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!

Make a Track Without Leaning on the Genre

It’s getting a little hard to hark back to the days when dubstep was an emerging sound that was quietly gathering acclaim as a movement that housed some of the most creative and forward thinking electronic musicians in the world; impossible to pigeon hole, on the cutting edge of production technique and ideas, dubstep was an antidote to cookie cutter music and a constant pallet cleansing experience. In under six years from first poking its head above the parapet and getting hit by its first signs of mainstream acceptance, dubstep has become a victim of its own success and the public face of the genre is perhaps now amongst the most formulaic of any music in recent history, based almost solely around the visceral effects of hard synths and wobbling drops and eschewing any pretence of smart songwriting.

Keep the blueprint, change the tools

The original genre luminaries have largely disowned dubstep as an allegiance and are busy behind the scenes creating the same new, exciting music they always were, albeit without calling it anything in particular. The important point is that as soon as you define a genre by a specific sound as opposed to an approach or a philosophy, the walls close in, freedom gets reduced, and what was once an exciting, edgy side to a broad spectrum of music suddenly becomes cliched and, without different audio aesthetics to bounce off, samey sounding.

Still with me?! Good. This assignment is all about remembering what it is you love about making music by removing the most overused technique you have from your audio pallet. Do you make dubstep, and do you abuse that wobble formula a little too much? Glitch and breaks, and sit a little too hard on those auto beat stutter plugins? How about hip hop, and stuck sampling the same sounding records, with the same chops…

Throw it out! Try and approach the same goal with your music, without using your most overused tool to get there. Take a look at these examples of tracks that exemplify what I’m talking about:

Examples

I’m a nut for detroit hip hop, and to extend a cliche, J Dilla changed my life. A particular track that had a huge effect on me, however, was Slum Village’s Tainted, produced by Karriem Riggins. The soul, swing, and unmistakeable groove of my favourite sound is all over the track, but rather than being a sample based outing, the lead line is a live played electric piano. Getting the confidence to play instruments to create grooves rather than rely on records made me think about how I liked music to sound in a whole new light…

If you need any further inspiration to think outside the box and expand your style, Boonie Mayfield has taken the concept of moving from sampling vinyl to playing samples he would have looked for and run with it:

I’ve laid into dubstep a little bit today, but the truth is that because ‘dubstep’ was just a label that meant many things to many people, there’s really no canonical way of retelling ‘where it all went wrong’. At its most basic, though, I’d characterise dubstep as a genre that relied on laid back, even half time drum patterns, with the rhythmical drive dictated by bass. To that end, James Blake fits the bill and his particular brand of sub bass heavy, borderline experimental music is simply an approach to the same end as anyone else experimenting with halftime percussion and floor shaking sub frequencies…

We’d love to hear your assignments, as always. Let us know in the comments too if you’ve any particularly nice examples of music that is exemplified by its approach rather than simply aping the most popular contemporary sound!

Free Reason Dubstep Combinator – Brobass

If you liked the sound of the synth in last week’s Pocket Tip on modulation shapes, you’re in for a treat…

Continue Reading

LFO and Modulation Shapes

This week’s Pocket Tip focuses on the different kinds of sounds you can get from changing the shape of your LFO or other modulation automator. Continue Reading

C2C – Down the Road EP

You may or may not know that in addition to all things music production, I’m also a turntable nut. C2C have thus been on my radar for a long time, considering they’re in strong contention for the greatest turntablism group act of all time, completely dominating the DMC Team Championships for pretty much the entire time they competed.

Unlike many excellent turntablists, who for whatever reason have either kept their DJ and production identities firmly separate or not quite been able to commit the excitement of their live performances to record, C2C have been able to cross over into the world of production and merge their quick fader fingers and record hands seamlessly into the mix.

Their latest EP – Down the Road – has been available for a couple of months, but promotion has been limited to their homeland (France) until now, when they’re gearing up for a big ole global release. What we love about C2C isn’t just the aforementioned ability to blend turntablism into their records, but their general ear for taking different sounds and mashing them into a coherent whole to create an almost genre transcendent record. Elements of hip hop, soul, dubstep, jazz, big beat, and more besides pepper the EP, and it sounds fantastic.

