FXpansion recently released the new Cypher2 software instrument for all major DAWs. It comes with hundreds of new 5D touch sounds and new sound design capabilities, so we couldn’t wait to give it a try for Logic Pros. The complete instrument offers an impressive array of effects as well as a powerful oscillator section and more. But at the same price as Logic Pro X itself, is it worth it?
After having had the chance to familiarize ourselves with the ROLI Seaboard Block controller, we became obsessed with 5D MIDI. The emergence of EMP has created a whole new category of products both on the hardware and software side. Gadgets like the Seaside block and plugins like Cypher2 have dramatically broadened our creative horizons. In many cases, this almost forces you to come up with new creative ideas. The ability to naturally slide your fingers across a playing surface that still retains the general feel of a traditional keyboard in combination with the software to support it has proven to be more than a passing fad.
So naturally we were looking for amazing new software instruments that support MPE and Seaboard. An example is that of FXpansion Cypher2. The instrument has been around for years in one way or another. FXpansion, however, has released an all-new version packed with 500 5D presets (plus 800 other standard presets) as well as an extremely deep and expressive modulation system for multi-touch sound design.
Cypher2 has 3 analog modeled multi-waveform oscillators. Each of them includes a thru-zero FM, a ring mod, a noise generator and an interesting sync function. All three oscillators can also be used as an LFO, which is music for any sound designer’s ears and great news for beginners browsing the presets.
This is an extremely powerful and complete oscillator section. Cypher2 can go from your Typical workhorse analog synth sounds To dream digital wind instruments and haunting vocal choirs, no problem. You can hear it in action here.
There are also some noteworthy features here. The adjustable sync mode on oscillators 2 and 3 is amazing. Unlike an on / off rocker switch, it is fully variable. So if the rotary knob is set to 100%, you get your typical “sync sound” setup. But you will get varying degrees of sync (or soft sync type tones) between 0% and 99%. While not uncommon in synth design, this is a nice touch that gave us some interesting tones and overtones in testing.
Dual filter / trainer:
This is basically a pair of Shaper / Multi-Mode resonant filter units with a nice balance / mixer section. While the filters themselves both have a discrete drive function, the Shaper sections are essentially complete distortion / saturation modules. There are many types of Shaper / Distortion: Diode, OTA, OpAmp and HalfRect with a low pass filter setting as well as DiodK, RectK, FoldTK, FoldSK and SoftK modes with a touch tracking filter control.
Cypher2 has an extremely powerful effects section. He split FX A and FX B chains with three effects each. Each chain is configured to run in series (the output of FX A feeds FX B), but you can also opt for a parallel routing path. And just about all controls and effects can be modulated.
There is also a huge list of effects here. You’ll find everything from various EQ options to compressors, reverbs and delays, to name just a few. But there is a couple we would like to highlight. The Amber Chorus sounds fantastic. It uses various algorithms to mimic the âclassic Bucket-Brigade Delay (BBD) chorus circuitsâ found in vintage instruments over the years. Second, there is the Amber Formants effect. It’s basically a 4-band formant filter that can invoke an almost vocal or stringy tone to almost any synth patch. The presets make excellent use of both effects and I’ve found them both to be true game changers when it comes to creating interesting 5D sounds.
Cypher2 has an extremely deep modulation system. It is both advanced and quite intuitive. I tend to be picky about how plug-in synth manufacturers implement modulation routing, and I think FXpansion has done a great job here. Unlike one of those modulation matrix style editors which is in another window of the main synth editor, you can do pretty much all of the routing from the main page.
There are 16 TransMod slots at the top of the user interface. Each of these can modulate just about any parameter of the synthesizer and can be optionally multiplied or scaled using an additional source. There are also 8 additional wired mod slots on top of that.
However, you can basically multiply that by 8. In the TransMod section, you can have up to 8 quick preset slots that can contain different settings for everything mentioned above. This means that you can record up to 8 variations on the modulation routing state of a single patch and morph between them at will. Create a patch you like, copy and paste its modulation parameters to a new location with a few edits and maybe push that X / Y randomization matrix. The sonic possibilities are endless here whether you are a pro or not.
Another cool touch here is the Parameter context menu (right click on the parameter). You can also right click on a parameter and choose a TransMod from the menu. Great for its immediacy, it can also be useful and a more straightforward solution for some new sound designers. Find the control you want to add motion to, and then select what you want to do with it from the context menu. This could very well be a more intuitive approach for those who are a little less familiar with synth routing.
You need to click and drag on the light gray pop-up overlay that surrounds the button in question to adjust the modulation depth, however you choose to do so. While you can still easily adjust the button itself by clicking and dragging as usual, I found this method a bit difficult to use at first. Sometimes I would catch the button as opposed to the gray overlay by accident. But I got used to it in a few hours or so after tinkering.
Easy mode / Presets:
The plugin included a great easy mode page in Cypher2 for beginners. However, it’s also great for those who are just looking to tear up certain sounds quickly. While it’s great to listen to the presets available, you also have some cool macro controls to customize the sound in an extremely simple and straightforward way. Each patch has up to 5 contextual controls that will alter the sound to some extent, ranging from effect parameters to modulation depths / rates and more. For more advanced users, these controls are the P1, P2, P3 and Base X / Base Y of the Euclid processor which are built into this particular preset.
You will also find some nice alternative color themes there.
Should you buy it?
I entered this one with a certain level of skepticism. There was a marketing connection to ROLI and it looked like they wanted $ 200 for a set of presets for an old software instrument. As fantastic as the new presets are, and they are, they aren’t at all.
The variable timing, the Shaper, the unique built-in effects options, and the incredibly deep modulation possibilities were real stand-out features here. But the sequencers and the analog noise generator are also great touches.
Number 2 is easily our new must-have 5D software instrument on Mac. With its incredibly advanced modulation system, refreshing and unique built-in effects, and brilliant presets, it’s almost impossible not to recommend this one. Even if you’re not as interested in such a deep modulation setup, the Easy preset page provides an incredible resource for easily customizable sounds. And on the other hand, this is clearly a very complex and nuanced synthesizer that professionals can enjoy. It’s certainly not cheap, but if you’re looking to invest in some serious software instruments, Cypher2 is worth it.
The Benefits of logic are: Justin kahn and Jordan kahn.
Want more Logic Pros? Check archives here and stay tuned for further installments.
FTC: We use automatic affiliate links which generate income. Following.