Category Archives: Comparisons

Sequential Prophet X or Waldorf Quantum?

Which high-end polyphonic synth would you choose?

Often I have heard users in the Sequential Prophet X/XL or the Waldorf Quantum Synthesizer Facebook groups ask the question “Which is better, the Sequential Prophet X/XL or the Waldorf Quantum?”

FYI throughout this document most references to the 61 key Prophet X model or PX also apply to the 76 key Prophet XL model, with the exceptions of dimensions, weight and number of keys.

That question is one I seriously asked myself at the very end of 2018, intending to buy only one of them. Within a few months, I came to the conclusion I had to have both of them, which financially was impossible for me to do in 2019, so I bought one in 2019 and the other in 2020. Deciding which one to buy first was rough. In the end I decided to get the Quantum 1st and the Prophet X 2nd. With hindsight I can say they are equally desirable synths.

It is interesting that for this caliber of synthesizer, even in the less biased general synthesizer groups, these two synths are by far the two most commonly compared high-end hybrid polyphonic synthesizers. You also will very frequently see people that own both and with good reasons. Though equally desirable, they are vastly unique and different machines.

The question “Which is better?” is impossible to answer, both synths are a sound designers dream. Your needs may dictate one or the other or both though.

Do you need a synthesizer for studio or live performances?

From a physical perspective, the Quantum is big and heavy, the Prophet X a little smaller and lighter, however still substantial. Though not exactly to scale, the header image of the two synths above, is a very good guide of the sizes of each synth. The Quantum is 39.2 pounds and the Prophet X is 24 pounds (Prophet XL is 33.2 pounds).

In my opinion, the Quantum is more of a studio synth than a gigging or performance synth. Most of all, even OS 2.0 isn’t fully at performance stability yet. OS 2.0 is a huge improvement, wonderful, a joy, rather amazing, but it is still capable of an occasional loud digital pop/bang. A very minor nuisance in a studio synth but unacceptable for a gigging or performance synth. I’m not a live performance musician, so I’m happy and satisfied with the Quantum as a studio synth. If you are a live performance musician, you might find this colors your view.

The Prophet X is studio and stage ready in my opinion. I admit great bias towards DSI/Sequential products and I think most will agree Dave Smith puts out reasonably polished product on day one. The PX is already on firmware v2.2.0. You will also see the Prophet X to be a popular choice for performing bands. I’ve never had a loud digital pop/bang or a system crash while playing the PX, this is important for live performance in my estimation.

The interfaces and workflows

The interfaces and workflows are the most obvious differences between these two synths.

The Prophet X has knobs/buttons for nearly everything, supplemented by Sequential’s time tested 4 knob, 4 button main screen with 2 more screens for samples and effects. For a musician with other Sequential gear, the similarity of operation is a real bonus. If you have a Pro 2, Pro 3, P12, or Rev2, you’re going to feel at home right away.

The Quantum also has knobs/buttons for nearly everything, supplemented by a much larger color touch screen with 7 knobs and 12 buttons, further extended by onscreen controls. There is little doubt as well, that full visuals on some waveforms, LFOs, filter frequencies, and envelopes, etc. is a serious upgrade. Being able to use your finger to alter waveforms, LFOs, filter frequencies, and envelopes, etc. as well as draw notes in the sequencer is way cool. All these functions and the other extensive complexities, of course comes at a financial cost as well as a firmware maturity time cost.

Polyphony

Both synths market themselves as 8 voice polyphonic bi-timbral stereo synthesizers. You can have 2 layers or split the keyboard in 2. These layers or splits also cut the voices in half.

The Prophet X also has a 16 voice monophonic and a 32 voice paraphonic mode, which makes it exceptionally well suited for acoustic instruments like pianos that benefit greatly from a lot of voices. The beautiful analog filter can be bypassed for already well filtered sample instruments for 16 voice stereo, which really makes the PX pianos etc. shine like no other. In the other direction, there are also unison modes to thicken/detune monosynth sounds or produce one key chords.

The Quantum is 8 voices tops and also has unison modes for thick monosynths, but it also can use 8 ‘kernels’ per polyphonic voice for each of the 3 ‘real’ oscillators or a mixture with wavetables and samples etc., it can get crazy – believe me.

Analog vs. digital sound

Though true, it would be an oversimplification to say that if you lean towards warm analog sound, get the Prophet X, and if you lean towards cool digital sound get the Quantum. Both machines can go deeply into each others territory, but still they each have their own dominant character, stick with the oversimplification is my advice.

The Prophet X’s lead in analog-type sounds is going to be especially true when outfitted with the proper add-on sample sets. You might think this is an odd statement considering the PX oscillators are digital, but the PX sound when outfitted with the proper add-on sample sets is as analog as analog gets.

