Category Archives: Waldorf

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.

Waldorf Iridium Keyboard

Waldorf 16 voice all-digital Iridium Keyboard

$3799.99

In a nutshell the Waldorf Iridium Keyboard Synthesizer is everything a Waldorf Iridium Desktop is, with a 49 key Fatar semi-weighted polyphonic aftertouch keyboard instead of the pads (which can still be accessed digitally on the touch screen).

Good move Waldorf! With the Waldorf Quantum Keyboard cruising over $5k with tax, I am sure a lot of people will elect to save $1000 and grab the 49 keys digital Iridium instead of the 61 keys hybrid analog/digital Quantum.

Personally, I’m still seeing the extra value in the Quantum, but I am certain a lot of Quantum users are going to be hoping they can replace their monophonic aftertouch keyboard with a 61 key polyphonic aftertouch keyboard.

Notably the Iridium Keyboard, like the Iridium Desktop has CV, and a little more panel real estate, and the same touch screen as the Iridium Desktop. The side panels are also reminiscent of the Iridium Desktop.

Firmware progress

Currently the newest ‘official’ firmware release is v2.8.4 which is roughly equivalent to OS 3.0 Beta 12. I would still recommend joining the Beta program (free) and updating to newer Beta versions.

Currently I am running OS 3.0 Beta 15 (Quantum), which is publicly available for Iridium/Quantum by asking Waldorf to add you to the Beta. If you are waiting for the official release of OS 3.0, don’t. OS 3.0 Beta 15 is much more stable, bug free and feature rich. There are also many great patches that require OS 3.0. There is no downside to running the Beta, none. Running OS 2.x.x massively cheats you out of the very best Iridium has to offer. Have I said this clear enough? Ha!

Thanks!
-Yehuda

Manufacturer’s website
https://waldorfmusic.com/en/iridium-keyboard

Facebook user groups

Waldorf Quantum & Iridium Synthesizer Group
https://www.facebook.com/groups/184475775419027

Videos

Yehuda Rothschild Waldorf Iridium Keyboard YouTube Playlist

Useful Links

Apple related pages
Updated periodically – Apple Silicon is the DAW standard
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M1 Max & M1 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M2 Pro & M2 Max
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M2 & M2 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple M1 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M2 Processor Series

Waldorf related pages
Updated periodically – Waldorf Quantum Keyboard
Updated periodically – Waldorf Iridium Keyboard
Updated periodically – Quantum Iridium Patches
Updated periodically – Quantum Iridium Wavetables & Utilities
Updated periodically – Wavetable Editing Tools
Updated periodically – Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave or Waldorf Quantum/Iridium?
Updated periodically – Sequential Prophet X or Waldorf Quantum?

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.

Waldorf Iridium Desktop

Waldorf 16 voice all-digital Iridium desktop

$2699.99

The Waldorf Iridium was officially announced on Friday June 12, 2020. Coming up on 2 years later, this very popular synth is still selling faster than they can build them. Now there is also an Iridium Keyboard version for an $1100 uptick.

The Waldorf Quantum and the Sequential Prophet X are like the Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster of the synthesizer world. It’s a BIG deal for an all digital desktop version of the Quantum to be released.

The Iridium has the same OS and same sound engines as the Quantum. Patches are interchangeable. Notable differences aside from the obvious form factor differences, are there is no analog, no auxiliary outs, and there are CV connections and a 2nd type of sequencer with the pads (on/off, not for drumming).

Firmware progress

Currently the newest ‘official’ firmware release is v2.8.0 which is roughly equivalent to OS 3.0 Beta 12. I would still recommend joining the Beta program (free) and updating to newer Beta versions.

Currently I am running OS 3.0 Beta 15 (Quantum), which is publicly available for Iridium/Quantum by asking Waldorf to add you to the Beta. If you are waiting for the official release of OS 3.0, don’t. OS 3.0 Beta 15 is much more stable, bug free and feature rich. There are also many great patches that require OS 3.0. There is no downside to running the Beta, none. Running OS 2.x.x massively cheats you out of the very best Iridium has to offer. Have I said this clear enough? Ha!

Thanks!
-Yehuda

Manufacturer’s website
https://waldorfmusic.com/en/iridium

Product support, downloads
https://support.waldorfmusic.com/products/Iridium

I strongly recommended that you run OS 3.0 Beta 12 or newer, unless you hate bug fixes, stability and new features. It is an improvement in all ways over OS 2.x.

