Sonic LAB Review: StudioLogic Sledge

Virtual Analog Polysynth with knobs on      10/12/12

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Since first seeing the StudioLogic Sledge at Musik Messe in the Spring, I've been itching to get my hands on one. The large format, expansive yellow synthesizer is rather bucking the usual trend of less knobs, more menus. It has 8 voice polyphony, 999 memories and is mono-timbral - no splits or layers.

First, lets clear up a misconception - the Sledge is actually a collaboration between StudioLogic (an Italian keyboard manufacturer, who make a lot of keybeds for 3rd party vendors too) and Waldorf. They are the current torch holder for German wavetable synthesis combined with virtual analog. The Waldorf Blofeld is what many people assume the Sledge has inside it, but it is in fact something different. There are less routing and modulation options available, with pretty much everything being given a one-to-one physical control.

What this means is that there are 32 knobs, three chicken head switches, and 37 buttons. These control what appears to be a 3 oscillator, single filter, dual envelope (Amplitude and filter), 3 LFO, subtractive synth.  Connections are rather unorthodox in that they are on the left hand side - with Stereo output plus headphones, USB, MIDI IO and two pedal inputs, all on 1/4 jacks.

Building Blocks
Lets start with the oscillators, osc one has multiple waves: Sawtooth, Square, Triangle, Sine, Pulswidth and Wavetable. This gives you 66 waves from the original PPG to muck about with. Osc 2+3 are simpler with Saw, Square, FM Triangle and FM Sine and Pulsewidth.
They sound okay, not the fattest oscillators, but acceptable for a VA. What is interesting is that they all have a 64' to 1' octave range. Wavetable and Pulswidth can be modulated for all oscillators (though not separately).

Filter
The filter is a single multimode - low pass, high pass and band pass switchable between 12 and 24dB slopes and will go into self oscillation - you can also add a certain amount of additional drive with the drive control, though it is a bit digital sounding. The filter itself is fine, nothing to get too excited about but perfectly okay.

Keys and Case
Sledge is plastic, there's no getting away from the fact, it's also bright yolk yellow. The build quality feels alright, but you are definitely aware that cost has been considered in it's design. The 61 key  keyboard is a light synth action which feels a little on the cheap side, but it does have aftertouch. Knobs I'm guessing are surface mount and do have a certain amount of play to them.

Speaking of play, the thing that grabs you right away is the amount of space in the layout, it's almost like one of those novelty education versions of a classic synth which is 2 or three times it's normal size. There's plenty of room between all knobs and buttons, and it's a refreshing change and very conducive to tweaking.

Sound
There are two  effects generators: a Chorus/Phaser/Flanger. The chorus adds a huge amount of width to the sound which is great, but when you switch it off, you can't help feeling it would have been nice to have some oscillator stereo spread to give it some width without the use of chorus. The second unit gives you delay (mono) and reverb with time and mix being your only parameters.

Despite this apparent simplicity, I found myself creating sounds with ease - you can just go on and on - there are memories (999 I beleive) but frankly with a synth like this you cannot honestly just flip presets - it should be a criminal offence!

There are omissions - no routing of velocity to filter or filter envelope depth means that responsive touch filter sounds are not available. It would also have been great to have a third assignable envelope for Pulsewidth, wavetable or oscillator pitch etc. I don't know if this is ever likely via a software update, but I do hope so.

USB
A very basic implementation of class compliant MIDI is what you get, just one MIDI IO, no accessing the port or the controls via separate software ports. Nothing to get excited about, it just works.

Variety
Even with the synth limitations, your going to find it hard to run out of possibilities for a while, the FM waves of  OSC 2+3 give you access to clangourous, metallic sounds. I couldn't quite get the filter to track tunefully when in full self oscillation mode, but it made for some great sounds.

Overall, I enjoyed the Sledge enormously and could quite easily get lost in synthesis time, even though it lacked some more interesting parameters and routings.


My only real beef is that it does seem a little on the pricey side, and you do feel that even at they've had to be pretty cost conscious to bring it in at even £779. But purely as something you can actually play and tweak and interact with in real time, there's not much out there that does the same thing - apart from maybe the Roland GAIA and I think the Sledge has it in terms of sound and certainly looks impressive.

Available in the UK
£779 (street) €799
US $1599 Street

More From: STUDIO LOGIC
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23 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Synth_Fan    Said...

I applaud what Sound Logic are doing with this instrument. They are striving to provide realtime access to synthesizer controls, one by one. I know there are lots of options out there but this is a good effort, IMO. I fully accept Nick's reservations and cautionary points though - the instrument does seem a little under equipped in the Modulation routing and controller department - a missed opportunity surely?

But it looks great, looks really inviting, sounds great in the VA department and those wave tables add some serious intrigue.

This might even be an occasion where the instrument's limitations push you to be creative with what's on board - after all think what a vast amount can be derived from just a Juno 106; while you might also forgive any annoyances - 'cause you like it (I think I already do!), I could warm to one of these.

However - where is it available ( I just checked Digiyal Village and found no evidence of it - though that was a quick check).

Hope this works out for Studio Logic and Waldorf; and I'm feeling tempted!!

10-Dec-12 04:52 PM


Synth_Fan    Said...

DV do indeed sell it

10-Dec-12 05:44 PM


al    Said...

Thanks for the review Nick! I'm glad someone's still trying to make hardware synths. Wasn't blown away, but a good first outing for the company.

10-Dec-12 07:24 PM


Tesla    Said...

Why would anyone buy this va synth when you can buy a mopho x4 real analog synth for around the same price?

10-Dec-12 08:03 PM


fx1mark    Said...

Thanks for the review. I really like this synths layout, but the price is about double what it should be.