The video to F.U.Y.A. is pretty sweet too – not simply for the clever concept, but for giving you an idea of the separate parts of the production process. Check it out, and go get the full EP from iTunes, unless you want to wait for the UK Vinyl release on the 7th of May…

filastine

Filastine – Gendjer2

I have to admit that prior to getting put onto this track, I hadn’t heard of Filastine, but now I’m definitely a fan. A standout characteristic of the man’s style, especially evident in Gendjer2, is a convincing marriage of traditional acoustic instruments and modern electronic sounds, the two elements working in harmony rather than – as is so often the case – fighting each other for the limelight. 

Gendjer2 is a worthy reminder that there’s more to production than tearing synths and more to song structure than figuring out ways to get to the ‘drop’, and so our recommendation for the day is to take a leaf from Filastine’s book and use some more acoustic sounds in your productions…

Gendjer2 is taken from Filastine’s latest album £OOT, which you can get from iTunes here.

 

Phaeleh

Phaeleh

Phaeleh (pronounced Fella, for those of you not in the know) is a Bristol, UK based artist whose cinematic, orchestral sound goes against the grain of the increasingly homogenous dubstep schema and has earned him worldwide acclaim in the process. It’s perhaps not a surprise to hear that he has years of musical experience behind him, so we had an interesting chat about musical theory tips, as well as getting a worldwide fan base, his equipment, and more…

“I’ve got quite a global following which I feel quite lucky to have”

Oh Drat: Hi Phaeleh – so you’re off on tour?

Phaeleh: Yeah off tomorrow actually, a couple of weeks in New Zealand, couple of weeks in Australia…

OD: Wow… so I guess that’s just about as far from home as you can go; would you say you have a truly international following?

P: Yeah definitely; I think it’s only in the past year that my popularity in the UK’s matched some other places, I mean I was playing gigs in Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, places like that before I was getting London bookings, for example. I’d definitely say I’ve got quite a global following which I feel quite lucky to have.

OD: It’s interesting, with dubstep being a bought and paid for ‘UK sound’ that things were happening for you outside the UK before they were on home turf… what do you think?

P: Yeah, I think it’s all been done a bit backwards, I’ve had help with things along the way but certainly initially it’s all been off my own back, there were no magazines or blogs or anything, it wasn’t until I’d had a few releases out that UK people like Electronic Explorations hosting a couple of mixes, a mix for Skream, and Chemical Records did a big promo with a big mix CD as well, which has pushed it at a faster rate. Initially though it was done off my own back and that’s what led to people around the globe picking up the tunes and I think they had that thing where they took ownership of finding the musician, you know when you’re a teenager and you find a band that no-one else likes? I think a lot of people got into it because they found the music themselves rather than a hypey blog telling them they should listen to it.

OD: I see, so because you were self managing did you look at the whole world because of the internet?

P: Erm… I never set out with a plan, I think initially my thing was just to get a few digital releases out myself and do as many gigs as possible. To start with I was paying to get to gigs, you know, there were rarely fees involved, and it’s because I knew the only way to get get anywhere was to get the name out there. I never made the plan ‘let’s go global’, you know, but I just started getting emails in 2007, 2008 sort of time from promoters in France and Lithuania saying “I’ve come across your tunes on Juno” – or something – “would you be up for playing a show?”. I think especially further afield, more east, the fans really appreciate me going to play there and so I’ve earned a bit of respect from them and they spread the word whilst it was kicking off in the UK at the same time.

OD: That’s great. So your musical background is formally classically trained, is that right?

P: Yeah it is, I mean I don’t like that term ‘classically trained’ because it makes me sound like I’ve spent my classroom years locked up in a conservatoire whilst my parents tried to make up for their own failings..! I played classical guitar, that was always my thing, but I’d play Nirvana and Metallica at home and stuff like that, I wasn’t necessarily the most devoted student! But yeah, I do have quite a musical background compared to a lot of producers who are coming up from a DJing background, I’ve come up playing funk bands, jazz bands, metal bands, you name it I’ve generally done it..!

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Bonecold - Somnipath

Bonechild – Somnipath

The Oh Drat studio move is complete! The set up, however, seems to be dragging on somewhat. Nonetheless, we’re nearly there and I’m really looking forward to getting some more tutorials out to you guys. As usual though, for now we’re marking the end of the week with some music to get you into the weekend.

