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Review: Cymatics Helix for Serum

Chances are, if you’re an active electronic music producer, you know about Cymatics. The sample/preset company made huge waves last year with their packs, and essentially monopolized the market with their innovation, quality, and stellar marketing. After a huge 2016, Cymatics has already made their mark in 2017 with their most recent pack: Helix.

Known for their heavier packs, such as Animals and Terror Drums, Cymatics was considered to be leaning towards more of a “bass music” sample company. With more melodic packs such as Vibes and Future Bass for Serum seeing some success, the Cymatics team has now completely thrown away the stigma that their sounds are only good for bass music. Inspired by melodic heavyweights such as Porter Robinson, Illenium, and Flume, Helix for Serum is one of the best melodic packs I have come across in a while.


Presets:

With 150 presets in the pack, any producer has more than enough needed to write and finish several songs, while keeping the sound design unique throughout. Included in the pack are Arps, Basses, Chords, Keys, Leads, Sequencers, Plucks, Pads, and even Vocal patches similar to the largest pop hits of the summer.

The patches are all individually unique, and really showcase what Serum can accomplish. The noise oscillator is often used as an additional layer to the sound; from creating atmosphere, being used as an additional oscillator, and so much more. The sound designers that worked on this pack truly outdid themselves to create a quality product. All patches are equipped with anywhere from 1-4 labelled macros, allowing the user to manipulate the sound with a turn of a knob.

Included in the bonuses are 100 MIDI files that Cymatics outsourced to a professional pianist to write, which I used to test the majority of the patches.

Arps:

All of the arps included are quite literally press and play. Taking advantage of custom LFOs in Serum, users can hold the note of the root of their chord (or tonic of the key), and add instant atmosphere and interest to the instrumentation.

Basses:

Each bass sounds great straight out of Serum, with little to no post processing needed to take full advantage of the sounds. With several Reese basses included (for those who like a darker, melancholic vibe), an 808, and even a patch mimicking one of my favourite current artists ‘AWAY’ (the patch in specific is “THEY”), you will definitely be hearing these basses in several future productions.

Chords/Keys/Leads/Pads:

Whenever I open up a preset pack, I usually ignore all titles and think of these four sections as one. I do this, because each section of these patches can be used in conjunction of each other, and be used as additional layers to add to the patches, creating more interesting tonalities and a more powerful sonic arrangement. Each of these presets are incredibly well designed, lush, and powerful on their own. They’re all phenomenal to use anywhere in your songs arrangement – in drops, breaks, intros, and outros. My only gripe with these sections – the majority of these patches are very CPU intensive. The sounds are seriously pushing Serum to its limits, and it shows in the quality of the sounds. I found myself getting click, pops, and audio drops while layering sounds, and it became frustrating for me. I’m producing on a fairly powerful machine, and rarely see extreme CPU spikes. This is a very, very, small deterrent from the pack as there are several ways to combat this, but it has to be said as a warning to those without the most powerful machines. TL;DR – the sounds in these four sections are EXTREMELY good, but can take a toll on your machines.

Sequencers:

The sequencers really surprised me. Normally in packs with sequencers, the sounds are next to unusable – either because they’re extremely abstract, or just don’t sound good. Cymatics has done the exact opposite. Each sequencer sounds phenomenal on their own, and can be used as songstarters as a place to take inspiration from. Inside of the Sequencer section are patches that include chord progressions and melodies, basslines, basslines and chords, and even an entire Marshmello inspired progression bassline and melody (The patch is Marsh in my Mello, thank me later). These are all incredible sequencers, and will be great to use as melodic inspiration.

Plucks/Vocals:

Plucks are among my favourite sounds to use in any part of an arrangement; from chords, to toplines, and even basslines, plucks can be applied anywhere in a song. Each pluck is very lush and thick, providing the feel of analogue warmth. The vocals are exactly what you would expect – the key to every 2016 summer hit. With clear inspiration from the likes of Major Lazer, Justin Bieber, and DJ Snake, these vocals can be used either as a quick melodic placeholder for you to use pre-vocal chopping, or even on their own as a lead. The sounds are great, and the use of the noise oscillator inside Serum is a great way to incorporate vocals and beef them up inside a synth.

Bonuses:

Yes, there are bonuses. In true Cymatics style, included are Ableton, Logic, and FL Studio project files, using only sounds from the pack. The idea behind these is not to RIP the tracks and release them as your own (cough Popcoorn cough), but to learn from them. Reverse engineer what the songwriters have done, learn which presets work where, and learn techniques you otherwise would not have known about on your own. I adore the idea of including these – I used to hunt for FLPs and artist masterclasses to learn from, and found the majority of my current techniques from doing so. As mentioned earlier, there are MIDI files included, which will definitely help your understanding of writing strong chords. The acapellas are all recorded well and catchy, and the guitar loops are definitely a nice touch to add human feeling to your songs.


To conclude, Cymatics has done a phenomenal job with this pack, truly pushing the envelope for “melodic” music packs. I definitely do recommend this pack to whoever can afford it (the price is a little steep at $127 USD, though it is warranted due to how much they include and giveaway). 2017 will be bigger than last year for the company, and I’m looking forward to the sounds they release in the future!

 

Learn more about the pack and Cymatics here!

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