UVI has a great track record when it comes to creating sampled instruments from classic or difficult-to-find hardware. Its latest release is something rather different, a huge collection of “toy” instruments covering a vast range of real items and bringing them into the software world. In fact there’s more here than just what you might think of as toys. You’ll also find kids’ keyboards, acoustic and electric instruments, classic video game consoles and the like. Producers looking for unique sounds in all kinds of genres from hip hop to EDM have always used weird and wonderful hardware and then mashed and mangled the resulting recordings, but here, pretty much everything is collected in one place for you.
The install is a hefty 24GB and that’s in lossless format - a result of the fact that every sound is a sample. Authorise and load it up in the UVI or Falcon players and you’re off. There are three main categories in the library: 8-bit synth, acoustic and electric, each with a bunch of sub-categories for a total of 384 Instruments, 1185 Presets, 34 Kits, 1499 Loops and over 70,000 samples.
The 8-bit synth loads up a fun, retro interface that resembles an old computer game. It’s a dual-layer chip synth with a selection of sounds from classics like the SID Station, Commodore 64, Game Boy, Mod Machine and others. You get main and edit sections with the option to change filter and amp settings for either or both sound sources and of course mix sources to create new patches. There’s a step modulator section, FX and arp areas with the latter two also available inside the player app’s parallel section for slightly more scientific editing.
The Acoustic and Electric sections have their own GUIs, with a standardised and simple look so you can always find the controls you need despite all the instruments having completely different sets of parameters. Again, the effects and arp can be tweaked and edited in this special interface or in the app’s generic edit areas.
How it works is actually really straightforward but what’s remarkable is the sheer breadth of sounds UVI has managed to assemble here. You could scour eBay for months, spend a fortune and still not get half the sound sources you get with this collection. They are beautifully sampled, and typically allow you to play a wider range of notes than the original instrument would have had (many are small and limited in real life) thanks to the magic of sampling. There is such joy to be had by simply strolling around the patch library, recalling the sounds of the video games of your youth, or discovering weird instruments you have never even heard of. There’s a staggering selection of kid’s keyboards, speech synthesizers, blow toys, music boxes and far more. Head to the website for a full list.
At 399 Eur it’s not exactly cheap - but you’re probably not going to buy it just to use the Gameboy sounds. It would seem better suited to game and soundtrack composers, sound designers or those working in more abstract genres of electronica. It’s a little niche, sure, but there’s a good chance that this is the only “toy” instrument you will ever need. In reality however, it is much more than a toy.
Check out UVI's demo of the 8-bit synth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fj_cTDMQAfw
Pros: Stunning breadth of sounds and instruments. Beautifully sampled. Find sounds you have never heard before. Expands on the functionality and range of the real instruments. Ideal for game or experimental composers.
Cons: Pricey if you’re only after a few retro bleeps.