Hans Zimmer reveals his favourite soft synth plugin and explains why MIDI “saved his life”

Hans Zimmer
(Image credit: Lee Kirby)

He’s known for his big orchestral scores and lavish studios, but composer Hans Zimmer has confirmed that he’s also a fan of a rather long-in-the-tooth soft synth.

“So, my favourite soft synth is Zebra, and I'll tell you why,” Zimmer revealed to KVR. “The underlying quality of the sound is not going to let me down. The code in each module is really well written. The oscillators are great, and the circuits are great, and there's one module that's a bit dodgy, but they're all of an equal quality.

“And I like a GUI that is intended for a soft synth as opposed to an emulation.”

Zimmer’s love of Zebra should actually come as no surprise, as he worked with the synth’s creator, Urs Heckmann, on a Batman-themed ‘Dark Knight’ version of the synth - ZebraHZ - back in 2012. 


(Image credit: u-he)

Another more bizarre revelation to come out of the KVR interview is that, at one point - a long time ago, we assume - Zimmer believes that he and fellow composers Harold Faltermeyer and Giorgio Moroder were all living in the same house, though at the time, he didn’t know them.

“Harold Faltermeyer and I are both from the same neighbourhood, literally,” Zimmer explains. “I think there was a time where [movie producer] Jerry Bruckheimer only hired composers out of that house, which I think was a complete coincidence, but there you go.”

As he looked back on his career, Zimmer also took time to praise MIDI, calling it “one of the most stable computer protocols ever written”.

“MIDI saved my life,” he confirms. “I come from the days of the Roland MicroComposer, typing numbers, and dealing with Control Voltages. I was really happy when I managed to have eight tracks of sequencer going. From the word go, I thought MIDI was fabulous.”

Zimmer went on to recall how he had an early encounter with Propellerhead Software (now Reason Studios) when it was developing its now legendary ReBirth software.


(Image credit: Propellerhead Software)

“I remember the Propellerhead guys coming by my studio one day and they had this little bit of software which was two modelled Roland 808s and a 303, and leaving that with me and saying, ‘Hey, this is something we just cooked up. What do you think of this virtual instrument?’ And of course, I thought all of that stuff was fabulous.”

As did we, but there’s one final payoff from Zimmer as he adds: “of course, I still have the hardware.”

A 60-minute documentary celebrating the life and work of Hans Zimmer is available now on BBC player (UK only). Speaking about the film, Zimmer said: “I’m honoured to be sharing this insight into my career and life with the BBC audience. My hope is that this documentary inspires and emboldens you to unapologetically pursue your passions and find a deeper understanding for my scores and above all, music.”

A new double album - Hans Zimmer Live - that reimagines some of his classic scores will be released on 3 March 2023.

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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