VC – Digital Signal Processor
Tiptop Audio’s Z-DSP is a cartridge-based open source digital sound processing and effects generating platform for your modular synthesizer. Lush audio processing, greater stereo depth and a unique set of digital synthesis is what the Z-DSP is all about.
The Z-DSP has a stereo digital sound processor with 24-bit sampling, 15kHz of bandwidth, voltage-controlled parameters of stereo feedback, program switching, DSP parameters, equal power crossfading dry/wet mixing, as well as sequential program control switching and a clear display – all in Eurorack format. A dedicated clocking input for the DSP chip does wonders to passing sound by bending the algorithms in an unexpected way, a hardware technique computer plugins can’t do and is unique to the Z-DSP.
In a recent update, the Z-DSP (NS) got an all new design of its analog circuitry, contributing to a lower noise signal path, clearer sound of the entire frequency range, lower distortion and better immunity to noise emitted by other modules sharing the same power supply. A new analog dry/wet circuit has been implemented to remove the 3db gain drop when the mix knob passes through the center of the dial making the use of this function more practical in a live application. A reverse polarity protection has been added as well. The new front-panel matches Tiptop’s colorful design, and a single printed circuit board and surface mount technology improve reliability during production and use. The powerful Z-DSP engine remains the same as the original Z-DSP module and all cards are compatible across both versions.
Size: 28HP – Depth: 25mm – Power: +12V 200ma / -12V 87ma
An assortment of interchangeable cards, programmed by Tiptop Audio and specialists like Valhalla DSP, provide a wide range of boutique effects algorithms such as Halls of Valhalla, Time Fabric, Clocked Delays and Grain De Folie. Tiptop Audio also offers blank Z-DSP cartridges and a development tool called NumberZ for developers, students and power users who want to design their own effects and cards with the FV-1 DSP chip programing language. Blank cards can be loaded using programs that are freely available for non-commercial use and can be found in the modular community through online forums. With each card swap, the Z-DSP takes on new effect algorithms, changing like a digital chameleon and bringing colorful digital effects processing to your Eurorack setup.
The Z-DSP comes included with 2 cards: Halls of Valhalla and Dragonfly Delay MKII.
Time Domain Bundle: Mod Delay
Modulated Delays brings various forms of animation to the delay lines. These types of algorithms further extend the signal path of delay effects with extra processing and routing of the audio signal. The sonic results put the Mod Delay effects in a category of their own.
Each program adds different processing like diffusion, chorus, panning and other modulation to the basic mono or dual delay line structure. The two Modulator programs are intended for use with external CV—opening up vast modulation possibilities of the modular synthesizer. Each card comes loaded with 8 presets.
This card comes included in the Time Domain Bundle.
Time Domain Bundle: Hydra
Hydra is the multi-armed DSP creature tapping its tentacles into a buffered delay line and creating a range of multi-tap delay rhythmic and spatial effects. The Spread parameter sweeping through rhythmic variations allowing some of the programs bridge the gap between single delays and reverbs by using diffusion while others use taps to create rhythmic patterns.
The basic Hydra algorithm sums the inputs to mono and writes the signal to a single delay line. Multiple output taps are taken from the delay line and spread across the stereo outputs. Each program adds additional features like panning, filtering, pitch shifting and/or diffusion to create a unique Z-DSP Hydra experience. The last two programs add external Clock input for more precise sync to the beat.
This card comes included in the Time Domain Bundle.
Time Domain Bundle: Spirals
Spirals is a pitch and multi-tap delay card for the Z-DSP. This card uses numerous multi-tap delay techniques in combination with dual pitch shifters to create a wide range of harmonizing choruses, echo and harmonic reverb sounds. Programs on this card derive from the complex algorithms found on high-end studio effects processors, which, while powerful, have a complex editing process. On the Z-DSP all of the power of the internal code is controlled by three simple adjustments for sculpting the sound—making the experience more about performance and live tweaking rather than navigating through dozens of menu pages.
