We are always on the lookout for cool sounding virtual instruments. UVI has a number of intriguing plug-ins, and one that definitely exceeded our expectations is the Urban Suite collection. Essentially five virtual instruments in one, Urban Suite provides an 8.1GB sample library professionally mastered by Chris Gehringer (Rihanna, JayZ, 50 Cent, Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dog, Nas, Naughty by Nature and Robin Thicke) at Sterling Sound in NYC.
The bundle includes the following five virtual instruments:
- BeatShaper: a drum machine with snare, kick, hi-hats, claps and patterns, as well as filter, envelopes and filters. 150 kits are included, and you can create your own presets.
- Prime8: recreates the classic Roland TR-808 drum machine (even though UVI likes to call it the “X0X” series). Each of the included instruments has its own output and is completed with effects (reverb, drive, high and low-pass filters). Also included are a sequencer and 50+ presets.
- Urban X: a three-voice synth with an amp, multimode filter, pitch, stereo, and effect section (phaser, delay and reverb) as well as a bit crusher. You can layer the three voices, and the built-in library features 1000+ sounds and 100+ presets.
- Scratch Machine: a virtual vinyl record designed for scratching with a keyboard or a multipad and the included 10,000+ samples, one shots, round robins and loops, or the 100+ presets. You can control the pitch, three-band EQ, high/low-pass filter, and add one of the six available effects.
- BeatControl: a multi-track looper with a collection of sounds featuring basses, drums and phrases, as well as 150+ presets.
Of note, the Urban Suite plug-in runs within the UVI Workstation and Falcon hosts. These are the master control centers for most UVI products, and allow for control of layering sounds, effects, and mixing. In concept, it is similar to Native Instruments Kontakt (or Kontakt Player) which essentially is the master control for loaded sample collections. Just about every Mac and PC DAW format is represented, and we had no problems running Urban Suite AAX plug-ins within ProTools 10 and 11. Urban Suite requires an iLok account for authorization (with or without an iLok hardware dongle).
Beat Shaper was one of our favorite parts of the Suite. Drum sounds were all high quality, and there was a good blend of classic and modern sounds. While there weren’t as many presets as say, Arturia’s Spark, we found it easy to edit the supplied sounds, substitute indivdual drums, and create new patterns. So while there may be less pre-made beats, there’s no shortage of sounds to make your own killer beats. Some presets were certainly inspiring as a writing starting point.
Prime 8 is essentially a Roland TR-808 emulation. Despite UVI referring to it as an “X0X” drum machine, the graphic UI is clearly an 808! While we didn’t have an actual 808 to run side by side, we are quite familiar with the sound, and UVI did a great job here. Again, like BeatShaper, competitors products may have more presets out-of-the-box, but the sound quality here is excellent, and the software is easy to navigate.
Urban X is a virtual analog synth that basically covers a little bit of everything. There are pads, basses, synths, leads, guitar, strings, and keyboard sounds. It’s sort of like UVI’s version of AIR’s Xpand2 or Arturia’s Analog Factory: a little bit of everything. Once again, it’s somewhat light on presets, but the basics are covered, and what is included sounds good. There are few unique sounds in here, too, but as you can tweak everything to suite your taste, there’s plenty of room to create unique sounds.
Scratch Machine is a cool inclusion in the Suite, and let us unleash our inner DJ (much to our editor’s dismay). We scratched things up using our controller keyboard, but a virtual scratch/DJ controller would likely make this even better. For those with the know-how, there are a lot of samples to use beyond the basics, allowing for a lot of creative ideas.
Finally, Beat Controller was another one of our favorite parts of the Suite. Divided into two screens, it provides an easy way to loop different samples: bass drum, snare, hi-hat, phrases, etc. This really showed off some of the great sampled sounds in Urban Suite, and the presets were really inspirational, featuring some great grooves to start with. It was very easy to turn parts off and on, change their octave, or substitiute them altogether.
The downloadable PDF manuals from UVI are well-written and provide nice step-by-step illustrations for utilizing various software features.
The more we used Urban Suite, the more we saw its potential. While you could make the argument that, for example, the synth section isn’t very deep, Urban Suite isn’t trying to go deep. It’s trying to be immediate and useful, which it is. Aimed at contemporary music producers and loaded with both classic and modern sounds, we think Urban Suite does a great job of being an all-in-one solution for writing hip-hop, R&B, or anything else you can think of. UVI’s Urban Suite sells for $199, and considering you get five virtual instruments in one bundle (all of which we enjoyed), we think it’s a good value.
Videos courtesy of UVI