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Wavetable Deathmatch: Waldorf Microwave XTK vs Waldorf Blofeld
Old 19th November 2011
  #1
Wavetable Deathmatch: Waldorf Microwave XTK vs Waldorf Blofeld

i had both of these instruments, the Waldorf Microwave XTk and the Blofeld, in my studio at the same time for a few days and decided to do a proper shootout of their pure wavetable sounds.

people can argue about their UIs, features, and filters until they're blue in the face for all i care. IMHO the Blofeld wins on all of these things, especially on filter quality, user samples, and actual playability of endless rotaries. however my issue was that what i want out of a PPG-derived wavetable synthesiser is the best current approximation of the raw 8-bit sound of the Wave Computer 340/360 instruments.

straight up i don't think either of these things totally nail it under scrutiny.

that said, comparing them to the old PPG stuff on pure wavetable terms is a bit like comparing the x0xb0x to a TB-303 ... yeah side-by-side you might be able to tell a difference but when it comes down to brass tacks they both sound great in a mix. i would definitely say there's more of a difference between these two wavetable synths than there is between the x0xb0x and the TB-303.

so anyway here's 38 minutes of rawdog wavetable madness, midi-synced for your pleasure. the first three and a half minutes are a patch i duplicated on the Blofeld based on a MWXTk patch i had made and liked. the rest of the time is spent blowing through wavetables on a single osc patch.

on the Blofeld i was able to completely bypass the filter. on the MWXTk i was not, i had to set the Fc high enough with not just the cutoff knob but also the envelope so that the filter had no effect on the sound. i was not happy about this, and i prefer the Blofeld's option to shut it off.

one channel is the Microwave XTk and the other is the Blofeld. no i'm not saying which is which for at least a week. please be my guest and make sweeping golden-ear generalisations about how one channel is garbage and the other is so perfect. that would be great.

full-res wav downloads are enabled on this. please take advantage if you're serious:



Old 19th November 2011
  #2
Deleted 0fc8128
Guest
Right sounds better.
Old 19th November 2011
  #3
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acreil's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by suitandtieguy View Post
however my issue was that what i want out of a PPG-derived wavetable synthesiser is the best current approximation of the raw 8-bit sound of the Wave Computer 340/360 instruments.
The trouble is that the original PPG line had a much higher sample rate. You get the advantage of both image frequencies on the low end and relatively little aliasing on the high end. Most of the more "modern" approaches (high quality interpolation, multisamples, sample rate around 48 kHz) can't get the same sound. Unless they're taking specific steps to emulate the classic models (nearest neighbor interpolation with oversampling), they're no replacement for the original. The first Microwave might be the closest you can get in a hardware synth. Hermann Sieb's Wave Simulator does a good job too.

Actually, the main difference I'm hearing is that they seem to smoothly interpolate between the waveforms. I thought there was a way to turn that off.
Old 19th November 2011
  #4
165099
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To be the first to venture a guess, I would say that the left is the Blofeld and the right is the Microwave XT

I may amend this once I can give it a proper listen, i.e. the .wav on my monitors vs. streaming through second-tier headphones and juggling perception from ear to ear.

That said, right now I prefer the sound of the left channel. The one characteristic that I am picking up on is the dirt/grittiness of the right channel which (as long as it isn't these old Fostex T20's) reminds me of the overall tonality of the Microwave II/XT. I have yet to play a Blofeld but on paper I would imagine the Blofeld should have a bit of a purer/cleaner tone more reminiscent of the Q. Personally I always liked the idea of the XT more than the actual sound, especially in comparison to the original Microwave, but if I were looking at either the Microwave II/XT or Blofeld, the Blofeld definitely seems the way to go.

also, (and thanks for taking the time to do this) but it would be nice to have these on separate tracks for comparison as it would eliminate any potential variables between speakers and dominant ear perception, etc..

EDIT: no changes necessary, the right is most definitely the Microwave XTK.
Old 19th November 2011 | Show parent
  #5
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TitusRaindrops's Avatar
 

I don't know what you can tell from this type of setup other than they sound great together I guess?

I had them both here in my studio too and I thought they sounded different, not drastically different but different. I thought the MWXT had a little more depth, wasn't quite as bright maybe. I found myself getting ear fatigue more with the Blofeld than with the MWXT. Does that make any sense? Could be the filters I guess... I never tried to control for that. I just used them.

Anyway I kept the MWXT and sold the Blofeld. Probably just as many people will choose to do the other given the same set of circumstances.

