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u-he announces Zebra 1.5
5th April 2004
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At MusikMesse Urs Heckmann announced a new, vastly improved version of his Zebra software synthesizer plugin. While Zebra 1.0 (originally released in December 2003) is already a flexible and powerful synthesizer based upon a hybrid subtractive/additive synthesis approach, Zebra 1.5 goes a huge step further by adding an innovative concept of modularity.

An easy to use drag & drop control interface lets the musician create virtually endless variations of synthesizer circuits, consisting of up to 4 oscillators, 4 multimode filters, noise generator, mixing units, delay effects and waveshapers.

Clever routing options for audio- as well as for control/modulation signals make Zebra a versatile instrument for the creation of warm synthesizer sounds as well as for weird sound effects, atmospheric pads and punchy bass sounds. Yet, its well thought out feature mix and its innovative user interface make it easy to master, from within its integrated, adaptive editor window.

In addition to Zebra's renowned sonic character, 18 outstanding filter types, newly added dissonant waveforms, ring modulation, vast stereo control, internal effects and syncable MultiStage envelopes/StepSequencers make it an inspiring source for musical creativity.

Great news for those with modern computers is that Zebra is well behaved on contemporary CPUs (i.e. AltiVec optimisation for G4/G5 systems) so that it runs faster than its feature set may let it appear.

Screenshots: (current preview Version 1.5pre as shown at MusikMesse)

- Screenshot 1   - Screenshot 2

The new Synthesis page holds separate"Racks" for audio modules (oscillators, filters, etc.) and modulators (envelopes, lfos, etc.). The control element in its center is "The Grid", which is a matrix of audio modules that can be rearranged on the fly, even while you play a note.

Up to 4 "Lines" of modules can be processed in parallel (top down in the Grid), audio signals can be routed across Lines and each Line has its own settings for volume envelope and panning control.

On MacOS X 1.3, Zebra comes with different colour schemes, so that each plugin instance can be tinted differently to help identify the right editor for the Zebra you're working on. Thus, the days are gone that one accidentally adjusts parameters in the wrong plugin window.

While the flexible XY-Controls with control over up to 8 parameters per axis are known from the original Zebra, the lower tab shows the new MultiStage modulators that can act as 16-step envelopes, as step sequencers or as parameter choppers.

Key Features:

  • Now a Wireless Modular Synthesizer.
  • Up to 4 osc, 4 filters, 4 pan/VCA, 4 line mix/ring modulators, 2 delay effects, 2 waveshapers per voice (*).
  • 8/16/24 voice polyphonic with several unison, mono, legato modes.
  • All oscillators with classic and digital waveforms, definable user spectrum, "dissonant" waveforms (*), integrated one-oscillator hard sync function, or audio input (side chaining).
  • 2 resonant filters with several 24dB lowpass filter types, formant filter, high- and bandpass types.
  • 2 filters miscellaneous types (12dB/6dB resonant lowpass, peaking, shelving, notch, phasing types etc.) (*).
  • Internal effects (chorus/flanger/phase, delay, reverb) with additional send/return bus.
  • Huge amount of modulation possibilities, i.e. a modulation matrix that can target over 150 parameters, even those of the effect section.
  • New syncable MultiStage envelopes that can also act as Step Sequencers or Parameter Choppers with adjustable loop points (*).
  • Automatable XY-controls that can control up to 64 parameters with adjustable influence, allowing for wide range of control, from easy access to parameters (all parameters that have a knob) to deep sound morphings.
  • Innovative graphical user interface with adaptive elements, colour schemes and cleverly laid out all-in-one-window accessibility (*).
  • Performance friendly software design with AltiVec optimisation for G4/G5 systems (*).
  • Warm, powerful sound with outstanding quality and minimum aliasing.
  • Enhanced MIDI support, i.e. Incremental CC, PolyPressure (*).

(*) new in Version 1.5

Zebra v1.5 is scheduled for release late April 2004 for MacOS X Audio Units, with an estimated price of $199 USD (online distribution - Retail/boxed version planned).

Windows support due in Summer 2004.

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