FXpansion DCAM Synth Squad: Vintage sounds with cutting-edge usability

Written by Elliott Clarke. Posted in Computer Music, Synths, Videos

Published on October 25, 2012 with No Comments

FXpansion are known for bringing professional sounds to the home/project studio on a reasonable budget. BFD and GURU gave home producers access to some world-class drum sounds, and now DCAM: Synth Squad combines forward-thinking technology, cutting-edge sound quality, and new user interface ideas for intuitive sound design.
Advanced modelling technology carefully reconstructs the soul of dusty vintage circuits within your computer, in order to create the “vibe” of hardware synths.
3 modelled synthesizers – Strobe, Amber and Cypher – make up the basis of the DCAM package. Rather than straight up emulating the synths, FXpansion have combined the best features from legendary machines with their signature ground-breaking ideas to bring modern functionality to some classic hardware synths.

Because the programmers have chosen to emulate the circuitry rather than the results, the synths don’t break or max out with extreme settings – so you can abuse them just like you would the real thing. The oscillators produce huge SPLs, the amp stages can be overloaded for extra grit, and real-world chaos can be dialled into the circuit for delicious instability.

Strobe is designed as a simple, playable interface that is hard to get a bad sound from. FXpansion have taken influence from a number of hardware units like Roland SH101 and SH-09, Oberheim OB-1, and Yamaha CS-10. Strobe has a single, powerful oscillator. Saw, pulse and noise waveforms can be mixed with sine, triangle, saw and pulse sub-oscillators; and osc allows you to layer up to 5 detuned copies of the oscillator for immense thickness. A wide range of filter curves, arpeggiator, and various modulators delivers some classic and innovative subtractive sounds. Like the other DCAM synths, Strobe is equipped with the TransMod advanced modulation system, which allows you to modulate almost any parameter with an extensive range of modulation sources.

Amber is one of the first attempts to realistically model the divide-down string ensemble synths from the 70s, and its sound is derived from a bank of oscillators that are frequency-divided to produce a full keyboard range of 96 notes within a single synth voice.
The Synth section is fed through a multimode resonant filter, giving it a synth-like tone, while the Ensemble section goes through a formant filter and chorus, to impart the character of a string ensemble. The two sounds can then be mixed together and sent to several routing options to add effects like filter and chorus.Unlike vintage hardware string machines, Amber is capable of running with multiple voices and unison. This, combined with the DCAM TransMod system, offers a plethora of unique sounds!

Lastly, Cypher takes analogue FM into the future, combining the most realistic audio-rate modulation to date with digital luxuries like polyphony and precise tuning. The user interface is more complex than that of Amber and Strobe, with 3 inter-connected oscillators. The osc section features thru-zero FM behaviour and the ability to tune in precise harmonics, which allows musical digital-style FM sounds rendered with fat-sounding modelled analogue oscillators. The section is then fed into two paths, each containing a filter and waveshaper, which can be routed in various ways. The waveshapers allow you to twist the osc shapes further with several flavours of gritty distortion. The filters are selectable from state-variable and transistor-ladder models, with rich drive and realistic filter FM.

As the name suggests, Fusor lets you layer and set up keyboard splits for 3 instances of the DCAM synths. You can add high-quality FX as inserts on each synth, as aux sends or on the master output. The built-in FX suite includes a licensed version of Overloud Breverb for high-quality reverb, as well as DCAM circuit-modelled compression, filtering, chorus and overdrive, not to mention an array of other creative processors for sculpting sounds into new shapes.

The 4 elements combined give a forceful palette of sounds, suitable for any production where vintage warmth and modern flexibility are important.

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