XILS-lab RAMSES Review (Multi-Effect)


RAMSES stands for Rhythm and Motion Stereo Engine System and is a multi-effect based on XILS-lab’s Masque interface, an alternative to step sequencing or multi-segment envelopes with it’s own unique way of working. Also featured is a MIDI control system called RITA, allowing MIDI data to control almost every aspect of the plugin in real-time.

The line up of effects are: Multi-mode analog modelled filter with drive, stereo delay, stereo placement, bit crusher, and volume modulation. This puts RAMSES in the territory of spatial ‘rhythmicizer’ along with plugins such as Camel Audio’s CamelSpace.

For the money, I found the assortment of effects to be a little bit thin on the ground, but this is made up for at least in part by the unique Masque editor and RITA system. The quality of effects is superb, especially the filter, which as far as I can tell appears to be the filter from their synth Oxium – in both appearance and sound. It’s capable of a wide range of tonal qualities and does not disappoint.

Control Colossus

The beating heart of RAMSES is, as I’ve already stated, the Masque editor. There are three of these which share a common time-base but may last any number of bars from one to four. One controls the filter’s resonance and cutoff frequency, one is for panning and level duties, whilst the third “advanced” Masque is hooked into a small but powerful modulation matrix, allowing arbitrary assignments. A fourth tab allows an overview of all three Masque setups side-by-side, timebase settings, and copy and paste functionality.

In addition to the Masques, the filter and panning channel have an envelope generator and LFO which can be triggered by bars, MIDI, the beginning of Masque segments, or allowed to run freely, making a great addition to the control sources.

Not Your Daddy’s Step Sequencer

While the Masque way of doing things is not as totally revolutionary as the supporting marketing material makes out, it is refreshingly different from both step sequencers and multi-segment graphical spline-based control signal creation. Each individual Masque is a movable object which can sit anywhere on the timeline and has a draggable length, two individual levels, and can snap to a grid or be positioned by hand off of the grid for human-compatible and groove-friendly timings.

Yes, with a graphic envelope you can make any shape you desire, but it’s rare that you get to move the individual features around the timeline as self-contained objects. Even less mobility is afforded with step sequencers… And so it is that the Masque editor offers a unique workflow that, while only being somewhat revolutionary, is definitely refreshing and inspiring and invites interactivity.

Each Masque step (and you may have many of them, up to a sensible limit) houses two simultaneous values (for example, one for cutoff and one for resonance), and each stream of values has it’s own attack and release settings (which are per channel, not per Masque), leading to some very organic-sounding effects. With the extra LFOs and envelopes added in, and with the possibility of total MIDI control as well, there are a lot of possibilities!

About Those Effects

So, the filter I’ve covered – it’s great. XILS-lab’s stereo manipulation algorithms are excellent although the spatializing in here is not as complete as that found in their Chor-X plugin – being closer to simple but effective panning and stereo depth controls.

The delay is good, but, for the money, lacks a bit of editability, having a preset tone that gets darker with each repeat. Adjustable low- and high-pass filtering inside the feedback loop would have been nice. There also doesn’t appear to be a way to modulate the send amount, either, with only a wet/dry balance knob, and an “amount” knob, which functions as the feedback amount. This makes dub-style echo “drop ins” seemingly impossible to create, though controlling the other parameters can get you a similar kind of sound. On the plus side, it has a stereo offset control in addition to delay time, and both controls can be individually synched to musical values or not, providing flexibility to the timing of the repeats.

The bit crusher is a simple but effective one-slider affair, going from pristine at zero and gradually applying what I believe is both bit crushing AND sample rate reduction until at full tilt a drumloop is reduced to a glorious, rhythmic string of farts and pops. A mix control would have been useful here, for blending the devastation with the dry signal, but it has simplicity going for it, and sounds great at mild levels.

Looks Aren’t Everything

So, about the interface. I have to admit, I think it’s the least appealing of XILS-lab’s creations visually, looking like Chor’X’s ugly sibling. It’s rendered in a flat grey and is plagued by spacing issues which give it a cobbled-together and uninspiring appearance. Having said that, everything is laid out where it should be globally, if not in an eye-pleasing way.

The manual was also slightly confusing at some points, but it at least covered everything. There are some minor language problems present both here and on the GUI. For example, the knob labelled “stereo spray” and the calling of the delay a “spray delay” makes me think of some kind of controllable random distribution in the stereo field, when in actuality, it’s the separation factor of the left and right delay channels. Given the language barriers, it’s forgiveable, but it still feels slightly misleading, intentional or not. I believe “stereo spread” was what they wanted to convey.

On the plus side, the Masque display gives a neat visual feedback of the signal level, moving along in time and over the Masques themselves, helping you get to where you need to go. With a bit of TLC, Xils could get this plugin looking at least as good as Chor’X, which is also largely grey, but looks a lot better.


With a slight expansion of the effects control set (such as wet and dry controls for the bit crusher, and a send amount for the delay), in addition to a visual upgrade, I feel this plugin could be every bit as good as Chor’X, which is one of my favourite choruses and stereo spatializer plugins. As it is, it’s a good effect, but aside from the excellent graphical editing and MIDI control it left me wanting a little bit more for the money. The clincher will probably be how much you enjoy the Masque editor which is clearly the main feature here, so give it a try!

More info: XILS-lab R.A.M.S.E.S. (79€)

Author’s pages: SoundCloud / Bandcamp

XILS-lab RAMSES Review

7.3 Good

With a slight expansion of the effects control set (such as wet and dry controls for the bit crusher, and a send amount for the delay), in addition to a visual upgrade, I feel this plugin could be every bit as good as Chor'X, which is one of my favourite choruses and stereo spatializer plugins.

  • Features 7
  • Workflow 7
  • Stability 9
  • Design 6
  • Sound 8
  • Pricing 7
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About Author

Sendy has been making music in her bedroom since she was 14 using computers, synthesizers, samplers, and whatever else was at hand. She does not subscribe to any one genre but enjoys energetic, constantly changing rhythms, disorienting synthesizer manipulations, and heroic chiptune melodics.

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