There are going to be a number of times when the Prophet X’s sound is going to override the Quantum’s feature set and visa versa. Ultimately however, the unique flavor of each synthesizer beckons you to have both of them.

Filters

The analog Prophet X stereo low pass filters are a new design based on the Prophet 5 filters. There is little doubt that Sequential analog filters are impressive. There are also digital stereo high pass filters in the effects section.

The Quantum filters are yet another area where you will see options, options and more options. It has 2 analog (mono with a stereo reconstruction mode) low pass filters with some unique settings, links and controls between them. The digital stereo filters are to die for in my opinion. All of these are visually represented as well.

Oscillators

The Prophet X has 4 dedicated oscillators: 2 traditional oscillators for standard Waveforms and 2 instrument oscillators for Samples.

  1. Traditional oscillator
  2. Traditional oscillator
  3. Instrument oscillator
  4. Instrument oscillator

The Quantum has 3 multipurpose oscillators that can run 1 of the 5 oscillator types: Wavetable, traditional Waveform, Particle Generator, Resonator and Kernel.

  1. Multipurpose oscillator
  2. Multipurpose oscillator
  3. Multipurpose oscillator

Wavetables

The Prophet X does not have wavetables except in a roundabout way with wavetable Samples.

Wavetables are the 2nd type of Quantum oscillator detailed here and the most dominant one. Like the other types, there can be up to 3 wavetable oscillators on the Quantum.

The Quantum has the most extensive wavetable capabilities available in the market and wavetables are an important part of its design. FYI this site has a growing wavetable section, accessible from the main menu bar. The Quantum’s wavetable import functions are a bit cumbersome and less than streamlined in my opinion.

The traditional oscillators

In most cases the Quantum is going to out feature the Prophet X. To me this is really an expression of its more digital nature. The traditional oscillators are no exception. However, you hear synthesis with ears, not math. You play a synth with hands not code. Decide on the whole experience is my advice.

The Prophet X has up to 2 dedicated traditional oscillators, the Quantum has up to 3 traditional oscillators. Each traditional oscillator on the Quantum can be composed of up to 8 kernels for a total of 24 kernels that can be tuned, detuned, or panned for example. Are you going to go all the way with that? I hope not, but it is an example of the extent of digital programming on the Quantum.

The Prophet X oscillators are much like the Prophet 12 or Pro 2, and have sine, sawtooth, pulse, and super sawtooth waveforms (it should be noted there is a quite a selection of noise as well as extensive sampled traditional oscillator possibilities in the samples section). The Quantum has sawtooth, sine, triangle, square, pink noise, and white noise.

Both synths can tune, fine tune, detune, morph, and sync. It all works out very similarly except of course, for the characteristic sound of each.

Samples and other oscillators

As a general rule, Sequential is a bit more selective of the functionality they put in their synths and for Waldorf the sky is the limit. I think the more you enjoy tinkering with technology, the more you’ll enjoy the Quantum.

Both synths come with samples, and the ability to import, map one or many to the keyboard, edit to some degree and play. Beyond that statement there is little similarity.

As mentioned before, the Prophet X has 2 traditional oscillators and 2 dedicated instrument samples oscillators for a total of 4, and the Quantum has up to 3 multi-purpose oscillators that can use samples as well as the rest of the types.

The Prophet X comes with a higher quality, more extensive and easier to access sample library than the Quantum. Yes, there is some fluff and redundancy, but also some amazing deep samples, especially the acoustic instruments. Paid and open source add on sample packs and external programs for deeper level editing, preparing and importing the samples are also available. Total on-synth file storage is 200GB. The PX wins hands down on storage and in the end, with a properly curated collection of 200GB of samples, the PX has the edge on samples.

To exploit all the Quantum’s complex sample capabilities, you will need to invest a great deal of time and likely money to surpass the PX sample library. The file system and sample import functions are a bit cumbersome and less than streamlined in my opinion. On-synth file storage is very limited at 4GB, but you can ease that pain somewhat with a large SD card and in OS 2.0 there are also USB drive capabilities. In the OS 3.0 beta the merge of the flash memory and SD/USB is more extensive, but it is still nowhere near as instant, user friendly and seamless as the Prophet X.

The Quantum’s 3rd oscillator type, the particle generator is generally a sample manipulation machine on steroids. It has normal and granular sample playback.

The Quantum’s 4th oscillator type, the resonator oscillator uses an exciter signal, like a sine wave to produce ringing type sounds as well as samples.

