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Neuzeit Instruments Warp

Eurorack Module By William Stokes
Published March 2024

Neuzeit Instruments Warp

I hate to admit that I am led by my eyes sometimes, since I’m generally a sceptic when it comes to units that threaten to look better than they sound. But when I saw that the rather beautiful light‑up ‘GalaXY’ that occupies the upper third of the Warp’s panel is central to its actual operation, I was intrigued.

In one sense it’s understandable to call the Warp an oscillator, but in reality it’s a self‑contained, fully-fledged synthesizer — and a four‑voice MIDI‑controllable and fully MPE‑compatible polyphonic one at that, if you add the 4HP WarpEx expander to the equation.

The Warp occupies a relatively modest 24HP of rack space. Alongside the aforementioned GalaXY is a small screen flanked by five encoders, and beyond that a set of seven larger knobs for performative playing. A row of CV inputs and a set of stereo outputs occupy the bottom of the panel. Neuzeit have declared the Warp their flagship module, and for good reason: it is astonishingly deep and incredibly powerful. Based around a clever hybrid engine combining additive and wavetable synthesis, it can generate a potentially infinite range of sounds. Its design encourages impulsive changes with macro controls as much as it does the tweaking of minutiae, all the way down to the last harmonic. We only have a certain amount of column space in this here section, so where to begin?

In the case of the Warp, that would be with the main screen menu. Although the menu system can verge on the laborious, it rarely feels convoluted. In terms of its signal path, that would be with the aforementioned ‘GalaXY’ of 512 harmonic spectra, arranged in a 32 x 16 grid. Like a conventional wavetable synthesizer, it can move and modulate through complex source waveforms, but it works across two dimensions, with both an X and Y axis (geddit? GalaXY!). As well as sourcing overtones from conventional wavetables, custom harmonic spectra can be generated additively by layering sine waves from scratch. These are then spread across the GalaXY and, crucially, interpolated for smooth transitions between them. Once the GalaXY is populated, PosX and PosY knobs can be used to explore it, with the pickup point represented by a rather lovely floating light — or lights, in polyphonic mode. TL;DR: design waves, drop them on the Warp’s GalaXY and then move around it as if doodling with an incredibly pretty Etch‑A‑Sketch.

Its four voices can be sent to different areas of the GalaXY, meaning that in mono mode it’s essentially multitimbral. With the addition of some modulation from the Warp’s very deep modulation matrix, it’s possible to achieve phenomenal movement and texture. Even deploying the simplest asynchronous LFOs across the X and Y dimensions makes for excellent results.

With the addition of some modulation from the Warp’s very deep modulation matrix, it’s possible to achieve phenomenal movement and texture.

With the GalaXY charted, it’s then a case of using the Warp’s Spec, Warp and Detune sections to map performance functions across its parameters — often several at once. Think of these knobs as being designed to counterbalance its incredibly deep and very‑nearly‑but‑not‑quite‑too‑fiddly aspects with broad, performative gestures. And I must say that in this department the Warp’s layout is pretty impeccable. I for one very much like the prospect of spending as long as I need in the studio fine‑tuning a preset, but also being able to save it with some wild variation potential nestled behind a manageable handful of controls. I was able to flick through distortion, filtering, bit‑crushing and more, quickly applying one or all of them to the Warp knob, with a response of my choosing for each. Twist that knob (or apply CV to its input) and hear the entire sound of the module shift — or disintegrate completely. The Spec knob is likewise loaded with potential, controlling a state‑variable spectral filter for intense one‑knob tonal sculpting. It can introduce make‑up gain to compensate for filtering, and can even add additional overtones to give the source audio a harmonic helping hand if desired.

Whew. I told you the Warp is deep. But it’s accessible, too. Keep Calm And Use Presets, joke Neuzeit in the manual. Indeed, if you don’t fancy the deep‑diving part, its extensive library of fully programmed presets remain ready and waiting for gleeful sonic performance. Original but usable, detailed but performative, I’d call the Warp a category leader — if only there was anything else in its category.