I think in my future synthesizer purchases, I will wait until a synth has been available for a year. Most of the time, issues will be firmware, but sometimes there are hardware revisions. That may be common knowledge but I’m an experience learner, ha! That said, critiques in this post should be properly weighted; the Waldorf Quantum is an amazing machine. Under my new 1 year policy, I would not hesitate to pull out my credit card and buy the Quantum today, and I have little to no regrets about having bought one 6 months ago.
The Quantum is definitely my stranded on an island with only one synthesizer (and electricity) choice. Even analog purists would be well advised to open their minds. Those without $4k to spend would be well advised to move mountains to get one. Those who are not ready to appreciate the value of a $4k synth yet, need to spend time with a Quantum. The Quantum is one of the few pinnacles of synthesis on the market today.
I think there are a few resolvable hardware issues in some 1st year Quantums. Aside from miscellaneous defects or QC issues which all new electronics are likely to have a 1% rate of, here are a few to be aware of.
Squeaky keys – This one is the easiest to fix. You don’t have to tolerate it or take pass on a used machine with the issue. This condition is common to many brands which use Fatar keybeds. The keybed just needs lubrication, check with Waldorf support or your dealer.
Touch screen sensitivity and/or dead zone – Most of the issues with this are firmware design, fixed in the 2.0 beta 9. You may notice in the image at top of this post, the 6 control areas on the left and right sides of the screen are redesigned to reflect more accurately that there are no buttons for selections like normal and mod; the whole rectangular area is a touch area/button, which once you understand that, makes selection a snap. The middle selector knob between save and previous has been programmed to scroll through selection choices much more accurately and easier than previous touch only selections. You could get a new screen through warranty that is purported to be more sensitive, however the firmware changes make a world of difference and you may not care. Likewise, many Quantums have a dead spot on the right 1/4″ of the screen that can be fixed with a screen firmware update (not to be confused with the OS firmware, this is completely distinct and not currently upgradable from SD or USB. A user upgradable screen firmware may become available in the future, but there is no guarantee at this point). I think most people will not bother to deal with repair of these screen issues since the beta take almost all the pain away. To replace the screen or update the screen firmware, you will need to ship the synth to a warranty center.
Voices with inconsistent resonance – See image at top of this post. I wouldn’t have even noticed this if I hadn’t read about it. Thanks to Paul Cotton, who provided these issue confirmation instructions and .wav files: Boot, load a patch > Init the patch > Turn off OSC1 in the OSC MIX (so audio will be just filter self resonance) > Left of the screen, change analog filter 1 cutoff to 67 and resonance to 85.5 , then repeatedly play middle c to cycle the voices. Before fix .wav / After fix .wav To fix this, you will need to ship the synth to a warranty center.
So I’m trying to decide if it’s even worth the bother to send my Quantum off to fix the 2nd and 3rd issues in February 2020, when I am buying a Sequential Prophet X and will be busy with that new synth for a bit and will have a fresh outer box to ship it in.
The Quantum 2.0 firmware beta
What happens in the beta stays in the beta. I will say this though, the current 2.0 beta 9 firmware is more stable and polished than the the non-beta 1.3.0 firmware release. Don’t be shy or paranoid, get the beta, you won’t regret it!
The Waldorf Quantum factory patches
Like most Quantum owners I would imagine, I didn’t buy the Quantum to use presets primarily. I bought it for sound design so I didn’t really spend much time cruising the presets. After 5 months, I did start checking out the presets in more detail. I was pleasantly surprised, there are some amazing presets. Like all synths, some are basic and they could be expanded. There is more than meets the eyes initially though.
1-88 are “best” of selections from the rest of the 100-1529 presets.