The Quantum’s 5th oscillator type, the kernel oscillator was introduced in OS 2.0, and in its most basic implementation is FM-like, but goes far beyond FM, an oscillator construction kit of sorts which uses 6 operators or kernels, each of which can be sines, other waveforms, or factory wavetables.

Hold vs. Chord and Latch Buttons

Ha! OK, this is my personal pet peeve. The Prophet X has a hold button that does mostly what you might expect. The arpeggiator has a relatch function which lets go of the voice to start anew with new keys, but the hold button alone does not let go of voices until it runs out of voices and they drop. I really dislike this and really hope Sequential changes this in a future firmware update.

The Quantum has a latch button which essentially operates the same as the PX hold button. It also has a chord button which does let go of the voices with new keys. Much better, much more useful. Sequential take note.

Sequencers and CV in/outs

Once you’ve seen Sequential Pro 2 or Sequential Pro 3 sequencers, all other sequencers are meh… Perhaps there is some financial or marketing thing I just don’t get, but why polys don’t get better sequencers is beyond me. Still, the Prophet X and Quantum sequencers do have some charms. Both arpeggiators are the usual stuff.

The Prophet X sequencer is a pretty simple affair but it does have 64 steps and 6 note polyphony. I often use the Prophet X to sequence the Quantum polyphonically.

The Quantum sequencer is 32 steps and monophonic. The touch screen and full visual nature do add some real usefulness though. Being able to see the whole sequence and adjust notes with a knob or your finger, even draw sequences with your finger is amazing.

For CV in/outs, neither synth has any. Sorry.

Every synth collection needs a Sequential Pro 2 or Sequential Pro 3 in my opinion. Then you’ll have the control center functionality, great sequencer, and CV in/outs.

LFOs, envelopes, and mod matrix

Prophet X – 4 LFOs, 4 envelopes, 16 slot mod matrix with 28 sources and 88 destinations.

Quantum – 6 LFOs, 6 envelopes, komplex modulator, 40 slot mod matrix with 43 sources and 158 destinations.

Effects

The Prophet X can use 2 effects per layer/stack at a time.

  • Stereo Delay
  • BBD Delay
  • Chorus
  • Flanger
  • Phaser
  • HP Filter
  • Distortion
  • Rotating Speaker
  • Spring Reverb
  • Room Reverb
  • Hall Reverb
  • Super Plate Reverb

The Quantum can use 5 effects per layer/stack at a time.

  • Delay
  • Chorus
  • Flanger
  • Phaser
  • EQ
  • Drive
  • Compressor
  • Reverb

Summary

If the sheer number of features, options and configurations is the sole determinant, Quantum wins. You have to decide if you will actually use these features, options and configurations. What is your preference, a digital sound environment or the more analog-like and acoustic sound environment of the Prophet X? You have to decide if you’ll be the one hunting down or buying wavetables and samples, and installing them on the Quantum or if the package and more selective nature of the PX is better for you.

I will say a few things about the Prophet X. There is something about it I cannot even quantify over features and specifications. It makes me a better keyboard player. It is the synth I practice on and rough out ideas on as well as most often, part of the final production. I am wild crazy about my other synths, but the Prophet X is the synth that is in the most accessible position on purpose and next to my computer that I tinker with the most. The Prophet X just warms my heart.

I think it’s safe to say Prophet Xs are more popular with touring musicians and Quantums are more popular with studio and hobbyist musicians. This is a generalization of course. Both synths are popular with all types of producers.

For me, having both really fills out my synthesizer polyphonic palette, especially with a Pro 3 in the mix. Others may lean so heavily analog that having a Moog One would be an even better choice for them. Good Luck.

Thanks!
-Yehuda

Useful Links

My Gear related pages
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M1 Max & M1 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M2 Pro & M2 Max
Updated periodically – Apple Studio Display
Updated periodically – Sequential Pro 3
Updated periodically – Sequential Prophet X & XL
Updated periodically – Waldorf Quantum Keyboard
Updated periodically – Gibson SG Standard Electric Guitar
Updated periodically – Martin HD28E Acoustic Electric Guitar

Follow on Mastodon – @Yehuda@Mvskoke.social

This page is subject to content updates/additions. If you think any content should be updated or added, please leave a private comment on Mastodon – @Yehuda@Mvskoke.social.

Sequential Pro 3 or Pro 2?

Two of the best mono/paraphonic synths made

When Sequential released the Pro 3, I had to reexamine the Pro 2, a synthesizer that caused me to reexamine what I looked for in all other synths. Ultimately, I decided the Pro 3 and Pro 2 stand tall together. The Pro 3 does not make the Pro 2 obsolete. The Pro 3 and Pro 2 do share many common design characteristics, but overall they are unique synthesizers.

