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Manatee is the most advanced multitimbral synthesizer from Fred's Lab.

This project has been a labor of love, with 3 years of meticulous engineering work put into every aspect of its creation.

Powered by 2x dual-core DSPs and high-fidelity DACs, Manatee offers a minimum of 16 voices of pure digital sound shared between 4 parts. Coupled with a hands-on user interface putting all important synthesis parameters at fingertips reach, Manatee is a joy to explore and play with.

Fred's Lab new Spectral Engine, bolstered by a selection of modern VA Algorithms, delivers a beautifully unpolished raw sound, calling to be refined with the smooth multimode filter.

Manatee offers numerous per-voice and per-part complex modulation sources and wiring, including 'Meta Envelopes' and 'Custom LFOs'. MIDI expression controllers, such as polyphonic aftertouch, can shape modulation amounts at will. The additional 3-slot modulation matrix offers extra flexibility to the default routing options.

The multi-part architecture includes a dedicated stereo delay module and 2x equalizer sections for each part, providing up to 8 seconds of delay and various equalizer shapes like low cut, low shelf, high cut ... Additionally, a global insert reverb with various algorithms is there to add spaciousness to the entire mix.

Finally, the sturdy, powder-coated steel chassis of Manatee is full of robust parts, including metal potentiometers screwed to the panel, high-endurance switches, and high-reliability audio connectors. Built to withstand the rigors of touring and endless hours of use, Manatee is a durable choice for musicians and sound designers.

Feature List


Per Voice

Per Part



Project Timeline

November 2020 - Initial Concept
Development began on the Manatee synthesizer, a one-unit, 19-inch rack Virtual Analog ARM-based synthesizer meant as a worthy succesor to 90's digital synthesizer flagships.
February 2021 - Working Prototype
A functional prototype of the Manatee "rack version" was assembled, including all the electronics and the mechanics, as well as a basic sound engine to experience its capabilities.
April 2021 - Project Cancellation
The project is cancelled due to various factors, including the shortage of the main electronic components used in the design, lack of inspiration in the current concept, and the architecture offering not enough power to run advanced synthesis algorithms.
September 2021 - Project reboot
Work resumed on the Manatee by evaluating a 16-bit fixed-point DSP, normally intended for power regulation and motor control. While experiencing some challenges, it was intellectualy enjoyable and both performance and flexibility were there to support innovative audio algorithms.
October 2021 - Components sourcing
Identifying the key components including the DSP, DACs, memory chips, and display. To secure the production of a first series, a significant batch of these components was ordered.
January 2022 - Second Prototype
A second hardware prototype was constructed, with a new user interface paradigm and spectral synthesis as the core of sound generation. This milestone represents a significant advancement in the project development.
January / May 2022 - Software
Extensive research and development was conducted on the DSP architecture, including the writing of a preliminary operating system and the allocation of tasks between cores and required communication protocols. A significant amount of time was spent reading academic papers, exploring algorithm concepts, simulating them, checking out implementations, and optimizing them to make use of the DSP resources.
May 2022 - Superbooth 2022
Manatee was publicly showcased for the first time at the Berlin music show. The instrument received positive feedback, with many praising its sound and features. However, visitors, press, and distributors also noted that the user interface concept was not that user-friendly and that the overall design did not align with the instrument's potential. As a result, a decision was made to begin an entirely new development cycle for Manatee.
November 2022 - Third Prototype
A third hardware prototype was assembled, with a drastically different UI concept and significant changes to the electronics, including the addition of an headphone amplifier, improved line out drivers, faster SRAM bus and a cleaner power supply. This hardware also offered the possibility of adding a DSP extension board for doubling the processing power and the polyphony.
January 2023 - EMC Compliance Testing
The latest prototype underwent Electromagnetic Compliance Testing to ensure compliance with CE and FCC requirements for HF emission and susceptibility. Additionally, the instrument was tested for electrostatic discharges and potential voltage surges from the power supply. The design successfully passed all tests. Manatee's software is still being developed in parallel.
From March 2023 - Communication
Fred's Lab is now focused on preparing the Kickstarter campaign, which includes creating media content, reaching out to potential backers, and exploring its marketing options. The front panel has been redesigned arboring the deep blue color scheme and a new charismatic logo, created by the belgium artist Erewhon. Software development is still ongoing.

Modules included

The Spectrum Generator

The Spectrum Generator uses pre-defined reference spectra and various harmonic manipulation tools to provide precise control and alteration of the timbre. Adjust formant, rotation of bins, the waveform used for signal reconstruction and more to craft the raw character. These parameters can be modulated for some complex soundscape creation.

The Sub-Oscillator

The Sub-Oscillator is designed to complement the Spectrum Generator, providing a wide range of sonic material to choose from. It features modern Virtual Analog Algorithms for classic waveform generation and super-saw and super-square waveforms. Additionally, it can play user-imported short waveforms for even greater versatility in sound creation.

