The degeneration of the term "electro" may be one of the greatest musical tragedies of the last 30 years. In the '80s, acts like Mantronix, Afrika Bambaataa and Newcleus made an important contribution to hip-hop culture and laid the foundations for genres like techno. These days, the term is more likely to be associated with Swedish House Mafia. While many people would be reluctant to admit that Dopplereffekt had anything in common with David Guetta—and the graphics accompanying the Electro Suite certainly suggest the latter artist—is this product suited to all areas of the sound?
Firstly, some background on the UVI Workstation. It acts as a container for the UVI instruments and sound libraries, providing a one-window multi-plugin solution. It's free and comes with a few basic instruments, including a versatile arpeggiator, a loop player and a broad range of effects. These can be implemented at various different stages in the mix path, which is more or less comprehensive, such as you could in a typical DAW. The UVI sound engine comes from technology implemented in Spectrasonics and MOTU products, and it packs a wallop. The interface is uncluttered; it took about 20 minutes to understand almost every function. The UVI products can also be used in MOTU's MachFive 3, a similar but considerably more advanced environment.
The Electro Suite itself is a bundle of five instruments and a sample pack. There's a drum machine, two synths, a loop player and a sweep machine, which are all ROMplers (sample-based). Numerous samples and loops are also provided separately as construction kits. The DrumShaper is, to my mind, the best of the bunch. Properly constructing kicks from separate attack, body and tone components isn't a basic skill, but this makes it obvious and simple, even for beginners. Samples are combined with filtering and mixing, and a similar approach to snares, claps and hats is followed. The sample set itself contains lots of old-school sounds that hit hard, including ones from a number of old favourites like the 808, E-Mu Drumulator and Roland CR-78. You can't load your own samples into the DrumShaper, sadly. You also can't route each of the drum parts separately. A step sequencer, of limited capability, is also included.
The DirtyMono does what it says, being a mono synth with four sound sources: an analogue-style waveform, a more overtly digital waveform for extra voltage, a sub oscillator and a noise generator. It's definitely aggressive. Filter, LFO and glide controls are there, and there's a phraser too. Its obvious use is big, bombastic electro house bass/leads—but you can also get screaming effects out of it. The CarminePoly is the polysynth, based on a fairly typical two-oscillator, filter and LFO architecture, with four simple, one-knob effects at the bottom. It sounds thick, with a chromium sheen, and allows for sounds ranging through electric pianos, retro synth plucks and attention-grabbing Jean-Michel Jarre leads. The SweepMachine only provides noise sweeps, but what sweeps they are: there's tone generators for regular noise, sub-noise and "metal" noise; an LFO, delay and flanger; control over sweep times; and control over whether it's sweeping in, out, or both. MissionControl is a ready-for-use mixing desk for the construction kits, providing level, filtering and pan for six channels. You can do all this in the Workstation anyway by using a bit more nous; the MissionControl is an example of how the Suite has beginners in mind. These construction kits are generally very much of the mainstream electro house variety, but some are more interesting. The construction kits are presented separately in chopped and neatly mapped formats, ready to be played from a keyboard.
Although Electro Suite seems very much geared towards big, David Guetta-a-like bangers (UVI did, after all, make the ElectroBeats app with his name on it), it lends itself equally well to more serious styles. The CarminePoly can, for example, recreate things like the rising Cybotron "Clear" lead without much fuss, as well as those nice tight digital whipping sounds that are all over Anthony Rother's music. The DrumShaper is excellent for rushing Detroit ghetto tech. The DirtyMono is a capable source for more degraded basslines, and there are a number of different distortion effects you can use if you like it evil.
Overall, Electro Suite is a very well realised product, and generally speaking, quite a straightforward beast. The synths aren't complex, with compact preset sets, and neither are the effects. The graphics are excellent, with big, grabby knobs and tough, inspiring fascias. The ease at which you can grasp the workflow is impressive, and the price is on point. Essentially, a purchase decision comes down to a matter of taste. This is for people who aren't into sound design so much, and who want to focus more on composition. And, of course, for people who want to sound electro.