Sugar Bytes Egoist is a groovebox – a combination of a sampler, bass synth and drum machine controlled by the main sequencer. It is made for quick music idea sketching while you are on the road or simply don’t want to open your primary DAW.
I see Egoist as a little brother of FXpansion Geist and Native Instruments Maschine, which share similar features. You can also think of this plugin as the modern vision of Propellerheads Rebirth.
The key concept is the following – you choose an audio loop or any other sample, Egoist chops it automatically, then you program a pattern from those slices. After that, you can add bassline and drums as well. Moreover, to add some glitchiness, there is a separate effect unit (same as another Sugar Bytes’ plugin called Effectrix). In the end, all patterns can be combined in part/song mode or switched live via MIDI notes. Egoist comes as an instrument plugin to run in your preferred host and as a standalone application.
Setup is pretty straightforward – there are separate files for the plugin itself, and the content library. You will be asked to enter the serial number during installation, and that is all – I find it very user-friendly in regards to modern copy-protection practice.
The plugin interface consists of three main sections – header, main sequencer (with tabs) and footer. What I personally dislike in any user interface is diving into menus and their sub-menus, but Egoist’s GUI is clean and intuitive, almost every control is self-explanatory. It would be even better if the developers would add tooltips for the different parameters in future updates. In the header, you can start/stop the playback engine. In plugin mode, it synchronizes to host tempo, and in standalone mode, the tempo is adjusted manually. Last made actions, as usual, can be undone and redone.
The step resolution and swing settings are global. It is possible to mute any instrument part by turning it off, but it was not too obvious to me, unfortunately – I was looking for a dedicated “mute” button ;). Also, each section has its effects send switch, which is handy.
The main window consists of four tabs – Slicer, Bass/Beat, Effects, and Settings. For the starting point, Egoist’s creators provided a lot of excellent presets covering different genres of electronic music, including a number of presets from Mike Huckaby – one of the veterans of Detroit techno.
The Slicer is the heart of Egoist – it can simply playback the loaded sample or mash it up completely. This section allows to load an audio file from the bundled library or your own sample collection and then chop it automatically in up to 16 slices. You can adjust the slices manually or even randomize the slicing process. The zoom window defines the loop start and end points so that you can slice even the tiniest portion of an audio sample. You can also adjust the global transposition, length, and envelope of the slices. A special parameter called Max-out works as a “juicy limiter, normalizing the slicer output to 0 dB”, as it is stated in the manual.
Each slice has separate controls of the pitch, playback direction, attack, decay, and volume level. Patterns can have a different length (greetings to polyrhythms), playback direction, and can also be nudged by several steps both vertically and horizontally. Finally, many of pattern parameters can be randomized – that is a major win for me. The included sample content is decent and provides different flavors of sounds – from instrument loops and vocal hooks to complete song sections.
The Bass/Beat section is simpler than the Slicer because it was made for accompanying sounds, but you should not worry – the fun factor remains the same.
The Bass synth is based on the “three-oh-three” architecture with a twist. It has three great sounding LP-filters (modeled on those found in legendary monophonic synths) and switchable modulation – standard envelope or LFO. The overdrive effect is another perfect addition. I am fond of this synth; you can get “that” squelchy and screaming sound just right in no more than ten seconds. The sequencer here is pretty similar to the Slicer, except for the envelope and level controls. The glide option is also added for note playback.
The Beat reminds me of classic TR-series drum machines, but with advanced pattern editing. The ten included drum kits sound OK, although they do require some additional processing like equalization and transient shaping. There are standard controls for volume and tuning, along with a few special ones, such as the aforementioned Max-out and Attenuate, which is used for attenuated articulations in drum patterns. I noticed that I was missing panning and decay options. Overall, it is pretty easy to get a nice sounding drum beat going along with the synth and sampler modules in Egoist.
The Effects section is beautiful looking. There are seven different effect types which can be applied via the sequencer. Among the standard effects like filter, delay, great reverb, bitcrusher, and chorus, you will find a couple of unusual ones like tape stop and the glitchy looper. The FX chain is “hardwired”, meaning that you won’t be able to change the order in which the effects are applied. Nevertheless, the real fun starts while playing with this section’s sequencer.
The Footer is utilized for switching the patterns which are combined into parts and then into songs. A part holds up to six pattern progressions, and a song can contain up to 16 parts, so there is plenty of space for variation. If needed, you can trigger each step of the pattern via the piano keys in the corresponding Slice Key mode. In standalone mode, your performance could be recorded to an audio file.
The last tab is for global settings like tuning, MIDI, and Max-out configuration. The user manual is well-written; it provides useful tips and scenarios for working with Egoist. The plugin’s CPU consumption was light to moderate on my dual core i5, depending on the complexity of the patterns and their switching rate.
Sugar Bytes Egoist is a different kind of plugin. It reminds me of Teenage Engineering OP1 and the Pocket Operators family combined in a software package. Egoist sounds groovy, albeit a little bit dirty sometimes, which is not a big problem, because you can always make corrections in your DAW.
The developers did an excellent job providing the ability to randomize almost every block of Egoist – I just love that “Randomize” button in software instruments and effects. If you are the kind person who has inspiration strikes on a daily basis and needs to translate them to audio material quickly, then Egoist is your right choice. Production-wise, Egoist is an inspirational and useful tool for any electronic musician and sound designer. It can easily take your creative Ego to the next level!
More info: Egoist ($99)
Sugar Bytes Egoist Review
If you are the kind person who has inspiration strikes on a daily basis and needs to translate them to audio material quickly, then Egoist is your right choice. Production-wise, Egoist is an inspirational and useful tool for any electronic musician and sound designer.