Parisian developer UVI is best known for its free UVI Workstation sample-based synth and the many high-quality UVI Soundbank sample libraries that can be bought and loaded into it.
Its latest instrument, Falcon (VST/AU/ AAX/standalone), also loads UVI Soundbanks, but expands massively on UVI Workstation, offering much more in the way of editing and other forms of synthesis - generally, it's far closer in style to MachFive, the sampler it developed with MOTU, than UVI Workstation.
Structurally, Falcon is multitimbral, with a Multi (.uvim) patch containing unlimited Parts. A Part is a slot for a single Program, with associated level fader, inserts and auxiliaries in Falcon's Mixer, while a Program (.uvip) is the main sound-generating patch, with Oscillators assigned to Keygroups, which are then combined in Layers. Although unusual for a synth, this sort of structure is very typical for a sampler.
So, Falcon's patches are constructed from Oscillators, Effects, Modulators and Events (MIDI generators), dragged into the main interface from the Browser. It launches with the central pane showing the Main view, which houses five tabbed pages - Info, Edit, Effects, Events and Mods - and switches to represent the currently selected Part.
Access to the list of Parts within a Multi is gained via the foldaway three-tab panel on the left, where you'll also find a breakdown of each Part's components (Program layer, Keygroup, effects, etc) and Part-specific settings such as MIDI channel, polyphony and so on.
To the right of the Main screen is the foldaway six-tab Browser panel, providing access to any installed UVI Soundbanks and Falcon Factory (see below). The other five tabs handle Oscillators, Effects, MultiEffects (preconfigured chains of Effects), Event Processors and Modulation presets, all of which we'll come back to shortly. There are numerous presets available for every element, making the patch-building process a fast, drag-and-drop affair if you want it to be.
The Main screen can also be switched to two overall Multi views: Mixer (a global mixer with inserts and four hardwired auxiliaries) and Performance (an overview of the Multi's Parts).
In practice, however, most of the action takes place in the Main view Edit page, with foldaway slots for Oscillator, Keygroup, Layer and Program at the top, and Modulation and Mapping at the bottom. Various elements - Oscillators, FX, Mods and Events - can be hidden to clear window space. All told, it's a reasonably elegant interface, considering the potential complexity of an elaborate Multi patch.
With 15 Oscillator types onboard (seven sampling and eight synthesis), Falcon gives access to a massive palette of sound sources, including virtual analogue (Analog and Analog Stack), four-operator FM, Wavetable and Drum synthesis.
For sample playback, there's Sample (regular mode), Slice and Stretch, and four engines created by French music research institute IRCAM (Granular, Multi Granular, Scrub and Stretch).
Further, more esoteric synthesis types include string physical modelling (Pluck), audio and image file import (Wavetable), phase distortion (Wavetable), Noise (15 types), and an eight-drawbar Organ.
The raw sounds are augmented by 82 Effects (23 of them from UVI Workstation), including your typical EQ, filter and modulation processors, as well as some less commonplace ones (Biquad and Vowel Filters, Big Pi Tone fuzz, et al), plus three visual feedback devices (Spectrum Analyzer, Tuner and Phase Meter).
For parameter modulation, there are eight internal Modulator types, including regular envelopes (AHD, Analog ADSR and AD), a Multi Envelope with unlimited breakpoints, Step Envelope, LFO, plus limitless Macros.
Finally, MIDI data is generated by Event Processors, which include Arpeggiator, MIDI File Player, Micro Tuner and user-modifiable Script Processors written in the Lua scripting language. You can edit the included Factory Scripts (Chorder and Harmonizer, for example) or make your own from scratch. Scripting requires an external text editor, which can be launched from within Falcon.
The included Falcon Factory sound library (630MB) includes many wavetables and source samples for the Granular patches, and comprises 458 Programs in 20 categories - arps, basses, chords, pads, polysynths, etc.
There are some awesome patches in there, and Falcon really excels at rich pads and edgy, aggressive tones, and the solid basses are worthy of mention, too. Further highlights include the arpeggios, and the Granular, Sub Drones and Experimental folders, with their many ethereal textures. We do feel that there should be more content included, though.
Falcon includes a $100 UVI Soundbanks voucher, but given UVI's history and Falcon's sample playback capabilities, it surely could have put together a 'highlights' package from its many libraries.
That said, existing UVI Soundbank owners will be delighted to get full editing of their favourite libraries right down to the level of individual samples - something previously only possible in MachFive, and not necessarily supported by it for recent Soundbanks.
Overall, Falcon is an ambitious, powerful instrument of a type that certainly doesn'tcome along every day. Two main factors turbocharge its essentially fairly straightforward architecture: the number of simultaneous Oscillators, Keygroups and Layers being limited only by the power of the host CPU; and Effects and Modulators being applicable at the Keygroup, Layer and Program levels, with Events at Layer and Program levels.
The lack of additive synthesis aside (the only type we can think of that isn't included), it has enough flexibility to serve as your primary source for all manner of sounds - although you'll probably need to buy a few UVI Soundbanks to achieve that goal.