UVI has one of the most impressive lineups of virtual instruments on the market and that shows no sign of changing with the release of Falcon, a genuinely massive instrument that could provide almost everything you need in the synthesis department. It’s a hybrid instrument which means it blends samples, synthesis and effects to generate its sound, though there is in reality an incredible depth of power available that goes far beyond this simple description. It runs in standalone or plug-in modes and is capable of up to 10.2 surround sound operation at up to 192 kHz and even beyond. It can also be tweaked for better streaming performance based on what kind of hard drive you tell it you have. The sound library is only around 650 MB in size though the instrument is capable of importing audio samples as well.
This is such a big instrument that trying to describe all its features would mean running out of space quite quickly. A ton of detail can be found on the product page at http://www.uvi.net/en/software/falcon.html should you want all the nuts and bolts. Instead, I’m going to give you an idea of what it’s about, together with some of the really essential core information.
Look & Feel
It’s designed to be a one-window interface though various sections can be shown and hidden and it’s meant to scale easily to screens of any size. Making sense of such multi-faceted software can be tricky but UVI has done a great job, keeping the visual flair to a minimum and organizing things sensibly. A browser to the right-hand side lets you quickly access presets for all the many sections, since you can have different presets for the many different areas of the instrument.
The central Edit area contains the majority of the controls and different elements can be shown or hidden. Parameter sections are layered up and a keyboard complete with visual mapping lives in the lower half. Along the top you can tab between different views. The Info view is simplest and provides set of patch-specific quick controls for major things like effects and filters, and these can be customized.
The Effects section is where you can load up any combination of over 80 supplied processors covering all eventualities from mixing and mastering to guitar, drums, bass and more. These sounds great and can be applied as inserts, sends or even per-note for ultimate flexibility. The next tab is Events, which controls what happens prior to synthesis. This includes things like generating MIDI via the powerful onboard arpeggiator, chorder, harmonizer and strum simulator tools and even user-created scripts that you can build or load yourself. These can all be layered together freely just like other parts of the instrument, so it’s easy to set up some very advanced and dynamic MIDI movement.
The final tab is the Modulators and you get 8 mod generators ranging from Analogue ADSR to multi and step envelopes. They can be directed at any part of any patch to control different parameters and every modulator has a preset capability, with over 1000 supplied just for the multi envelope generator alone. Many of Falcon’s sounds are alive with movement, and this is thanks to the incredible mod section.
The heart of the instrument is its oscillator section and you get a choice of 15 which can be freely layered and combined for as long as your computer has enough power. So there’s only a physical limit to how many you can use based on your CPU. There are many types of oscillator from FM, drum, analogue stack and wavetable through to sampling oscillators that let you use sounds as the basis for synthesis. You can edit samples inside the instrument as well as bouncing effects down and batch processing samples before feeding them to the oscillators which include Slice, Stretch and multiple IRCAM modules.
Falcon behaves almost like a whole environment rather than just a synth and as such it lets you manage complex setups fairly easily. On the left for example is the inspector section with three tabs. The Parts tab lets you see what different parts are currently loaded and move between them, quickly changing volume, pan and octave settings. The Tree view provides a helpful overview of everything that’s going on in a patch from automation to macros and active sections. It’s hard to overstate just how useful this is because it provides an instant overview and basic control of most of the parts of a patch without having to go back into the main interface and hunt around for it. This feature alone can save lots of time when designing sounds. Finally, the List view provides an alternative overview of all the parts, layers and keygroups currently active.
Stepping back one stage to the very top of the window you can jump out of the Main section which is where most work takes place, and enter the Mixer view, showing a surprisingly fully-featured mixer for balancing the many layers you will probably end up with when building sounds. The final section is Performance where you get a nice live-friendly overview of your loaded parts, their levels and keyboard and velocity ranges. This hides all the complicated stuff if you want to play Falcon live without worrying about messing anything up.
Falcon is an astonishing instrument and certainly one of the most powerful I have ever used. It comes with a lot of excellent presets covering all sorts of categories and styles, and is especially adept at multi-layered, evolving and interesting sounds. Its sound quality is fantastic, even if you just explore the great presets, though this would be to miss out on the sheer depth of programmability. It’s even compatible with other instruments in the UVI family.
It’s certainly accessible for beginners thanks to the well-designed workflow although obviously some familiarity with the way synths work will help you delve into the more advanced aspects of sound design. That said, it’s an inspiring way to learn more about synthesis and shouldn’t blind you with science. At the price, it’s a whole lot of synth for the money and could quite honestly cover the same ground as four or five less adventurous synths combined. Whether you’re just looking to fire up some cool sounds or design something completely unique, Falcon has got you covered.
Pros: Amazingly powerful. Excellent workflow. Sounds immense. Patches are full of life and movement. Use your own samples. Great selection of effects, waveforms. Powerful arpeggiators and mod section. Script your own actions. Simpler modes if you prefer them. Create unique sounds. Compatible with other UVI instruments. Attractively priced for what you get.
Cons: To not go beyond the presets would be to miss out on a world of creativity.