Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's here! Tiptop Audio's Z5000!

Well, let me tell you - this is *really exiting* and has been VERY hard to keep a lid on over the last couple of months.

I'm really truly proud (and grateful to the guys at Tiptop!) to be able to break the news of a really exciting brand new synth module!

Some of you may have noticed the 'Teaser' post I put up a couple of days ago, and I know a bunch of you have been following along with the 'Mystery Module' thread over at the forum (where you'll find a few of my own samples - clipping and overall crumminess due to my own poor skills, not the fault of this cool module!).

Well, the mystery is finally over! Thanks everyone for your enthusiasm and for playing along - it's been a lot of fun, and like I said, pretty hard to not spill the beans on this.

Anyway, on to the module - I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the testers, and I can tell you that I've had a TON of fun with this! It is a euro-rack module, but it has no problem at all being powered by a frac-rack 15v power supply, and I had no trouble integrating it into my rig - where it's been playing very nicely with all the rest of my gear.

What is it? And who are these guys? Those are great questions! Let me give a little summary, and then paste in the official press release.

As you may have guessed from the images, the Z5000 is a voltage controlled, stereo multi effects processor, powered by a 24bit/48khz DSP. This is the first DSP-powered VC'd multi effect device I'm aware of that's been designed explicitly to work within a modular synth - it's built to handle the signal levels found in all modulars (with lots of headrooom), and obviously gives you CV control over the effects themselves. On board the module are 16 different effects 'programs', 13 of which are voltage-controllable. This all results in a really nice hybrid of analog and digital - providing some of the unique advantages of DSP, within the typically analog structure of a modular synth.

Now, the 'analog/digital' debate has gone on and on forever - but many of the forward-looking synth developers have always taken a hybrid approach, using analog where it can benefit the sound, and using digital where it can add some unique options. Of course Buchla has been a pioneer in this sort of work, and companies like Wiard and The Harvestman have continued this 'best of both worlds' tradition in the modern age.

Tiptop Audio comes to the table with the same philosophy - they seek to bring the advantages of DSP to a world that they recognize is mostly analog. The results are fantastic! And also not what you may expect... luckily these guys took the stance of NOT trying to replace your favorite Eventide unit (or whatever you may use.....), but instead to provide some unique effects that are more closely related to the 'experimental' approach most modular synthesists prefer. (One of my favorite things about this module is the 'quirky' results you get when applying CV control to the three programs that are NOT specced for CV - some very, very interesting things happen!)

I won't get into too many of the module's specs here in this post - the press release below gives all that information better than I can. However I can tell you some of the things that I really like are the fact that this is a stereo module, allowing some interesting patching options - putting one signal into one side of the processor and a different signal into the other allows for some amazing results. Also the module can take in a mono source, and then output a stereo one, which can have a great effect on your sound. And I must say that my favorite programs in the module are the "Non-linear Reverb" (in particular when under voltage control), as well as the "Chorus+Room Reverb". Some AMAZING sounds to be had here.

Now, who are these guys? Well, they are Tiptop Audio - and you just might know them already. You can find their website (where this announcement should be up now - or very imminently) at Based in LA, Tiptop is comprised of SDIY-meister Sean Coulter (who has been building the modules, working with the testers, setting up dealers & distribution and acting as the 'face' of the company), and designer Gur Milstein, the engineer responsible for the module's circuitry and DSP. You may recognize Gur's name from work he's done in the past, including designing the TM-116 Sequencer, ACS Quantizer and a variety of other custom electronic instruments and control devices.

Let me tell you that this is just the start, and Sean and Gur have some *really* exciting plans for the future of their DSP applications. I can also tell you that these guys are INCREDIBLY cool, nice, humble, laid-back and just great to deal with. They really have a great community spirit (look, they let me leak info and gave me the OK to break the official news on my blog!) and are really excited about getting to work with all the modular musicians out there.

The module is in stock at Analog Haven, costs $185, and is ready to ship! We are all really excited about hearing what some of you maniacs are going to be able to do with this!

So, without further ado (this is turning into a long post!), here's the list of the FX programs and below that, the official press release. Be sure to hit up Tiptop Audio's website for more info, including some great audio demos!


Multi-effect processors have been used for years to post-process sounds generated by analog synths, providing harmonies, delay, and reverb. Here, for the first time in an analog modular synthesizer format, is a multi-effect processor that has been specially designed for use deep with the actual process of creating synth sounds and timbres. The Z5000 is an analog-controlled digital module that fits perfectly at the heart of any analog system, bringing new and original patch options and sound manipulation capabilities. The results are exciting, progressive sounds and timbres created and enhanced by a powerful DSP engine running 16 FFT algorithms of 24-bit digital audio.

As an integrated synthezier module, the Z5000 makes post-processing modular synth sound in both mono and stereo as easy as it can possibly be. No more long cables with phone jack adapters running to external multi-effects processors and no more clipping from un-matched signal levels. Because the Z5000 is designed to handle "hot" modular signals with up to 16Vpp of headroom before clipping, it can be integrated into a system like any other module and going directly from any signal generator directly to the multi-effect processor is effortless.

Z5000: The power of voltage controlled digital signal processing seamlessly integrated into an analog package!

13 Voltage-Controlled Stereo Effects
16 Total Effects

Custom FFT programs running on Tiptop Audio DSP core at a resolution of 24 bits at 48kHz

Specially designed for modular synthesizer signal level inputs and outputs

Independent gain level light for each input

4 Input/Output Combinations:
Stereo In to Stereo Out
Stereo In to Mono Out
Mono In to Mono Out
Mono In to Stereo Out

Input / Output Gain Control

Wet / Dry Control

Effects Parameter Control

Effects Parameter CV Control

Mechanical Specifications:
Format – Eurorack
Width – 14HP / 71mm / 2.8”
Depth – 84mm / 3.3”

Electrical Specifications:
Dynamic Range, SNR – 97dB
THD+N – -88 dB
Frequency Response – 20Hz to 16kHz
Maximum Audio Input Level – 16Vpp (Before Clipping)
Maximum Audio Output Level (Dry/Wet) – Rail / Input
CV Input Range – 0V – 5V
Power - +/-12V or +/-15V
Current – 160mA


Again, I just wanted to say a HUGE thanks to Sean & Gur for giving me the chance to work with this module, letting me tease my forum members, and allowing me to break this exciting news on the web. Congratulations on the big release! I know it's been a ton of work getting there. I'm really excited for you guys, the module, and the future of Tiptop Audio! Looking forward to seeing this get out there and to learning more about your future modules....


felix said...

Super sweet!

Anonymous said...

The included DSP is a very, very cheap one. I would say it's similiar to the ones in the Behringer devices which you can get for about USD 30,--. Put a plate in front of it and integrate a simple CV control and you end up with a unit about USD 50,--.
And that's exactly how it sounds: like a 50$-device. Very cheap.
Next point is that you can't change a second parameter. No feedback leveler for the delay, no chorus-rate etc.
If this sound is exactly what you are looking for and you don't know how to spend your money: go for it.
Otherwise i think there a better ways to spend your money.

Viagra Online said...

this is a real monster in sound issues, just take this put in your computer and make some noice, wake up your parents and enjoy the super sound bring with this device.