Sugar Bytes Cyclop

We love bass, so we decided to take a look at the latest low end monster synth on the market in our Sugar Bytes Cyclop Review. Cyclop has huge possibilities for dubstep – read on to find out just how worthy it is of your hard earned…


 

First Impressions

Cyclop is, initially at least, pretty confusing to look at. It doesn’t take too long to get your head around things if you’ve got a sound understanding of basic synth principles, but Cyclop is probably a synth that you’ll get the most out of if you’re already somewhat au fait with synths in general. It’s got a pretty big GUI, with a central section that has multiple pages that have their own subpages, and until you ‘get’ how it all works you might get a little frustrated. Once you do, though, things turn out to be quite logical and the layout of the GUI more or less mimics the signal chain, or at least, as much as it can when that chain can be rearranged.

Oscillators and Filters

Sugar Bytes Cyclop Oscillators

There are two oscillator sections in Cyclop, plus a sine wave sub osc just to make sure there’s always some knee shaking sub on offer. The main oscillator sections allow you to choose an overarching synthesis type and then tweak them further, with FM, saw/double saw/square wave sync, a supersaw creating ‘saw regiment’, a granular wavetable (that supports wav import), a spectral shaping oscillator ‘spectromat’, and a phase distortion unit that creates harmonics out of pushing sine waves out of phase and accentuating their clashes. This is a lot of potential, and if I’m to be completely honest I found myself neglecting the phase stressor and spectromat in favour of the simpler and perhaps more versatile analog sync, FM, and saw regiment types. Over time I think the extra oscillator types will be something I’ll delve into more, as the subtlties of their character starts to win me over. It’s clear that there’s a great deal of sonic potential in the oscillators, though, and even the basic waveforms sound excellent.

Sugar Bytes Cyclop Filters

The filter section is similarly well endowed, with ten different types of filter on offer – high pass, band pass, mid boost, three low pass types, comb, ripple (a sort of band pass/comb hybrid), and band stop. All the filters can be set to operate as formant shifters too, which works especially well when certain filters are combined with rhythmic modulation. All the filters are tweaked to be ‘bass appropriate’; they’re very smooth, and even high resonance settings are accessible without ruining the patch in key pitch zones.

For even more flexibility the oscillators and filters can be run serial, with the sum of oscillator 1 and 2 going through filter 1 then 2 (or the other way around), parallel, with the sum of the oscillators split and running into each filter individually, or in split mode, where oscillator 1 runs to filter 1, oscillator 2 to filter 2. Experimenting with just how much this could change the sound was eye opening, and this semi-modular approach to Cyclop is definitely one of its strong points.

Modulation

Sugar Bytes Cyclop Modulation

Whilst it generates some pretty gut wrenching bass straight off the bat, it’s the modulation options that set Cyclop apart; rather than creating a sound and then warping and shaping it with DAW automation and further plugins, Cyclop really wants you to program every aspect of your bassline, from the wobbles to the tone changes, in its own GUI.

Each of the main controls on the oscillators and filters can be modulated individually by an ADSR envelope, a ‘sound’ dial, a step sequencer, an LFO, and the ‘wobble’ dial. The wobble is a special control that is really at the heart of Cyclop; essentially, wobble is a tempo synced LFO, and every rhythmic interval – 16th, 8th, etc – can have its own shape. This can lead to some very interesting wobble bass patches, where different LFO speeds have character over and above just the rate at which they bounce between settings. For even more fluid changes, the shapes and rates can be interpolated between each rhythm division. Experimentation is key here, and indeed there’s a randomisation button to help you to do so.

Sugar Bytes Cyclop Rhythm

On top of all this modulation capability, you can even rhythmically automate these modulation parameters from within Cyclop. You can get so deep with Cyclop that it stops becoming about twisting knobs to get a bass sound and more about getting the meat of your entire track, leaving you to simply play notes and let the automation you’ve set up take care of the rest. I didn’t find myself using even 50% of the total capability of Cyclop in most instances, but it’s nice to know that if you have a certain mutation in your head, you can probably achieve it.

Oh, there’s more. On top of all this, the effects (described below) can be turned on and off in sequence, and there’s an amp gate that’s designed to give rhythmic qualities to held notes. In short, a well programmed Cyclop patch can more or less completely take care of everything that makes basslines interesting except the pitches of the notes in them.

Effects

Sugar Bytes Cyclop Effects

Sugarbytes’ existing calibre with effects is evident with Cyclop. There’s a whole page dedicated to the internal effects – reverb, delay, phaser, chorus, vinylesque wind downs and ‘scratch’ sounds, loops and pitch rolls, each with their own variations. You can layer these effects, with reverb, delay, phaser and flanger as one choice, the vinyl effects another, loops another and pitch the last, in order to create weird and wonderful sounds.

