Urs Heckmann is a prodigy of plug-in development, so when he sends something new, we pay attention. And in a world of a look-alike synths, Zebra2 does seem to qualify as “new”: a next-generation “wireless modular synth.”

Didn’t quite get that? Think four joystick control, multiple sound-making techniques, massive, graphical sound sculpting and more:

Lots of synthesis methods, integrated: Urs is working on providing fully integrated, modular access to lots of different synthesis methods, so you can mix different techniques and sounds. Everything plugs into everything else, and everything’s stereo. (Many synths have mono-only oscillators.) Techniques possible: FM, virtual analog, subtractive, amplitude modulation, etc.

Everything’s Visual: As you can see in the screen grabs, everything from routing to drawing waveforms to creating envelopes is entirely visual. Parts of the interface even remind me of MetaSynth, but everything is live and controllable. Speaking of which . . .

Four X/Y controls: Ah, X/Y controllers: they’re intuitive, and they let you control a lot of stuff at once. In Zebra2’s case, they can control 8 parameters on each axis. So, say, your X/Y joystick can control a total of 16 sound-shaping settings (8 on X, 8 on Y). Now I just need to build a new controller with four joysticks . . . (see image below)

No wires? That “wireless” comment is because, unlike a traditional modular synth, there are no patch cords to connect — physical or virtual. Instead, everything is routed through “grids” for synthesis, effects, modulation, and mixing. That’ll help adventurous sound designers create some out-there patches.

And all the fixin’s: Arpeggiator, alternative tunings support, 32-node multistage envelope generators — 4 of them (look out, Absynth) . . . no shortage of features here.

Compatibility: Windows VST, Mac Audio Unit and VST

Pricing and availability: Zebra2 isn’t ready yet, but you can download a free preview version that expires around New Year’s Eve. (I’m hoping for afterwards so I can down champagne and play with the modulation matrix . . .) Pre-orders are available, too, at US$169 ($30 off).

Zebra2 Overview
Download Preview Version

Urs will give you a major discount if you let him retire your “Dinosaur” analog synth. Ouch.

The preview looks great as I start playing with it, but wait for the finished release for a full review and final verdict. This is an ambitious feature list on paper, at least, so I can’t wait to see if Urs has pulled it off.