Look­ing, sound­ing and flow­ing bet­ter than ever, this re­vi­talised plugin synth takes per­for­mance ex­pres­sion to new heights

Computer Music - - Contents - Web www.fx­pan­sion.com

Nine years af­ter the re­lease of the orig­i­nal Cypher – then a mem­ber of DCAM Synth Squad (9/10, 143) – ver­sion 2 of FX­pan­sion’s vir­tual ana­logue synth (VST/AU/AAX/ Stan­dalone) is here. With the de­vel­op­ers now owned by Roli, Cypher 2’s head­line fea­ture is sup­port for the MPE (MIDI Poly­phonic Ex­pres­sion) stan­dard, en­abling the ‘5D’ mod­u­la­tion sig­nals out­put by con­trollers such as the Roli Seaboard and Light­pad Block, and Roger Linn Lin­nStru­ment, to be as­signed to any and all pa­ram­e­ters, for un­prece­dented depth of ex­pres­sion on a per-note ba­sis.

Be­yond that, in terms of the sheer vol­ume of changes made to the orig­i­nal Cypher, the se­quel is a huge step up, and we can safely start this re­view by say­ing that the £64 up­grade fee is a no-brainer for ex­ist­ing users.

Coded mes­sages

Cypher2 is still a three-os­cil­la­tor synth with two fil­ters, two wave­shapers and up to 32 uni­son voices. The os­cil­la­tors can now use a sine as their start­ing wave shape, as well as the es­tab­lished tri­an­gle, with the Wave knob mor­ph­ing through saw, square and pulse; and the au­dio rate mod­u­la­tion rout­ings have been di­ver­si­fied so that Osc 1 can now take (throughzero) FM from Oscs 2 and 3, and each can be ring mod­u­lated by the next.

All of th­ese in­ter-os­cil­la­tor mod­u­la­tions (as well as fil­ter re­sponses, en­ve­lope and LFO shapes, etc) are beau­ti­fully vi­su­alised in the con­tex­tual Scope Panel dis­play. This could do with a ‘pin­ning’ op­tion, though, as it only ever shows the wave­form of the os­cil­la­tor cur­rently un­der the mouse pointer, which isn’t nec­es­sar­ily the one you’re ac­tu­ally work­ing on. You can’t see, for ex­am­ple, the changes made by the tun­ing of Osc 3 on the fre­quency mod­u­lated out­put of Osc 2 as they’re di­alled in.

You now get four more fil­ter types to choose from, too, the orig­i­nal SVF and Moog be­ing joined by an MS-20-style Sallen-Key, a Rolan­desque OTA, an edgier Moog and a comb. The two Shapers are sim­i­larly beefed up, with five new modes (two wave­fold­ers, soft clip­per, diode clip­per and rec­ti­fier), all of them en­abling key­track­ing for the in­cor­po­rated one-pole fil­ter.

Trans phat

One of the big­gest ar­eas of im­prove­ment in Cypher2 is the Tran­sMod mod­u­la­tion sys­tem. This is FX­pan­sion’s al­ter­na­tive to the tra­di­tional mod ma­trix, putting 24 slots (three times as many as in v1) at the top of the in­ter­face, each hous­ing any mod­u­la­tion source from an im­pres­sively ex­ten­sive menu, plus a sec­ondary scal­ing mod­u­la­tor. With a Tran­sMod slot se­lected, drag­ging up and down on the col­lar that pops up around any knob or slider when moused over sets the amount by which the Tran­sMod source mod­u­lates it. As well as the in­crease in slot num­ber, a plethora of new mod­u­la­tion sources and scalers has been rolled in, in­clud­ing the bril­liant Eu­clid pro­ces­sor (a cross be­tween an XY pad and a spring-loaded phys­i­cal in­er­tia mod­el­ling sys­tem), three curve remap­ping pro­ces­sors, two ed­itable keymaps,

and a range of para­phonic func­tions and gates. The three ADSR en­velopes re­main largely the same, but the two LFOs now fea­ture sub os­cil­la­tors that clock-di­vide the main os­cil­la­tors for mad rhyth­mic mod­u­la­tion, and are avail­able as sep­a­rate mod sources in their own right. There’s also an en­tirely new Maths sec­tion, in which four pairs of mod sources are brought to­gether through a va­ri­ety of math­e­mat­i­cal func­tions – glo­ri­ously sci­en­tific stuff for those who can get their heads round it.

