In the world of virtual instruments, it has always been relatively difficult to find collections that covered what we might term non-Western categories. Keys, bass and drum kits abound, but there are of course many hundreds of other categories and types of instrument to be found around the globe. For anyone wanting to incorporate these into their productions, and particularly for scoring duties, the answer was often to go to the expense of recording real musicians if you wanted specific parts playing rather than simply loops.
UVI’s World Suite, released in 2016, made great strides towards bringing a wealth of ‘unusual’ instruments into your DAW. Now, version 2 adds many more, and a bunch of extra features to boot. Weighing in at a hefty 40GB, it comprises over 65,000 samples and 369 instruments spread over an incredibly wide range of categories and indeed continents. It runs in the UVI Workstation or Falcon apps and also as a plug-in in all major formats.
Ready For Lift Off
After downloading and authorising the collection, you fire it up in either of the apps. With so much variety on offer it’s important to make browsing and searching as easy as possible and to that end, the major categories are Region, Type, Loops / Phrases, Travelers (which are customisable layered loop collections) and Vocals. Each category is then divided into further sub-categories.
Unlike a synth (for example), here you’re quite likely to have an idea what kind of sound you want rather than fiddling with oscillators until something jumps out at you. So your first port of call might be to dive into the Region menu and choose a region and from there, a type of instrument and then a specific variation on that type. Quite honestly there are too many to list, and if you’re anything like me then you may well not have ever heard of many of them. But that actually encourages you to explore and experiment. What is a Georgian Duduk, or an Electric Saz? Much of the time you will actually recognise the sound of the instrument even if you didn’t know its name beforehand.
The sampling at work is meticulous, with the sounds having stunning clarity. UVI Player allows multiple layers of patches too, so by going into the Settings section you can assign key zones and separate audio outs if required to multiple instruments, creating multi-instruments that overlap, or retain distinct MIDI key zones. This is of particular interest with these instruments since many have quite small ranges of 10 or 20 notes, far fewer than a piano keyboard. So it’s easy to have several instruments playable from a single instance of the plug-in. You can of course also submix the different layers and transpose them.
Returning to the instruments, they all have a similar control section available in their main interface. There’s no real mucking about with sample editing but you get envelope, EQ and reverb for each sound as well as other controls that vary based on the instrument. So for a stringed instrument these might include fret noise, and for a woodwind you might get portamento. The Performance and Expression sections let you tweak the way notes react to your playing.
Also vital to achieving the level of realism you want are the key switches, which work in the same way as you may be familiar with from NI’s Kontakt. Displayed in red, they can also be set using a dropdown menu which helpfully show you what each one does. These are performance variations so of course they vary greatly by instrument. It might be that one switch changes the note to a sustain or a harder velocity, or a variation on the type or size of the specific instrument you have chosen. For expressive playing it’s usually easy enough to trigger these in realtime and when not, you can just use MIDI recording to trigger switches at certain points.
Loop It Up
Moving to the Loops and Phrases category you’ll find over 6000 available of which 2000 are new. Again subdivided into categories, here you do get some sample manipulation options. The loops play back like conventional samples, with stretch and slice as well as tuning and mapping options. There’s even a drag and drop button so you can output a WAV straight to your desktop. The emphasis here is again on performance and making it easy to sync up loops to quickly create performances and sequences.
The next major category of patches is Travelers and these are really interesting. They’re like mini band performances with the root note set by pressing one of the available keys. Six voices are available, each one preset with complementary instruments to make up a whole performance and while each loop may have a different base tempo, they are automatically stretched to match your master tempo.
In addition to channel controls - volume, pan, filter, tune and reverb - for each instrument in a set, you can switch loops and instruments for any voice easily, or hit the randomise button to have it done for you. It’s a tremendously easy and fun way to create dynamic live performances, music beds and the like without having to really program much at all. Nobody would guess, once you’d thrown in a few variations and changes, that it hadn’t been played live by real musicians.
Last but not least is the Vocals section which includes both a selection of loops - editable like the others - and Vocal Traveller, which combines vocal hooks, textures and samples in the same way as the instrumental Travelers do. These are easy to tweak and tune, and will bring an extra layer of realism to scores in particular with minimal effort.
World Suite 2 gives you an amazing selection of instruments from around the globe that sound stunningly authentic. Whether you’re looking for specific instruments that would be difficult to locate in real life and even harder to learn and play well, or just browsing for new and interesting sounds, there’s a wealth of fascinating stuff to be found and explored here.
The Traveler section is an added bonus, providing ready-made but editable performances that can be used as music beds or quick soundtracks, and everything syncs and meshes beautifully. UVI has got the balance of usability and edibility just right overall. There’s lots you can change but it’s mostly creative rather than overly technical stuff. The result is that you don’t get bogged down in messing with waveforms, and the emphasis is on playability. For a comprehensive, great-sounding and easy to use world music instrument, World Suite 2 really raises the bar.
Price: 299 Eur
Pros: Wonderfully comprehensive selection of global instruments. Sounds incredible. Just the right depth of editing and tweaking available. Traveler patches are clever, fun and useful. Perfect for scoring. UVI Player has handy performance and routing features.
Cons: Not much to pick on really - if you want these kinds of instruments this is a great way to get them.