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User Reviews by KVR Members for Ultra Analog VA-2

Rate & Review Ultra Analog VA-2 Now!

Reviewed By groovizm [read all by] on 16th May 2011
Version reviewed: 1.1.4 on Mac.
Last edited by groovizm on 5th November 2011.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
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I was drawn to the Ultra Analog VA-1 because of two things: sound and simplicity. I’m a firm believer in simplicity, because it allows me to create the sounds I hear in my head, fast, without losing the creative “flow”. But then, if you don’t like the way a synthesizer sounds, there’s often not much you can do about it. I am happy to announce that I like the sound of the VA-1 very, very much.

User Interface & Features
Many argue that classic analog hardware synthesizers are so great to program because of there simple one knob, one function layout. The VA-1 is not based on a classic hardware synthesizer. AAS did, however, create a design which could easily have existed somewhere between the moogs, arps and oberheims. There are (almost) no menu’s involved in operating VA-1 and control is direct and straight forward. Of course this means that AAS could only put in a limited set of features. So a feature based comparison with NI’s Massive, or MOTU’s MX4 would make the VA-1 look very restricted. I find, however, that they selected the most important features with care, and there is so much you CAN do, and it all sounds so well, that you easily forget about everything you can’t.

I only have two minor issues with the user interface: some UI elements are very small and they did not label the switches that reverse the polarity of modulations. This means you may need to place your mouse very accurately to toggle some switches, and that you may have a hard time figuring out what some of the buttons do. I like the compactness of the interface, though.

If you want to get a good impression of what this software is capable of download the free “Swatches” soundbank series compilation on the AAS website. It contains some examples from soundbanks created for the Ultra Analog VA-1. I fell in love with these sounds, downloaded the VA-1 demo and was hooked immediately.

Much of the characteristic, strong, sound of the VA-1’s is due to it’s filters. It’s astonishing how much these filters change the sound of the raw oscillators. (Listening to the presets in the vocal and percussion categories I was often wondering how the hell they got those sounds from a simple sawwave!) The formant mode is pretty unique and makes the VA-1 capable of creating sounds that are at once very synthetic and very vocal. This is ideal for creating ambient pads and drones. The more classic types like lowpass and hipass sound very analog to me and can be beefed up with various kinds of drive/distortion. Fat bases, raw leads and thundering soundeffects are very easy to come up with.

Most typical of the VA1 is it's routing. It's not simply two oscillators going into a filter section followed by an amplifier, but it is actually two compleet, almost identical, signalpaths, both comprising an oscillator, filter and amplifier with panning. Added to that you get an extra noise source, which can be fed into either filter or both and the abillity to cross-route the signal between the two paths. This means you can build a sound by combining two completely different, independant sounds, or you can use all the components together as one to build a more unified sound.

The VA-1 has all the features you’d expect on a typical analog synth. 2 oscillators with saw, sine and pulse waveforms, pulsewidth modulation and sync, noise generator, two filters with dedicates envelopes, 2 lfo’s, 2 amplifiers with dedicated envelopes and panning. Mono and poly modes, arpeggiator, portamento, unison and master effects: chorus/flanger, dely and reverb.

The filters are in parallel by default but can be used in series as well and filter 2 can be set to track the cutoff frequency of filter 1. The envelopes have various looping modes and the lfo’s can be synced to host (in plugin mode) or external midiclock (standalone).

The most remarkable missing feature on the VA1 is FM. There is no way to modulate the frequency of the oscillators, or (I would have liked that even more) filter with the oscillators.

A nice bonus is the ability to save, edit and recall maps of what midicontrol is assigned to what knob.

I found the documentation very good. It’s well written and in the form of a pdf, which suits me well, because I like to read my manuals on the iPad.

There are many presets and there easy to manage in the tree-view browser. It’s also easy to set up presets for control by midi (program change messages). The presets are categorized well, and they are very useful and inspiring. So much so, that you’ll have created loads of new ones from them before you’ve tried them all.

Customer Support
The order process is very straightforward. You get your download link instantly along with your serialnumber. After installation you have to authorise the software online, but this is easy and fast.

I did not need customer support, so I can’t say anything about response time.

Value For Money
I think $199, - is not very cheap for a synthesizer this simple, there are software instruments that offer more features for less. But I do think that Ultra Analog VA-1 is so useful because of it’s sound and it’s ease of use that the $199, - is really a very fair deal.

I felt ripped off later, though, when there was a great discount a few months after I got it.

I’ve experienced no issues so far with stability and VA-1 does not take up too much CPU.

Click here to read all 4 reviews

Discussion: Active


29 October 2013 at 7:25pmariston

Heck, your in-depth, knowledgeable and utterly "pro" review convinced me Jimmie. Off to buy UA 2 now.


30 October 2013 at 2:38pmariston

Hey Jimmie, it's not your English that's the problem, I think your English is fine. A review is supposed to be more than "gosh, it's great, I love it", though. That's merely an opinion; a review is supposed to be informative, which means that you should write about why and how you came to this conclusion. The only information I can glean from your "review" is that you like it - now why the hell would I need to know that? Sorry if this sounds personal, but I think that the KVR review section could be such a treasure trove of information, and yet it gets abused time and again. Maybe you should read the KVR guidelines for submitting reviews.



30 October 2013 at 6:02pmariston

Okay, that's fair enough. Sorry if I was a bit too harsh, I realize there was no bad intent. On the subject of UA2: I really wish it had been more awesome, because all they did was give it a makeover, instead of enhancing it and adding features. It is what it was... a nice synth that's been overtaken by the modern posse (Diva, Synth Squad, Monark, etc.)

29 October 2013 at 8:53pmnoou

IMO, VA-2 sounds exactly the same as VA-1 (except for the new fx), that is not very analog at all.
It's a shame that, after all this time, they only refurbished the GUI and the fx, while leaving the synthesis engine out.

30 October 2013 at 9:25pmdigitalboytn

Yes Sir..They did the same thing with Lounge Lizard too...They gave it a new GUI and a few FX,but it is essentially the same as the previous version...Not really an upgrade at all...Just a coat of paint :)

1 November 2013 at 6:23amplanetearth

Does anyone know for a fact that Ultra Analog VA-2 and Lounge Lizard EP-4 are really just "re-treads"? It was my understanding AAS had been working on them a while, and made some improvements. Now, I'm starting to wonder.

Admittedly, now that I read the Website, it appears the "new" stuff is mostly the effects. The sounds themselves come from a "renewed factory library" for UA VA-2 and a "new" factory library for LL EP-4. Not really sure what that means, other than they got rid of some of the older, cheesier sounds for UA VA-2. LL EP-3 was okay (though not my "go-to" for EP sounds); I'm not sure how many "new" electric piano sounds you can model--or really need to, for that matter.

Ultimately, what's important here is that the two OPs were able to resolve an obvious misunderstanding. I've been guilty of doing a quick "opinion piece" when I should have written a review, too.

23 January 2014 at 9:49pmdigitalboytn

The sound engines are exactly the same...All they did was add a few FX and a new GUI...They didn't gut the building...They just painted it on the outside :)

24 January 2014 at 2:11amplanetearth

Nice analogy.

I downloaded the UA VA-2 demo, and while it doesn't seem that much different from what I had, it's not bad. I would have gotten it on sale, but I doubt I would have paid full price for what amounted to a "new coat of paint"...and some nice effects. ;)

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Ultra Analog VA-2

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