Facebook user groups

Waldorf Quantum & Iridium Synthesizer Group
https://www.facebook.com/groups/184475775419027

Videos

Yehuda Rothschild Waldorf Iridium Desktop YouTube Playlist

Apple related pages
Updated periodically – Apple Silicon is the DAW standard
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M1 Max & M1 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M2 Pro & M2 Max
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M2 & M2 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple M1 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M2 Processor Series

Waldorf related pages
Updated periodically – Waldorf Quantum Keyboard
Updated periodically – Waldorf Iridium Keyboard
Updated periodically – Quantum Iridium Patches
Updated periodically – Quantum Iridium Wavetables & Utilities
Updated periodically – Wavetable Editing Tools
Updated periodically – Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave or Waldorf Quantum/Iridium?
Updated periodically – Sequential Prophet X or Waldorf Quantum?

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.

Quantum Iridium Wavetables & Utilities

Waldorf Quantum & Iridium Wavetables

These wavetables work on the Waldorf Quantum Keyboard and Iridium Desktop / Iridium Keyboard, but could work on other hardware or software synths that use standard user supplied wavetables. Many synths have limitations such as a specific wave length, number of waveforms or encoded slot information. The Quantum and Iridium have more liberal limitations than any other hardware synth that I am aware of.

Current Quantum/Iridium firmware has a maximum of 2,000 waveforms per wavetable:

  • 4096 sample period x 217 waveforms
  • 2048 sample period x 430 waveforms
  • 1024 sample period x 846 waveforms
  • 512 sample period x 1,645 waveforms
  • 256 sample period x 2,000 waveforms
  • 128 sample period x 2,000 waveforms
  • 64 sample period x 2,000 waveforms

From Ocean Swift <– more at link and ‘Wavetable’ on the menu bar
1000 wavetables each zip – 100 waveforms each, 2048 sample period
Algorithmically generated, crushed, stitched & morphed
automaton_wt_1000_vol_1_-_four_core_2048w_100s.zip
automaton_wt_1000_vol_2_-_ten_morphs_2048w_100s.zip
automaton_wt_1000_vol_3_-_sign_sines_2048w_100s.zip
automaton_wt_1000_vol_4_-_twisted_flows_2048w_100s.zip
automaton_wt_1000_vol_5_-_pulse_flux_2048w_100s.zip
automaton_wt_1000_vol_6_-_tri_sin_2048w_100s.zip

More Ocean Swift
OSS Wavetable Synthesis Pack 1:
Morphing Wavetables and Single cycle Waveforms
ocean_swift_wavetable_synthesist_pack_1.zip
OSS Wavetable Synthesis Pack 2:
ocean_swift_wavetable_synthesist_pack_2.zip

99 wavetables – Roughly 100 waveforms each, 2048 sample period
Access Virus TI wavetables
From the wild (with permission to use non-commercially)
access_virus_ti_wavetables_2048.zip

50 wavetables, 50 multisamples and 50 single samples
Sequential OB-6
From Modulatable Synthesis
Email: modulatable.synthesis@gmail.com

683 wavetables – 64 waveforms each, 256 sample period
From WaveEditOnline.com
wav-files_256.zip

27 wavetables – Various number of waveforms each, 2048 sample period
JD-XA, Mother 32, Prophet 12, and Sub37 waveforms
Sampled and formatted by Paul Cotton
synth_wavetables_2048.zip

84 wavetables – 50 waveforms each, 1024 sample period
From adventurekid.se, formatted by Paul Cotton
akwf_1024_50_qtr.zip

5 wavetables – 800 waveforms each, 1024 sample period
From adventurekid.se, formatted by Paul Cotton
akwf_1024_800.zip

10 wavetables – Various number of waveforms each, 1024 sample period
Waveforms from the same category: blended, perfect, saw, saw bright, saw gap, saw rounded, sine, square, square rounded, triangle
From adventurekid.se, formatted by Paul Cotton
akwf_bytype.zip

520 wavetables – 8 random waveforms each, 1024 sample period
From adventurekid.se, formatted by Paul Cotton
akwf_1024_8.zip

21 wavetables – 200 random waveforms each, 1024 sample period
From adventurekid.se, formatted by Paul Cotton
akwf_1024_200.zip

Quantum instructions: Wavetable Oscillator > Timbre > Tools > Import from .wav > Set drive in upper left corner to Samples, USB Drive or SD Card > Select a file (eg the first one) > Set period to appropriate length 256, 1024 or 2048 etc. > Load. Then you can use the on-screen [prev] and [next] to move through the wavetable files.

