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NEXUS 2 and Hip Hop Expansion Review

NEXUS 2 and Hip Hop Expansion Review

reFX Nexus 2 Review

Nexus 2 is one of the most popular software synthesizers available today. When Nexus 2 caught my attention I thought it was hardware, along the lines of Arturia’s Origin because of the impressive renders of the Nexus 2 interface. When trading tweets with reFX, the maker of Nexus 2, I was informed that they are “software guys, not hardware guys. but maybe someday…”. Well, my thought was “if Arturia can do it, surely reFX can do the same some day if they so desired.”

This little twitter exchange led me further down the Nexus 2 road. I wanted to see just what it was all about. Not to mention, during bboytechreport.com interviews, Nexus 2 is mentioned pretty regularly by the producer interviewees which further piqued my interest. Eventually, I got my hands on Nexus 2 and within the last few weeks I’ve used it consistently in both my hardware (MPC) based set up and my software (logic / maschine) set up.

The interface is easy and intuitive. The large center display provides loads of info about whichever of the 8 parameter windows is selected at the time. To select a sound you’d simply select the library button, select a category and select a preset. From there its pretty easy to manipulate the sound via any of the 6 readily available sections of the GUI. There is the Filter Modifier section to the left and the Amp Modifier section to the right. The bottom of the screen is home to the Master Filter, Delay, Reverb and output sections of the GUI. Each of these sections provide ample opportunity for sound manipulation via knobs and button that control various parameters. For the amount of manipulation available in Nexus 2 the synth has a less than complex interface for a deeply tweakable sound engine.

Nexus 2 has a pretty impressive and full set of features including Mixer Effects (including distortion, chorus, analog phaser and more), Arpegiator (mad flexible and fun to dig into), TranceGate and Modulation. Each of these features give access to a variety of options to further manipulate and sculpt the sound. I particularly enjoyed the smooth as butter filter modulation section. The ability to go further in filtering sounds with the master filter section was pretty nice. The delay and reverb are no slouches either. I found myself preferring to use the effects within Nexus 2 as opposed to adding an effect on the instrument’s insert in logic. In the mixer there are a load of effects that can be used. Although, in the manual the mixer looks a bit different. I assume that is because this is version 2 whereas the manual references version 1. At any rate, the mixer has i1, i2, m1, m2. I assume I’m correct in guessing that stands for inserts 1 & 2 and master effects 1 & 2. The effects include reverb and analog phaser from Arts Acoustic. BTW it would be criminal if I didn’t mention how creamy and sweet the included Art Acoustics’s analog phaser sounds.  The fact is that using the effects under the hood is really simple and provide a massive amount of sound shaping potential.

The sound is polished and rich. The Nexus 2 sound seems to rival that of a hardware synth’s sound with ease. It’s the “un-rompler” rompler. It’s based on the same principle as any rompler that uses samples as a sound source but the amount of sound sculpting Nexus 2 is capable of exceeds the average rompler and for a price of price of $249 Nexus 2 is far cheaper than any rompler with equivalent features that might approach its capabilities.

In my test I opened a Logic Pro session and used it as my sound module with my MPC 5000 as a sequencer, which is my preferred mode of creation. I was pleased to see that even with 6 instances of Nexus 2 open in Logic Pro there was relatively low CPU usage. Other soft synths would have used twice as much CPU processing power in my estimation and experience. This was really a revelation because quite honestly this is the sort of thing that drove me back to hardware beat making.

In using Nexus 2 I find it tough to say what I don’t like about it. If I were pressed to do so it would probably be the fact that you must have a USB eLicensor dongle in order to use Nexus 2. Although I understand the reasons for its use this probably more a question of my general dislike for this sort of thing. I find it to be a bit of a hindrance if and when I end up traveling with my laptop and NI Maschine. In my opinion that makes it less portable. With my luck I’d lose the dongle in some hotel in Texas or something. But hey that’s just me. Maybe I’ll just keep a few of those dongle joints around the house for just such an occurrence. Nexus 2 is certainly worth the dongle hassle.

Overall Nexus 2 is a great synth with great sound and unrivaled ease of use. The added treat of being able to expand its presets library allows you to keep it fresh and new. reFX is really good about releasing new expansions as well. I’d say if you could only cop one soft synth this year and your needs lean towards rompler and expandability  Nexus 2 is a damn good choice because of its easy interface, powerful sound engine and low CPU utilization. Keep in mind this is a rompler. Even with it’s tweaking capabilities it is not the “tweak-heads” synth. No rompler should be expected to be such a synth. If you want advanced synthesis and wildly advanced tweak-ability where you can create totally new sounds from scratch, something like Massive might be the right choice for you. However if you want great presets, the option to expand the presets library and the ability to easily shape those presets with effects and filters Nexus 2 is a great choice.

 Pros

  • Easy interface
  • Huge lush polished sound
  • Low CPU utilization
  • loads of effects
  • easy to sculpt sound
  • expandability

Cons

  • needs a USB eLicensor dongle

Here is a sample of NEXUS 2 with Drums in HD  from the MPC 5000.

reFX HIP HOP EXPANSION for NEXUS 2

reFX recently released an expansion set full of hip-hop friendly bass, leads, pads, drums and pianos. Just in time for the holiday rush, the HIP-HOP Expansion will cost you approximately $60. Although, as a beat maker and a lover of hip-hop I’d probably be a bit put off by the HIP-HOP Expansion description with its “Yo, Yo booties shaking!” vernacular. But having used this very expansion I’d advise you trust that it will add a nice bit of “umph” to your presets library. I particularly enjoyed the LD Hammer Moog preset, the 5 Rhodes presets and for those that dip and dab into dubstep there are few treats included for you as well. It’s worth the buy to say the least.

Find specs and more information about Nexus 2 on reFX’s website.

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About The Author

The BBoy Tech (Corry Banks) is a writer, emcee, producer, hip hop artist (google Phashara) and IT Pro. Hip-Hop culture, beat making, gear and technology have always been his passions. In these pages, Banks explores and reviews all things beat making & hip-hop related in a techy sort of geeky but bboy cool way.

4 Comments

  1. Corry Banks December 3, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    This is a reply from reFX regarding the i1&i2 and m1 & m2. “The two “insert” FX are before the master-delay/reverb whereas the two “master FX” are behind the master-delay/reverb.”

  2. GratuiTous October 31, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Been a HUGE fan of Nexus 2 for about 3 years strong now! Very light on the CPU, allowing for easily up to 10+ instances open on projects.

    I remember when switching over from FL Studio plugins to Nexus 2, just the increase in quality. Was super impressed, and instantly sparked creativity, cause pretty much anything you played sounded good lol.

    (However, as usual, FL Studio makes things hard. You’re not able to right click and create automation clips cause it’s a third-party VST. However, this is a FL Studio problem, not Nexus 2, and there are workarounds).

    Nice run-down Corry!

    • ZebAFMP March 26, 2014 at 6:49 am

      you can always insert an event in the playlist and record the knob you want to automate. the irony is – there’s a lot of manual work to automate

      • GratuiTous March 26, 2014 at 7:02 pm

        That’s exactly it! – Only if it was easy ;)

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