There’s a necessary melancholy to music like this, as it conjures nostalgic memories, stirs latent desires and feelings, and ultimately fades into peace

Something about Somnipath’s opening gambit really reminds me of golden era Faithless; the ambience, clean sounds and involving atmospherics plus a certain thing I can’t quite put my finger on. As the LP progresses, the future garage tag seems an appropriate pigeon hole – Burial-esque Ark Vase, with filtered drums and haunting vocal snippets, is an archetypal example of the genre and it’s not alone on the album – but to get to the bottom of what ‘future garage’ is, beyond the recognisable wet drums and distant hums, is a difficult task. In many ways, the genre captures the slow motion, soft focused solitary float from afterparty to home, a soundtrack to silence of sorts as the memories of the night’s music and the distant thumps of the last flickers of the night rattle around a tired brain. There’s a necessary melancholy to music like this, as it conjures nostalgic memories, stirs latent desires and feelings, and ultimately fades into peace. Bonechild captures all of this with Somnipath.

Happy weekend, everyone.

DD 2-14 - Ectochrome

DD 2-14 – Ectochrome

This LP from DD-214 caught my attention due to the excellent purchasing options available for it. Digital distribution is a largely soulless experience, as much of a necessity as it is. However when self releasing physical products, we can embrace the individuality and freedom that doing it brings. DD 2-14 will ship with bonus materials, personalised and unique, and to both us as artists and fans that buy it, a special bond is created to the music when this kind of care is taken over it.

a special bond is created to the music when this kind of care is taken over it

Aside from any clever or endearing product packages, the LP is genuinely creative. The title track takes bass heavy, future garage and dubstep sounds and uncompromisingly pushes them in DD 2-14′s own direction, whilst other tracks take their own path, from the guitar laden Swamp Ichor demonstrating acoustic sounds to the frenetic bounce of the opener.

 

 

Jon1st - DROP Megamix

Jon1st – DROP 2010 Megamix

2010 saw dubstep become so ubiquitous in popular dance music that it lost any semblance of niche appeal, and on the surface of things appeared to become somewhat stagnant. Dig a little deeper, though, and the influence of those initial sparks of innovation from the inception of the dubstep aesthetic can be found in an array of music – not just in tempo, or even style, but in approach.

Jon1st is a DMC finalist and one of the hardest working turntablist DJs in the UK, and is committed to broadening his own horizons as well as those of his fans

Jon1st is a DMC finalist and one of the hardest working turntablist DJs in the UK, and is committed to broadening his own horizons as well as those of his fans; he runs a regular night DROP which over the past few years has become synonymous with forward thinking, boundary pushing dance music. The 2010 DROP Megamix is a journey through the year in electronic music, with hip hop, dubstep, and hipdub-fusion (I might have fabricated that genre name for the sake of this article… think it’ll catch on?!), as well as appearances from the burgeoning UK funky scene, which is bound to explode this year.

It would be remiss of UK fans not to reach out to a DROP in 2011 – next up is the February 4th date with OM Unit, Slugabed, Daredevil, Jon1st, Richie K and Helix the Spacecat at Leicester’s Sophbeck. Check the Facebook page for more info

DROP’s 2010 Megamix by jon1st

1. Rustie-Hyperthrust
2. Slugabed- Power of the Mind
3. Two Fingers- Fools
5. Om Unit- Cradle
4. Alex B- At Channel One
6. Mosca- Tilt Shift
7. Roots Manuva- Witness (1 Hope) [Slugabed Remix]
8. Mosca- Nike (Original Mix)
9.Addison Groove- Footcrab
10. Breach- Fatherless
11. Coldcut & Hexstatic- Timber [Seiji Remix]
12. Roska- Squark
13. Redlight- What You Talking About [Roska Remix]
14. Doc Daneeka- BumbleBeeRiddim
15. Lil Silva- Golds to Get
16. Lazer Sword- Shot In The Night
17. Girl Unit- Wut
18. Ital Tek- Moment in Blue (VIP)
19. Gil Scott-Heron- NY is Killing Me [Jamie xx Remix]
20. Skream-Where You Should Be
21. Om Unit- Searching
22. James Blake- CYMK
23. Africa Hitech- Too Late
24. XXXY- Just For Me
25. Elphino- You’ll Know
26. Breakage- Vial (feat. Burial)
27. Scuba- Minerals
28. Lorn- Cherry Moon
29. Flying Lotus- Mmmhmm
30. Baths- Aminals
31. Eskmo- Color Dropping
32. Bonobo- Kiara
33. Four Tet- Love Cry
34. Caribou-Odessa
35. Gold Panda- Marriage

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