Note: Firmware 2.0 works perfect, however on Firmware 1.3.0, your Import from .wav may not read the SD card, until you read it somewhere else. One solution is Wavetable Oscillator > Timbre > Presets > Export > Cancel > Close, and that will read the SD card so you can then follow the instructions above.

Waldorf Quantum & Iridium Utilities

SampleRobot 6.x Pro $271.00
While not wavetables software, this currently supports Quantum/Iridium and Sequential Prophet X sample exports among other synths. This is definitely the premium sample export software to have.

Thanks!
-Yehuda

Apple related pages
Updated periodically – Apple Silicon is the DAW standard
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M1 Max & M1 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M2 Pro & M2 Max
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M2 & M2 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple M1 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M2 Processor Series

Waldorf related pages
Updated periodically – Waldorf Quantum Keyboard
Updated periodically – Waldorf Iridium Keyboard
Updated periodically – Quantum Iridium Patches
Updated periodically – Quantum Iridium Wavetables & Utilities
Updated periodically – Wavetable Editing Tools
Updated periodically – Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave or Waldorf Quantum/Iridium?
Updated periodically – Sequential Prophet X or Waldorf Quantum?

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

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.

Waldorf Quantum Keyboard

Waldorf’s flagship polyphonic hybrid synthesizer

$4799.99 [note the MK2 version has now been released]

Lately, wavetable synths are all the rage. After Waldorf Music GmbH introduced the Waldorf Quantum synthesizer (and later its nearly equal digital siblings the Iridium Desktop and Iridium Keyboard), a number of synths that incorporate wavetables have been released or announced. These synths can be very nice and some cost significantly less.

From a wavetable perspective, none match the Quantum. Having wavetables does not make a Quantum.

There are no comparable alternatives to a Quantum. There is no room for interpretation of that statement. The Quantum is in a class by itself. Waldorf owns the wavetable hill, period.

In my opinion, the Quantum is as state of the art as it gets even today in 2023. The build quality is tops, and the technology and features are amazing. A new synthesist might want to cut their teeth on something other than a Quantum. It’s not difficult but it is feature rich. That said, the Quantum’s panel and screen together produce a very flat interface, with no menu diving to speak of.

Obviously, no one synth can be everything to everyone, but this comes close. Online video demos tend to over represent the Quantum’s digital side. Sound-wise, the Quantum can do everything from warm virtual analog to crisp digital.

The Quantum has analog filters as well as digital ones. However, if all you want is an analog synth, if you are not looking for the features of a digital synth, the Quantum is not for you.

Wavetables are but one of the five types of synthesis engines in the Quantum.

  • Wavetable oscillator
  • Waveform oscillator, a more traditional type
  • Particle sampler oscillator
  • Resonator sampler oscillator
  • Kernel oscillator, brand new since OS 2.0, an oscillator construction kit of sorts, way beyond an FM type engine

Your sound palette will be overflowing with options for real. I own a Quantum; if you want a sound universe, this is the one to have.

Yes, it is not inexpensive, but if you think something half its price is comparable, think again. If you are not feeling its value yet, you are not understanding the machine. It is worth the money, period. No snobbery intended. I get it; not everyone can fork out nearly $5k for a synth, but if you can do it without stealing or getting a divorce, consider it.

Rather than reinvent the wheel going into detail of every section, I’m going to point you at the Quantum Tutorials YouTube Playlist below.

Firmware progress

Currently the newest ‘official’ firmware release is v2.8.0 which is roughly equivalent to OS 3.0 Beta 12. There is no excuse for running an OS version less than v2.8.0. I would still recommend joining the Beta program (free) and updating to newer Beta versions.

