FX­pan­sion Cypher 2

Future Music - - CONTENTS -

A for­mer DCAM Synth Squad sta­ble­mate re­turns as a mod­ern, MPE-ready soft­synth. Si Truss gets ex­pres­sive…

CON­TACT KEY FEA­TURES WHO: FX­pan­sion WEB: www.www.fx­pan­sion.com Three os­cil­la­tor, MPE-ready vir­tual ana­logue synth, with dual ana­logue-mod­elled fil­ters, wave­shapers, ‘5D’ se­quencer and com­plex mod­u­la­tion tools. Pre­sets: 1300 (800 ‘2D’ + 500 ‘5D’)

Like its sis­terin­stru­ment Strobe, the orig­i­nal Cypher started life as part of FX­pan­sion’s three-in­stru­ment DCAM Synth Squad pack­age. A near decade later, we now have a stand­alone se­quel that builds on the con­cept of the orig­i­nal in some fairly for­ward-think­ing ways.

At core, Cypher 2 is an ana­loguestyle sub­trac­tive synth. Its sonic USP, how­ever, comes from the com­plex, au­dio-rate mod­u­la­tion op­tions of­fered by its os­cil­la­tors. To this end, it of­fers up three os­cil­la­tors each with a con­tin­u­ous wave shape con­trol and flex­i­ble fre­quency mod­u­la­tion op­tions al­low­ing the trio to be routed to one an­other’s pitch in any com­bi­na­tion. There are also op­tions for os­cil­la­tors sync, ring mod­u­la­tion, white and pink noise and au­dio-rate sam­ple and hold. The os­cil­la­tor sec­tion is rounded out by an Ana­logue Noise gen­er­a­tor, which sim­u­lates mains hum and cir­cuitry noise. The sig­nal then heads to Cypher’s Fil­ter/Shaper sec­tion which of­fers dual mul­ti­mode fil­ters and two ‘shapers’ which each of­fer a range of dis­tor­tion and wave­fold­ing ef­fects. Along with stan­dard ana­logue-style modes, each fil­ter also of­fers a va­ri­ety of comb fil­ter­ing modes. Cut­off can also be mod­u­lated by Osc 3, for fur­ther au­dio-rate mod­u­la­tion ef­fects.

This com­bi­na­tion of el­e­ments gives Cypher 2 a broad scope of sonic po­ten­tial. It can do bread-and-but­ter ana­logue em­u­la­tions well but it re­ally ex­cels at slightly more es­o­teric, in­har­monic sounds created through com­plex mod­u­la­tion and wave­shap­ing. It’s at its best when these two as­pects of the synth com­bine, cre­at­ing clas­sic synth sounds lay­ered with in­ter­est­ing tex­tures and FM-style ef­fects.

Since the orig­i­nal’s re­lease, its cre­ator FX­pan­sion has been pur­chased by Roli. Un­sur­pris­ingly, then, one of the ma­jor up­dates for Cypher 2 comes in its readi­ness to work with ‘multi-di­men­sional’ MPE con­trol in­puts. This means that, along with 800 ‘stan­dard’ pre­set, Cypher 2 comes with a gen­er­ous 500 ex­tra ‘5D’ pre­sets, mapped to al­low com­plex mod­u­la­tion and ex­pres­sion on a note-by-note level. Ku­dos to FX­pan­sion’s sound de­sign­ers, the MPE-ready pre­sets are ex­cel­lent; the sounds them­selves, as well as the mod­u­la­tion rout­ings, re­ally suit the hands-on, ex­pres­sive ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing with an MPE con­troller. It makes Cypher 2 par­tic­u­larly great for ex­pres­sive am­bi­ent pads and del­i­cate tex­tu­ral synth sounds.

In fact, the whole de­sign of Cypher 2 lends it­self to ex­pres­sive sounds, whether used in MPE mode or not. Along­side the synth en­gine it­self, it of­fers a lot of very in­ter­est­ing mod­u­la­tion op­tions, in­clud­ing mul­ti­ple LFOs, en­velopes, ramp gen­er­a­tors and flex­i­ble ma­trix of rout­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. An in­ter­est­ing ‘5 di­men­sional’ se­quencer of­fers mul­ti­ple mod­u­la­tion chan­nels rem­i­nis­cent of work­ing with a com­plex Euro­rack setup, al­beit in dig­i­tal form. The nod to the world of mod­u­lar is fur­ther ex­tended with Cypher 2’s Maths pro­ces­sor, with its va­ri­ety of mul­ti­pli­ca­tion and divi­sion-based mod­u­la­tion tools. Fi­nally, a Eu­clidean pro­ces­sor gives a cool, es­o­teric mod­u­la­tion source based on geo­met­ric shapes con­trolled via an XY pad.

Where Cypher 2 does have a weak spot is in its rather one-note in­ter­face de­sign – mak­ing it feel dense and a lit­tle busy, while us­able.

That aside, this is a son­i­cally im­pres­sive synth with lots of for­ward-think­ing sound de­sign tools. It’s pos­si­bly the best MPE-ready in­stru­ment we’ve tried too. For own­ers of Roli Se­aboards or other MPE de­vices, this is pretty es­sen­tial. There’s a lot here for any pro­ducer though, par­tic­u­larly if com­plex tex­tures are your thing.

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