u-he Diva (Quicker) Review
U-He Diva… the synth that seems to be the secret of all your favourite producers & that people just won’t stop raving about.
But is it worth the money & just how good is it? I’m gonna help to answer that question in this in-depth uhe Diva review, and explain why it’s one of the best synth VST plugins ever.
What Is U-HE Diva?
Diva quick overview:
- Virtual Analogue Synth
- Impersonates old hardware synths & does an impeccable job of it.
- VST, AU, AAX, 32bit & 64bit hosts
Diva stands for: “Dinosaur Impersonating Virtual Analogue” synthesiser.
And that’s what it is, it’s a Virtual Analogue synthesiser that impersonates over 5 decades of legendary, hardware synths inside your computer, for a fraction of the price.
It’s also somewhat of a modular, virtual analogue synth & allows you to choose from:
- 5 different oscillators (moog, juno & other emulations)
- 5 different filter modules
- 3 different ADSR envelopes
- As well as a plethora of modulation & effect options
So what does that actually mean?
To put it into context, you can use a Mini Moog oscillator with a Juno filter. Or you could try an Oberheim OB8 filter with the MS20 oscillators. You can pretty much mix and match 5 decades of legendary synth technology.
It’s pretty f*cking awesome.
If you’re looking for an analog synth that actually, truly sounds analog – Diva is going to make you very aroused.
How Does Diva Sound?
To put it shortly – the sound on Diva, is the best I’ve heard in a soft synth that emulates analogue sound.
When comparing it to industry standard, virtual analogue software like Arturia’s V Collection & Omnisphere – Diva wins every time.
The analogue sound it produces is just so authentic, & comes exceptionally close to sounding like the original thing. You would have an incredibly hard time telling the difference in an A/B test between original hardware and Diva.
And just to prove it to you, here’s a video A/B testing an OB-8 against Diva. If you can hear a massive difference, I’ll be surprised. It’s virtually unnoticeable.
What Makes Diva Sound So Good?
Analog synthesisers generate sound using voltage. In real analog synths, this causes a natural detune every time you play a note & can also cause things like the wavetable shape to change slightly.
This is one of the features of analog synths that make them sound so warm & beautiful.
Oscillator Voice Detune
In Diva, you can replicate this warm, natural drift, using the oscillator voice detune section, which essentially allows you to control just how analog you want your synth to sound.
You’ll notice there are 3 knobs for each oscillator, and 8 voice steps, with 2 knobs for detune amount & voice drift.
This allows you to control the amount each oscillator detunes with every hit of a note. With the detune amount you can control how much of the detune affects the oscillators & also add some natural drift, using the voice drift knob.
This gives Diva a truly unique, virtual analogue sound that puts it well above the competition.
Filters And Envelopes
One of the things that places Diva above everything else on the market, is the superior sounding filters and envelopes.
The technology behind them is the reason why they sound so much better than other digital filter types & analogue emulations on the market.
To sound truly analogue, Diva cleverly emulates the circuits used in old synthesisers using PSpice technology. This is a technology used by electrical engineers to simulate & design circuits at component level.
U-He have expertly implemented this technology into Diva, using specifically designed algorithms to work with audio, that accurately replicate how hardware synth filters react with waveforms & how they ultimately sound.
This allows Diva to have realtime circuit simulation, & zero delay feedback when using filters. Zero Delay Feedback gives Diva a shorter delay when modelling analogue circuits &, as a result, produces more authentic resonance behaviour.
The presets inside Diva are nothing short of phenomenal. The browser is easy to use and, the patches I flicked through gave me tingles, & left my mouth open in awe at the possibilities for sound design.
There have been so many times when I’ve been listening to some of my favourite producers, trying to understand how they make synths sound so natural, warm & clear.
Loading up a couple of Diva patches opened my eyes to what good, virtual analogue synthesis can do to your productions, and there were so many familiar sounds I’d heard before in my favourite tracks.
I’ve been on the search for a synth that sounds as good as Diva for a while now, and nothing has ever come close to this.
There is a patch for any situation, & you will be able to find one that sits in your track perfectly without even having to tweak it! And, there have been a lot of situations where I’ve just done that – loaded up a patch, played my MIDI in and not even touched the settings.
This makes workflow infinitely quicker, but, if you want to design your own patches, the possibilities for sound design are endless.
I was creating percussive sounds, pads, basses, acoustic jazz basses & other things I never would have been able to make sound as good in a digital wavetable synth, like Serum.
So you’re probably wondering what Diva actually sounds like & if you can hear some examples.
Luckily for you, I’ve included a few audio examples below.
Take a listen – I’m sure they blow your mind.
How Does Diva Look & Feel?
Diva has a beautiful UI, but is overwhelming when you first open it.
Long story short: if you’re used to digital synth layouts, then Diva is going to be a bit of a task to come to terms with, & get the most out of.
However, with a good few hours of watching tutorials and twiddling knobs yourself, you’ll begin to get a hang of it. Once you do, the sound design possibilities are absolutely insane.
On the flip side: if you come from a hardware background, you’ll be extremely comfortable with the layout, because it’s been modelled off classic hardware synth modules.
The oscillators, filters and envelopes are pretty self-explanatory & are very easy to use but, the modulation section is straight up confusing, & can often leave you wondering how the different options actually affect the sound.