This card comes included in the Time Domain Bundle.
Mariana Trench is a FDN card for the Z-DSP. Feedback Delay Networks (FDNs) are built around multiple delays which are connected to their inputs thanks to a feedback matrix designed for its stability and lossless properties. FDN can mimic the recursive process of sound waves bouncing back and forth in an acoustic space. They were first suggested for artificial reverberation by Michael Gerzon (1971) and later John Stautner and Miller Puckette (1982) introduced four-channel FDN reverberator with general stability conditions. FDN can also be used as a special case of digital waveguides, they can be tuned, or also used as complex delays. The Mariana Trench Z-DSP cartridge is designed to explore these more unusual sides of the FDN algorithms. Mariana Trench Z-DSP cartridge is designed by Christophe Duquesne Anckorage – Haken Audio developement team – La Voix du Luthier
Halls of Valhalla
The Halls of Valhalla is a reverb cartridge for the Tiptop Audio Z-DSP. The cartridge contains 8 original reverb algorithms, custom designed for the Z-DSP and the Eurorack environment. Voltage control over reverb decay, tone, and modulation allows the user to create reverbs ranging from small rooms to large halls to near-infinite decays.
The Halls of Valhalla brings the artifacts of fixed point digital signal processing to the forefront, resulting in a thickness and warmth that evokes the classic digital gear of the 1970s through the early 1990s. The goal of the algorithms is not to evoke physical environments, but rather to create unreal spaces that range from subtle to bombastic, from light to dark, with a lushness that turns simple input sounds into rich orchestral washes. The Halls of Valhalla brings the Valhalla DSP aesthetics into the hardware world: Minimalist interface, Maximalist sound.
The Z-DSP Shimmer cartridge by Valhalla DSP has 8 original algorithms, designed to combine lush reverberation with multiple voices of pitch shifting, to create ethereal pads, rich chordal textures, dissonant clouds of sound, and a variety of other sounds that are perfect for electronic music. The algorithms are customized to work with the Tiptop Audio Z-DSP.
There are 6 reverb algorithms in the Z-DSP Shimmer cart, arranged in order of complexity:
Fast Shimmer: A modulated reverb that quickly decays away into an endlessly pitch shifting tail. The shift interval can be set between +/- 12 semitones. Perfect for that classic “octave up” shimmer sound.
Slow Shimmer: Similar to Fast Shimmer, but with a much slower attack.
Dual Shimmer: Two pitch shifted voices, embedded within a larger modulated reverb network, shifting the reverb decay in both positive and negative directions. Try slowly sweeping the Shift control in this mode for ridiculously cinematic sounds.
Triple Shimmer: Two pitch shifted voices embedded within the reverb decay network, plus a third voice external to the network. This allows the user to have a reverb with +12 and -12 semitones of feedback, plus a stable +7 semitones voice without feedback.
Quad Shimmer: Four pitch shifted voices feeding into a lush modulated reverb. This allows for a variety of dissonant and consonant chordal textures, with the max Shift setting corresponding to a rich major chord.
ClusterVerb: Four pitch shifted voices embedded within the feedback network of a modulated reverb. The result quickly becomes dissonant or metallic. Perfect for insta-Ligeti, or Penderecki In A Box™.
In addition, the Z-DSP Shimmer cart features 2 special effects algorithms:
Quad Detune: 4 short pitch shifted delays, feeding back on each other. A variety of chorus, detuned, and dissonant effects can be obtained through this mode. Turn up the Feedback for maximum fun.
PitchEcho: A single pitch shifting voice, combined with a tape echo emulation = sound mangling joy. Turn up the feedback for barberpole self oscillation, and sweep the decay time for all sorts of swoopy glitches.
Written by Segoh, the effects cover everything from ring modulation to distortion, with special attention being paid to each effect having consistent control parameters allowing for usage of the Z-DSP’s sequential program control in a more musical way.
