RE­VIEW: Wal­dorf Quan­tum

Wal­dorf’s in­trigu­ing Quan­tum pairs a fu­tur­is­tic in­ter­face with bound­ary-bend­ing synth tech­nol­ogy! Dan ‘JD73’ Gold­man trav­els into the fu­ture!

Future Music - - CONTENTS -

Is this the fu­ture of synth tech­nol­ogy? We take a quan­tum leap to find out

From the beastly Wave, through to their Nave and Largo soft­ware in­stru­ments, to the Stu­di­o­logic Sledge, Blofeld and Pulse se­ries, Waldorf never do the norm when it comes to synths! How­ever, they haven’t had a wow­fac­tor flag­ship for a while and al­though they teased the Stromberg a few years back, it never came to fruition. Fast-for­ward to 2018 and Waldorf have their flag­ship Quan­tum and it looks and feels stun­ning.

De­signed by the in­dus­trial de­sign gu­rus at De­sign Box (led by Axel Hart­mann), what­ever an­gle you view the Quan­tum from it impresses, whether that be the moody char­coal grey metal case, the beau­ti­ful sil­ver alu­minium fram­ing/trim which runs along the sides and back or the lovely flush/aged wood in­serts on each side. Then you have the black/sil­ver alu­minium di­als with colour-coded mul­ti­colour LEDs to link sec­tions and keep things clear on the front panel. Ev­ery­thing is laid out very cleanly and log­i­cally with the LFOs to­gether, then the three os­cil­la­tors, main con­trol and per­for­mance sec­tion with cen­tral touch­screen, sound shap­ing ar­eas (Dual Ana­logue Fil­ter, Dig­i­tal For­mer, Kom­plex Mod­u­la­tor) then en­velopes and ef­fects.

It all flows very smoothly and it’s sur­pris­ingly log­i­cal to work with – you re­ally get drawn into mak­ing sounds as the work­flow is very en­gag­ing and im­por­tantly, very tac­tile. You can ex­clu­sively use the front panel con­trols when sound de­sign­ing and not even in­volve the screen but if you re­ally want to get deeper you can use the screen and its cor­re­spond­ing sur­round­ing sil­ver knobs to in­stantly tweak deeper pa­ram­e­ters. There’s clearly been a lot of think­ing about how to make such a com­plex ma­chine in­tu­itive and that has re­ally paid off here (es­pe­cially help­ful are the main mode but­tons above the screen which take you to the main edit­ing sec­tions). Con­se­quently, any­one can power up Quan­tum and be mak­ing and tweak­ing sounds in­stantly (in many ways, the Quan­tum re­minds me of the Ale­sis An­dromeda A6, in as much as it feels like a

There’s a dizzy­ing amount of con­trol and deep par­ti­clelevel gran­u­lar tweak­a­bil­ity!

mod­u­lar synth in a box, al­though this is a hy­brid ma­chine vs the VCO-driven A6). Whilst on the in­ter­face tip, I must men­tion that the touch­screen is mag­nif­i­cent – it’s snappy in use, very clear and the colours and dis­plays are beau­ti­ful. My only crit­i­cism is that some pa­ram­e­ter boxes are a lit­tle nar­row and can be­come ob­scured by your fin­ger – per­haps an ‘in­stant zoom’ could be added in an up­date.

Let’s now take a quick look at the more straight­for­ward stuff. To the left of the key­board you have stan­dard per­for­mance con­trols in­clud­ing beau­ti­fully weighted metal pitch and mod wheels, along with con­trols for the nicely spec’d ar­peg­gia­tor and a Chord but­ton which is ba­si­cally a hold but­ton – play a chord, hit Chord and the chord will hold un­til you play an­other chord or note. This al­lows you to tweak the nu­mer­ous pa­ram­e­ter di­als with both hands, which for a tac­tile synth like this is very welcome! The key­board utilises a high-qual­ity Fatar TP8S keybed and it feels great – per­fectly weighted for fast/more de­tailed play­ing with pre­dictable re­sponse in all sit­u­a­tions and for all styles of play­ing, plus the af­ter­touch im­ple­men­ta­tion is spot on – not too hard or easy to trig­ger. Alas, there’s no poly-af­ter­touch avail­able na­tively but the Quan­tum will at least re­ceive poly AT mes­sages and it also re­ceives/ trans­mits MIDI mes­sages via its front panel con­trols (most pa­ram­e­ters can be con­trolled over MIDI).

