Review: Digital Synsations Vol. 2 by UVI
Rolling back the clock to the dawn of digital synthesis, UVI brings us another chapter in Digital Synsations, this time showcasing some truly revered classic gear and one misunderstood wonder of the time. Devoid of floppy drives, tiny LCDs and limited memory, these synths are restored to their true former glory but with the ability to push them beyond their original boundaries.
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Review: Digital Synsations Vol. 2 by UVI
The 90’s were ablaze with innovation in digital synthesis. So many competing products – so much variety and some were SO damn expensive that if you weren’t a professional musician they were out of reach until they hit the used market. UVI has been revisiting the vintage synthesizer scene over the past couple of years and has brought back some of these amazing machines in an economical and space-friendly way! Digital Synsations Vol. 2 brings us three more of these legendary treasures.
Digital Synsations Vol. 2 sells for $149.00 UVI
If the faces and the names that UVI used aren’t a dead giveaway, The DK5S is the Kawai K5000S, The DS-890 is the Roland JD-800/JD-990 and the DZmo is the Ensoniq FIZMO.
I am really pleased with the deep sampling and treatment that UVI have given these instruments, not only are these sounds now available as a set of in-the-box studio instruments, but the control and interface standardization is a welcome addition.
The interface on the JD-800 doesn’t look like the controls on the flight deck of the space shuttle anymore! None of the three synthesizers featured here are quite as simple as they seem on the surface. There is a fair amount of tweaking that can still be done using the controls for each one. I encourage you to visit the manual and look at the detail on each one.
Suffice it to say that these three machines inspired a generation of musicians as diverse as Tangerine Dream, The Pet Shop Boys, Vangelis, Kraftwerk, Eat Static, Genesis, William Orbit, ATB and Prodigy. You’ll be in good company with this trio!
The DK5S, aka Kawai K5000S, is probably my favorite of the bunch here. I owned the ahrdware for a time and I think UVI have done a stellar job of recreating it. It was the flagship for Kawai at the time of release and was notable for combining Additive Synthesis with PCM Waveforms to allow layers of sounds. The Amplitude, Filter and Envelope sections have been faithfully reproduced along with the Bit Crush and Stereo Mod functions for Color (neighbor borrowing of samples), Spread and Detune. You can also adjust the Drive and switch in and out of Polyphonic mode. The effects section contains Phaser, Delay and Reverb controls as well as the Modwheel assignments.
If we look at the sounds included with the DK5S, there are clearly the standard categories one would expect. The thing about the DK5S is that it was marketed amongst the flagship workstations of the time amongst the Korg, Kurzweil and Roland but was never really recognized for the sound sculpting capability that it possessed. The standouts here for me are the Brass, FX-Weird, Polysynth and Sweeps.
The ability to get under the hood with these sounds (as with the others) allows you to modify these presets and develop your own sound.
You can also layer sounds to create your own Multis, not only with the sounds from the DK5S, but you can mix and match with the other 2 synths included here to create some pretty stunning sounds. Truth be told, many of the sounds here sound like stock workstation presets but with some additional creativity on the part of UVI they sound much more present and relevant to my ears.
The DZmo, or Ensoniq Fizmo is one of the most misunderstood synths in history. I’m sure the color scheme didn’t scare any of the purists away either! 😉
Using a form of synthesis called “Transwave”, Ensoniq Fizmo (recreated in the collection as the DZmo) garnered a reputation as something to make weird noises with.
Using a form of synthesis called “Transwave”, it garnered a reputation as something to make weird noises on and slowly disappeared with a limited production run. Today it is rare enough to have its own Internet serial registry as if a protected species. While it was a bit too late at the time, musicians slowly began to realize that there was more to this synth than odd sound potential. The most appealing quality of the DZmo is the unique timbres that are available from it. Sound is modulated in so many ways that you can achieve tone and timbre not easily replicated on other boards. UVI has gotten under the covers here and exposed the true character of the synthesizer and as a plus, all three share the same basic control structure, just with a slight change in the layout to allow for a realistic replication of the interface.
You’ll notice the standard deviation on categories is slim here. UVI have developed as much rich content as they can for each of these vintage vanguards. I find the real standouts here are the Keyboards, Pads, Strings and Vocals-Formant. This is one of those synthesizers where you can really hear the unique character of the Transwave technology in its ability to traverse the spectrum as you play the notes. It’s really a shame that this one never took off. The good news is that it is bundled here for less than 1/10 of the cost of the last used one I saw on eBay. That was 5 years ago!
The ability to build Multis here really gives you some wild options
The ability to build Multis here really gives you some wild options to take that “Transwave” tech out for a spin to create the weird and the wonderful. UVI has given us a great starting point with the included presets but layering some of the evolving sounds can yield amazing results.
UVI calls them the Twin Sisters from Japan. The JD-890 is a fusion of the Roland JD-800 keyboard and the Roland JD-990 which was the rackmount version. Of the three synthesizers included in the library, this would be the hands down winner of a popularity contest. Back in the day, it seems as if everyone had one (or more) of these.
They were not the easiest thing to use, with a control surface that looked like the flight deck of the space shuttle, you needed to do a fair amount of adjusting sliders and dials to get the sound you wanted. Thankfully, UVI has taken care of that little problem too. The JD-890 will, in my opinion, offer the most initial appeal to musicians due to its storied history. It has the unique sound of the D-50 where most of its ROM samples come from. The interface will again be familiar in function but aligned to the unique layout of the synth design.
As with all of our reviews be sure to check out the official videos and demos (below) doing your due diligence before making a purchase to make sure this instrument is right for you and your particular needs.
The library downloads as a single 18.25 GB UVI UFS file. It contains 3 instruments with a total of 528 presets. The 22,341 samples are 44.1/88.2 kHz. UVI Workstation version 2.6.10 or Falcon 1.2.1 or higher are required. In addition, an iLok account is required for authorization. Physical dongle is not a requirement. Requires Mac OS X 10.7+ or Windows 7 or higher to operate.
Note that the Digital Synsations Vol. 2 sells for $149.00 from UVI