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Waldorf Blofeld

Waldorf Blofeld Keyboard - Black

4 4 out of 5, based on 8 Reviews

Wavetable & VA synthesizer

27th September 2011

Waldorf Blofeld Keyboard - Black by Don Solaris

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 3 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Waldorf Blofeld

Waldorf Blofeld

My first contact with Blofeld was in the music store where i've briefly tried it for some 20 minutes. My first thoughts were "hmmmm.... that doesn't sound like XT.... doesn't sound like XT.... doesn't sound" somehow getting trapped into this mantra and constantly repeating it on my way home. Wrong approach!

Second contact was a year later after buying one and doing the "let's see what this baby can do" type of thing. I was stunned by how much you can pull out of this little box. Above all i cared less that it does not have the XT vibe. So what. It gives a powerful and good sounding VA engine in exchange. In fact, it is my only VA synth that i have and i intend to keep it. Right, Blofeld maybe won't sound 100% like a Q neither, but for some types of sounds it can get you pretty close.

One very useful feature that i should mention and that really helps for mono sounds is the Drive. Instead of using it for just saturation / overdrive, it can also help to get use of the unit's full headroom - i.e. you apply the Drive to the mono sound, right before it starts to "drive", reaching 0 dB(FS). That way if you use multi-mode, you can have a mono sound to be as loud as a polyphonic one that is playing chords, rather than being lost in the background. Using this method, and without going into saturation, some impressive basslines can be pulled out of this unit. Not to mention fantastic synthetic drums.

Filters definitely have that Waldorf color, hence i've mentioned that some Q sounds can be nailed - at least with some careful programming. Speaking of programming, kudos to Waldorf for providing the large display with cool graphics. I gave 6 for the ease of use, since despite the screen and matrix layout of the controls, there's still a lot of menu diving. Not to mention when you mistakenly turn the knob, without first selecting the function, thus mistakenly turning the wrong value and ruining your work. Happens often when focused into the sound, during the programing session.

Overall, a great sounding synth for little money. I've already filled two banks, of VA sounds without even touching the wavetables. Yeah, XT sounds a little bit better in this department, but for average Charlie, it really makes no difference. DACs are fine, though you can't expect miracles in that price range. Overall, I can highly recommend this synth to anyone who wants a touch of XT and Q packed into one box at really affordable price. Another bonus are really great Presets. Kudos to programmers (Doc T, Qwave and the rest of the gang).

Made in Germany. What else does one need to say.

  • 1
2nd October 2011

Waldorf Blofeld Keyboard - Black by DeathDub

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Waldorf Blofeld

I really like my Blofeld as well. I bought it after missing the sound of my Microwave 2. There is a lot of menu diving but the Waldorf matrix editing is pretty fast once you get used to it. The graphic editing is very useful.

I'm also having problems with the encoder values jumping. Found a fix on the Internet and some day I'll get if done. It hasn't been too hard to cope with but obviously less than ideal.

Blofeld is a deep and distinctive sounding synth at a good price. I only have the desktop without the sample memory upgrade. Looking forward to getting the keyboard version.

23rd October 2011

Waldorf Blofeld Keyboard - Black by audiohack

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Waldorf Blofeld

I did enjoy using the Blofeld for two years, but eventually parted ways with it. I quite liked how well laid out the programming matrix was, doing quite a lot so quickly with so few knobs. However, the cheaper quality encoders hiding beneath the shiny stainless steel encoder knobs started to crap out on me. One became quite wobbly. Two others started to skip data values. I googled the issue and discovered I was not the only one with the issue. And I treated this in my home studio like a baby. I also had issue with the lowish output level, which always left me with the (subjective) feeling that it lacked the "power" and "umph" of my other hardware synths. That said, it does pack a lot of sonic value into a small package for a reasonable price ... especially in the second-hand market.

