Sonic LAB: Waldorf Pulse 2 Analog Synth

3 Osc Mono and 8 Voice Paraphonic      11/12/13

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19:54 mins    

The Waldorf Pulse 2 is an analog subtractive mono synth with 3 oscillators , although somehow it also manages to squeeze up to 8 paraphonic voices (all voices share one VCA/VCF etc). People seem to dig the Waldorf thing, primarily because of their wavetable synthesis. None of that here, just three oscillators and a filter.

First thing you notice about the Pulse two is that even though it's a small format desktop case, it seems to weigh twice as much as you expect. This is not because it's full of ballast, no, it's just got some seriously chunky metal casing and steel knobs. The effect is reassuring and implies quality but is it for real or just a mask?

Oscillators

There are three here, Osc 1 is the most flexible  - it offers Square (PWM), Saw, Tri, APW - a modified pulse width which modulates between octaves and remains constant in amplitude, OSC 2 has X1 and X3 PWM which cross modulates Osc 1 or 3 for ring mod type sounds controlled by the level, and OSC 3 has external input routing for processing an input and FB - which gives a feedback via the mixer.


Osc 1

Osc 2

Osc 3

PWM/SQUARE

x

x

SQUARE Only

SAW

x

x

x

TRI

x

x

x

APW

x



Unison-mono

x



Unison-Poly

x



Unison AWM - Mono

x



Unison AWM - Poly

x



Para-8 voice

x



Para-4 voice

x



X3-PWM


x


X1-PWM


x


EXT (input)



x

FB( feeback)



x

Osc 2 and 3 are more limited but can offer many routing and modulation destinations for very creative waves. Bottom line is that the oscillators do sound great, there is no weedy bottom end here, they have a certain something.

Keytracking can be disabled for OSC 1+2 letting them be used more as modulation sources - each osc has +/- 48 semitones and fine tune.

Multimode Filter

The single multimode filter has 24dB Low Pass - this and a Sawtooth is heavenly, 12dB Lowpass, Bandpass and Hi-pass - all are resonant. The character of the filter is less impressive than the oscillators, but it does work well, it can be key-tracked and tuned to play across the keyboard.

Modulations:

2x LFOs - LFO 1- has syncable multi-waves including S&H and Random and can go reasonably high, though the OSC can handle audio-rate modulations too, LFO 2 is a simpler Sine shape with a just delay and speed control.

Envelopes

There are two, VCF and VCA which are identical with ADSR control plus and additional loop control, D-D or A-D for more waveform-like modulations. They are nice and snappy and can give you fast, whippy drum sounds no problem. Although pre-routed to VCF and VCA, it's possible to use them to modulate a number of parameters via the 8 modulation slots.

These slots have 24 sources including a definable MIDI controller, and velocity release, as well as some interesting mathematical functions, to 31 destinations

Arp/Drive/CV

Additionally, there's a pattern based arpeggiato (up to 16 steps)  which enhances the usual up/down updown random modes. It has a whopping 10 octaves, with velocity, gate, glide and reset options and a swing parameter. It's actually pretty well featured with some cool odd/even note triggers and pressure accent control mapping.

What is nice is that though each of the 500 patches can store a single pattern, you can easily load patterns in from other patches. It sends over MIDI and CV control

Speaking of which - the CV and Gate outputs offer interfacing with a variety of analog gear, with Hz/V and V/Oct setup and tuning and scaling tweaks as well as gate polarity settings to allow maximum compatibility. Would have been nice to have the option of addressing the CV/Gate over an independent USB MIDI port though...

The Drive circuit adds a lot of post filter colouration with Fuzz and Valve models, it can sounds really horrible (in a good way) or subtle, depending on your needs.

With a strong synth engine under the hood, the Pulse 2 delivers a massive variety of sounds as well as having paraphony (although synthesis is more limited in this mode) it's a real contender for any setup. There are other synths which have more character in the filter but Pulse 2 has bags of beef in the oscillator and routing. My only real gripe is that with so much synthesis potential, the matrix editing approach can get in the way of instinctive synthesis, but you can add a MIDI controller to handle additional parameters if you really want to get into it.

A really classy sounding, well built synth at a good price.

£399/€400/$799 street prices


 

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16 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
graphic display    Said...

yeah thats the reason i haven t picked it up yet. the graphic display they have on the bloefeld should have find it s place on the pulse 2.

maybe a firmware update ?

11-Dec-13 09:49 AM


brian from usa    Said...

My wildass guess is that since this is analog, not digital some of the graphics in Blofeld are just not possible here. The paraphonic modes are a real surprise, I can see that being a big selling point to some users.

11-Dec-13 11:08 AM


EvilDragon    Said...

It's analog with digital control - Blofeld's graphics are definitely possible, there's a microprocessor in there that does that kind of stuff. It's just a matter of programming the OS to show those graphics instead of a huge program number!

11-Dec-13 12:10 PM


blox electrix    Said...