OK, one super small thing. This morning, I was thinking about how much I like the layout of the Quantum, except for how dark it is around the Selection Dial. See the bottom center of the image above, the Selection Dial is between Save and Prev. You know it is there, even in the darkness. It’s funny how blind I can be, at the same time I was pondering this, I noticed an LED beneath the dial. Unlit. I couldn’t find a setting to turn it on, or documentation about it. On the Facebook Waldorf Quantum Synthesizer Group, it was thought the LED would stay off in OS v1.3.0 and earlier, but could be fixed in a newer firmware release. Weird. I was hoping it was an obscure setting. Oh well, no big deal though it does seem strange that a non-functional LED in the machine would be missed in quality inspection number one, even though I missed it for a month as well. Other than that, the hardware is designed well and works great.
So back to the beginning, my Quantum came with OS v1.2.3. I didn’t spend a lot of time experiencing that version. After making sure everything was basically functional I upgraded the system to OS v1.3.0. This process was easy and quick. Like everyone, I anxiously await OS v2.0, currently in beta. OS v1.3.0 is as I expected, buggy and unstable at times. Again, this is what I expected and not a problem, but I do want OS v2.0, ha! I’m in information technology and I can tell you that a lot of software runs properly when it is run correctly, but when people push the wrong buttons or don’t know what they are doing is where the cracks in the system show up the most. So I probably put the Quantum through its worst tests and I have managed to crash it or make a reboot necessary a few times.
So there you have it, the unexpected bad and the expected bad. Beyond that, all I can say is WOW!
The integrated panel and screen are state of the art
This machine has redefined what I want in a synthesizer. It lives up to the hype. The Quantum is beyond flash if you ask me.
The panel layout is great, lots of knobs with LEDs that may change color, depending on the function of the moment. These colors are custom selectable but in stock configuration, as an example in the Oscillator section, the Wavetable LEDs are teal, the Waveform LEDs are green, the Particle LEDs are blue, and the Resonator LEDs are red. This can be a huge help to know what state you are in at a glance.
I am a big fan of the Sequential/DSI knob and screen combinations on synths like the Pro 2, Prophet 12, and Prophet X/XL. However with its touch screen, the Waldorf Quantum takes screen control to new heights. The visual representations of the LFOs, oscillators, filters, envelopes, mod matrix, and effects are cutting edge. Like the Sequential/DSI adjusting any knob brings up the related area on the screen display. On the screen there are 6 more knobs to fine tune various parameters, 16 buttons to jump to major screens, and the Dial Selection knob to scroll and select with. This is flat folks, there is no sensation of menu diving.
Not only all that, but this screen is a touch screen, you can select even more with your finger. You can even draw things like waveforms, envelopes, and in the example image at the top of this post, sequencer notes.
The digital oscillators
I’m biased towards digital-analog hybrid synths. I have and have had some analog oscillator synths like Korg, Moog and Novation, and they no doubt have certain analog-y sounds, characteristics and charms to them, but I’m still preferenced to digital oscillators like the Sequential/DSI Pro 2, Prophet 12, and Prophet X/XL synths.
That said, the Quantum in its wide open, out the door state, is a little more digital-y than those synths. You are going to notice that digital sound, in some cases metallic or windy. This is not to say you can’t analog and warm it up, you can. I think most Quantum demo videos don’t really show that well, so know you can.
Speaking of videos, the Uptown Oscillators Waldorf Quantum Page has over 120 Quantum curated videos in 2 YouTube lists, which are good and useful. There are no complete and comprehensive tutorial video sets for the Quantum to my knowledge out there, however. An example of what I mean by complete and comprehensive would be like Marc Doty’s Automatic Gainsay The Dave Smith Instruments Pro 2 YouTube List, a 15 video collection. Hopefully someday Waldorf will produce or underwrite something like this for the Quantum.
Back to the digital oscillators, there are 3 of them, and a choice of 4 synthesis engines – Waldorf-style Wavetables, Classic Waveforms, Granular Sampler, Resonator and soon with OS 2.0, a 5th – Kernel synthesis.
You could write a large book chapter and several videos minimum about each one of these synthesis engines. There is so much functionality and choice in the Quantum oscillators, that you could have no other functions or controls and still have your hands full.
Well, that’s it for now. If you are interested in the Waldorf Quantum, be sure to check back for more. The Quantum will be a major focus of mine for years to come, I’m sure.