At its heart, the Quan­tum is an 8-voice, bi-tim­bral (2-part) synth, us­ing very high-res­o­lu­tion stereo os­cil­la­tors routed through dual res­o­nant ana­logue (or dig­i­tal) fil­ters. Sounds can be split and lay­ered and voices can be al­lo­cated flex­i­bly be­tween lay­ers; each layer can also have its own out­put for in­de­pen­dent pro­cess­ing. Im­por­tantly, there are four in­de­pen­dent syn­the­sis en­gines (across the three os­cil­la­tors) which I’ll now ex­plain as sim­ply as I can…

First off, there’s Wavetable mode which al­lows you to work with the pre­set/user waveta­bles (waveta­bles are ba­si­cally sin­gle waves made up of sev­eral pieces of au­dio, which can then be mod­u­lated). The Quan­tum al­lows very com­plex wavetable mod­u­la­tion for seem­ingly con­stantly evolv­ing sounds, plus you can im­port

your own via SD card. You can cy­cle through the waveta­bles in many rad­i­cal ways us­ing the Travel pa­ram­e­ter or set the po­si­tion the wavetable starts at when you press a key, change the har­monic spec­trum, get the Quan­tum to speak typed words and much more be­sides. With just one wavetable os­cil­la­tor (and us­ing the many on­board pa­ram­e­ters plus mod­u­la­tion), Wavetable mode is ca­pa­ble of vastly com­plex shift­ing and evolv­ing sounds.

Next you have Wave­form mode which utilises fa­mil­iar, clas­sic waves (stereo/dig­i­tal) but, with this be­ing the Quan­tum, there’s more to it! The waves sound su­per-pre­cise yet warm and present and in ad­di­tion to the stan­dard os­cil­la­tor waves (saw, sine tri­an­gle, noise etc) you have fur­ther ‘ker­nels’ (up to eight ad­di­tional os­cil­la­tors stacked against the main os­cil­la­tor wave) which form su­per­waves. These ker­nel os­cil­la­tors can then be de­tuned to form mas­sive ‘su­per-osc’ sounds, with pan­ning of the os­cil­la­tors avail­able across the stereo-spec­trum too. This is in ad­di­tion to the Unisono mode (uni­son de­tune). You’ll also find com­mon per­for­mance pa­ram­e­ters such as glide, legato, multi-trig­ger, PWM, sync and more.

The next mode is Par­ti­cle mode, which uses sam­ples for its core sounds. Sam­ples can be recorded via the rear in­puts, im­ported via SD card or you can start with the ex­cel­lent on­board sam­ples in­stead. Sam­ples can be eas­ily auto-mapped and very deep ‘gran­u­lar’ edit­ing of sam­ples is avail­able too; you can get some awesome grainy sounds hap­pen­ing from just one note of a piano sam­ple (for ex­am­ple), es­pe­cially when mod­u­lat­ing one or more of the many avail­able sound-shap­ing pa­ram­e­ters. You can tweak the length of the grains within any sam­ple along with pitch, spread, po­si­tion jit­ter (ran­domi­sa­tion), grain polyphony, at­tack, decay, ping-pong be­hav­iour (you get the idea)… There’s a dizzy­ing amount of con­trol and deep par­ti­clelevel gran­u­lar tweak­a­bil­ity! With this mode, Quan­tum can be­come as big as your imag­i­na­tion and it’s worth im­port­ing var­i­ous types of au­dio and/ or re­sam­pling the Quan­tum it­self and see­ing what re­sults you get. To get fully ac­quainted, start with the in­cluded sam­ples as it does take time to learn the work­flow but the re­sults are well worth the ef­fort.