28th July 2014

Waldorf Blofeld Keyboard - Black by Murat Lahur

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Waldorf Blofeld

"Probably the best full fledged synth out there that fits in a backpack"

I'm having a rather intimate relation with my blofeld since 2010 and still it keeps amusing me everyday..The name is fitting really well this little villain.I have to admit however, this synth is not really a beginners synth..But once you really get inside you'll find out that it's quite an astounding powerhouse in a nut shell

The exterior is built rock solid.The metal housing is thick and painted really sturdy..Also the layout printed on it creating the button-knob matrix is very well thought of.Eight shiny rotaries,an lcd with 128x64 resolution,four matrix buttons with 10 indicator led lights,a mode select button,a power led and a power switch that feels business when you flip it, concludes what you have on the synth to interact with it..

"Behind the villain"

As per in and outs, you get: one USB,one midi in,two 1/4" unbalanced jack outputs (where right doubles as a stereo out if used alone),one 1/4" headphones out and the 12V DC input connector..

This pretty much sums up what catches the eye on the unit, now for the inside..

"This is what makes it ooze"

The board:
What you get in the box is a virtual-analog synth that supports wavetables and boosts a 60MB onboard user accessible sample memory that we'll discuss in detail later (albeit you need to cough up extra dough to activate it).

"From Germany ? with love ?..Never though that was possible "

The menu:
Your only way of peeking inside this little synth is through it's LCD screen as it's not a DAW integrated synth like the TI's for example and waldorf does NOT provide you with an editor for it (although there are quite a few third party editors available already).And this means you'll have to get familiar with it's intricate menu system.I must admit there is a bit of a learning curve to the menu but I guess that's just how it is with super complex electronics housing rather minimal user interfaces.Once you get used to it though you'll find that it's very well thought of and the menu order is arranged in a way that is really streamlined for patch editing.The buttons on the front panel matrix act as shortcuts to the corresponding pages in the menu (clicking filter one button will also take you to that menu page) and this is a rather fast way of getting around the menu however using the selector knob you can also scroll through the entire menu with ease.(after getting very very comfortable with the menu system this feature can/should be disabled as this then allows parameters on different pages to be edited simultaneously)

The Generators:
Blofeld's sound is generated by three oscillators with four classic analog modelled waveforms that play an impressive 128' to 1/2' range while two of these oscillators come bundled with the entire microwave 2 wavetable set as well as the Alt set from the Q's (these wavetables are now 16 bit)..Also those two oscillators will be able to load up ANY sample if you wish to unlock the internal memory through a separate purchase on waldorf web shop.The wavetable oscillators also feature a "brilliance" setting to bring back the "grit" from the old waldorf machines if desired.

Each oscillator can be an FM source for each other (also for the filters) which means you can create a three osc FM modulation (plus the lfo's) for really insane sounds where only Osc2 can be synced to Osc3.

On top of these you'll get a white noise generator which you can alter the color and a ring modulator to sum up the sound generation aspects.

"Oooo..It has a box "

License SL:
This is what you buy from the waldorf webshop to activate the 60MB onboard sample memory and it's nothing but a clever marketing trick to keep the price of the unit lower (keeping in mind that the hardware components are already yours when you buy the unit but you just can't use them unless you buy the activation separately)..One might argue that this is not fair but given the number of people who couldn't care less for an option as such, I do understand this move.
The purchase means you can now download either one of the free sample sets from the website or download their sample set editor named S.P.E.C.T.R.E. and create your own..
Spectre can define key zones,root pitches, sample stacks and transfer these to the blofeld memory..A major drawback is worth mentioning here can only write the entire memory each time, and it takes a while, not eons but yes, a while..This means you'll have to sit down spend quite a bit of time and make the perfect sample set's you'd use and then upload them as you need to your machine..Not the biggest problem in the world but if you want to record your own laugh and up it to the machine in a split second to morph right away, well it just won't happen
Once you get things up and running though the magic truly starts..Blofeld can read acid loop points which in return means you can make your own sampled sustainable instruments..Yes yes you've heard it right...If you take a single cycle supersaw and define loop points for it you will have your self a juno in no time ..also in doing so you can greatly reduce the sample memory usage (single cycle files will be mere kilobytes) in fact you can set a unique supersaw sample for each and every note of the keyboard (thus sounding reaaaly close to the original) and still keep loads of sample memory for other stuff.And the fact that these samples are inserted at the generators means they'll benefit from all the rest of the waldorf goodness to come like the filters and the modulation etc. just like any other waveform.
Although synthesizers are pretty darn diverse devices there are some instruments in the world which have almost impossible to replicate timbres..Well fear not, you sample those guys and define loop points if need be and voila ! you have yourself vocals,choirs,percussions,brass instruments like no other synth can emulate..Keeping in mind that these samples can be up to 44kHz 16bit quality you can really mimic these otherwise painful to recreate instruments.

