Some Background: This is my first analogue synth, so some of my observations regarding envelopes etc. may be obvious to people who already own analogues.
I was looking for a Synth that was completely controllable via Midi CC's, because i want to keep everything controllable via DAW.
I bought this synth for 275€ used, and the guy who sold it told me, he had blown a friend's speakers once with it, so i was very excited about
The Sound: Well, i can perfectly understand how you could blow your speakers with this. The Bass this thing produces is huge:
let's get to the individual parts of this:
Oscillators: Well they are DCOs, and you can hear it. The beating you get when slightly detuning the oscillators is very stable, unlike what i've heard from Demos of VCO Synths. I think some VA Plug-ins do this better. The overall sound of the OSCs is really harsh, but i was expecting it. A nice feature is that you can overdrive the
Sounds nice. Only Problem is that Volume gets reduced when turning up the resonance:
A lot of the Bass Power this synth has gets reduced when turning up the resonance. The resonance for itself sounds nice though:
AnalogGuy pointed out to me that the Envelopes in the Pulse are digital. Well, seems like a classic autosuggestion thing
Anyway, I found something interesting about the Envelopes (and LFOs) in the SOS review (this part is written by Wolfram Franke from Waldorf):
"Digital machines and digitally-controlled analogue synthesizers always suffer from one problem: they are slow at processing modulation, either digital or analogue. On the Pulse, we developed control voltage generators that are really fast. The modulation update is 523 times per second, which means that each modulation gets updated every 1.9mS. This gives you envelopes with analogue feel and digital control."
Envelopes: Envelopes are snappy as hell. I love those things. You tweak them and they suddeny do unexpected things. When i was listening to demos of analogue synths i focussed a lot on the Oscs and the filters, but you don't get the magic of analogue envelopes until you sit in front of them and actually hear what they're doing in relation to what you are doing. They're great for percussive stuff, especially when you make extensive use of the
It let's you route basically everything to everything, i wish you could route certain things to individual parts of the envelopes, but there are Softsynths which let you do that if you really need it. Here's an example of the use of the modulation matrix for percussive FX sequences:
Sometimes you get caught by the possibilities and end up with crazy but unusable sounds. This one shows also the aggresive overall sound of this thing:
Another example of extensive use of the modulation matrix, a sync sound:
Ease of Use:
I made a control map for my Novation SL Mk2, but in the end i ended tweaking the synth with it's own matrix. That's possibly just a psycholgical thing, because it feels better to do parameter changes at the synth itself. The encoders don't have a pickup mode, so everytime you start turning a knob, the parameter you want to change jumps to the value the (non-endless) encoder is on. That's just plain stupid, but i got used to it. There's also a way to look at the value the parameter you want to change is in, but i never used that. As i said, you get used to the jumpy encoders.
Well, it has everything you need for basic monophonic stuff, and some more. It's fully midi controllable, has an extensive modulation matrix, 3 Oscs, 2 LFOs (one has only a triangle waveform and a Delay, can be heard in the Sync Sound example), 2 Envelopes and a VCA (Pan can be modulated too, as you hear in some examples).
Bang for Buck:
used prices range between 250-300€, for that price you can get also a good VA Plug-In, but i recommend to just try it for yourself. The used prices are usually stable or go up (depending on what people on this site write about it ), so you can always resell it if you don't find it's worth it. I for myself am lusting for other analogues after i tried my first one!
Depeche Mode - New Life Cover made entirely with the Pulse:
I have had my Waldorf Pulse (among other analog synths) for many years, and I have to admit that in the past ten years the ease of use, quality and recallaybility of software synths has made me use the real analog pieces less and less. However, the strengths of those analog synths can only be appreciated when you have lots of listening experience with synths from both worlds. You cannot miss what you never knew existed. Coming from this angle, I have to admit that the Pulse is one of the best sounding monophonic analog synths, and everytime I use it I ask myself why I don´t use it more often. It is very versatile and delivers fantastic basses. It is my go to bass synth besides a Roland SH-09 (which does not even have MIDI or any preset slots). The main difference between most digital synths and the Pulse ist that the sound it produces is "complete" and "full" - when you are done editing, you don´t really feel the need to add anything, it fills out the space you wanted it perfectly. With digital instruments I often come to a point where I am satisfied but feel the need to add another sound to the arrangement, things sound like "good but not finished yet". Not with the Pulse, it delivers creamy, full and finished sounding sounds that are "alive" for lack of better words.
What I do not like is that it is a little difficult to edit, with only few pots and switchable functions for them, no display but 2 fields for numeric values. There are software editors for it but nothing up to date, not even sure there are some for 64bit operating systems. If anyone here reading this knows how to easily set up Cubase so that I could route my Korg MS2000 controls to the Pulse, controlling it´s main parameters like Filter parameters, Envelope and LFO parameters etc please PM me!
For Pulses with an operating system version2 or higher there is the possibilty to link multiple units together and have a polyphonic version of the Pulse this way. Looking at the low used prices, this looks like an awesome, unique setup if you are not repelled by the hassles around setting up such a system.
All in all I think anyone who has not experienced a good monophonic synth should grab one of these when offered at a low price, just to experience that difference. If it is not worth it to you (after all there are digital instruments that use sampled analog synths like Trilian, which comes very close to real analog sound) the Pulse can still be sold again for the same price. If you come to the same experiences that I have you will keep such gems and use them on projects where sound quality and sound fascination are the most important factors, not easy recallability, faster workflow and 96 banks of 512 presets each.