Anyway, I would be very interested to hear two tracks, one with each synth. Not to fight to the death, just to listen to.
Old 19th November 2011 | Show parent
  #6
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JEBEQ's Avatar
 

With out any Doubt the XT is on the right, it has the brighter sound and has that XT character.
I sold my XT a couple of months ago and I regret it every day, I will diffidently have to find myself another XT or XTK very soon.
Old 19th November 2011
  #7
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EvilDragon's Avatar
My guess - Blofeld on the right.
Old 19th November 2011
  #8
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i found the blofeld more like a microq with better sound quality but the XT way more fun for weird wavetable stuff. i like the more complex stuff the XT can do with the multistage envelopes. the XT just has a much better sound to my ears. much more interesting. it's more "alive" or something.
Old 19th November 2011
  #9
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noizek@t's Avatar
 

one thing i would like to say is that they both sound good to me. also, if you force mono, you can't tell the difference... they merge and become the same patch. these are great sounds, but are a perfect example of why i like the ppg, and I am not as big of a fan of the waldorf wave and on. the ppg sounds better for some reason. i am not a big digital fan when it comes to making patches so these synths and especially the dx fm synths don't do it for me, but they do make great sounds. my like for analog subtractive is purely a personal preference as I like to make my own patches and it doesn't feel as natural with most digital synthesis.
Old 19th November 2011 | Show parent
  #10
Gear Head
 

Right has much more noticable aliasing artifacts which gives it a nice character, I prefer this. Left is technically better but less interesting IMO. I guess right is the oldest technology.
Old 19th November 2011 | Show parent
  #11
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MinoCan's Avatar
Nice stuff S&TG thanks a lot for this one.
Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by acreil View Post
The trouble is that the original PPG line had a much higher sample rate.
your observation here is very thought-provoking, so i did some math.

the PPG waves were 128 samples long. a low C at 8' would be running at 8.3khz, and the top C would be running at 267.9khz.

i could see the top end sounding very glassy on the original as long as you weren't modulating the index.


Quote:
Originally Posted by MinoCan View Post
Nice stuff S&TG thanks a lot for this one.
you are welcome. i wish this had been available when i was trying to make my mind up on this.
Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by suitandtieguy View Post
i wish this had been available when i was trying to make my mind up on this.
So? What was your decision? Do you regret it now after this comparison?
Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #14
right is the XT
easy to recognise with the aliasing

nice test thanks!
XT is the reason I refrained from getting a Piston Honda (but only just) heh
Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by TitusRaindrops View Post
So? What was your decision? Do you regret it now after this comparison?
not one regret.
Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #16
Eric, first thank you for this in-dept demo comparison. No one have done this before and we have a Blofeld in the game for over 30 moons or so. I will download uncompressed wav file tomorrow and give it a good listen in the studio.

Until then, a few points (owning both):
  • I found wavetables in Blofeld somehow with less bite and character (though i didn't tried your filter-bypass trick, so i might be wrong!). Still, what i'm missing on the Blo are Time Quantization and Aliasing functions which give some of that old MW character to the XT. Because of this, i took Blofeld and programmed two banks using VA engine only, completely ignoring the Wavetables. Similar to 99% of all the modern stuff I found Blofeld too to be band limited design, which makes me suspect i really won't have trouble recognizing which is which in this deathmatch.
  • OTOH for the VA job i found Blofeld to be fantastic sounding (i can post some audios later when the deathmatch is over if someone's interested). For wavetables i still prefer the XT, the way it is - as a complete unit, with all the sound sculpting (additional features over Blofeld), somehow different sounding Chorus unit and effects (this might be to different DAC, i don't know), soundwise i would give XT 5 stars, Blofeld 4 stars. (Microwave I 6 stars! LOL!) Let's see tomorrow will i be able to nail the Blofeld in a second or not. I must admit i didn't used its wavetables that much.
I'm interested in Hrast's take on this deathmatch. I bet it will take him 0.04 sec to recognize the sound of XT.
Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #17
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EvilDragon's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Solaris View Post
(i can post some audios later when the deathmatch is over if someone's interested)
Yes, please!



O hai thar, Don!
Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Solaris View Post
Eric, first thank you for this in-dept demo comparison.
you're welcome.

i should point out that my comparison is restricted to just the wavetable aspect. i also made sure that both machines were set to their harshest settings.

as i pointed out before with this demo you're only comparing the xt to the blofeld, and my desire is for the oldest sound and i don't have access to that.

considering the sample rate of the original, personally i'm inclined to think that the most perfect and glassiest sound is going to come from the first version, but with a harshness to the index modulation which neither of the two example instruments are going to deliver, because the i found NO difference in the timbre of index modulation, but did find a significant different in basic waveform timbre in regards to "fuzziness" of timbre.

however this "fuzziness" quality has nothing to do with wavetable slot interpolation. i just didn't hear a difference.

also, if you think the XT has better filters than the Blofeld then you might be deaf. this thing sounds fabulous.

i say this and realise i sound like i'm getting paid a bucket of money from Waldorf. let me say that quite frankly i can't stand these guys. i hate this company. there is a receivership in between some owners and a firmware update that fixes their problems and obviously these assholes have total contempt for their customer base and yeah i know there's only 2 people working there and screw those guys. there are completely ******** things about the Blofeld which could have been fixed if a developer who wasn't completely ******** like myself had been involved but instead we got this abomination which is like a Q with only 4 knobs and the wavetables of the XT and a stll-born sample aspect grafted onto it like the neck plugs on Frankenstein's neck. the fact that there are a potential of hundreds of oscillator "types" but the wavetable index AND PW of the solitary pulse osc are both referred to as "pulsewidth" and dealt with as such is also as completely ******** as everything else that angers me about this 4 knob piece of ****.