The Envelopes:
There are 4 envelope generators (Amp,Filt,Env3,Env4) with 5 different types (ADSR,ADS1DS2R,One Shot,Loop S1S2,Loop All) which makes this synth quite versatile and modulation friendly.Especially the looping envelopes are very very handy for creating super complex sounds (a sample or a wavetable as osc source and a looping Amp envelope goes far far away).These envelopes can modulate pretty much everything in the synth.

Low Frequency Oscillators:
Blofeld is equipped with three lfo's that support six shapes (Sine,Triangle,Square,Saw,Random,Sample and Hold) and they go stupid fast, like almost audible kind of fast which gives them a unique character.They can modulate pretty much anything in the synth as well as each other's speed etc. giving possibility to wide range of modulation patterns.They can be free running or clocked and internal/external tempo synced.Also their start phase can be set from 0 to 360 degrees or to start at a random degree each time.

"THE" Filters
You get two filters that can be set to resonate in 11 different modes (Lp12/24,Bp12/24/Hp12/24,Notch12/24,Comb+/-,PPG Lp) and they can be wired to run in parallel or serial.They can be FM from any modulation source and they provide eleven different drive models (Clipping,Tube,Hard,Medium,Soft,Pickup 1,Pickup 2,Rectifier,Square,Binary,Overflow,Sine Shaper,Osc 1 Mod).Filters have their own modulation input for their cut off frequencies and their panning which greatly helps to free modulation slots in the matrix for other stuff..

Now, probably filters are what deserve half of your money in this synth as they are really REALLY waldorfy kinda juicy ..I mean if you've ever heard of waldorf,there is good chance that it's due to their filters or wavetables.Besides a filter is one of the main ingredients to any synth's character anyway..I mean a sine wave is a sine wave and a triangle is a triangle, right ? I can't talk enough about these bad boys, the comb filters are out of this world, they resonate quite high really well and even in very short times they hold their integrity rather efficiently..The PPG Lp ? well it's quite legendary anyway.."Fantastic filters" sums it up..

Ok, let's be fair..Effects section is not blofeld's selling point.But hey that'd be fantastical if you got cutting edge effects for the kind of buck you paid,no ? I find the delay and the flanger to be OK and the rest kind meh ..
You get two FX slots with eight available effects processors (Chorus,Flanger,Phaser,Overdrive,Triple FX ,Delay,Clk. Delay,Reverb) while only FX2 can utilize the Reverb,Delay and Clocked Delay processors..
Some of these can be processor hungry and result in decreased polyphony so unless you must use one they are better left at bypass.

The Arpeggiator:
Blofeld has a cool arpeggiator (albeit with midi clock sync issues which are still to be resolved through a firmware upgrade) which can be programmed intensely.It has a 16 step programmable list featuring glide,accent,length and timig setting for each step as well as forward/backward/random jump functions and a chord option.

