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Winter Plankton ZAPS

Eurorack Module By Robin Vincent
Published August 2023

Winter Plankton ZAPS

ZAPS has a sweet spot that sails like no other percussion module I’ve come across. Once you pass that threshold, you are off, and you’ll have to be physically dragged away from the effortless pulsating slaps and giggles of this percussive funhouse. It’s brilliant before you have any idea what you’re doing or why it does what it does. In some ways, the depth and complexity that rides beneath the surface can detract from the enjoyment of playing with the thing, but after wallowing in the digital menus, you can always resurface and have a party on the front panel.

At the heart of ZAPS is a digitally controlled analogue synthesizer. It’s designed for fast, percussive sounds that spit, splat, zip and zap, although it won’t shy away from the odd melody. It has two analogue oscillators that push into each other, bringing out FM clangs and AM harmonics. All the usual waveforms are available for both VCOs. VCO 2, which takes the roles of modulator and noise generator, can have a second waveform for AM while the primary waveform is directed to FM. You have two simple Attack/Release envelopes with Hold, one routed to the modulation amount and the other to the VCA. Both envelopes can be roped into laser‑zapping pitch‑bending duties, from where our module probably gets its name.

ZAPS is all about percussion, so the focus is on triggering and changing the sound. It’s linear and monophonic, so we’ve not got multiple channels of drums; instead, we have a stream of single events that can be worked into ever‑changing patterns of sound. Some of this can be done through manual manipulation, but it really takes off when you swap in different presets for each trigger; that’s where things get funky.

Preset sounds are held in banks of 12 slots. Each slot can contain a sound, so you load a bank and choose which sound you want triggered via the 12 buttons on the front panel. It’s like having a monophonic drum kit at your disposal. The front panel then controls the selected sound. As with most digital front ends, the sliders don’t necessarily represent the patch, but Winter Plankton can help with this: the sliders dim when they’re not in the right position, so you can easily recreate the patch by moving them until they fully light up. That’s quite neat; however, there are two pages of parameters, so nothing stays neat for long. From there the sound‑design opportunities are deep and interesting, although I do wonder whether all the effort put into crafting the perfect zap is lost in the stream of triggers that inevitably gets pumped into it.

And pump in those triggers you will, because that’s undoubtedly where the fun resides. With a single sound the front panel becomes a playground for tweaking and exploring. You can plumb in some assignable CV to keep everything moving, or you can set levels of randomisation to every parameter and have it find its own vibe. The next option is to play with the Morph control that takes all the parameters through every step from one sound to another. The third and funnest option is to CV‑control the slots. Getting the right voltage to select the sounds can be a challenge, but I found a note sequencer works best for this as ZAPS can configure the slots to be selectable on each of the 12 notes of an octave. You can then program in a sequence of sound changes like a melody, giving you a perfect and very manipulable drum pattern. The front‑panel control can become rather useless as it’s constantly switching between sounds, but the chef’s kiss of a feature is the Edit Group mode. With this engaged, everything you do on the front panel affects all the sounds, so even though they are very different you can still change the release on everything, mix the oscillators and mess with the modulations.


ZAPS is tremendous fun to use and can make sounds far beyond its percussive remit. The interface is playful and performative, but you can sometimes get lost in digital layers and button combos.