however, as i've said: i trust Waldorf gear only as far as i can throw it. and i can throw a Blofeld much further than i can throw and XTk due to weight and size.


edit: srsly Grsltz ... "r e t a r d e d" is censored but not "assholes"?
Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #19
r-tard is a popular word

Last edited by Reptil; 20th November 2011 at 06:07 PM.. Reason: added smiley for intent ;-)
Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by suitandtieguy View Post
however, as i've said: i trust Waldorf gear only as far as i can throw it. and i can throw a Blofeld much further than i can throw and XTk due to weight and size.
The one on the right sounds heavier.
Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Solaris View Post
I'm interested in Hrast's take on this deathmatch. I bet it will take him 0.04 sec to recognize the sound of XT.
Thanks Don, but due to a significant discrepancies in hearing range between my ears, I am not very good at such comparisions And not having a proper headphones here doesn't help, either. Will try in a few days when I'll be in the studio, if results won't be published until then ...
Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #22
Deleted 38a4a95
Guest
I think it's obvious that they are arranged like in the picture, XT on the right
you dont need zooper eckwippment to notice

soundwise it would depend on the patch whether I'd prefer blo or xt, but generally I'd prefer the blofeld i guess
though the extra texture in the example is quite nice
btw when I tested Largo it had this parameter "brightnhess" that is ment to bring on these differences but there I didnt notice any difference, odd
Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #23
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schmuck's Avatar
Left is more hi-fi. Has in some cases a bit more depth maybe? Additionally, right distorts earlier, which can be heard best on the louder parts (maybe its the "aliasing" what other posters said).

For sounds that go well with a bit of distortion (like bass for example), I prefer right. Also when it should sound digital, right fits it right. All other occasions, left sounds better to me.

Left is Blofeld and right the MW XTK.

Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by HrastProgrammer View Post
Thanks Don, but due to a significant discrepancies in hearing range between my ears, I am not very good at such comparisions
A lot of us have this problem. It has to do with the bones' structures in the head. I even visited a doc to figure out wtf was happening.

Anyway... speaking of how to listen to this recording, forget the "stereo" thing. You got two channels in this recording. Simply route them to your mixer. Each channel is mono and panned to middle. Only thing left to do is to play with the Mute button of each channel. I will do just the same.



Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilDragon View Post
O hai thar, Don!
Hey man! Good seeing you around. Audios of Blo will follow soon.



Quote:
Originally Posted by suitandtieguy View Post
also, if you think the XT has better filters than the Blofeld then you might be deaf. this thing sounds fabulous.
I was thinking about the unit being band limited - at least when using a filter, which is why i pointed out i didn't tried the no-filter trick yet. I might change my opinion, though.

As of the Blo filter itself, i used it for all the VA duties and was very happy with results.
Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by raffor View Post
Right sounds better.
BTW. I expected much longer answer from you.


i.e. why does it sound better to you - better as a sound of its own, or better = closer, if compared to your Wave?
Old 20th November 2011
  #26
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i guess i may be deaf.

tried microQ, blofeld, MW XT. the XT remains. so much more powerful and capable of creating interesting timbres. it has guts the other two do not. granted, i'm doing something different and not going for those obvious wavetable tones you use in your comparison so that could have something to do with it.

the thing that all of these synths have in common is that every single preset on each of them is total crap.
Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #27
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seen-da-sizer's Avatar
 

^^^^ heh

Old 20th November 2011 | Show parent
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seen-da-sizer View Post
^^^^ heh
he's going for something different than i am but it's a matter of opinion. maybe i like the very things about the XT that he finds unattractive? or perhaps our goals with this type of synthesis are just different.
Old 21st November 2011
  #29
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TitusRaindrops's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by boon View Post
i guess i may be deaf.

tried microQ, blofeld, MW XT. the XT remains. so much more powerful and capable of creating interesting timbres. it has guts the other two do not. granted, i'm doing something different and not going for those obvious wavetable tones you use in your comparison so that could have something to do with it.

the thing that all of these synths have in common is that every single preset on each of them is total crap.
I had the same experience. Exactly.
Old 21st November 2011 | Show parent
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by boon View Post
tried microQ, blofeld, MW XT. the XT remains.
Have always been intrigued by the XT. Would love to try it. Anyway, I do own a Blofeld, and had an opportunity to play a Q. The Blofeld remains. Found the Q somehow muffled and less dynamic by comparison. I know that puts me in the minority, but one has to trust one's own ears!

Quote:
Originally Posted by boon View Post
the thing that all of these synths have in common is that every single preset on each of them is total crap.
I agree that there are lots of uninspiring or unusable presets on the Blofeld. But "every single preset crap?" Not in my experience. In fact, I think there are quite a few excellent presets on it.
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