There’s no way to alter their order in the signal chain, but even if it were possible I don’t think it would make much difference to the final sound. There are, though, individual wet/dry controls for delay, reverb, phaser, and chorus, which gives a little more control over these important effects.

Sugar Bytes Cyclop Distortion

As I touched on previously there are eight separate effects settings available, and these can be selected at will either manually or rhythmically to further mess up the sound emanating from the bowels of Cyclop. You know, in case you didn’t have enough sound mangling options already.

We’re still not done! The main signal (not including the sub osc, which runs separately to ensure it simply provides a pure sine bass tone), as well as the pre-filter signal, can be distorted by one of many models, from bit crushing to saturation to downright nasty overdrive. These are set and forget settings (something had to be), as are a general bass tweaking dial that smooths out the high end ‘woofing’ bass and boosts up lower end grunts and a stereo dial that widens out higher frequencies whilst keeping bass in the middle, opening up the sound to proper arena shaking effect. 

Gripes

As interesting as Cyclop is, it’s not perfect. First off, it’s a shame it’s monophonic. I realise that Sugar Bytes are aiming specifically at the bass market with Cyclop, but it would be nice to have just a little bit more versatility – and this is something that polyphony would really facilitate.

In addition, modulation is reset on a note off command – which can at times be frustrating. You can of course simply overlap notes to keep things working through the rhythm schedule, but I would have liked the opportunity to turn this functionality off and have the rhythmic modulation independent of note. It’d also be nice to have a note latch for many of the same reasons.

Sugar Bytes Cyclop

An arpeggiator might just be too much to ask from Cyclop, but I feel like with the rest of the features it’s crying out for one!

There’s one thing missing from Cyclop’s internal signal chain, and that’s some kind of limiting device. It would be fantastic to have a multiband compressor inside Cyclop somewhere, but then again I think perhaps because Cyclop already does so much inside its own engine I’m just wishing for the world when in reality dropping an external plugin over the top of Cyclop is a fine workaround.

Wrap Up

Sugar Bytes Cyclop

As you can see, Cyclop is a vastly configurable synth. It’s very much suited to a particular type of sound – the huge, tearing basses that are so popular in dubstep and rougher house music – and for those it’s one of the best synths we’ve tested. It’s not particularly versatile though; the massive amount of modulation possible makes Cyclop able to create interesting, evolving sounds, but it’s all geared towards that sound. Sugarbytes are very open about this, and it’s not a bad thing by any means – it’s better to be the best at one thing than okay at a bunch of them. You can get lost in Cyclop, but when you start to learn your way around it’s a very rewarding piece of software.

Win a Copy of Cyclop (ended)!

 The good folks over at Sugar Bytes furnished us with one full licence of Cyclop to give to one of our lucky readers – the competition’s over now, but make sure you Like our Facebook page and register for free so you’re first to know about future competitions!

Free Sugarbytes Cyclop Presets

We’ve been testing Cyclop, Sugarbytes’s latest bassline synth for a few days now – expect a review very soon! Until then, have a few of the presets we’ve made while testing…

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Grant – Grant

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Make a Track Your Gran Would Like

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Au Palais - Tender Mercy EP

Au Palais – Tender Mercy EP

By Andrew McHarg

Rumbling low end and arpeggiated synths collide to create a sharp yet pleasing contrast in the new Au Palais EP ‘Tender Mercy’. A snapshot of the sound achieved here would be Depeche Mode crossed with The XX and a lot of reverb.

Au Palais record their music at night and it is reflected in the tone of the EP

Au Palais record their music at night and it is reflected in the tone of the EP. The title track ‘Tender Mercy’ makes excellent use of the low end to provide a ‘dark’ sound, yet its neon vocals transform the atmosphere into a more optimistic feeling. It’s night time, but it’s not neccesarily dark.
The sound of ‘Pathos’ reflects its title and moves into darker territory with brooding vocals and eerie synths.
‘Because The Night’ is the standout track for me – an evolving dream like sequence with a driving beat and a lot of tension.
The final track, ‘H.o.l.l.a.n.d’ is an instrumental number with bright, swirling chords and a unique squawking synth melody and departs from the darker tone heard previously.

There is a set sound throughout the EP, yet the Canadian duo inject enough creativity to keep it interesting. This, along with the attention to detail and high production value make it a treat to listen to.

The full EP is available on December 5th.

Untold

The Questions: Untold

London UK’s Jack Dunning, better known as Untold, is a relentlessly brave producer, whose willingness to throw musical curveballs results in exciting and sometimes innovative music (for conclusive proof, check the 2009 scorcher Anaconda at the bottom of the page). In between music, running his own label Hemlock Recordings, and a brand new collaboration in the works, we got Untold to drop some wisdom on The Questions…

Name: Untold

“You’re only as good as your last record” Untold

The name of the first song i was really proud of was called: “Test Signal” on my first Hessle Audio release in 2008

Most fun person i’ve ever worked with: Samuel Chase - The singer I’m writing with on my side project “Dreadnought” He’s probably the most infuriating person I’ve ever worked with too.