I was imagining this synth to be a real player in the price range & now that i see it more clearly i get a boutique vibe from it. O.k ,it has a very pleasing sound & is built in a slick fashion,the interface is a waldorf design & they are good at it but in the end it is disappointing that you can't access more functions simultaneously. I guess if you want a small & solidly built synth & you have the time to dedicate to getting to know it with a view of it being your main go-to synthesizer then it could be a winner but i would still rather see less-less & more-MORE on the physical interface side. Just look at what Novation fitted inside of a 1u rack synth with their A-Station 9Long time ago) & it becomes mind boggling why we are looking at so much face plate & so little immediate control. As a potential customer (I like the quality) i am put off spending my money by these limitations because i really like immediacy. Some other people might just love it. I do wonder who's money they (& other manufacturers) want to save with the skimpy interface because some of us are asking for more & will pay more too.

11-Dec-13 01:49 PM


Mike B    Said...

Filters with 'character' I just don't understand...it's supposed to remove frequencies! Waldorf did it right here.

11-Dec-13 04:08 PM


Shorn Rah    Said...

SUCH AN AWESOME REVIEW!!! I've watched some other videos on YouTube on The Waldorf Pulse 2 but they made me seem this was just a "kind of" analog Blofeld!!! I WAS TOTALLY WRONG!!! Your epic review really shows the world that this is a SERIOUS analog beast in a class of it's own!!! GREAT JOB, Nick!!! :D

11-Dec-13 07:04 PM


Studio 139    Said...

Sounds great to me. I am a fan of the Rocket, and this looks like the improved build quality and features would make it a worthwhile purchase. I had hoped Nick would explain Paraphonic but as long as it works I guess I don't have to understand.

12-Dec-13 03:18 AM


BLN    Said...

Great review Nick! Nice to see you started again to pay attention to envelopes (very important in my opinion) When I put my hands for the first time on the Minibrute I instantly understood why you omitted that section... On the Pulse 2 you had something positive to say about it, and that's great! Please review the envelopes the same way you do with the oscillators and filters! Thanks again for your great reviews, the best!

12-Dec-13 04:10 AM


Ben    Said...

2:43 : I don't know how they do this". From their hardware engineer: "From the technical point of view, classical oscillators are disabled, and control signals are exploited to generate PWM 8 oscillators to produce the necessary votes for these polyphonic modes."

see audiofanzine.fr

12-Dec-13 04:32 AM


S R Dhain    Said...

Solid review as always nick, thank you for that. The paraphonic modes plus the alt pwm flavours are the business and should help it shift some major units; especially at a solid sub 500 price point.

It might be worth asking Waldorf about an o/s update to address the screen display improvement suggested a la the Blofeld, when programming. Speaking of which, I recently changed the internal PSU on my Blofeld keyboard myself as it was just out of warranty.I ordered it on the net via 3rd party. It was fiddly, but had to be done.I mention this as I've owned other Waldorf gear in the past, and the psu's were erratic on those too. Could just be my luck, but worth mentioning as feedback here.

12-Dec-13 10:52 AM


Beatbunny    Said...

The Arp can be send to the CV out which seems quite interesting. I suppose it has and external psu, unlike on my old Microwave where the powersupply would overheat and shut the synth down.

14-Dec-13 01:47 PM


Imar    Said...

For extra control maybe an Behringer BCR2000?

16-Dec-13 09:26 AM


Audiofanzine    Said...

Hi! For a review of Pulse 2, see here: http://en.audiofanzine.com/analog-synth-rack-sound-module/waldorf/pulse-2/editorial/reviews/ace-of-hearts.html

19-Dec-13 05:35 AM


thedx8    Said...

Great review!! I have a question on the topic of paraphonic mode synths. Does anyone now if there are settings in Kontakt that would simulate a paraphonic sound somehow?

21-Dec-13 11:21 AM


EMwhite    Said...

I'm impressed. Had no idea what to expect; sounds good looks good.

With regard to the display, it's certainly a bitmapped display (not the etched LCD like some of the inexpensive midi controllers use) but it doesn't seem as high res as the Blofeld display (I have a kbd version).

Regardless, it's quite possibly that the micro controller in use is more of an analog centric variety as it would need to be in order to drive voltages into the analog realm of the box and therefore does not have as much in the area of graphic functions, etc.

Digital control and what must be digitally driven LFOs, etc. plus the required communication (USB and midi code), high number of patches, etc. might fit comfortably within the footprint of the micro controller and they didn't want to go wild; Certainly, some years have passed since the Blowfeld was released and certainly developed, so the code wouldn't necessarily be drag and drop.

Somewhat unrelated but Moog Music went from a Sillabs to a Ti product between the Little Phatty and the Taurus III and while they look very similar from the outside (same type of buttons, interface design and display), they are quite different.

But talking synths, I have a lot of respect for Waldorf, always have, it's a tough business and if given the choice between this and something that Dave Smith makes, money goes to Waldorf.

23-Dec-13 12:09 AM


Greynote Music    Said...

It's a great synth! Here's a demosong: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=a_UbI0vRcGo

03-Jan-14 06:03 PM


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