Currently I am running OS 3.0 Beta 15 (Quantum), which is publicly available for Iridium/Quantum by asking Waldorf to add you to the Beta. If you are waiting for the official release of OS 3.0, don’t. OS 3.0 Beta 15 is much more stable, bug free and feature rich. There are also many great patches that require OS 3.0. There is no downside to running the Beta, none. Running OS 2.x.x massively cheats you out of the very best Iridium has to offer. Have I said this clear enough? Ha!

One important thing about Beta OS 15 for Quantum is that it includes the 16 voice digital filter only mode like the Iridium. There are also some mixed 8 analog/8 digital voice modes that are pretty cool.

Personally, I’m fine with 8 analog and/or digitally filtered voices. In actual use I think most people would prefer to have the Quantum’s current 8 analog and/or digitally filtered voices, than 16 digital only filtered voices like the Iridium, but I do think it will be a good to have both options.

The Quantum clearly has value over the Iridium, don’t doubt it for a second. Analog filters, 61 keys, bigger screen, more panel real estate, AUX outputs…

Either way though, get a Quantum or Iridium. Anyone that has or plans on having two or more synthesizers, should have one of these Waldorf synths, period.

Thanks!
-Yehuda

Waldorf Quantum Standard Edition

Waldorf Quantum Shadow Limited Edition

Manufacturer’s website
https://waldorfmusic.com/en/quantum

Product support, downloads
https://support.waldorfmusic.com/products/Quantum

I strongly recommended that you run OS 3.0 Beta 15 or newer, unless you hate bug fixes, stability and new features. It is an improvement in all ways over OS 1.x/2.x.

Facebook user groups

Waldorf Quantum & Iridium Synthesizer Group
https://www.facebook.com/groups/184475775419027

Videos

Yehuda Rothschild Waldorf Quantum Tutorials YouTube Playlist

Yehuda Rothschild Waldorf Quantum YouTube Playlist

Yehuda Rothschild Quantum Patches Music YouTube Playlist

Useful Links

Apple related pages
Updated periodically – Apple Silicon is the DAW standard
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M1 Max & M1 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M2 Pro & M2 Max
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M2 & M2 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple M1 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M2 Processor Series

Waldorf related pages
Updated periodically – Waldorf Quantum Keyboard
Updated periodically – Waldorf Iridium Keyboard
Updated periodically – Quantum Iridium Patches
Updated periodically – Quantum Iridium Wavetables & Utilities
Updated periodically – Wavetable Editing Tools
Updated periodically – Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave or Waldorf Quantum/Iridium?
Updated periodically – Sequential Prophet X or Waldorf Quantum?

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.

Specifications

(subject to change without notice)

  • Digital-Analog Polyphonic Synthesizer
  • 61 Keys high-quality Fatar TP/8SK keyboard, channel aftertouch
  • 8 voices (16 voices in OS Beta 14+)
  • Dual timbral: split or layered mode with separate stereo audio outputs
  • 3 stereo digital oscillators each capable of five synthesis algorithms
  • Wavetable: Waldorf style with latest additions from Nave including speech synthesis, wavetable generation from audio and new features
  • Waveform: Waveform with up to 8 simultaneous waves per Oscillator in detuned or chordal mode with hard-sync, warp & PWM as well as tunable noise
  • Particle: Sampler in traditional and granular mode using multi-samples or live input
  • Resonator: Exciter using multi-sampling plus filter bank sound model.
  • New Kernel synthesis with possibilities from classic 6 operator FM to innovative audio rate wavetable modulations
  • Two analogue lowpass filters per voice each in 24 or 12 dB configuration using innovative link modes
  • Digital former: Additional digital algorithms per voice like comb filter, high-pass, band-pass & notch filters (Nave, Largo or PPG models), bit-crusher, drive and more
  • Flexible routing system for order of analog filters & digital former and individual oscillator routings
  • 6 LFOs in poly and global mode with extensive parameter set
  • 6 loopable envelopes
  • Komplex: multistage LFO/envelope modulator
  • Extensive modulation matrix with 40 slots and easy via-controller assignments
  • Intuitive modulation assignment via panel elements and control LEDs
  • Master effect rack of 5 slots for each timbre choosing from FX like phaser, flanger, chorus, reverb, drive, eq and more.
  • Compressor for main output
  • Step sequencer with step recording, parameter automation and scale-based pitch quantization
  • Microtonal pitch configurations capable of importing Skala scl files
  • Capable of polyphonic aftertouch via external MIDI inputs
  • Chord and latch buttons
  • Unisono mode
  • Module-based preset system for effects, oscillators, step-sequenzer and Komplex modulator
  • Single-function potentiometer and encoder controls for intuitive editing
  • Visualisation and deeper sound editing via context-sensitive high-resolution capacitive multi-touch display
  • Spectrum Analyzer and Oscilloscope at various processing stages
  • Up to 10,000 sound patch capacity organized by banks, attributes, author and patch number.
  • Favourites lists for quick recall of sound patches like for set-lists etc.
  • Pre-loaded with wide variety of patches by acclaimed sound designers like Howard Scarr
  • MIDI output of local keyboard, wheels and assignable panel elements
  • Automation of sound parameters from MIDI inputs via MIDI CC learn function
  • Recording of samples from audio inputs or self-recording of audio outputs
  • 4 GB*) internal Flash memory for presets, samples and wavetables
  • Pre-loaded with approx. 2 GB sample data
  • On board audio file editor
  • Export & import of presets, sample & wavetable via SD card or USB drive
  • Import of Nave presets and selected legacy FM .syx files
  • Mod wheel can be assigned to any parameter which can be modulated in the matrix or via quick assign
  • Pitch wheel can be assigned to each oscillator individually
  • Weight: 17.8kg
  • Dimensions: 1006 x 401 x 131 mm