The Pro 3 is not a bigger and better souped up Pro 2. They both have elements that are improvements over the other. This comparison looks at some of the differences. Be sure to look at the individual Pro 3 and Pro 2 pages for more details about each synth.

Form factor

The Pro 3 comes in 2 form factors, the Pro 3 SE with its ala Moog hinge, traditional woods and printed panel design that matches the Sequential Prophet X, and the Pro 3 STD with no hinge, no wood and a film panel design. Other than these differences, both Pro 3 models are exactly the same. Both Pro 3s have 37 keys and 1 latchable position-sensitive touch slider.

The Pro 2 has no hinge, but does have traditional woods and printed panel design. The Pro 2 has 44 keys and 2 latchable position-sensitive and pressure-sensitive touch sliders.

Oscillators

The oscillators are the biggest difference between the Pro 3 and Pro 2. Both synths are mono/paraphonic.

The Pro 3 has 3 oscillators, 2 analog and one digital wavetable. 3 voices max.

The Pro 2 has 4 digital oscillators and a sub oscillator. 4 voices max.

Filters

The Pro 3 has 3 filters that you can operate in solo fashion (1: Based on Prophet-6, 2: Classic Ladder, 3: Based on OB-6).

The Pro 2 has 2 filters that can operate solo or both in serial, parallel or split oscillators mode (1: Based on Prophet-5, 2: State variable based on Oberheim SEM).

Sequencer

One of the things that make the Pro 3 or Pro 2 synthesizers shine is the sequencer. Bluntly, both sequencers are killer. The Pro 3 sequencer does have more functionality though.

The Pro 3 has 16 tracks x 16 steps x 4 phrases (or linked for 16 tracks x 64 steps). In paraphonic mode 3 voices.

The Pro 2 has 16 tracks x 16 steps or 8 tracks x 32 steps. In paraphonic mode 4 voices.

Envelopes

The Pro 3 has 4 envelopes.

The Pro 2 has 5 envelopes.

LFOs

The Pro 3 has 4 LFOs.

The Pro 3 has 3 LFOs, however its wavetable oscillator can be the 4th LFO.

Modulation

The Pro 3 has a 32 slot modulation matrix with over 46 mod sources and over 171 mod destinations.

The Pro 2 has a 16 slot modulation matrix with over 50 mod sources and over 140 mod destinations.

Effects

The Pro 3 has 2 digital effects from a selection of: Stereo delay, BBD delay, chorus, flanger, phaser, ring mod, vintage rotating speaker, distortion, high-pass filter, super plate reverb.
The Pro 3 also has tuned feedback with grunge and programmable analog distortion.

The Pro 2 has: 4 delays, tuned feedback and programmable analog distortion.

Memory

The Pro 3 has 512 user and 512 factory preset slots.

The Pro 2 has 396 user and 396 factory preset slots.

Summary

The above are the basic differences. Again, I urge you to be sure to look at the individual Pro 3 and Pro 2 pages for more details about each synth.

Features and technical abilities are nice and important to know about to be an informed consumer. The workflow on both these synths is similar and you are likely to have common operational experiences with either the Pro 3 or the Pro 2. Ultimately the sound is the most important thing and that cannot be conveyed in specifications.

The Pro 3 and Pro 2 each have their own characteristic and unique sound. Both are capable of complex sounds from very clean to very dirty, I would say the Pro 3 is grittier and more raw than the Pro 2, especially when you factor in the wavetable possibilities.

If you’re fortunate enough to have the space and resources to choose both, together the Pro 3 and Pro 2 release their greatest potential.

“Combining a Sequential Pro 2 and Pro 3 creates a monster synth system… 7 oscillators, 5 filters, 7 envelopes, 32 lanes of note, parameter and CV sequencing, 8 assignable CV Ins, 8 assignable CV Outs, and I’m not even going to try to count the modulation possibilities.”
-Chris Stack

Thanks!
-Yehuda

Useful Links

My Gear related pages
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M1 Max & M1 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M2 Pro & M2 Max
Updated periodically – Apple Studio Display
Updated periodically – Sequential Pro 3
Updated periodically – Sequential Prophet X & XL
Updated periodically – Waldorf Quantum Keyboard
Updated periodically – Gibson SG Standard Electric Guitar
Updated periodically – Martin HD28E Acoustic Electric Guitar

Follow on Mastodon – @Yehuda@Mvskoke.social

This page is subject to content updates/additions. If you think any content should be updated or added, please leave a private comment on Mastodon – @Yehuda@Mvskoke.social.

