U-he Uhbik (Mac/Win) Quick Pick Review - EMusician

U-he Uhbik (Mac/Win) Quick Pick Review

U-he Uhbik DSP Effects Plug-Ins reviewed by EM editor Len Sasso in EM June 2009 issue
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The Uhbik-S (frequency shifter) GUI has large dials and features only essential controls, as is typical of the series.

Uhbik ($199) is a suite of DSP effects plug-ins from Urs Heckman (u-he.com) in Audio Units and RTAS format for the Mac and VST for both Mac and Win. The bundle currently comprises eight effects with more on the way, and upgrades are always free. All but one of the plug-ins are designated by a single letter reminiscent of its function: Uhbik-A (ambience and reverb), -D (delay and echo), -F (flange and chorus), -P (phaser), -Q (semi-parametric EQ), -S (frequency shifter), and -T (tremolo). Runciter, the digital filter, is named after the main character from the Philip K. Dick novel Ubik, from which the bundle also derives its name.

AT FIRST TWEAK

My first reaction when I look at one of the Uhbik control panels is that I want to get my hands on it. The knobs look good enough to tweak, and there aren't so many dials, buttons, and menus that you don't know where to start. Appearances are deceiving, however. Under the hood, you'll find a lot more going on than the names on the front panel suggest. Fortunately the manual is not only clear, but it also usually provides background on the history and evolution of the effect, along with some suggested outside-the-box applications.

A quick spin through the presets reveals two more important things: These effects sound great, and they don't drive your CPU meters into oblivion. A lot of attention was paid to optimization, and that will be especially important when the next plug-in, Uhbik-X, arrives (probably by the time you read this). Uhbik-X is a rack to house four plug-ins with flexible signal routing and a variety of built-in modulators.

A HAAS OF A DIFFERENT COLOR

One of my favorites in the bundle is the tremolo effect, Uhbik-T. It uses a souped-up version of the LFO common to several Uhbik modules to modulate volume (standard tremolo), lowpass filter cut-off frequency (a smooth alternative), and a very short delay applied separately to each audio channel. That alters the perception of position owing to the Haas effect.

What makes the Uhbik-T LFO special is a 16-step pattern generator that holds 11 patterns, which you spread across multiple audio channels using the LFO's channel offset. (All Uhbik plug-ins support eight input and output channels for up to 7.1 surround mixing.) Changing patterns is especially effective applied to rhythmic parts (see Web Clip 1).

Both Uhbik-F and -P — the flanger and phaser, respectively — incorporate the same LFO without the pattern sequencer. The flanger provides both through-zero and stomp-box-style delay-based flanging, and its delay time extends into the chorus range. By contrast, the phaser uses allpass filters to create a comb filter with seven, 14, or 21 bands. Unlike modulating delay time, modulating the comb-filter frequencies produces inharmonic intervals resulting in the familiar metallic sound (see Web Clip 2).

SHIFTY BUSINESS

Three other effects are designed to mangle your tracks. Uhbik-S is a frequency shifter (aka, single-sideband ring modulator). The amount of shift is set as a percentage of the chosen frequency range, which you set in Hz (1, 10, 400, or 4,000) or relative to whole- or 16th-notes at the host tempo. Three unusual controls — Channel Offset, Feedback, and Phase Shift — take you beyond the typical realm of frequency shifters.

Uhbik-D is a five-tap feedback delay with individual volume, pan, and feedback on/off settings for each tap. The tap delays are set in hundredths of a 16th-note within a range of 0 to 16, and the global Speed knob adjusts all delay times up or down as much as 50 percent. You can modulate that knob's value with a sine-wave LFO or random flutter, the latter being useful for simulating tape delays. In another nod to tape-style delay, the feedback circuit features soft clipping, as well as low- and high-shelf filters (see Web Clip 3).

Runciter is a combination overdrive-distortion effect and resonant multimode filter. You use the built-in envelope follower or a variety of MIDI messages to modulate the cut-off frequency of the filter.

BREAD AND BUTTER

The remaining two effects present a clean and simple approach to reverb and EQ. Uhbik-A takes the unusual step of combining early reflections to dial in room size and shape with a plate reverb for sculpting the reverb tail. It is subtle and transparent, and it takes a light CPU bite.

Uhbik-Q is an analog-modeled, 2-band semi-parametric EQ (meaning there is no Q control). You can configure each band as a high- or low-shelf, or choose among three bell shapes: narrow, wide, and flex (gain determines Q). In addition to the two bands, you get very steep high- and low-cut filters with a choice of four frequencies.

The eight plug-ins in this expanding collection could easily become the core of your effects palette, and they'll add a lot of color to your tracks. Download the occasionally crackling demo from the Web site and hear for yourself.

Value (1 through 5): 5
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