Hands-On Review:Waldorf PPG Wave 2.V VST Soft Synth


Waldorf PPG Wave 2.V VST Soft Synth


Part 1: First Impressions / Multi-timbral Capabilities


Doctor Digital's Diagnosis:

Waldorf has done a terrific job of modeling their PPG Wave 2.V on the original hardware unit, adding an interesting roster of timbres to the soft-synth playing field. The unique interface makes the PPG Wave fun to use. Best of all, the PPG produces some top-notch sounds, particularly for pads, bells and melody lines.


Ease of Use: 3
Value: 4 (MSRP: $199.99)
Look: 5
Sound Quality: 4


The original Waldorf PPG Wave synthesizer was among the most cutting-edge synths of the early 80's. Back then, keyboard players from influential bands such as the Fixx and Rush counted it among their most valuable tools. It was also a decidedly high-ticket item, costing somewhere in the $8,000 range, so owning one was a luxury. But now Waldorf has broken into the world of affordable software synths, following up their excellent D-Pole filter plug-in with a recreation of the PPG Wave. I never had a chance to experiment with the original Waldorf, so I was delighted to finally get the chance to play with the synth whose sounds were so familiar to me after hearing them on records for so many years.



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First impressions
The PPG Wave VST instrument recreates the front panel of the original PPG, combining traditional analog knobs with a digital readout. The right side of the front panel sports 15 knobs, which adjust various sound-shaping filters, envelopes, and LFO's. On the right is a digital display showing the program number, MIDI channel, and the number of voices assigned to the plug-in. Below the display are eight function buttons, the top five of which are used to get into the PPG's other editing windows. When these are pressed, the knobs on the left are replaced by a digital display where settings can be adjusted numerically.


The PPG Wave offers one of the coolest visual interfaces I've seen on a VST instrument, complete with a five-octave keyboard with keys, pitch bend and modulation wheel that move in accordance with incoming MIDI signals. The keyboard is more for show, though, and you can't actually use it to enter MIDI data. Pressing the function button marked Keys hides the keyboard, streamlining the PPG's appearance and saving screen space.


Multi-timbral capabilities
The PPG works a bit differently than most other software synths in that each PPG enabled in a song can handle up to eight MIDI channels at once. This means that you can set up eight different programs per instance rather than having to use eight separate PPG plug-ins, which would use substantially more processor power.


In Cubase VST, the PPG shows up just like any other MIDI instrument after being turned on, and it is easy to access each of the eight MIDI channels since each channel can have its own track in the Arrangement window. Logic users may have to do a bit more work to take advantage of the PPG's multitimbral capabilities. Logic's VST instruments don't act like other MIDI instruments; intead, it shows up in Logic's Arrange window as a single instrument without the ability to assign MIDI channels.


The easiest way to get around this - without getting into extensive reprogramming of the Logic environment - is to change the MIDI transmit channel on your controller keyboard to access the desired MIDI channel on the PPG. After recording a track, create another track in the Arrange window, set it to access the same PPG instrument, and then change the MIDI transmit channel on your controller. You will then have access to a second sound on the same PPG. Basically, the MIDI channel and sound played are determined by the incoming or recorded MIDI data rather than having separate instruments for each MIDI channel.


Pressing the Prog button brings up a convenient display, showing which sound is assigned to each MIDI channel. Even so, this interface can be more than a bit confusing, and I found myself changing settings on the wrong MIDI channel more than once, wondering why I couldn't hear any changes in the sound.



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