UVI have turned out some solid expansion packs that mine a rich seam of vintage keyboards. (We gave the recent Vintage Legends pack, which delivered sounds from Yamaha's CS series amongst others, a big thumbs up.) The UVX-3P, based on Roland's JX-3P keyboard, has more focused ambitions. The synth it's based on came just after the Juno 6 and just before the Juno 106, and it shares much of the same internal design elements, including the digitally controlled oscillators (DCOs), VCAs and filter. In fact, the JX-3P includes two DCOs per voice rather than one per voice like the Junos, although there's no sub oscillator. But where the JX-3P really differs is that it was designed as a preset synth with limited surface controls, and although you can edit parameters, you can only do so one at a time via the menu. There's also a wired editor, the PG200, although setting the controls apart from the synth makes it feel less direct than the panel controls of a Juno. Even so, from a sonic perspective the JX-3P still has all the character of Roland's 1980s analogue synths.
UVI have approached UVX-3P as a precision multi-sampling process, capturing sounds at the source both with and without Roland's famed chorus effect. This totals 6723 samples and weighs in at just under 6 GB. The custom UVI and Mach5 interface is visually reminiscent of the original keyboard and programmer, but given its myriad differences and more extensive feature set, it's worth explaining the layout and what it does (and doesn't) do.
Parameters are split across two JXP/PG200-style pages called edit and mod. The first handles amplitude and filter envelopes, portamento and filter settings. At the bottom is an array of buttons with integrated mix blends, achieved simply by dragging on the numbers. Here you can activate the original chorus sample set or add new effects like unison and alternate panning. There are also three mod-wheel assignments—vibrato rate, tremolo rate and filter depth—and a new noise generator (pink or white). Additionally, you'll find drive, phaser, delay and reverb settings that activate UVI Workstation effects. You'll find these on the preset tab of the UVI Workstation effects page.
The LFO settings are on the mod page, with assignments to pitch, drive, volume and filter. There's also a sequencer, with resolution from 32nd- to half-notes and up to 16 steps. You draw sequencer levels using the on-screen bars and assign them with the SEQ filter and SEQ volume controls. Step behaviour is fine-tuned using the delay, rise and smooth controls.
Both pages include more controls than the original synth—there are more LFO shapes and deeper sequencer settings, for example. Being a ROMPler rather than an emulation, these controls are sourced from the UVI Workstation engine and are effectively applied to the source sample set. One thing you won't find, though, is any direct access to that sample set at oscillator level. In practice this feels like someone's supersized the original synth, bundling it up with typical soft synth parameters. If you're not familiar with UVI's Workstation, it's worth noting you can layer multiple presets, applying various insert effects, auxiliaries and master effects. There's also an impressive and flexible arpeggiator. But as you'll see from the pictures, these exist in addition to the main two UVX-3P specific pages.
UVX-3P includes 168 presets split across 13 folders. The 32 original factory patches are in their own folder, and other categories include bass, keyboards, pads, FXs and arpeggios/steps. Rounding things off is a folder of nine additional waveforms (saws, squares and hybrids). The vast majority of these presets use the available extras such as delay, reverb, phaser and unison to deliver sounds that go way beyond the capabilities of the original. You only have to switch over to one of the original patches to remind yourself how quaint some of those raw ones can be. In typical 1980s style, the original presets include real instrument emulations (organs, strings, brass, harpsichord, flute, oboe and so on) alongside pads and synth leads. In this raw state, though, you can hear just how rich and direct these sounds are. The original patch Fat Fifth is an absolute gem that arguably sounds even more relevant today than it did in the mid-'80s.
As noted, the new presets take UVX-3P into its own territory, and for the most part this is good news. The arpeggiator/sequence folder is particularly good, with options including the edgy Circuit Relay, crazy Meteorlight and pokey Z In A Box. And the bells folder has some tight plucky sounds such as MaLFOlet. Basses tend to be pretty thick and pad-like rather than percussive—I didn't find anything you'd use as a punchy bass. By modern standards the FX folder isn't very extensive or risk-taking, though I was quite impressed with a bass bender called Flat Ripple. So where UVX-3P excels is leads, pads and poly sounds. Not all the presets are great, but some are excellent, and that makes up for it. The edgy square SoloRqaN, excellent Thin Lead, pokey Poly Ana and fat Stab And Wheel are all good examples.
I owned the rack equivalent of the JX-3P (the MKS30) for a number of years, and although programming it with the PG200 wasn't always as easy and immediate as other synths, the sounds it produced were nuanced and satisfying. UVX-3P successfully captures this aspect, and although it's programming flexibility is limited by its sample-based design, the sound is really excellent. And it's enhanced considerably by the extra parameters and effects the UVI Workstation engine brings into the fold. It certainly isn't a do-it-all synth, and as mentioned, if you want punchy bass sounds there are others that will do a better job. Nevertheless, if you're after luscious analogue textures, often in sequenced or arpeggiated form, that provide the backbone of many contemporary dance tracks, then the UVX-3P could be the ticket.