10-Dec-12 10:14 PM


ilovenicksreviews    Said...

Complaints: the knobs look like they'd be totally at home on a kitchen stove. And what's with the typeface on the panel? Did they get Dave Smith to pick the font? :P

I had a moment of, "oh, maybe Sonic's being a bit harsh" when Nick said it was a touch expensive... then I saw the price: $1600USD for a monotimbral 8-voice VA. ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME???

Even if the sound is full of Waldorf goodness.... I'll stick to Waldorf Largo and a nice controller or two, thanks.

10-Dec-12 11:20 PM


Extraborg    Said...

Does anyoone know if it suffers from aliasing?

11-Dec-12 12:43 AM


Steven Costa Rican    Said...

I dont think this synth is better in capabilities than my Venom. What i love about it is the fact that has a lot of knobs. Too expensive people, for that price better go analog o get a cheap synth like venom.

11-Dec-12 10:03 AM


Laurent    Said...

great video

11-Dec-12 10:39 AM


Mattsynth    Said...

Wavetable OSC is what makes the difference here. All the waves of the Waldorf stuff with tons of dedicated knobs. Kind of like a decked out Waldorf XT. I can not wait to play one. It would make a great addition to my studio.

11-Dec-12 11:21 AM


Yes, I know knobs, but ..    Said...

Presets??? Does it come with factory presets? Can we hear them? Can you store user presets? If it comes with no presets or ability to store patches, that would be a major flaw that should have been pointed out. If DOES come with presets, we need a review demonstrating them. Otherwise an excellent review as usual. Thanks, Nick.

12-Dec-12 03:31 PM


Lagrange Audio    Said...

I do seriously applaud anyone knocking out hardware at the present time, it's really, really refreshing. I started in hardware 25 years ago, spent up until recently almost entirely in software and have got back into hardware in a pretty big way. My latest addition is the Roland Gaia and I'm loving every minute of it. Curiously though is this a natural cycle i.e. hardware / software / hardware etc or software fatigue, you decide. Consider that for a moment when looking at the price. I don't think $1600 is unreasonable for the Sledge. I have a room full of digital 80's synths (M1, D50, DX7 etc), all of these instruments were $2K - $3K retail on release.

13-Dec-12 05:41 AM


xyzzy    Said...

That's a good point... my only thought when I saw the price was, "Geez, a few hundred more and I could get a Virus TI2 desktop". No keys, sure, but my thoughts were focusing on the price.

Yes, taking the risk of producing hardware in today's market is to be applauded. :)

And good point about presets--the Studiologic marketing information does not mention patches, patch memory slots, or presets anywhere. However, this close-up of the panel reveals a "store" button and up/down buttons next to a value encoder:

picture: http://www.miroc.co.jp/show-report/namm2012/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/2_33_StudioLogic_SledgeDisp.jpg

source: http://www.miroc.co.jp/show-report/namm2012/archives/651

13-Dec-12 12:10 PM


Nick B    Said...

You are right, and I didnt mention it in my review - shame on me! But I think it has 999 slots for memory locations FYI. But I just found myself messing about with the panel more than anything

13-Dec-12 05:59 PM


GNeuman    Said...

Great review as ever. Personally, I'd go for a Nord Lead 2X, much better build quality, way more versatile and way thicker sounding and all that for just a couple of hundred quid more..

19-Dec-12 04:08 AM


selercs    Said...

For a VA-synth, they could have put 8 part multitimbral with atleast 64 voices. Oh well.

29-Dec-12 06:06 PM


Peter K.    Said...

I finally tried one, and I gotta say that I really liked it. It sounded good, and the keys were nice to play - something that feels like an afterthought on so many instruments these days. The panel is great, and the controls feel good. I love the look and the weight of it as well. I think it would look cool and funky on stage for sure. What I didn't like is that you cannot modulate osc 2 by itself, and the aftertouch and mod wheel always share the same destination. Many of the presets were just so so at best. When you program it, you can get great things out of it. The architecture is a bit limited, but I agree with the fellow that said the bit about the Juno 106. In fact, this instrument is way more versatile than most of the great, classic polysynths and is more reliable too. I think its streamlined approach makes it a great synth for keyboard players who like simple, all access instruments like the Nord Electro. It's not cheap, but I wouldn't say that it's less cool than a Nord Lead 2x; it's got aftertouch and a better action, plus rudimentary effects and an extra osc. I like it. Would I pay $1500 Cdn for it? I'm not sure... that's getting close to a Virus. But it IS a great instrument to play and vibe with in realtime.

22-Jan-13 08:23 PM


Peter K.    Said...

For the same money, you could get a Mopho X4 and maybe find a used Tetra. That is a beast of an 8 voice synth that stacks up to any of the classics I've heard and played.

Still, this Sledge has some cool mojo. I wish it were a bit more deep in the synth department, but what is there can sound really good.

22-Jan-13 08:27 PM


engineerjoel    Said...

You failed to mention the arpeggiator.

Played a Sledge this past weekend. Very Very COOL! All good.. except I don't really care for the Orange Color.

19-Feb-13 02:27 PM


synthman    Said...

I just got one but how do I upgrade the firmware on it via USB to my laptop, the manual is next to useless in this respect.

21-Mar-13 12:05 PM


synthman    Said...

I just got one but how do I upgrade the firmware on it via USB to my laptop, the manual is next to useless in this respect.

21-Mar-13 12:06 PM


synthman    Said...

Don't matter, I've sorted it out now :-)

21-Mar-13 02:48 PM


synthman    Said...

Nice synth, I have one. Does it have unbalanced or balanced outputs?

07-Apr-13 11:58 AM


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