The Modulation Matrix:
Well, I can't help but say "Welcome to the matrix " ..The mod matrix is where blofeld's real outstanding strength lays in ..You get 16 slots where you can assign virtually any source to almost any destination in the blofeld..What's nicely not forgotten is the modulation amount of the first fours slots are also modulation destinations for other modulation slots to use and this on its own is an incredibly versatile and deep function hard to find in other synths.On top of the 16 modulation slots you also get four modifier slots which can modify the sources you'd wish to use through eight mathematical functions (+,-,*,OR,XOR,AND,min,max) which then can be fed into the modulation matrix to create custom algebra mayhem..ok I'll be frank, if you are not advanced in mathematics you might not be able to make full use of the modifiers section but if you are by god's gift there really is no stopping you with this synth.Especially keeping in mind that waldorf assumes you know very well what those functions are and gives virtually no guide for them in the manual.Ok some are fairly self explanatory like (+) function adds things but if you don't know what logical and,or,xor functions do you are left "alone in the dark"...oh wait there is super nice guy namely "Achim Gratz" who made a waldorf modifiers guide for all those

Blofeld also supports a "multi" mode where you can run it as a 16 part multi timbral synth, within the boundaries of it's processing power (you can't hit it with 16 really complex patches at the same time although I do run 16 parts of drums/pads/leads with some effects on them without any problems)..This "multi mode" unfortunately is a little bit buggy..I think it's again due to insufficient processing power or maybe a later firmware might get things better..If you want to run 4-5 different patches through it with not so many simultaneous notes on each then it should be able to crunch them with ease but when you send 16 different midi channels of data which is full of notes and loads of automation then the poor little thing starts to squeak

"You've guessed it, they are German . . ."

Waldorf Team:
I guess adding a little bit of my personal experience with waldorf team over the course of these years will also be fitting in this review..After about 3 years of heavy abuse (daily knob tweaking for many hours a day and traveling in my backpack around the world wrapped in a t-shirt at best) my rotaries got a little wobbly..If you do a google search you'll find this is a rather common issue with the blofeld..Also some of my buttons required me to put on some extra weight in order to operate..So I've mailed waldorf and got through to the service (to Mr. Karsten Dubsch..I had to mention this guy's name as he is quite angelic) ..It was probably the best service experience I've ever had..I've shipped my unit to them and they have replace my LCD for free (they said it wasn't bright enough :P) , put in the four little rubber feet which were missing for free (the new ones also lasted about a month),replaced some bits and pieces on the motherboard for free (it appears I have one of the first hundred units and the newer ones had hardware changes), replaced all the rotaries and the buttons for a very reasonable price (~20 EUR) and just to make me drool they have given me a set of red push buttons (making it a limited edition machine) also for free . .I mean...seriously where you get service like that these days ??

Also at some point I've decided to design my own editor for blofeld (I'll be releasing soon) and at that point they were super cool providing my sysex and other service documentation happily..after that I went on to design my own patch bank (also will be released soon) and again they have provided me their waldorf guidelines on patch banks etc. ..

So, to sum it all up :

I'm in love with my blofeld and I can't recommend enough to anyone who wants a solid,versatile,powerful,feature-rich synth that sounds fat and fit's in a backpack.As a matter of fact I've already made about 10 of my friends buy the little devil after me..Ok some couldn't use it and gave me the looks but hey, like I've said in the very beginning of the review, this is not a beginners synth..if you know your way around synths and like to design your own patches with german precision though, the little villain is set to satisfy you for many years to come..I must add that the License SL is a MUST to fully unleash the potential of this little beast..

Thanks for bearing through this giant of a review and happy tweaking

  • 5
26th January 2016

Waldorf Blofeld Keyboard - Black by JehuJava

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 3 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Waldorf Blofeld

This module is a great intermediate step into synthesis. The sound quality is very good, the feature set is very extensive, and it's inexpensive. While not really very analog sounding, you can get close. But you can also explore sounds far beyond what a typical analog synth can do. 3 oscillators, wave tables, 2 multimode filters, polyphony and multimode timbres for days.

There's still OS glitches, which is too bad. However, bang for buck, this thing consistently delivers.

  • 1
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