The Noise Module

The Noise Module is an advanced source including a built-in continuous low-pass to high-pass filter for precise control over the noise spectral content. The noise sample rate can be programmed to generate crackles, glitches, or pure white noise, depending on the needs.

The Ring Modulator

The Ring Modulator is an iconic tool that multiplies the outputs of the two oscillators, making it perfect for generating inharmonic tones, special effects, and percussive sounds.

The Multimode Filter

The Multimode Filter uses hand-written assembly algorithms based on latest research on analog modeling technology. It offers classic shapes in 12 and 24dB/octave, with filter tracking and self-resonance capabilities. The built-in saturations add subtle warmth and color to the sound. The filter has a very smooth & natural ground character and react very fast to cutoff changes handling filter FM and fast envelopes with style.

The Overdrive

The Overdrive is a post-filter effect with a range of models, from gentle saturation and tube overdrive to more aggressive signal destruction through bitcrushing and clipping. It adds grit, warmth, and distortion to the sound for a dynamic and expressive performance. Algorithms are very natural sounding, analog-like.


The Meta-Envelopes share their Attack, Sustain, and Release parameters, while each Decay stage is independent. Envelope stages can be switched on or off, allowing for a variety of shapes from a full ADSR to a simple gate. MIDI Velocity can be set to influence the Attack and Decay times, and envelope amplitude can be scaled with aftertouch. Envelopes can be looped and reset on triggering or set to keep its previous value.


The Custom-LFOs provide an eclectic set of more than 16 waveforms, including noises and other algorithms, waveforms which can be chained together to create complex modulation sequences. Each LFO has its own AR envelope with Rise and Fall controls, and can be MIDI clocked and restarted for precise synchronization. Additionally, some MIDI parameters can influence the LFO amplitude.

The Modulation Matrix

The Modulation Matrix consists of 3x slots for each voice, providing extensive routing options to enhance the hardwired connections. The matrix offers a large selection of sources and destinations that cover almost all sound parameters. The modulation amount can be scaled by common MIDI parameters such as Aftertouch, Velocity, and more, allowing for expressive playing styles.

The Delay Module

The Delay Module offers Mono, Stereo, and Ping-Pong modes, with MIDI clock synchronization and adjustable feedback, mix, and color controls. It supports a range of delay lengths, from very short - resonator-like - to free delay length up to 8 seconds. Each part has its own independent delay module.

The Equalizer Section

The Equalizer Section features two independent equalizers for each part, offering cut, boost, or shelf modes and adjustable corner frequencies. This is a powerful tool for blending the sounds of the different parts.

The Part Mixer

The Part Mixer provides flexible routing (audio buses), volume and panning controls for each part. It also defines the amount of signal sent to the master Reverb.

The Master Reverb

The Master Reverb is a high-quality algorithmic reverberation unit with a pleasant not bright but clean sound. It offers multiple programs with rooms and halls. This reverb is a handy mixing tool, making the overall sound more cohesive and polished.


Manatee is powered by 2x 200MHz dual-core DSPs, offering advanced audio synthesis capabilities and an impressive dynamic range. Included too are 128 MBit of SRAM, 512 kBit of EEPROM, 4x 24-bit Burr Brown DACs, and transparent line and headphone drivers.

User Interface

The interface offers hands-on controls over all major synthesis parameters for all sound modules. The strong torque potentiometers feature Nylon knobs that provide a satisfying haptic feel. The high contrast 16x2 LCD screen clearly displays feedback through both text and small graphics.

The Company

Fred's Lab was founded in 2016 by Frédéric Meslin, a skilled embedded systems engineer with a background in the demoscene, indy games development and digital art creation.

The company mission is to provide artists with the best possible tools for self-expression, with a focus on sound quality, design originality and great value for money.

Our designs are created to be durable and repairable, using high-reliability components whenever possible and whenever it makes sense.

With over a decade of experience in the field of electronic music instruments, Frédéric has been involved in the development of more than 30 commercial products under major brand names such as Arturia, Waldorf Music, Mutable Instruments, and Kiviak Technologies.

At Fred's Lab, we are committed to providing long-term support to our customers. Additionally, we prioritize local production in Germany.

What's Next?

Thank you very much for your interest in Manatee and taking the time to read up to this point.

As of today, this project is self-financed and we have already purchased a large amount of the design key parts. However, as a one person company, we still need your help to afford going in mass production.

To justify the Manatee industrialization and reduce the per unit cost, we need to gather enough public traction to secure a reasonably large production batch. Therefore, we believe that crowdfunding is the way to go.

We have already run 3x successful Kickstarter campaigns in the past - OP-A Shield, Buzzzy! & Töörö - all of which were delivered on time.

To reduce the inherent production risks, we are now manufacturing a pre-series of 10x units to check our suppliers and the manufacturing process. These units will soon be dispatched to the quality team and sound designers.

To stay up-to-date with the latest news about the Manatee synthesizer, including being reminded of the launch of our Kickstarter campaign and access to exclusive early bird offers, be sure to join our mailing list.

Please also consider following us on social media :-)

Once again, thank you!

Frédéric - Fred's Lab