falcon has six more sample-based oscillators, each of which builds upon the basic sampler’s functionality:
4 Granular offerings developed by IRCAM, the most interesting of which is the Multi-Granular oscillator. Multi-Granular is reminiscent of Steinberg’s Padshop in that it can have up to 8 playheads traversing the audio at any time, with plenty of granular control on offer. Add to this the ability to modulate any of the controls with any modulation source and you have a serious granular synthesis engine. Sound quality in these IRCAM designed oscillators is excellent, I mean super clean, with no unexpected artefacts or glitches.
There is also a UVI granular oscillator, called ‘Stretch’, plus a nice slicing engine which will read Rex loop slices, auto-create slices or slice to a grid. Falcon will also export these slices as individual samples and automatically keymap them. The sensitivity control on the auto slice is extremely accurate and can detect the slightest changes in amplitude, which is great for extracting interesting ‘bits’ of sound for further editing or micro beats.
*SYNTHESIS – The synthesis section includes virtual analogue, FM, physical modelling, dedicated drum and noise oscillator blocks and a nice wavetable oscillator with the now ubiquitous 3D waveform graphic and the ability to load image files. They are all high quality, modern, super clean sources which make excellent starting points for simple to very complex synthesis.
*EFFECTS & MODULATION – A vast array of traditional filters, saturation, shaping and dynamics control, delays and reverbs – including UVI’s Sparkverb plus envelopes and LFOs and all the utility effects you could expect and more besides and you have what could be described as the complete sample and synthesis workstation.
*SCRIPTING – Finally there is the script processor. This is not my area at all, but there are example tools under headings like analysis, harmonization, performance and sequencing and UVI claim that almost anything is possible and at this point if they said there was a coffee making script I would probably believe them.
So who is Falcon for?
These days, everyone working in mainstream music production – sound design, TV, Film, pop/rock etc. – needs a sampling workstation/hybrid instrument. It’s just which one?
The presets supplied with the factory library cover all the bread and butter synthesized sounds with some more ‘experimental’ stuff thrown in, many reminiscent of film soundtracks and the like. These sounds are excellently programmed and show off the capabilities of Falcon well.
Falcon will also load any of UVI’s Powered Instruments, so there is a very wide range of high quality sounds available, but there are no dedicated soundbanks available from UVI yet.
For the more adventurous, Falcon’s sampling, synthesis and effects are all high very good and could be seen as an extremely high quality, high-level modular synthesis environment. Of particular note are: the slicing engine, the IRCAM granular oscillator blocks, the wavetable block, the Xpander filter – containing 37 Oberheim Xpander based filters and the excellent Sparkverb.
If you can imagine a sound you can probably create it with Falcon. Based on its factory library Falcon caters for a broad range of musicians/artists, although at this price and looking at its competitors it has a relatively small factory library – there are no grand pianos, orchestras or choirs. What you get is synthesis and lots of it, and you can always add the classic libraries at a later date.
Falcon is a comprehensive, one-stop solution for most sound requirements. There are usually several ways to perform the same operation at different levels, which means that it will probably fit most people’s workflow and sounds fantastic. Highly recommended. Check out the UVI website for further details.
$349 + tax/386 EUR. Authorizations can be stored on computer hard drive or iLok dongle. Read more and buy Falcon here.
Stand-alone, VST, AU, AAX, Windows (7+), Mac (OS X 10.7+).