Dragonfly Delay MKII
Dragonfly MKII is a set of eight voltage-controlled, time-based delay effects for the Z-DSP. MKII features advanced delay programs with added filters and additional taps spicing up the original set of Dragonfly programs.
With up to 1000ms of delay time and feedback control on each program, the Dragonfly MKII is perfect for deep, stereophonic, spacey washes of sound covering all delay effect duties within a modular and more.
The external feedback loop on the Z-DSP let you feedback through other modules like filters, VCAs or just about any other module to further process the Dragonfly repeats.
Hook up a Z3000 for a variable clock of the DSP processor chip to mess up the algorithm’s processing speed, shifting from clear digital repeats to grungy lo-fi warbles, this is where binary DSP bits meet up with the organic analog circuity of the Z-DSP.
The Dragonfly Delay contains the following algorithms:
– Mono in Stereo out L/R Tap: Two taps on a mono delay time.
– Mono in Stereo out Lowpass + Feedback: Two delay taps with LPF in feedback.
– Mono in Stereo out Highpass + Feedback: Two delay taps with HPF in feedback.
– Mono in Stereo out Right Ratio: Selector for ratio of Right delay time to Left.
– Mono in Stereo out Ping Pong: Two tap delay from Left to Right with LPF.
– Stereo in Stereo out L/R Delay: Independent delay lines on Left and Right.
– Stereo in Stereo out Highpass + Feedback: Two delay lines with HPF in feedback.
– Stereo in Stereo out Lowpass + Feedback: Tow delay lines with LPF in feedback.
Grain De Folie
Granular Synthesis uses small slices of sounds (grains) to compose new sounds from existing material. By combining multiple grains of differing lengths, amplitude, pitch, and speed, new sounds are created which are often very different from the original sound recorded in. Xenakis claims to have invented the technique and, indeed, his “Analogique A-B”, composed of tiny tape splices of pure tones, is credited as the first piece of granular music back in 1959.
In the context of the Z-DSP, a block of memory is set to hold digital samples for playback: the Z-DSP has one second of memory for the audio used in processing. From this audio buffer, the grains will be sampled and modified for playback with the number of grains determining how dense the overall output sounds. These programs have 3, 4 or 6 grains for playback. Each grain plays from a random point in the audio buffer and have an independent envelope controlling their duration. The envelope time is the “grain size” parameter in many of the programs.
The French phrase for the cartridge is “Grain de Folie”, which could be translated as “seeds of madness”, but in French “grain” also translates to “grain” and “madness” evokes the strange disassembling/reassembling granular process. Also, “avoir un grain de folie” is a typically expression to describe people behaving in a non-conventional way, thus a fitting play on words that quite nicely describes the unpredictable nature of this set of algorithms.
“It fucks with the fabric of time!” Tony Visconti describing pitch shifting to Brain Eno and David Bowie in 1976. That not so subtle description does quite neatly sum up what the Pitch Shift programs on the “Time Fabric” card can do!
Pitch shifting in the Z-DSP uses a technique called “rotating tape head” delay lines named after pioneering tape based experiments in Germany in the 1960s. The tape heads move at speeds independent of the tape playback path and two heads are crossfaded to make a continuous output capable of beautiful pitched delay effects, harmonization, and smooth reverbs.
These pitch shifting algorithms are much like the earliest digital pitch shifters released. Sounds similar to the eventide H910, AMS 15-80 (with pitch board) and Publison DHM 89 can be achieved. These programs are intended more for pure effects rather than the complex, multiple harmony lines later devices and plugins became known for producing. Chords can easily be made from single VCOs using the “Interval” programs on the card, though.
Using a Z3000 to clock the Z-DSP, complete chaos from the delay lines and pitch shifting emerges, creating great and unexpected new sounds. Modulating the stereo pair of analog VC-Feedbacks animated the times and distance of the pitch shift opening up these algorithms for additional control from CV and audio signal alike. of menu pages.
