Tiptop Z-DSP Review, first look at Reverb FDN and 5 other effects

The Z-DSP a cartridge based open-source variable clock digital signal processor from tip-top audio. Let’s break that down: cartridge-based means that it needs one a cartridges with an algorithm that determines how it works. Variable clock means that you can actually modulate the processor speed for some pretty crazy effects – more on that in a bit. And open-source means that potentially anyone can write code for the DSP and create these cartridges. In this clip I’ll be showing you how the various algorithms and DSP cartridges work on my voice, on a piano – the Una Corda from Native Instruments, on a guitar – I’ll be using the Native Instruments Electric Sunburst guitar because I don’t have time for lessons right now… and on synth bass sounds from the Arturia Minibrute 2.


In terms of currently available cartridges there are quite a few of those. I started out by buying the Valhalla Shimmer and Halls of Valhalla because of
how awesome the computer-based versions of those reverbs are, and then got a few more. Aside from that, I have what I think is an exclusive look at an upcoming reverb cartridge by a company called Anckorage, which takes the concept of FDN reverbs and twists it around a bit.

Before I give you a taste of these cards let’s go through a little basic orientation. The Z-DSP is stereo it has two independent left/right inputs and outputs. It has gain control for each of the two inputs, and even though it’s digital you have the ability to add analog feedback to each of the left and right channels. You’ve got a Mix knob which gives you dry/wet effect controls, and three controls for each of the
algorithms. You also have CV control inputs to switch between the algorithms. Each algorithm has three parameters you can
control and they’re written on the display so it’s very easy to figure out what does what. There are up to 8
algorithms per card.

One of the more unique things about the Z-DSP is that the clock of the DSP itself can be controlled externally. In the video I show how plugging in a VCO to the DSP Clock CV input can have dramatic impact on the effect’s sound.

The cartridges demonstrated in this video are:
1. Halls of Valhalla by ValhallaDSP – which can run your sound through progressive larger sounding spaces.
2. Tiptop Audio’s DragonFly delay
3. Grain de Folie – a granular synth from Anckorage
4. Spring Waves – a resonator and spring filter from Anckorage
5. Valhalla Shimmer
6. A beta of Reverb FDN – an upcoming cartridge from Anckorage

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