Best musical advice i’ve ever been given: You’re only as good as your last record.

A piece of gear i couldn’t live without: SSL Duende plugins

A piece of gear i wish i could live without: My K701 headphones when I have to turn the volume down late at night.

My studio environment in three words: Standard nerd cave

A song i wish i’d written:  Dillinja – Silver Blade

If i could do it all again, I’d: Do less remixes

Untold: Twitter / Facebook

Check out the highly individual Anaconda below, and those of you who want to get inside the sounds of Untold can do just that if you own NI’s Massive, with his new DnB/Dubstep Presets Loopmasters pack.

lfofeatured

Smart Tips: Understand LFOs

From wobbling basslines to subtle, organic sounding sound morphing, the amount of uses an LFO has make it one of the most powerful oscillators on a synthesiser without it even making a sound. Let’s take a deeper look at how they work and how to use them…


First things first, LFO stands for Low Frequency Oscillator
. Unlike the other oscillators in a synth, which operate at frequencies conducive to generating sound, an LFO typically oscillates in single digit hertz. The goal of the LFO is to create a rhythm and shape by which other parameters on a synth or sampler are modulated; most LFOs have four main functions:

Destination. An obvious one, this: you need to create a link between the LFO and whatever parameter you want it to modulate. Some of the most common are pitch and filter cutoff, but different synths have varying parameters that the LFOs can control – from envelopes to oscillator mix and phase – that will fulfill your sound design cravings.

Shape. The shape of the waveform on the LFO defines how the target parameter will move; you can imagine the shape’s up and down movements as your hand adjusting the parameter, and the rhythm with which you do it is defined by the horizontal axis, representing time. Select a sine wave and the parameter will smoothly increase and decrease through its values, select a square and it will switch between them sharply. Many LFOs have crazy, arhythmic waveforms that can be used to create natural sounding changes in a sound.

Rate. Most LFOs allow you to switch between synced and non synced rates, and each is handy for different reasons. Rhythmical effects like wobbing synths are obviously better off synced to tempo, whereas when using an LFO to create surprising and naturalistic changes to a sound, the less of a distinguishable rhythm there is the better. Changing the rate of the LFO on the fly will give you that dubstep rhythmic wobble, and sweeping the rate of an unsynced LFO that’s also set to a weird and wonderful waveform will create a totally unpredictable sound.

Amount. The amount of movement of the parameter, from minimum to maximum, will depend on this dial. Typically, the point at which the parameter you are connecting to the LFO is set is the central point, and so a sine wave will make the parameter travel the whole peak upwards and whole trough downwards from where it is physically set. Some LFO amounts will allow you to set the minimum and maximum separately for even more control. For subtle effects, like for instance simulating unstable oscillator pitch, set the amount to very low. The higher you set the amount the wilder the effect will be.

Example: Wobble Bass

The infamous wobble bass sound is created by making a synth patch that has a low pass filter in its signal. When the low pass filter is static, there is a constant ceiling above which frequencies are deadened out.

Here’s our synth with the filter sitting still:

move it, though, and a sweeping effect occurs as we become aware of that ceiling moving and the tonality of the sound changes.

Rather than sit manually twisting the cutoff knob throughout an entire song, we can ‘attach’ the cutoff to the LFO, which will modulate it for us. Using a sine wave LFO will smoothly raise and lower the cutoff by an amount we specify, so all we have to do is dial the cutoff of the low pass filter to the ‘middle’ of the sound, and adjust the LFO amount to control how wild the sweeping effect is.

Low amount:

High amount:

Next we just set the rate of the LFO, and in this case we want to sync it to the track tempo so that we get a rhythmic wobbling sound. If we change the rate of the LFO as our bassline plays (making sure to get a healthy mix of straight timing and triplet timing to really emphasise the groove) we will be able to change our rhythm as we go!

There you have it; now you don’t just know how to get those wobbling sounds, you also know how an LFO actually works. Now you too can attract the ire of purists everywhere for using wobbling synth sounds in your productions – until they come back into fashion in six months, that is.

Remember to click here to Like the Oh Drat Facebook page for more tips, tutorials and more!

Tek Nalo G - The Prototype

Tek Nalo G – The Prototype

Amsterdam based producer and video artist Tek Nalo G demonstrates how two talents can combine to create something even greater than the sum of the two parts.

The underwater aesthetic echoes the submerged sound to the keys

The mesmerising video does wonders for the track; The Prototype is a great example of an abstract video that complements the music, rather than just being an excuse to avoid a black screen. The underwater aesthetic echoes the submerged sound to the keys and sticky, hot bass, and even at YouTube’s ugly 1080p the crispness of the stems shooting across the screen is captivating.

 

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