The fi­nal mode is Res­onator. Like Par­ti­cle mode, you can use sam­ples as your ini­tial sound source (called an Ex­citer) but this time, a noise im­pulse is fed through a band-pass-res­o­nant­fil­ter bank. This noise im­pulse can be re­sized and split into par­tials to achieve dif­fer­ent evolv­ing/mod­u­lated/ mu­tat­ing tim­bral variations. Par­tials can be re­peated (up to 16 times) and spread, stretched and stiff­ened, whilst there are also five ‘tim­bre’ modes in­clud­ing sin-saw and saw-square (to give you an idea of the tonal­ity). Alone, this Res­onator en­gine is ca­pa­ble of clas­sic dig­i­tal sounds (and it also does mean lin­ear FM­sound­ing and ana­logue im­pres­sions) along with more twisted stuff. Cou­ple this with the Quan­tum’s ex­ten­sive mod routes/fa­cil­i­ties, dual-ana­logue fil­ters, six LFOs, six loopable en­velopes, plus the Dig­i­tal For­mer and the pos­si­bil­i­ties feel end­less.

Fil­ter-wise, Quan­tum fea­tures a dual-ana­logue self-os­cil­lat­ing low- pass fil­ter (with 12/24dB slopes) and it sounds great – warm and lush yet pre­cise with a liq­uidy res­o­nance/ sheen. There are four types of low-pass fil­ter (in­clud­ing sat­u­rated/ driven ver­sions) and eight con­fig­u­ra­tions which link the fil­ters dif­fer­ently for dif­fer­ent son­ics. There are in­de­pen­dent cut­off and res­o­nance con­trols for each fil­ter and, in ad­di­tion, the Dig­i­tal For­mer in­cludes dig­i­tal fil­ter modes such as comb, HP, BP, Notch, bitcrusher and drive, plus fil­ters from Waldorf’s own Nave/Largo soft­ware plug­ins and PPG hard­ware (the rout­ing be­tween the ana­logue fil­ters and Dig­i­tal For­mer can be tweaked for fur­ther sonic ex­plo­ration).

I’ve only touched upon what this mega-synth is ca­pa­ble of. It is truly unique and ca­pa­ble of stun­ning, oth­er­worldly, or fa­mil­iar sonic re­sults. It can sound huge, small, thin, fat, warm, epic, bro­ken or cold and you can im­print your per­son­al­ity onto the sound us­ing the avail­able pa­ram­e­ters, or your own sam­ples. For ground-up, ma­jes­tic sound de­sign, SFX for film/ TV, weird evolv­ing sound­scapes, straight-up ana­logue synth em­u­la­tion, FM-type sounds, and eery FX/atmos sounds, the Quan­tum is un­beat­able. Yes, it’s pricey but it’s worth the in­vest­ment – you’ll never get bored with this amount of depth and su­perb sonic re­sults. Best get sav­ing!

CON­TACTWHO: Waldorf / Hand-in-Hand Distri­bu­tion WEB: www.wal­dorf­mu­sic.com KEY FEA­TURES 61-note ve­loc­ity/af­ter­touch keybed. 8 voices. 4 en­gines. 3 dig­i­tal oscs per-voice. Sam­pling/im­port. Dual ana­logue 24/12dB LPFs. Dig­i­tal For­mer with comb, high-pass, band-pass and notch fil­ters, bitcrusher. 40 slot mod-ma­trix/6 en­velopes/6 LFOs. Se­quencer/Ar­peg­gia­tor. 5 ef­fect blocks per-layer. 8 ef­fects types. Di­men­sions: 1006 x 401 x 131mm Weight: 17.9kg

In­ter­face : As well as the plethora of real-time con­trollers, the touch­screen can also act as an X/Y mod­u­la­tion pad di­rected to mod des­ti­na­tions. There’s also a handy per­for­mance modeMo­du­lat ion: As­sign­ing mod­u­la­tion sources/tar­gets is done via the Mod but­ton un­der the dis­play – sim­ply turn sources and des­ti­na­tion di­als to as­sign them, or use the Mod but­ton above the dis­play to en­ter the ma­trix!Conec­tiv­ity: Round the back is a head­phone out­put, stereo main out­put, stereo aux out­put, stereo au­dio in­put, USB for MIDI, MIDI In/ Out/Thru, SD slot and sus­tain/con­trol pedal in­putsEf­fects: On the front panel are con­trols for three of the five mas­ter ef­fect blocks. There are five blocks avail­able per-layer (the eight ef­fect types are re­verb, flanger, cho­rus, EQ, com­pres­sor, de­lay, phaser and drive)

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