Sunday, 7 February 2010

TTA Z8000 Matrix Sequencer

Funny how things come in waves. The last breaker brought us envelopes, the next threatens to flood us with sequencers, programmers and control devices.

Det3 and Sequentix both have standalone sequencers in the works, STG Labs and Malekko/ Wiard plan to release slider-based programmers. The two possibly most closely-related and awaited products this year are Make Noise's René and Tip Top Audio's recently released Z8000, which is the subject of today's mini-review:

The Z8000 is billed as a matrix sequencer/ programmer and offers ten independently-clockable lines of CVs. Given its price and relatively compact size, it is a remarkably flexible and affordable package. You can find out more on how the Z8000 works here.

First up is a brief run-through using four 4-note sequences:

TTA Z8000  by  navs

Rows 1, 3 & 4 were clocked by an LFO and subdivisions generated by a Doepfer A-160/ 1 combo. I used a Bananalogue/ Serge VCS to delay the gate for row 2 to provide some syncopation. A manual gate was used to change direction and reset individual rows.

Lost in the Matrix.

The first example is relatively straight forward, something one could achieve with multiple analogue sequencers or a digital multi-track sequencer like the P3. The remarkable feature of the Z8000 is the fact that all outputs 'share' the same pot values. This takes some re-thinking on the part of the user. My initial attempt at tapping one of the aggregate lines resulted, somewhat comically, in disaster:

Z8K Matrix Hell

As I say, it takes some getting your head around! The reason this is relevant should be apparent: any change you make to an individual sequencer row/ column will have repercussions in the matrix, so beware.

Naturally, this can also be musically beneficial as you can hear in this longer take:

Z8K Live Jam (6 mins)

Four VCOs, tuned to the same root note. At about the 3 minute mark, I introduce a fifth voice taking its CV from one of the aggregate outs. I then change my mind and try the other out! As you can hear, the Z8000 is very hands on, certainly this jam was made by the fact that all pots were directly accessible, unlike the P3.

Because the Z8000 offers independent clock, reset and direction control for each 'sequencer', Reich-isms and polyrhythms are easily achievable:

Z8K Reichism

Four VCOs, four rows each with the same pot values. The burst out of a Wogglebug and an A-151 sequential switch were used to reset the rows and thus shift their relative positions.

Z8K Polyrhythms

VCS, Maths and A-160/ 1 used to provide gate delays/ divisions.


The Z8000 is well-built and laid out and looks fantastic. The knobs are clean and responsive and offer enough clearance for the 'large-fingered'. It packs an astonishing amount of sequencing into 28HP. So, what's not to like?

Some might bemoan the lack of gate outputs, but this can be overcome by taking a mult of the gate signal via a Stackcable or other clock sequencer. I would have liked VC step addressing and wonder whether this and the direction function couldn't have been implemented as it is in the A-152, rather than via a gate signal. I do, however, like the fact that the method used means that one row can be programmed to provide direction triggers e.g. a pot tuned fully CCW = forward, above a certain threshold = backwards.

In use, my largest frustration with a module featuring ten separate sequencers was the lack of a global reset! Ironically, I used a muxed manual gate from my A-Sol SQ-8 to solve this. If you're particular about this sort of thing, you should know that the Z8K resets to step one, meaning that the first step when clocked is actually step two. The work-around here was to use the SQ-8 to step all sequencers to position four. My last observation is actually not related to the Z8K but Doepfer's A-160/ 1: because of the way it counts, I failed to get a sequence to go forwards and backwards in equal measure, pendulum style. If you understand German, you can read more about the problem in this post at the forum.

As TTA's Gur has pointed out, the Z8K's open nature means you'll need a variety of other modules to get the most out of it. Clock dividers (A-160/ 1, 4MS Rotating Clock Divider or Flame Clockwork), logic, sequential switches or a multiplexer like Doepfer's A-152, not to mention a quantizer or two, would make excellent companions. Given the voltage addressing capabilities of the A-152, a random source or a joystick would also expand the patch permutations.

The wealth of possibilities on offer might seem dizzying or daunting, but if you have the head and the supporting modules, the Z8000 could be sequencer heaven.


Anonymous said...

wow, great test!


Pete Shambler said...

Another nice review, Navs! I foresee the Z8000 causing a rush in the utility module market as well.

I'm one of the people bemoaning the lack of gate/trigger outputs, and have been trying to get my head around working without them. One solution I thought of was to pair the Z8000 with an SEQ-02, with each of the Z8000's sequencers working with different SEQ outs (as stand ins for gate switches). Or siding it with Logic and Comparator modules to derive rhythms.

I had a similar experience when trying to understand the A-152-- it didn't make sense to me until I started imagining it with other modules (after which point it looked extremely useful).

The short version: nice work, nice demos. I definitely want one of these.

tescure said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thomas grey said...

Thank you Navs, very good test. That's exactly what I was looking for. Now I want a z8000...


Navs said...

Glad you liked the test, Thomas. I ended up getting Brains + PP for the touch plates, but I miss the possibilities offered by the Z8k's multiple clock inputs - crazy!