Additable Synthesis. Oh, you’ve never heard that phrase before? Well we just made it up, but that’s only because the sharp minds behind Neuzeit Instruments created Warp: a new four-voice hybrid oscillator that combines additive synthesis and wavetable synthesis.
One look at the panel and you can tell there’s a lot going on with this module.
Admittedly, neither of Neuzeit’s two previous offerings have been on the simpler side of the design spectrum. Their first module, Orbit, is a 24HP multi-utility / multi-effects box. Their second module, Quasar, is a 16HP binaural 3D audio mixer. Say that three times fast…
Warp is a full synthesizer voice that relies on additive and wavetable synthesis, implemented in a hybrid 4-voice X/Y grid. The module is monophonic by itself but a planned expander will enable full polyphony.
The massive blue, cental LED space field is an XY-visualization of the sound palette that the module has in its current preset, representing 32×16 frequency spectra on a grid. The number of dots shows the number of active voices, their intensity maps to volume, and position shows location within the wavetable map. You can navigate the wavetable grid in 2 dimensions and each voice has fully independent placement.
As you’ll see from the videos, visual feedback is beautiful and surprisingly useful, giving you plenty of at-a-glance information on major parameters. Good, as it takes up such important real estate on the module itself.
Neuzeit Instruments Warp Main Features
Now that we know the basics, we can do a major feature list:
- 4 Voices (2 oscillators each) using a hybrid additive-wavetable synth engine
- Big knobs act as macro controls for underlying parameters and enable expressive playability
- Monophonic as a standalone unit, polyphonic with expander
- Usable as a full synth voice or standalone oscillator module
- Additive synthesis with 512 sine waves per oscillator = 4096 sine waves in total
- XY sound space as a collection of 32×16 frequency spectra
- Each voice travels independently across the XY space and uses the underlying spectra to synthesize a wavetable in real-time
- Two Post-Filters per voice: 12/24dB Lowpass and Highpass with resonance control
- Independent oscillator settings per voice, e.g. volume, pitch, stereo pan, detune, sync, X/Y position
- Integrated modulation by 2x ADSR, 2x LFO with many waveforms
- Modulation matrix view to see everything that is going on at once
- Saving and recalling presets
- Stereo out, 24-bit audio out, 32-bit internally
Neuzeit Instruments Warp Advanced Features
That’s a lot of synthesis, but we haven’t touched on more of the advanced capabilities:
- Spectral FX (applied on the spectrum pre-wavetable generation)
- Wavetable FX (applied post-wavetable generation), e.g. Wavefolder, PWM-Bend, Redux, Overdrive
- Integrated editor for playful drawing of own frequency spectra
- Algorithms for musically meaningful drawing of harmonics
- Generation of frequency spectra from audio grains of audio files on the SD card
- V/Oct and VCA inputs operate in audio range for AM/FM modulation
- Import and export of wavetables as audio files from or for other synthesizers
Four voices, two oscillators each, independent settings, two ADSR envelopes, two LFOs, a modulation matrix, effects, import/export, high-resolution audio… sure sounds like this module is from space.
Prepare For Warp Speed
OK, so where does the inspiration for Warp come from? The name itself is a science fiction reference to the warp drive concept.
If a warp drive distorts the shape of the space-time continuum, then Warp distorts the shape of the wavetable continuum. The analogy of compressing/stretching space before and behind the ship maps to how you can travel across Warp’s sound space, altering spectra as you go.
For more detail, let’s hear directly from Thomas Hutmann of Neuzeit:
When you use 512 sine waves like Warp does, you can create really complex waveforms. With “regular” wavetable synths I sometimes get bored with only one wavetable really fast. So I went one step before that and made the frequency spectrum accessible.
Having four voices and two directions to travel across gives you a much wider “sonic playground” than single-direction, mono-voiced wavetable oscillators. Think about it: each voice can be in a completely different wavetable, with boatloads of internal modulation, for subtle or monstrously complex sounds.
A nice touch is an ability to export Warp’s entire X/Y-space as a .WAV file, giving you portability into other wavetable synths or soft synths.
If you’re still hazy about the LED space field visualization, Thomas again explains things best:
Each of the four voices corresponds to a blue dot that can move smoothly across the XY grid. Depending on its position on the space, the voice takes another frequency spectrum from which it calculates a wavetable then in real-time. Each voice can have a different position and there are two X/Y pots, X/Y CV inputs, and internal modulation to move the voices around.
Customize Your Spectra
Neuzeit is pushing wavetable technology, giving you multiple ways to create or modify wavetable spectra.
The standout feature on this front is Warp’s ability to paint your own frequency spectra. Let’s hear from Thomas about why this is so exciting:
The module has an integrated editor that lets you paint your own frequency spectra on any location in the sound space in different ways. With the four encoders next to the display you can change the location and the impact zone (= “brush size“) and on several other pages you can draw the volume of single or multiple frequency bins.
There are a bunch of tools in the editor that help you draw sonically meaningful frequency bins at once. You can draw an XY space that goes smoothly from one side to the other but also, for example, insert small interruptions and make it a lot more “uneven“.
You had us at ‘sonically meaningful’.
Another really interesting approach to generating custom frequency spectra is to select an audio sample from the SD card, cut out a grain (of any size), and use Warp to reconstruct a wavetable from that grain. You could capture the timbre of a piano, for example, and use that as a foundation for sonic exploration.
The final way, which maps back to the export feature mentioned earlier, is the ability to import/load third-party wavetables. You can specify the wavetable length and its position on the grid, so you can stack wavetables from different synths (not just slices) and navigate them on the Y axis. Nice!
All this functionality comes with two caveats: size and price. Warp is 24HP and costs ~$700. It is available for pre-order at your retailers of choice, with a planned release date of September 2023.
As more demo videos become available we’ll drop them here. Do you speak German? If so, we’ve got you covered!