Chorus effects for the Z-DSP thicken incoming sound and create animation within the sound’s harmonic structure. In addition, they provide an excellent tool for mono to stereo processing of any incoming sound, or even a whole mix, producing a stereo widening effect.
The card contains eight digital algorithms inspired by a set of the most classic analog chorus effect ever made, hardware like the Dimension D, Solina String Ensemble, and other very rare devices. True to the modular spirit, the control parameters offer a wide range from subtle and smooth to fast LFO modulation and sea sick wobbles, with a lot of sweet spots in between.
Using the Z-DSP’s own stereo analog feedback path to apply feedback to the effects results in beautiful, lush, and organic animated drones. Using those feedback inputs as an additional 2 input channels of direct injection into the DSP chip, the Z-DSP can take up to 4 external sources for generating impressive stereo drones with a classic chorus touch. The end result is a great tool for the design of atmospheric sounds completely contained in the modular environment.
Clocked Delays are a collection of eight stereo delay programs that let you sync the delay time of the Z-DSP to an external clock input.
With a quick set up, the clock input easily and exactly synchronizes the delay repeats to external rhythms generated by the Trigger Riot, Circadian Rhythms, or other clock sources. A Divide parameter is included with each program to switch between different divisions of the stereo ratios, creating a spatial audio clock divider which automatically matches the repeats to a beat. Feeding the clock input odd clock divisions from a module like the Trigger Riot has the interesting effect of moving the repeats in relation to the beat.
When it comes to their sound, some of the programs feature a pristine classic delay lines, while other programs insert a colored band-pass, low-pass or high-pass filter into the feedback loop, imparting a beautiful harmonic transition to the repeats as they feedback through the filter and slowly decay away. Using the Z- DSP’s analog feedback path adds an additional voltage-controlled stereo feedback which can slightly drift the repeats out of their tight sync to the incoming clock, due to the DSP chip latency, and also extend the delay tail intensity up to self-oscillation. Controlling the Z-DSP’s DSP chip speed externally via the Clock jack can even devolve everything into glitchy out-of-sync binary chaos.
Spring Waves brings a set of physical behavior modeling algorithms to the Z-DSP. It dives deep into experimental digital sound design techniques known as waveguide synthesis, which was first developed in 1998 by Julius O. Smith III of Stanford University by building off of Karplus-Strong synthesis. In addition, there are two spring models and space synthesis: making real Newtonian physics calculations at sample rate.
The principle behind these algorithms is a mathematical feedback formula excited by external signals which self-oscillate as a damped tone. The type and harmonic content of the external signals these algorithms can react to is extremely wide and so are the tones that they can impart to a sound.
The card contains six Karplus-Strong and two spring models. When fed with an external pulse or bursts of noise they self-oscillate, creating synthetic sounds similar to glass, springs, bells, and a variety of string tones. When structured sounds like high pitched FM tones, drones, drum sounds, and vocals pass through they get a harmonized-type effect, frequently with unexpected results. This card is anything but standard as it takes the natural “springy” artifacts of digital audio, and, instead of fighting to eliminate it, actually makes use of it as a new source of sound inside the modular.
Numberz is a USB device that communicates with a software front-end (for PC) and can be used to download DSP programs and display text to blank, non-volatile cartridges for use with the Z-DSP. Numberz can also feed directly into the Z-DSP’s cartridge socket for real-time programming.
With Numberz you can:
– Download free Z-DSP programs from the web and “burn” them into cartridge.
– Modify programs for new and interesting effects.
– Write and Debug Z-DSP programs in a real-time environment.
– Share your programs online with other Numberz users.
– Share your programs on Z-DSP Cartridges with other Z-DSP users.
– Create your own text for the Z-DSP LCD display.
The Z-DSP blank cartridges are rewritable memory cards for use with Numberz and the Z-DSP with up to 1 million erase/write cycles. These cards are made of printed circuit board with two (2) memory chips soldered on their bottom side providing low-cost, non- volatile memory for Z-DSP programs and display data.