Product Status

Is DCAM Synth Squad a current, supported product?

DCAM Synth Squad is now a legacy product. It has now been superceded by the v2-series synths, the first of which is Strobe2.

DCAM Synth Squad may run on recent/current OS/sequencer version combinations, but it is not possible for us to test or develop it any longer so please do so at your own risk.

The information in this FAQ is provided for users wanting to utilise DCAM Synth Squad as a legacy product.

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General Information

What is DCAM: Synth Squad?

DCAM: Synth Squad is a collection of 4 software instruments:

Strobe: a performance synth designed for fast sound design Amber: a divide-down string ensemble synth emulation Cypher: a complex 3-osc synth with dual filters/waveshapers and audio-rate modulation Fusor: a semi-modular layering/FX/step-sequencing environment for the above synths

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Why 4 separate instruments instead of everything in a single plugin?

Different tools can be better suited to various tasks - for a large analog-sounding bassline you often simply don't need complex FM/ring-mod functions with multiple oscs and envelopes, or complex patch splits and FX sections. For times when such sounds are required, Cypher and Fusor provide a comprehensive feature set.

Divide-down string synthesizers such as Amber are very different in architecture to conventional monophonic or polyphonic instruments such as Strobe/Cypher and therefore requires its own dedicated interface.

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Why does Strobe only have a single oscillator?

As mentioned above, Strobe is designed to be quick and easy to program. Although it only has a single osc, the stack/detune, sub-osc and multiple waveform features allow fast access to most typical dual-osc sounds without the complication of another oscillator. A Roland SH101 or Yamaha CS10 has no problem sounding huge with only 1 oscillator, and neither does Strobe!

For more complex sounds it is recommended to use Cypher. Alternatively, 2 or 3 instances of Strobe can be sued within Fusor - the FuseMod modulation system allows you to share modulators like LFOs and envelopes between the synth instances.

Lastly, if you want to get clever just within Strobe, you can use the TransMod system to repurpose Strobe as a 2-osc synth (with each osc having its own filter and amp):

  1. Adjust the Voices and Unison settings to 2.
  2. Choose Unison1+ as a TransMod slot source - with 2 unison voices, the 1st voice outputs a modulation value of 0, and the 2nd voice outputs 1.
  3. Any modulation settings in this TransMod slot represent the 2nd voice and, in effect, the 2nd oscillator, filter and amp.

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Can you explain more about Amber and the concept of 'paraphony' ?

The term 'paraphonic' was first coined by Roland on its classic RS-505 Paraphonic string synthesizer and has become a commonly used term for string ensemble synths or for other synth architectures which send individually keytracked oscillators through a single filter and VCA (in other words - multiple simultaneous notes within a single monophonic voice).

Classic divide-down string synthesizers of this type used a frequency-divided high-frequency master oscillator (or oscillators) to produce all notes on the keyboard simultaneously within a single synth voice, with a VCA (voltage controlled amplifier) and amp envelope within the osc section. Some synths such as the Korg Lambda even had a VCA and envelope for every single keyboard note.

Such synths are not 'true polyphonic' synths. To be fully polyphonic, a synth must have an osc, filter and amp section for each simultaneous note. You'll find a detailed explanation of divide-down string synths in part 20 of the Sound on Sound 'Synth Secrets' series.

Amber is capable of producing a variety of different string synth behaviours (and can be switched to normal monophonic/polyphonic behaviour if you prefer) and can even unison-stack paraphonic voices in order to create new and exciting sounds. Within the paraphonic note generation sections, it features 12 oscillators, 384 amps/envelopes and 192 tone filters. It therefore uses substantially more CPU per voice than Strobe or Cypher.

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What is audio-rate modulation?

'Audio-rate' means 'at the speeds of audible frequencies'. Modulating the frequency of an oscillator at very fast speeds such as that of another oscillator (rather than, say, an LFO) creates timbral changes rather than vibrato-style pitch changes involved with slower LFO modulation.

Audio-rate modulation can approximate the types of complex changes in harmonics over time that are evident in acoustic sounds. Cypher contains a number of ways of performing audio-rate modulation, such as linear thru-zero FM, wave modulation and audio-rate sample-and-hold. Oscillator sync is also a form of audio-rate modulation - both Strobe and Cypher are capable of this function although Cypher's implementation is more versatile.

Please read chapter 4 of the DCAM: Synth Squad operation manual for more details on audio-rate modulation.

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What analogue synthesizers are the DCAM synths modelled on?

The instruments in DCAM: Synth Squad do not emulate any particular analogue synths - instead, they involve analysis of a large variety of synthesizers in order to create models of new instruments.

Some of the hardware analysed during the development process includes the Roland SH101, Oberheim Xpander, Alesis Andromeda, ARP Omni, Korg MS-20, various Moog synths and Analogue Systems modulars, amongst others.