Wavetable Synth Comparisons

Trying to make sense out of all the wave* variant synthesizers out there today in 2023

Ever since the introduction of the Waldorf Quantum, wavetable synthesizers have been all the rage. And why not, wavetables are ultra-cool ways to significantly expand your sound palette. In addition to the Quantum and its siblings the Iridium Desktop & Iridium Keyboard in this wavetable synth comparison, there are the Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave, Waldorf M Desktop, Sequential Pro 3, Access Virus TI2, ASM Hydrasynth, Korg Modwave, [Korg Wavestate is not a wavetable synth], Modal Argon8, Nord Wave 2, Novation Peak, Novation Summit, and [UDO Super 6 is not a wavetable synth] synthesizers. Who knows, 2023 may yield even more wave* variant synthesizer announcements before it is done.

With prices over a wide range from $599.00 to $4799.99, what gives? Are these synths roughly similar? In a nutshell, no. By far, the Quantum/Iridiums are kings of the wavetable hill. Clearly there are other factors which determine value or desirability, such as build quality, keyboard size, other types of synthesis, sampling, touch screens or other interfaces, and so on. This post is only about the wavetable or wavetable-like synthesis in these synthesizers.

These are all great synths. Many of us would love to have all of them. There are differences and reasons why you might want to spend $599.99 or $4799.99.

Waldorf Quantum Keyboard

$4799.99 note: MK2 version just released
8 stereo voices. Hybrid digital/analog, true wavetable synth.
Pretty much the original wavetable synthesis, evolved from earlier PPG and Waldorf hardware and software synths. The Quantum comes with 68 wavetables of 64 waveforms each, and 16 wavetables of 14-377 waveforms for a total of 6013 individual waveforms. Plus, with user supplied wavetables, the sky is the limit. Not only are there many pre-made wavetables available, but you can also make your own custom wavetables in the Quantum from samples or in the voice synthesis function, and in 3rd party wavetable building utilities. Depending on the number of samples per waveform, wavetables with as many as 2,000 waveforms will work on the Quantum. There are also interpolation functions like smoothing or stepping.

Waldorf Iridium Keyboard

$3799.99
16 stereo voices. All digital, true wavetable synth.
This is a sibling of the Quantum. Same OS, same sound engine. The differences are really outside of the wavetable functions, which are the same as the Quantum. Notable differences aside from the obvious form factor differences, are there is no analog, no auxiliary outs, there is CV, and a 49 key Fatar semi-weighted polyphonic aftertouch keyboard.

Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave

$3795.00
24 stereo voices, Hybrid digital/analog, true wavetable synth.
The factory wavetables are 32 classic PPG-lineage waves plus 48 high-resolution custom waves. It also has a built-in sample-to-wavetable tool that create a 64 wave wavetable or user can import wav files with USB. The 3rd Wave doesn’t have the non-wavetable sound engines that the Quantum/Iridium have, or the kernel oscillators which can incorporate wavetables in amazing ways, but the 24 voices, sequencer and multi-timbral features are very impressive.

Waldorf Iridium Desktop

$2699.99
16 stereo voices. All digital, true wavetable synth.
This is a sibling of the Quantum. Same OS, same sound engine. The differences are really outside of the wavetable functions, which are the same as the Quantum. Notable differences aside from the obvious form factor differences, are there is no analog, no auxiliary outs, and there is CV and a 2nd type of sequencer with the pads (on/off, not for drumming).

Waldorf M Desktop

$2099.99
8 stereo voices (16 voices w/expansion avail 2022?). Hybrid digital/analog, true wavetable synth.
There are 96 factory wavetables and 32 user wavetables. The M has 2 wavetable oscillators, and both use a common wavetable. However, each oscillator can play a different waveform or set of waveforms within the common wavetable. The M uses wavetables with up to 64 waveforms per wavetable and 256 samples per waveform at 8-bit. There is no interpolating between waveforms in a wavetable. The upper three entries in the factory wavetables (positions 61, 62 and 63) consist of the classic analog type waveforms triangle, pulse and sawtooth. Until I know differently, I’m going to assume user wavetables are converted into this format as well.

Sequential Pro 3

$1999.00 Std – $2199.00 SE
2 stereo analog and 1 stereo digital, 3 paraphonic voices total
The 3rd oscillator is a digital oscillator that in addition to the classic waveforms saw, super saw, pulse, triangle and sine, has 64 digital wavetable slots with 16 waves in each slot with wave morphing; can function as an LFO for complex wavetable-based modulation. Wavetable slots 1-32 are factory supplied wavetables. Wavetable slots 33-64 are for user supplied wavetables as of the 1.1 firmware update. There is also a Sequential wavetable generator site to make an unlimited selection of wavetables for those user supplied slots.

Access Virus TI2

$1999.00-$2915.00
20+ stereo voices. Digital, true wavetable synth.
This is the only other wavetable synth available today that even starts on the path to approaching the Quantum/Iridium wavetable capabilities. It has 100 wavetables with 100 waveforms each.

