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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