Get with the programmers
Roli’s VP of Engineering, Research & Technology and FXpansion lead programmer talks Cypher2
cm The key changes to Cypher2 are obvious, but what’s changed internally?
AH “The oscillators have been tweaked rather than drastically remodelled; plus the additional Sine cores, more FM paths, variable depth ring modulation, and a few more subtle things like a taper on the FM depths to make them respond more musically to modulation-depth changes. The sum total is an oscillator that’s a lot stronger on FM-heavy sounds in particular, while still capable of all the classic VCO and hard sync sounds that the original was so great at. The shapers are a straightforward upgrade, but don’t underestimate the power of wavefolding – very interesting tones there. As to the filter, that’s a bigger upgrade. There are entirely new filter models in the MS20-ish Fat, the JPT (similar to Strobe’s), and a hotrodded ‘MGX’ ladder filter. Plus a digital comb filter – combs and FM are a lovely combination. Finally, the FX bus. It’s a dual architecture with three slots each, but what’s unique, I feel, are the polyphonic aux sends.”
cm It’s quite unusual for a VP in a major software developer to also be the main programmer. How do you do it?
AH “At Roli, my team is far bigger than FXpansion’s ever was. However, I find hands-on programming to be both a therapeutic antidote to the more turbulent aspects of start-up life, and a way of sharing some of the same experiences as the team I manage. Clearly, having fewer hours in the day to devote to coding means that a project like Cypher2 takes a bit longer than it otherwise would, but the end result is worth waiting for.”
cm Cypher2 is an incredibly powerful instrument, but intimidating for some. Any tips?
AH “Our tutorial videos explain it far better than a few sentences of mine. But also, explore the presets, don’t be afraid to experiment, and see if you can figure out how each preset is constructed. TransMod makes it really easy to do this, by highlighting which sources are modulating a particular parameter whenever you mouse over them – and vice-versa.”
“I find programming to be a therapeutic antidote to start-up life”
cm With FXpansion now part of Roli, you’re at the vanguard of MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) integration. Do you think it will be a gamechanger for performance and instrument design?
AH “It’s a huge leap for performers. And instrument and sound design will both need to evolve to keep up with it. The preset designer’s art is really expanded by MPE, as they now need to create patches that sound good across a whole range of playing styles and gestures, and deal with all the extra expressive control coming in from the controller. They almost have to start thinking like a coder – if you look at the Eagan Matrix on the Haken Continuum, arguably the first MPE instrument, it’s so mathematical, to the point that they’re essentially using equations as patch cables. TransMod doesn’t go quite that far, but plays a similar role using a much more accessible (for most people, at least) visual metaphor. cm What’s next for FXpansion? AH “I could talk, but then I’d have to beat you to death.”