ASM Hydrasynth

$599.00-1799.00
8 Stereo voices. Digital, true wavetable synth.
From a selection of 219 single waveforms, the Hydrasynth builds an 8 waveform wavetable, with up to 10 points of interpolation between them, for a total of 78 waveforms per wavetable. There are also 7 types of mutator waveshapers that you can use 4 of at a time. Does not load user supplied wavetables.

Korg Modwave

$799.99
32 stereo voices. Digital, true wavetable synth.
Newly announced, no availability date. This could very well be the best low-cost wavetable synth when it becomes available. Over 200 wavetables each containing up to 64 waveforms and loads user-supplied wavetables. Layer samples over wavetables from the included multi-gigabyte PCM library.

Korg Wavestate

$649.99
64 stereo voices. Digital, wave sequencing 2.0 synth.
This is not a wavetable synth. The Wavestate is an improved reiteration of the Korg Wavestation, a 1990’s wave sequencing synthesizer, which was derived from Sequential Circuits Vector Synthesis. Essentially, the Wavestate uses samples which can be longer than single cycle, and Pulse-code modulation (PCM), a method used to digitally represent the sampled analog signals. There are 6GB of PCM sounds, which I’m sure is a lot but not directly comparable to wavetable numbers. I don’t believe you can load user supplied PCM sounds.

$769.00-$969.00
8 Stereo voices. Digital, true wavetable synth.
There are 120 wavetables, split into 24 banks of 5 morphable wavetables. The wavetables are comprised of 5 single waveforms with 32 steps for each waveform for a total of 128 steps. The pure original waveforms that make up each wavetable can be found at 0, 31, 63, 95, and 127. Additionally, there are 32 static wavetable processors that can be applied to the 120 wavetables to give an array of permutations and new waveshapes. Does not load user supplied wavetables.

Nord Wave 2

$2899.00
48 voices, stereo or mono I am not sure yet. I think it is full digital.
There is no specific information at this time on the wavetable configurations that I know of. Nord so far has made the meaningless statement “A large number of advanced wavetables covering a wide range of tonal characteristics”. The ambiguity makes it sound like it would be the worst wavetable oscillator on the market, though I am sure it is a very nice synth, the wavetables are just a tiny bit of the flavor, not a core function. If I find more details, I’ll update this post.

Novation Peak

$1399.99
8 Stereo voices. Hybrid digital/analog synth, true wavetable synth.
There are 60 factory wavetables composed of 5 waveforms each. There are also 10 user wavetable slots composed of 5 waveforms each as well as an external application to import or create wavetables for these slots.

Novation Summit

$2299.99
16 Stereo voices. Hybrid digital/analog synth, true wavetable synth.
There are 60 factory wavetables composed of 5 waveforms each. There are also 10 user wavetable slots composed of 5 waveforms each as well as an external application to import or create wavetables for these slots.

UDO Super 6

$2999.00
6 stereo voices. Hybrid digital/analog synth, wavetables possible in future firmware, but not today.
I’m not sure why UDO calls oscillator 1 a ‘7-core super-wavetable main oscillator with waveform download’. At this point in time, the UDO Super 6 is NOT a wavetable synth. Osc 1 has 4 standard waveform slots (sine, sawtooth, square and triangle) that can load individual alternative waveforms. Additionally, Osc 1 allows you to load 16 individual waveforms into the alternative waveform slots. UDO will make a collection of waveforms available for download and regularly add to it. A future firmware upgrade might have a system in place for users to load their own waveforms, and wavetables may be implemented as well.

Summary

In online forums, every time another synthesizer gets announced with the word wavetable in its specifications somewhere, inevitably someone asks if it could be a Quantum/Iridium for less than $2k or even less than $1k. This of course is silly. The reason Quantum/Iridiums cost what they do, is not only because the development and production costs are that high, but the synth itself has no rival. Nothing comes close to it. As a Quantum owner, I can tell you the Quantum/Iridiums are a sound design dream, the interface is unmatched in the industry and it is worth every penny. If you want the best wavetable synth money can buy, with more functions and capabilities than any other, buy a Quantum or Iridium.

The Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave is also a really strong wavetable synth. In some ways it surpasses the Waldorf Quantum/Iridium and in other ways Waldorf surpasses it. They really have different strengths but both are clearly the major contenders of the wavetable hill.

Otherwise, the Hydrasynth and Argon8 would be today’s most affordable alternatives to experience basic wavetable oscillator capabilities. Soon, all the synths above will be available and you will have a number of options to get the flavor of wavetable synthesis that you need into your music.