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Do the DCAM synths have built-in effects?

The individual Strobe, Cypher and Amber plugins do not, but Fusor contains an extensive suite of high-quality FX that can be used as inserts on synth instances, aux sends or as inserts on the final layered output of 3 synths.

The individual synths in DCAM Synth Squad are designed to be compelling and full of inspiration without being drenched in shiny effects which may or may not fit the context within which they are used. We wanted the synths and their presets to stand out on their own as vibrant and powerful sound sources with a dedicated environment alongside for synth layering and adding all kinds of effects.

We're confident that you won't be disappointed with the lack of effects in the synths, and that the quality of the 'raw' synth sounds will pleasantly surprise you. You'll also find that the Fusor FX suite is of exceptionally high quality - in a totally different league to the generally 'cheap and nasty' onboard reverb/chorus found on most synths!

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What is the full list of Fusor FX?

Gain, Noise Gate, EQ, EQ-Filter, Comp Chan (limiting amplifier type compressor), Comp Bus (console bus compressor), Delay, Phaser, Flanger, Chorus, RingMod, TinCanVerb, Filter Mod, FreqShift, BitCrusher, Drive, Freezer, Amber Chorus, Amber Formants, Breverb Hall, Breverb Ambience, Breverb Plate, Breverb Inverse, Quad Filter, Quad Drive, Quad Comb, Quad Delay.

All parameters of the FX can be modulated (for example the Gain/Pan device can be modulated with an LFO to function as a tremelo/auto-panner).

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Can the DCAM synths be used as audio effects in my host?

Strobe, Cypher and Amber are supplied as instruments and MIDI-controlled audio effects. External audio appears in place of each synth's white noise audio source. You must make sure you engage the synth voice (to open the VCA) by playing a key - otherwise you won't hear anything. You must also ensure that the synth's controls are set so that the white noise source is audible. All other audio sources (oscillators, self-oscillating filters) can be used alongside the white noise source.

It is important that the effect versions should not be considered as 'filter plugins' - they should instead be considered as synths with an audio input alongside other oscillator sources before the filter section. They provide a way to feed external audio through the entire synth architecture without any additional interface work. To force 'effect plugin'-style behaviour, feed a MIDI note to the plugin with its Hold button engaged.

The ways in which MIDI-controlled audio effects are set up vary considerably on different hosts. Please contact your host vendor for instructions if you do not know how to accomplish this function. The DCAM synth FX versions operate in the same way as any other comparable plugins and have been tested in the following hosts:

Pro Tools Logic Ableton Live Cubase Digital Performer Reaper Sonar

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What's possible with these MIDI-controlled effect versions?

The external audio appears in place of the white noise source in the oscillator section of each synth. All operations further down the signal path from the oscs can be performed on the external audio - i.e. the filter and amp sections, along with the waveshapers in Cypher.

In Cypher, the external audio appears in the white noise source for each of the 3 oscillators and can be used with the specialized osc functions. This includes acting as a source for audio-rate functions (although you cannot perform audio-rate modulation on the external audio signal itself). Try it with the FM, WM and audio-rate sample-and-hold functions!

If you want only the external audio to be heard (for example, to use the synth as a filter/drive effect), turn down all the other osc source levels except for white noise.

Alternatively, you can use the other osc sources alongside the input, allowing many creative applications. You could, for example, run a sample-based instrument such as a piano into a DCAM synth FX plugin with the standard osc waveforms active alongside the input, and use the same MIDI input for both tracks - effectively creating a hybrid/layered instrument.

You can use the DCAM synth's unison/voice modulation functions with the external input. With 2 unison voices, the external input (or inputs in Cypher) will be doubled, and a unison modulation source can be used in the TransMod system to create different settings for each of the voices - for example different filter types, drive amounts etc.

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Is a printed manual supplied with DCAM: Synth Squad?

The boxed version contains a printed quick-start manual covering installation, authorization and first steps to learning the software. The download version only comes with this guide as a PDF file.

The main operation manual is supplied as a PDF file with both the download and boxed versions.

You are free to print the PDFs for your own use.

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Where can I find more information on DCAM: Synth Squad?

To learn more about DCAM Synth Squad and how it operates, please download the operation manual which explains DCAM: Synth Squad in detail.

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Is there a demo version of DCAM: Synth Squad?

Yes. The demo is available for download directly from the DCAM: Synth Squad overview page, which can be found here.

The limitations of the demo are as follows:

  • Can load only a reduced set of factory presets
  • Can SAVE but not LOAD user presets - you'll be able to load your saved patches if you purchase the full version
  • Cannot reload settings saved within DAW/host projects
  • Launches a web nag-screen when any DCAM: Synth Squad plugin is launched
  • Demo expires after 28 days

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Are there any 3rd-party preset addons for DCAM: Synth Squad?


