Review: Zebra Minima Dark Edition (Deluxe) by The Unfinished

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The Unfinished is on top form again with a focussed and superb sounding set of pulses for the ever popular Zebra 2 synth.

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Review: Zebra Minima Dark Edition (Deluxe) by The Unfinished

Matt Bowdler is the programming wizard behind The Unfinished and he is rapidly gaining a fan club from a number of us here at Sample Library Review. His personal aesthetic leans more towards film score rather than EDM and he creates wonderful patches for a range of synths that work extremely well for hybrid compositions. For his latest Zebra soundset the emphasis is on movement, but not your more complex dotted 8ths or triplets in 11/8 time signatures. No, as the title might suggest Minima is all about going back to basics with all the numerous presets locked to quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes.

It is worth noting this pack comes in 4 versions, which is slightly confusing at first. There is the basic Minima with 180 patches, but you can add a further 180 patches with Dark Minima which consists of the all the original sounds made a bit darker and dirtier in the more aggressive Dark Zebra/ZebraHZ synth. A third alternative is Minima Deluxe which adds a further 50 ethnic patches and finally you can also get the Dark version of that too, which would give you a total of 460 patches. Got it?! For the purpose of this review I am using the full monty Zebra Minima Dark Edition Deluxe.

Zebra Minima: Dark Edition (Deluxe) sells for £39.99 from The Unfinished

Thoughts

Whichever version you opt for, the presets are divided into a range of types – arps, basses, basslines, drums, keys, leads, loops, pads, sequences and soundscapes. The Deluxe version adds mallets to this list. The majority of these are tempo synced pulses, but there are a few patches that are not sequenced, which gives the set more flexibility.

Zebra is a hugely complicated synth capable of some extremely odd sounds, but in this collection the focus is dialled back to be far more about supportive musical elements. In modern scoring of all types the steady pulse is a key component to create a sense of tension and it often works best when it forms the basis upon which you layer other sounds. Minima is all about the steady rhythm that you only notice is missing when you mute it (and then realise just how much it really is adding to your piece!). Matt totally understands this and all the patches here are interesting and engaging without sticking out in an obtrusive way. Some of them such as Escape Routes can get quite big and bold, but they never overpower. My favourites though are the gritty percussive presets, of which there are many.

One patch that combines a bassline and a percussive texture to great effect is BL Trademark. It employs some custom designed waveforms across three lanes which feed into one another via vintage and formant filters. Lane one gives a dirty and short pulse. Lane two utilises a distortion module for a percussive crunch. Lane three adds extra oscillators and a more extreme low pass to give a subby throb. All of this goes into a 16th note arpeggiator, which adds filter modulation on certain beats for accents and then some rather drastic EQ, reverb, delay and compression finishes the sound off and makes it really punch. A ride of the modwheel opens up the filter nicely and adds more ambience. The composite effect is a rich and interesting bassy, clicky pulse that can provide an excellent foundation for a tense and brooding cue. The Dark Zebra version of BL Trademark keeps the same basic idea, but really dials in the distortion and is far more resonant.

Trademark Preset

As in all the patches this preset is set up with 4 XY pads. Exactly what they modulate differs from patch to patch, but it is always a very instinctive way of enabling the user to morph the sounds over time, adding a huge amount of interest to the pulsing sounds in particular.

XY-Pads

Comparing like for like with the Dark Zebra versions these reimagined sounds are pleasingly more mysterious. Darker filters and more distortion lends them an edge that will be useful in more aggressive composition styles, such as trailer music. For my own tastes I would probably instinctively migrate to these versions, the only thing putting me off is that the Dark Zebra interface is yet to have the nice makeover that the main Zebra2 recently had! The additional ethnic patches are quite distinct from the feel of everything else here and provide natural sounding loops of woody percussion, hang drum mallets and small hand drums. If your style is strictly electronic you could arguably live without these, but for the extra small cost I would say it is worth picking them up.

 

Dark Zebra

In a world of crazy loops, modulation madness and glitch fever many times what you actually need in a rhythmic part is something quite simple. However, simple is often not easy to do without it just becoming mundane. Therein lies the real triumph of this excellent sound set which truly achieves minimal yet with plenty of character. All of these patches are effortlessly useful and created with a real talent for embracing subtle nuances and intriguing timbres. Minima is brooding, moody and very very cool.

Facts

Minima comes with a varying number of presets depending on the version you buy. Zebra Minima has 180, Zebra Minima Dark has 360, Zebra Minima Deluxe has 230 and Zebra Minima Dark Deluxe has 460. Note that this is a preset pack and requires the Zebra 2 synth to work. Also, unless you also have Dark Zebra the Dark versions will not work, so purchase wisely (or just buy Dark Zebra too cos it is awesome!). The Unfinished does very detailed walkthroughs playing nearly every preset in each product, so I strongly recommend you check out the Minima video to get a deeper understanding of the nature of these presets.

Zebra Minima: Dark Edition (Deluxe) sells for £39.99 from The Unfinished

 

Demos of Zebra Minima: Dark Edition (Deluxe) by The Unfinished

Videos of Zebra Minima: Dark Edition (Deluxe) by The Unfinished