Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Tiptop Audio Z8000 Review
Tiptop Audio Z8000 Review
by Steven Hayes
Tiptop Audio's Z8000 is a CV sequencer/programmer module. It differs from most analog sequencers in that provides ten individual sequencer tracks, eight of which are 4-step, and two that are 16-step. Programming the sequencer tracks is done via a 4x4 matrix of potentiometres, each with an associated LED.
The clever thing about the Z8000 is that the sequencers share the CV values specified by the pot matrix. More specifically, four of the 4-step sequencers produce CV sequences specified by columns of pots, the other four 4-step sequencers determine their CV values from rows of pots. The two 16-step sequencers take their programmed values from left-to-right, top-to-bottom order, and top-to-bottom, left-to-right order, respectively. A natural consequence of the programming pot sharing is that moving a single pot may affect the programming of up to ten sequencers.
Each sequence can respond to a individual clock, direction and reset inputs. Additionally, the clock inputs on the 4-step sequencers are "normalized" by row and column. For example, if you plug a clock source into the top-most row of the 4-step sequencers, the other three 4-step sequencers below it will also receive the same clock - sneaky! Ditto for the column sequences.
The build quality of the Z8000 is up there with the best. Two PCB's sandwiched in plane with the front panel means shallow chassis are fine with this module. I've been running the module on ±15V rails without issue.
The front panel design (28HP) is clearly set out. Although it is quite a dense layout, getting access to the sixteen programming pots isn't too awkward, even when there is a plug in every jack. The sixteen LED's associated with each programming pot are tri-colour, the intent being to give you some idea of which sequence is doing what according to LED colour.
Ins & Outs:
Each of the ten sequencers have separate clock, direction and reset input jacks. Naturally there are ten CV output jacks. Note that the Z8000 does not provide any kind of gate output.
By itself, the Z8000 can do very little. It requires an external clock source for starters. A clock divider would be very handy. Maybe a quantizer too...
If you want to accurately program notes on the CV outputs, I'd recommend using a manually gated source (instead of a clock) so you can step through each segement of a sequence at leisure, fine-tuning the CV outputs as you go. The CV output range is 10V peak, so accurately tuning each CV amount requires a very light touch on the pots.
Of course, it's far more fun to just plug a few clock sources into the Z8000, modulate a few things with the CV outputs and explore what results from mindless knob-tweaking. Having no plan means having no expectation, which invariably will lead to a wonderful surprise ;)
The Z8000 sequencer/programmer is fine addition to any Eurorack Modular. It is well focused on sequencing CV's, and provides simple mechanisims that can lead to the creation of complex grooves and modulations without much effort. If you are after a note-based sequencer, then there are better options out there, but if you are after a sequencer where modularity is paramount, then the Z8000 comes highly recommended.