Xenos Soundworks:


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System Requirements

What plugin formats are provided with DCAM: Synth Squad?
  • On Mac: AU, VST and RTAS
  • On Windows: VST and RTAS

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Will DCAM: Synth Squad work in my host?

DCAM: Synth Squad is supported in the following hosts:

Live 7.0.16 and later Logic 7.2.3 and later Pro Tools 7.4cs5 and later Cubase 4.52 and later Sonar 7 and later DP 5.13 and later Reaper 3 EnergyXT v2.5.1 Plogue Bidule v0.9690 FL Studio

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What are the system requirements for DCAM: Synth Squad?

Here are the minimum specs for standalone operation @ 256 samples / 44.1kHz:

  • Strobe/Amber/Cypher: 2.0GHz Intel Core (or AMD equivalent)
  • Fusor: 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (or AMD equivalent)
  • 1GB RAM free
  • Windows 7 or later / Mac OSX 10.5.8 or later
  • 350MB of hard drive space
  • Low-latency audio interface
  • DVD-ROM drive (for the boxed version only)
  • Internet connection for authorization

Please note that we can no longer offer versions for Windows XP because it is simply no longer possible for us to test on this platform.

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Does DCAM: Synth Squad support Mac PowerPC machines (G4, G5)?

Sorry but DCAM: Synth Squad does not support PowerPC machines - it is only compatible with Intel processors on Mac OSX.

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Does DCAM: Synth Squad support Mac OSX 10.4 (Tiger)?

Sorry but DCAM: Synth Squad does not support Mac OSX 10.4.

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Does DCAM: Synth Squad support AMD machines on Windows?

Yes - you'll need at least a 2.2GHz Athlon64 with SSE2 support.

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What kind of performance should I expect from my system?

Aside from CPU speed, you should also be aware that some plug-in formats are more efficient than others, sometimes varying noticeably in hosts that support more than one format.

In our tests, compatible AMD CPUs require an increase in clock speed of around 18% to match the performance of their Intel 'Core'-series counterparts.

Reference host: Ableton Live 8, using VST on Windows and AU on Mac with a 256-sample buffer size at 44.1kHz sample rate.

Synth voice counts

Intel Core2 Duo 1.83 GHz/2Gb (Windows)

  • Amber: 12 (2x instances of 6 voices each) or
  • Cypher: 32 (2x instances of 16 voices each) or
  • Strobe: 64 (4x instances of 16 voices each)

Intel Core2 Duo 2.4 GHz/2Gb [first gen] (Mac)

  • Amber: 14 (2x instances of 7 voices each) or
  • Cypher: 39 (2x instances of 16 voices each + 1x instance of 7 voices) or
  • Strobe: 68 (4x instances of 16 voices each + 1x instance of 4 voices)

Fusor voice counts Fusor tends to use more CPU than the synths on their own, due to the added FX and multiple synths. Consequently, you'll need a faster CPU to run certain combinations of devices within it. The following figures should give you some idea of Fusor's performance (test conditions are the same as for the synth voice figures above):

Intel Core Duo 1.83 GHz/2Gb (Windows) Individually:

  • Amber:3
  • Cypher:12
  • Strobe:22

Simultaneous permutation example:

  • Amber:1, Cypher:2 and Strobe:5

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz/2Gb [first gen] (Mac) Individually:

  • Amber:7 or
  • Cypher:20 or
  • Strobe:32

Simultaneous permutation examples: - Amber:2, Cypher:4 and Strobe:16 - Amber:1, Cypher:8 and Strobe:16 - Amber:2, Cypher:4 and Strobe:8

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I'm concerned that DCAM: Synth Squad will use too much CPU on my system!

Because it contains 4 instruments, there are many different permutations in which to use DCAM: Synth Squad. You can run small numbers of voices on a slower machine and use modern DAW functions such as 'freeze' to easily build up layers of sounds. Our system specs are based on reasonably heavy usage of DCAM: Synth Squad, with lots of voices at once.

Strobe and Cypher are the most CPU-efficient of the 4 included instruments. In the real world, these kinds of analogue synths would typically be monophonic or up to 8-voice polyphonic. Similarly, Amber would never be able to play multiple voices in real life (it would be too huge and would be a servicing nightmare). Remember that Amber's paraphonic architecture means it can play all notes on the keyboard simultaneously within 1 voice.

Realistic synthesis algorithms do require substantial amounts of CPU power, and if you consider that the sound quality is comparable to analogue synths, we're confident you'll agree that the CPU usage is an acceptable trade-off.

Fusor is the most CPU-hungry instrument due to the added FX and multiple synth channels and if you have a slower machine, you may not be able to use all of its presets. Because it can be used in a variety of permutations, you'll still be able to use it on slower machines with less complex device configurations.