Thanks!
-Yehuda

Useful Links

My Gear related pages
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M1 Max & M1 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M2 Pro & M2 Max
Updated periodically – Apple Studio Display
Updated periodically – Sequential Pro 3
Updated periodically – Sequential Prophet X & XL
Updated periodically – Waldorf Quantum Keyboard
Updated periodically – Gibson SG Standard Electric Guitar
Updated periodically – Martin HD28E Acoustic Electric Guitar

Follow on Mastodon – @Yehuda@Mvskoke.social

This page is subject to content updates/additions. If you think any content should be updated or added, please leave a private comment on Mastodon – @Yehuda@Mvskoke.social.

Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave or Waldorf Quantum/Iridium?

Which high-end polyphonic synth would you choose?

Keep in mind though I own a Quantum and have great familiarity with the Waldorf wavetable synths features, capabilities, workflows etc., I have not touched a Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave yet. Pre-release public information is a little thin as well currently. There are some conclusions I can reach though, based on what appears to be a strong relationship to existing Sequential synthesizers. I currently own 2 Sequential synths and am very familiar with their features, capabilities, workflows etc. that I believe are applicable to the 3rd Wave. On the whole I am very pleased with Waldorf and Sequential products. The 3rd Wave’s Sequential pedigree means a lot to me and my expectations for it are high.

Form factors

The Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave and the Waldorf Quantum have similar form factors. Both are full sized flagship synthesizers with 61 key Fatar keybeds. The Waldorf Iridium Keyboard has a 49 key Fatar keybed, and the Waldorf Iridium Desktop has no keybed of course, but it does have a 4×4 silicon pad matrix that can play notes etc. Quantum/Iridium synths are capable of polyphonic aftertouch via external MIDI inputs. [note: Quantum MK2 and the Iridium Keyboard have polyphonic aftertouch keybeds]

Displays

The Quantum/Iridium has a large color touch-sensitive display with more graphic display of various things like wavetables, waveforms, filters, envelopes, LFOs, etc. The 3rd Wave appears to have a Sequential influenced display system which works pretty well. Most Sequential users will be immediately comforted by the familiar 4 knobs across the top and 4 buttons below the display to navigate the very accessible menu structure. The majority of display commands on the Quantum/Iridium are also accessible by knobs and buttons on the panel. The Iridium keyboard a little less so. The Iridium desktop even less so. The 3rd Wave I would expect to equal the Quantum for real time access via knobs/buttons on the panel.

Polyphony

The Quantum has 16 voices (OS 3.0 Beta 14+) . The Iridium has 16 voices. The 3rd Wave has 24 voices.

The number of voices is an important decision factor. I tend to record layer/split type candidate sounds separately so even8 voices are good for me, but I can see 24 voices being a big pull for multi-timbral live performance or jamming… Aside from system performance or expense, there is no downside to have more voices.

Multi-timbral

The 3rd Wave is quad-timbral: split and/or layered mode.

The Quantum/Iridium is dual-timbral: split or layered mode.

Analog or digital?

All these synths are digital, however the Quantum and the 3rd Wave have analog filters.

Filters

The 3rd Wave has the Prophet 5 Dave Rossum-designed 2140 analog low-pass filter (24db) and SEM-style state-variable filters (low-pass, high-pass, notch, and band-pass)(12db) per voice.

The Quantum has two analog low-pass filters per voice (24db or 12db) with innovative link modes. The Iridium has a digital approximation of these filters (as the Quantum does also). Plus the Quantum/Iridium has a digital former with additional digital algorithms per voice like comb filter, high-pass, band-pass & notch filters (Nave, Largo or PPG models), bit-crusher, drive and more which are to die for honestly.

Oscillators

All these synths have 3 multipurpose oscillators. However, the Quantum/Iridium can run as many as 6 or 8 oscillators/kernels within some of the oscillator types.

The 3rd Wave has 3 multipurpose oscillators that each can run 1 of the 2 oscillator types: wavetable or traditional waveform.

The Quantum/Iridium has 3 multipurpose oscillators that each can run 1 of the 5 oscillator types: wavetable, traditional waveform, particle generator, resonator, and kernel.

Wavetable oscillators

The 3rd Wave has 48 wavetables of 64 waveforms each (32 legacy PPG wavetables with room for another 16 of this type). Additionally there are 32 factory high resolution wavetables, and 32 high resolution user wavetables. My guess based on the Sequential Pro 3 wavetables that I believe one of the Groove Synthesis founders was involved with, is that the user added wavetables will have very specific parameters required.

