Waldorf Quantum

Waldorf’s flagship polyphonic hybrid synthesizer

$4299.00

Lately, wavetable synths are all the rage. After Waldorf Music GmbH introduced the Quantum, several synths that incorporate wavetables have been released/announced; most notably the UDO Super 6, the ASM Hydrasynth, the Modal Argon8, the Nord Wave 2 and the Sequential Pro 3. These synths are very nice and some cost significantly less. They are however, from a wavetable perspective, less than one-half the machine a Quantum is. Having wavetables does not make a Quantum.

In my opinion, the Quantum is as state of the art as it gets in 2020. 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 analog to crisp digital.

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 in 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 pull $4k out 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 a developing video series by Tim Shoebridge in a YouTube video list below. For lack of a better description, I called the series a deep dive tutorial. It is not a basic synthesis tutorial. I was very comfortable with the level Tim speaks to here. As I write this in 2020, Tim’s videos focus was on OS 1.3.0 and I understand Tim was waiting for the official OS 2.0 release which is now out, to make some more videos.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

To me the Quantum is so unique and so amazing, it is worth a few rough edges. Nonetheless, a consumer should be aware of product characteristics, good and bad. If you are going to buy a new or used Quantum, you should be aware of the common flaws.

In my opinion, the Quantum is more of a studio synth than a gigging or performance synth. It’s big and heavy, which may or may not mean anything to you, but most of all the OS isn’t there yet. OS 1.3.0, while still a joy and a positive introduced into your universe, is imperfect enough that I would skip over it day one to OS 2.0, which is a huge improvement. When I have been able to spend some time with the OS 2.0 general release, I’ll reassess the Quantum as a gigging or performance synth.

Hardware issues are a little more important. In the end I chose to send my Quantum in for repair to protect my resale value. The following is quoted from my post 6th month thoughts about the Waldorf Quantum, It is important to note point 1 below is super easy to resolve, point 2 would be easy to ignore and point 3 you probably wouldn’t know if I didn’t tell you.

  1. 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.
  2. Touch screen sensitivity and/or dead zone – Most of the issues with this are firmware design, fixed in OS 2.0. You may notice in the image above, 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.
  3. Voices with inconsistent resonance – See image above. 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.

I’m expecting a 2 month or longer turnaround for repair of these issues due to the coronavirus; I’ll keep you updated.

Thanks!
-Yehuda

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

Manual
Quantum_Manual_EN_OS_1.3.pdf
Quantum_Manual_EN_OS_2.0.pdf

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

Strongly recommended that you run OS 2.0, unless you hate bug fixes, stability and new features. It is an improvement in all ways over 1.3.0.

Facebook user groups

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

Videos

(Uptown Oscillators) UO Quantum Tutorials YouTube Playlist
(Uptown Oscillators) UO Waldorf Quantum YouTube Playlist
(Uptown Oscillators) UO Quantum Patches & Music YouTube Playlist

Useful Links

June 30, 2019 – Waldorf Quantum joins “Studio” ha!
July 28, 2019 – Some first month thoughts about Waldorf Quantum
October 2, 2019 – Inside the Waldorf Quantum Synthesizer
December 15, 2019 – 6th month thoughts about the Waldorf Quantum
January 10, 2020 – Wavetable Synth Comparisons
March 18, 2020 – Sequential Prophet X or Waldorf Quantum?

Be sure to join the
Uptown Oscillators Facebook Group

This page is a living document, subject to update and expansion.
Last edited – 3/31/2020
If you have any content you think should be added, or would like to help author gear pages/posts, please leave a comment here or on our Facebook group.

Manufacturer Specifications: click to open/close or jump to comments

Specifications

(subject to change without notice)

  • Digital-Analog Polyphonic Synthesizer
  • 61 Keys high-quality Fatar TP/8SK keyboard, channel aftertouch
  • 8 voices
  • 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

Sounddesign:

  • _BT (Brian Transeau)
  • Howard Scarr
  • Richard Devine
  • Reinhold Heil
  • Torsten Quaeschning
  • SonicMayhem
  • Jörg Hüttner
  • Maxime Dangles
  • Mike Huckaby
  • Kurt Ader
  • Peter Jung
  • Wolfram Franke
  • Lukas Schütte
  • Rolf Wöhrmann

*) 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