Sampling capabilities

Each of the 3 Oscillators of a single timbre can be used in one of three modes using samples:

  • Stereo Multi-Sampler with looping and reverse playback
  • Granular Sampler with extensive parameter set
  • Resonator model using sampler as exciter

Samples are organized using key and velocity maps, selections rules like round robin, random etc., and individual pitch, gain and pan settings.
Samples are stored in internal Flash memory of about 4GB capacity pre-filled with over 1GB specially made for Quantum factory samples.
New samples can be recorded from external stereo audio inputs, or from self-recording Quantums own engine.
Samples can also be imported an stored to internal Flash via SD card or USB drive using WAV and AIFF file format (44.1kHz sample rate).

The Quantum allows for a huge range of sample-based sound design capabilities from classical synths sounds to uncharted territories.
It’s worth noting that the sample use in the Quantum is always within a synthesizer’s sonic context, and it is not meant to work as a “bread and butter” sample keyboard to play back like traditional sampling instruments nor third party libraries.

Huge range of arpeggiator parameters:

  • 7 Algorithms to choose from like up, down, random etc.
  • Octave range
  • 7 Sort Orders
  • 3 Velocity Modes
  • Gate length
  • Swing
  • BPM
  • Beat Division
  • Rhythmic patterns 
  • Reset Modes
  • Keyboard Latch chordal and non-chordal

If that’s not enough, individual patterns can be created in the step sequencer including transpositions and scale quantisations.

Connections:

  • 2x stereo audio out for main and aux timbres
  • Stereo audio input for sample recording and real-time processing
  • High-Quality 24bit A/D and D/A converters
  • Headphone out with separate level adjustment
  • Sustain pedal input
  • Control pedal connector also capable of CV input (0-5V sensitivity)
  • USB host type A connector for interfacing MIDI controller or USB drives for sample/preset exchange and software updates
  • USB device type B connector for interfacing computer or other class-compliant MIDI USB hosts like iOS devices **)
  • SD Card for sample/preset exchange and software updates
  • DIN MIDI In, Out & Thru
  • Integrated power supply unit

Sound design of factory patches:

  • Albert van der Zee
  • Beat Müller
  • BT (Brian Transeau)
  • Bjoern Vogelsang
  • CO5MA
  • Don Solaris
  • Howard Scarr
  • Ian Dunlap
  • Jörg Hüttner
  • Kurt Ader
  • Lukas Schütte
  • Maxime Dangles
  • Mike Huckaby
  • Peter Jung
  • Reinhold Heil
  • Richard Devine
  • Rolf Wöhrmann
  • Sascha Dikiciyan
  • Steven Wartofsky
  • Thorsten Quaeschning
  • Wolfram Franke

*) Raw physical data size for complete system including pre-loaded data and system software. Net usable size for audio samples is about 2GB including pre-loaded samples.
**) separate Apple “Lightning to USB Camera Adapter” adapter needed