The com­pletely new and im­mensely pow­er­ful Se­quencer page is home to a Step/gate Se­quencer, an Ar­peg­gia­tor, a bank of eight scale se­lec­tors and three Mod Se­quencers. The last can be used as Tran­sMod sources and/or used to mod­u­late the eight pa­ram­e­ters in the Ma­trix sec­tion, which in­clude Pitch, Du­ra­tion, Scale and switch­ing be­tween up to eight se­quences. It’s with­out doubt one of the most ad­vanced in­ter­nal note gen­er­a­tion sys­tems we’ve ever seen in a synth.

Fi­nally, with Cypher, ef­fects were loaded into the op­tional DCAM Fu­sor shell, but now they’re han­dled di­rectly within the synth it­self. Two chains of three ef­fects each are pro­vided, con­fig­urable in se­ries or par­al­lel and mixed man­u­ally or via Tran­sMod. There are 30 high qual­ity mod­ules to choose from for each slot, from EQs and fil­ters, through dy­nam­ics pro­ces­sors and dis­tor­tion, to re­verbs, de­lays and all kinds of mod­u­la­tion ef­fects.

More than be­fore

We’ve fo­cused on Cypher2’s new fea­tures here, but ev­ery­thing that was great about v1 – wave mod­u­la­tion, au­dio-rate S+H, pre­set mor­ph­ing, tempo-synced os­cil­la­tor beat­ing, etc – is still here, and none of it has lost any ap­peal over the last decade. We’re sur­prised that a cou­ple of old UI bug­bears haven’t been fixed, though. First, the mouse pointer doesn’t change ap­pear­ance when placed over the mod amount col­lar (but at least the col­lar lights up now), so it’s easy to ac­ci­den­tally dial in a mod­u­la­tion for a pa­ram­e­ter when you mean to ad­just the pa­ram­e­ter it­self. More frus­trat­ing is not be­ing able to re­set con­trols to de­fault by dou­ble-click­ing.

Like its pre­de­ces­sor, then – but much more so – Cypher2 is an in­cred­i­bly deep, un­yield­ingly com­plex plugin that pushes the lim­its of what an ‘ana­logue’ synth can do and be. The ad­di­tion of MPE makes it a must-have for own­ers of any com­pat­i­ble con­troller, but for every­one else (us in­cluded) the real draws are its big, warm sound, em­pow­er­ing, ex­pan­sive ar­chi­tec­ture and end­less ver­sa­til­ity.

“With the sheer vol­ume of changes made, the se­quel is a huge step up”

PRE­SET MORPH Morph be­tween pre­sets and ‘freeze’ in­ter­me­di­ate states MIDI MAP­PING MODE Switch be­tween 2D and 5D con­trol PRE­SETS More than 1300 patches in a search­able, tag­gable browser AU­DIO-RATE MOD­U­LA­TION Ap­ply FM, RM, WM and sync X/Y & EU­CLID Click to open the XY pad and Eu­clid gen­er­a­tor con­trols RAMPS Two very use­ful mod­u­la­tion and scal­ing gen­er­a­tors TRAN­SMOD As­sign up to 24 mod­u­la­tion sources to lim­it­less tar­gets DUAL LFO Di­vide the main os­cil­la­tor with the sub os­cil­la­tor MATHS Four mod­ules for math­e­mat­i­cally com­bin­ing sources PER­FOR­MANCE KNOBS Three as­sign­a­ble mod­u­la­tion macros DUAL FIL­TERS The two fil­ters boast plenty of types and modes VISUALIZER See your rout­ings and wave­forms in real time

The Se­quencer page is ab­so­lutely stuffed with won­der­ful cre­ative note­gen­er­at­ing sys­tems

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