For instance, the modulation section is nowhere near as intuitive as something like Serum’s, but you can get waaaay better results from Diva so this is a pretty small price to pay.
The preset browser is extremely easy to use, and you can search for specific instruments/sounds using the clever tag system. You can also favourite your most loved patches with different colour codes.
For example I use:
- Purple – for arps
- Red – for basses
- Orange – for percussive sounds
- & so on
This is a really nice feature, & helps to speed up the time between loading up a session & getting into your creative groove.
Diva also has the option to resize the window between 100-200%, which is an awesome option if you’re running a bigger screen (like me).
A lot of plugin companies are absolute dog sh*t with their support for larger screens (iZotope, Waves & others), so it’s nice to see that U-He have thought of all users, when it comes to usability.
The UI is beautiful (and once you come to terms with it) fairly simple to use, but is hard to get your head around at first.
But as that old saying goes: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty” (Theodore Roosevelt).
Diva’s Modular Capability
Although Diva is not a modular synth, it brings a modular aspect to legendary, analogue synths. With Diva, you can mix and match from over 5 decades of beautiful analogue, sounding synth modules.
You can mix and match oscillators including: a triple VCO oscillator module (Minimoog), DCO module (Roland Alpha Juno), 2 dual VCO modules (Jupiter-8, Jupiter-6) & a digital wavetable module (Roland JP-8000).
While being able to choose any one of these oscillators, you can also choose from classic filter effects as well.
These include: a Moog lader filter, cascade filter (Jupiter 8 – clean, Juno-60, rough), multimode filter (Roland Jupiter-6), Bite filter (Korg MS-20), UHBIE (Oberheim SEM) & extra high pass filter effects.
On top of all that you can also choose 3 different envelopes from, old, analogue synths including: Digital (C is ‘curve’ & models Jupiter-6, Q is ‘quantise’ & models Alpha Juno-2) & Analogue (Roland Jupiter-8).
The oscillators, filters and envelopes also come with a plethora of modulation options to choose from (different for each module), sync & other niceties.
Effects, Algorithms & Other Cool Features
The effects found in Diva are pretty standard & consist of:
- 2 Phasers
- 2 Chorus
- 2 Delay
- 2 Plate Reverb
- 2 Rotary Effect
Like everything else in this plugin, you can sure as hell expect it to sound a lot better than most of your usual plugin choices, & the modulation options are wicked for sound design purposes.
One of the cooler things about the effects is the ability to change the algorithms in some of them to give a different result & sound.
The algorithm change also applies to other parts of the synth, like the transient section, the arpeggiator, scale tuning & more.
My personal favourites were the transient, scale & arpeggiator algorithms.
By changing the transient mode, you can get some wildly different results in clarity & response of your synth patches. And, by changing the scale, you’re able to play scales that aren’t the normal western 12 tone we’re used to.
The arpeggiator also has 4 different options, serial, round, leap & repeat; along with all the normal arp controls you’d expect on a synth. Each option has a very different & unique sound to it that can make your synth patch patterns so much more interesting.
The MIDI control is also a really cool feature that I didn’t want to miss out on in this review.
With Diva, you have full control over MIDI mapping with a MIDI learn function & a designated MIDI table that allows you to set different controls to different MIDI channels etc.
This is a really nice workflow addition & can make using Diva feel more like an actual piece of hardware.
How Bad Is The CPU Hit?
The one thing that takes away from Diva is the humungous CPU hit this thing can produce. It’s a seriously hungry mother f*cker, and it hasn’t been fed in a long time.
To give you an example of how much it can affect a session, I’ll give you my experience:
I was working on a beat that was ranging between 13-20% CPU usage overall, which was using 23 active tracks (none frozen). Loading up an instance of Diva and using it to play an arp/melody line, caused my CPU to bounce anywhere between the 43-50% range.
My current setup is pretty decent, & I run:
- Windows 10
- Ableton Live 10
- 3.4GHz, 6 core processor (AMD Ryzen 5)
- 16GB Ram, DDR5 (Corsair Vengeance)
- 8GB Video card (Radeon RX570)
That’s a hefty CPU hit for 1 plugin & led me to freeze most Diva instances after designing the initial sound to save CPU power.
I did also try multicore mode, which helped a HUGE amount.Enabling multicore mode, took 10% off the CPU hit – leaving the whole session at around 32% CPU usage.
- Mac OS X 10.9 or newer
- Windows 7 or newer
- 1GB RAM, more recommended
- 50MB free disk space
- 1000 × 600 or larger display
- Modern CPU (Sandy Bridge or newer recommended)
- Host software
u-he Diva (Quicker) Review
U-He Diva has to be one of the most incredible soft synths I’ve ever used. I was honestly shocked at the sheer quality of sound this thing can produce. And the patch selection it comes with, are out of this world.
Compare Diva to any of the other soft synths on the market, and it will win on sound quality every damn time. I would honestly say it’s stolen my beloved Omnisphere’s top spot, in my list of best VST plugins.
It will never compare to using and actual hardware synth, but it’s damn close. If you were to map this to a controller, you could have a whirl of fun *simulating* a analogue experience.
The triple VCO & other wavetables sound absolutely incredible, & the analogue emulation of hardware circuits is spot on.
The only drawback I found was the amount of CPU that it uses. It’s a f*cking power hungry beast, & that’s the only reason it doesn’t get a 5.
It’s a solid 4.8/5 for me.