DCAM: Synth Squad is very well future-proofed - as you acquire faster CPUs, it will sound better and better due to the adjustable oversampling settings, and will deliver even more voices. The oversampling settings allow you to define very high oversampling settings for offline rendering, so you can 'freeze' your parts during production with exceptionally high sound quality.

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Technical Information

I can't get the oversampling settings to change when I click 'Apply'!

This problem occurred in initial versions of DCAM Synth Squad - please update to a more recent version to resolve it.

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How can I add author information to my presets?

Normally, your own patches appear in the 'User' presets collection, and are saved to this folder:

My Documents\FXpansion(synth)\Presets (Windows) Documents/FXpansion/(synth)/Presets (Mac)

To classify them as a specific author, you first need to create a new folder in the factory presets folder:

Program Files\FXpansion(synth)\Presets (Windows) /Library/Application Support/FXpansion/(synth)/Presets (Mac)

Then, move the desired presets from the User presets folder to the new folder you created in the factory presets folder. It's recommended that you move rather than copy them to prevent them appearing in the User collection too.

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I'm having problems using DCAM: Synth Squad on Windows Vista / Windows 7.

Please disable UAC (User Account Control) by doing the following:

  1. hold down the shift key and right click on the desktop
  2. Choose 'Open Command prompt'
  3. type MSCONFIG
  4. On the 'Tools' tab, select the 'Disable User Access Control' item
  5. Click on the button on the right hand side to execute the Tool item

You'll be asked to reboot after which UAC should be disabled.

You can find a guide to disabling UAC in Windows 7 here

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I'm a Logic 8 user, and I cannot type any numeric values into the plugins! [top]

Logic 8 has known issues with distributing keyboard input to plugins that use in-line text entry, and this occurs with plugins from many different manufacturers:

The only solution to this issue is to remap any key commands for characters you need to type. For numeric entry this involves remapping 1-9, 0, decimal point and Return - i.e. key commands for screensets, 'Stop', 'Pause' and 'Play'. Try assigning your screensets to the F keys instead of normal numeric keys, and find suitable replacements for other required key commands.

If you want to type words, for example saving or searching for presets, you need to remap any keycommands that involve an alphabetic key without a modifier.

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Purchasing / Licensing

Is there a downloadable version of DCAM: Synth Squad?

If you buy from our online shop, you may choose either electronic delivery (download) or a boxed product dispatched via Royal Mail. The electronic version contains no printed quick-start guide and does not entitle you to any physical media or materials at any point. There is also no possibility of 'upgrading' to the boxed version from the download version at any point.

The boxed product is available from our online shop or from retail outlets - it includes a printed quick-start guide and the software/tutorial videos on a CD-ROM.

The price of the electronic version is the same as the boxed version. Therefore, the main advantages of the download version are:

  1. you receive and can use the software instantly, rather than having to wait for a box to be delivered before you can do so
  2. you gain personal satisfaction that you are not contributing to the environmental pollution and physical resource usage involved in producing and delivering the boxed product

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What kind of copy protection scheme is used?

This product features a challenge-response authorization system, with three installs on your own machines allowed simultaneously.

  • You do NOT need to have an internet connection on the computers on which it is installed.
  • You must, however, authorize the product before it can be used - there is no 'grace period' after installation.

We have tried very hard to make the authorization procedure as pain-free as possible. Please understand that it is necessary for safeguarding your investment in future development and user support.

Our products do not use iLok or any other unified protection scheme. We do not believe in such systems' security, and would rather not pass on their costs to our customers.

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Can I use it on both my laptop and main machine?

Yes - you can install on up to 3 machines as long as only 1 is running it at any one time. Site / volume licensing is also available (POA - please contact us for details).

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Do I need to re-authorize when installing the OS again or upgrading the OS/hardware?

A new major operating system version is enough of a change that the authorization system will require re-authing the product; point releases should be fine. Likewise, a significant hardware change will also require re-authorization. We will be monitoring the situation closely and adjusting the flexibility of the authorization system to get the best balance of copy protection and annoyance levels.

If reinstalling an existing OS without changing any hardware, you will be able to save the auth file and simply re-import it when authorizing the product again.

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Do you allow license transfers?

Yes, however:

  • If you're the seller, you must contact us in advance of the sale. If you're the prospective second-hand buyer, you must check that the seller is cleared to sell. If in doubt, contact us.
  • There is a flat $50 fee per product for a license transfer, which can be purchased from our online shop.
  • Review copies, NFRs (Not For Resale copies, sometimes used for in-store demos), etc., cannot be transferred under any circumstances.
  • We reserve the right to refuse a license transfer request.

Once a transfer is authorised and the fee has been paid, the new owner is entitled to exactly the same upgrade paths and technical support resources as if they had bought the product new.

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