The Quantum/Iridium has pretty much the original wavetable synthesis, evolved from earlier PPG and Waldorf hardware and software synths. There are 68 wavetables of 64 waveforms each, and 16 wavetables of 14-377 waveforms for a total of 6013 individual waveforms. Plus, with user supplied wavetables, the sky is the limit. Not only are there many pre-made wavetables available, but you can also make your own custom wavetables from samples, in the voice synthesis function, and in 3rd party wavetable building utilities. Depending on the number of samples per waveform, wavetables with as many as 2,000 waveforms will work on the Quantum. There are also interpolation functions like smoothing or stepping.

Traditional oscillators

The 3rd Wave can have up to 3 traditional oscillators. There are 7 waveforms (sine, saw, triangle, supersaw, pulse, white noise, pink noise) to choose from.

The Quantum/Iridium can have up to 3 traditional oscillators. There are 6 waveforms (saw, sine, triangle, square, pink noise, white noise) to choose from. Each traditional oscillator can be composed of up to 8 kernels for a total of 24 kernels that can be tuned, detuned, or panned.

Samples and other oscillators

The 3rd Wave can only import a sample to convert it to a wavetable.

The Quantum/Iridium can also import a sample and convert it to a wavetable.

The Quantum/Iridium’s 3rd oscillator type, the particle generator is generally a sample manipulation machine on steroids. It has normal and granular sample playback.

The Quantum/Iridium’s 4th oscillator type, the resonator oscillator uses an exciter signal, like a sine wave to produce ringing type sounds as well as samples.

The Quantum/Iridium’s 5th oscillator type, the kernel oscillator was introduced in OS 2.0, and in its most basic implementation is FM-like, but goes far beyond FM, an oscillator construction kit of sorts which uses 6 operators or kernels, each of which can be sines, other waveforms, or factory wavetables.

Hold vs. Chord and Latch Buttons

This is my personal pet peeve. I expect the 3rd Wave hold button to work exactly like a Sequential hold button. The arpeggiator has a relatch function which lets go of the voice to start anew with new keys, but the hold button alone does not let go of voices until it runs out of voices and they drop. I really dislike this and really hope Groove Synthesis changes this in a future firmware update if it hasn’t already.

The Quantum has a latch button which essentially operates the same as the 3rd Wave hold button. It also has a chord button which does let go of the voices with new keys. Much better, much more useful. Groove Synthesis take note.

Sequencers and CV in/outs

The 3rd Wave sequencer is insane with each (of 4) multi-timbral parts getting its own sequencer track with 24 sequences of up to 32 measures in length with note and parameter sequencing, and variable quantization resolution per sequence (32nd, 16th, 8th, quarter, half, whole note, or quantization off).

The Quantum/Iridium each (of 2) multi-timbral parts gets its own 32 step sequencer with note and parameter sequencing, and scale-based pitch quantization.

The 3rd Wave and Quantum do not have CV in/outs, but the Iridiums do.

LFOs, envelopes, and mod matrix

The 3rd Wave has 4 LFOs, 4 envelopes, and a 28 slot modulation matrix (16 freely assignable slots, 12 additional fixed-source slots) with 27 sources and 114 destinations.

The Quantum/Iridium has 6 LFOs, 6 envelopes, and a 40 slot modulation matrix with 48 sources and 185 destinations. There is also the Komplex multistage LFO/envelope modulator with blend, speed, warp, amount, envelop, entropy, sync, mode, slew, phase, delay and more too extensive to detail here.

Effects

The 3rd Wave has 2 digital effects: BBD, stereo delay, tape delay, chorus, phaser, flanger, distortion pedal, rotating speaker, ring mod, room reverb, hall reverb, super plate reverb.

The Quantum/Iridium has 5 digital effects: phaser, chorus, flanger, delay, reverb, eq, drive, and compressor. The Quantum compressor also has its own knob on the main output.

Summary

Both the 3rd Wave and Quantum/Iridium are amazing synths in a class all to themselves apart from other wavetable synths. They each have their strengths over the other.

I have a Quantum and I would buy the 3rd Wave enthusiastically. If I could only own one, it would still be the Quantum, which yields a lot more function for $1000.00 more.

Between the Iridium keyboard/desktop and the 3rd Wave, I would still recommend both. Winner takes all, it gets a bit tougher to decide between them. I still lean to Waldorf, there is just a whole lot more there than wavetables and modeled analog waveforms.

First and foremost I consider myself a Sequential person. I can totally see the 3rd Wave as a very attractive entry into a full blown wavetable polyphonic for a Sequential owner however. The 3rd Wave is an amazing synth, if it was my only synth, I would still be blessed.

I’m always looking for more information and more accurate information. If you see anything in this post that is inaccurate or you have more detail to share, holler at me.

Thanks!
-Yehuda

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