Waldorf Q

Remarkable for being: The best balance between epicness and effectiveness.
 




When buying one, watch out for: dirty / dry / abused encoders that skip values.
 

 


GENESIS

Imagine a guy: a middle-aged, successful businessman (or just an astute trader), having several sources of income and a sizeable home studio kept as a hobby, who equips it with just the most expensive synths because he thinks that only the most expensive stuff is worth anything good, but when he realizes that it's not quite the way music and art works he decides to sell some of the synths and advertizes them as being in "perfect condition", but of course they are not - but how the fuck should he know that - he's way too busy a man to waste time on some knob tweaking. And even when you call him to ask some basic questions before the purchase (because he had imposed phone call as the only approved way of contacting him) he's getting kinda itchy - as if you were taking too much of his precious time asking questions every child knows the answer to - and finally, when you prove you know more than he does in the matter, he takes on an attitude - like he thought that all he has achieved in his life authorizes him to be a dick.

Now imagine the next thing: I've met two Q owners and they both were like that. The other Q seller, when I asked him about the possibility of sending the synth in some kind of a case, replied that "even though I may live in a notorious neighborhood where people shoot at each other and their boxes, he will still use a cardboard box as he believes this is a safe means of transport", an opinion which marked the end of our conversation. But that's just typical for a post-slave country like mine. The price of this thing is well above the average income and it would be regarded by most people as snobbish fad, so automatically this kind of gear ends up in the hands of the-haves, and the majority of the-haves (being more of nouveau-riche) in this country have specific, condescending mentality. Well, fuck them.

I spent the entire evening losing my arm tweaking the shit out of the 58 knobs to spread the lubricant inside because they skipped values, and two of them, the Data Entry knobs most probably had NEVER been used by Mr. Good Gear Connoisseur and they forgot what their role was on this big yellow panel. All in all, everything's cool. You remember the Judge Dredd scene with switching the ABC Warrior on? I felt like that with the Q. I literally blew off the dust, spread some grease and the monster is in perfect shape and ready for war again. I'm browsing the presets and I'm hearing pure classick-ness: I hear the 90's, I hear the 00's, I hear the kind of phatness sought after by the trance/club scene, I hear the kind of depth sought after by the middle-aged guys with moustache, evading their wives, wanting to recreate the masters of their youth in order to die fulfilled. I hear *my* sound too, I hear the cinematic grandeur. I just hear the 1 grand I spent on it, and I already love this synth.

KLANG

OK I'm not sure if i really LOVE this synth. Because I'm not that eager to throw my Blofeld away and stay with just the Q. I thought that the big boss would oust its mere substitute from the league, but actually the cheap substitute turns out to be a new instrument with different possibilities. Here's why: the Blofeld LCD displays a lot of things and that tackles your imagination, the filter drive is more musical, and there are more wavetables which give more scope for modern originality.

So what is the Q better at? The majesty of the sound and the knobby interface. But again, not to the last tiny bit. The sound is grand, but it's a Waldorf sound, meaning that if you don't like that certain low-end frequency rumbling and middle-frequency presence, then you have a real problem trying to do away with it in some patches. I mean, the filters are pure art and irreplaceable, the synth is unbeatable in its liquid, shimmering, sizzling squelchy-ness and in giving depth to normal and light sounds. But my type of a lowpass filter is the one that cuts off a little of the low end when the resonance is pushed up, but does not drastically thin out the sound when the resonance is approaching the maximum. The Waldorf filters just add resonance but the big aura is untouched. In addition to that, there's this general stiffness / glitchy-ness of the oscillators and envelopes. It's hard to convey by words, but my point is that due to all these factors the Q often sounds like "KLANG". Rubber stick hits a metal bar and it goes "klanggg!". I thought that Blofeld sounds like Klang because it's cheaper and that the Q would have a more refined, elastic tone. It does, but the Klang spirit is here too. I find the Klang less arresting and the sound more likeable when I use only 1 or two oscillators; one oscillator solo gives a wonderfully analog and luminous sound, with three oscillators up the Klang attacks with full force.

Other than that, Q makes one of the best timbres I've ever heard on a synth. It's one of the few "modern" synths that have a SOUL = an ability to make simple things shine. Sooper dooper ballsy professional multi-purpose airwave factory that reaches to your inner sensibility. If you learn to tame or appreciate the filter for what it is, it will sound outstanding. Very lively and organic, and I really can't tell apart Q pads from Juno-106 pads.

As for the interface, the knobs are ok for me, but they are endless encoders, so there is a specific feel to them and a specific behavior of the muscles in your hand when tweaking them (turning fast gives more value, if you want less value you need to focus and tweak slower, etc). And they can get dirty or wear out and then you're in trouble. But what I'd really kill the Waldorf designers for is the buttons and the shift+store combination. First thing is; the buttons are the most stiff and clumsy buttons on a VA ever, second; why on earth would anybody want to press two buttons twice to save a patch? Half of the synth is accessible only through pressing SHIFT. You want to change the semitone? Press SHIFT. You wanna change Keytracking, Sequencing, any Mod Source? Press fucking SHIFT. My SHIFT button is pretty worn out and it's a real pain in the ass. The German Wissenschaftlers hadn't thought of putting 2 or 3 shift buttons across the wide panel, did they.

So you see, one would think that the Q, with its hundreds of knobs is waaaaaay better and easier to operate than Blofeld. Well, with its crappy SHIFT function, and with its tiny LCD, its interface is actually not THAT much cooler than Blofeld's as one could imagine. They're like one or two steps apart rather than a leap.

We all know that the Q is officially a monster, a dream synth, first league, and I support those opinions, yet I will perfectly understand if you choose a Nord Lead 3 over it, just because you hate glitches, EQing, just because you want to tweak quicker. Or a Virus TI because you want some tame sounds that don't fight with and trample on other sounds in the mix. Or just because you play with a band rather that sit in a cave making FX sounds for a movie or build an electronic magnum opus. In case you do the latter, I say this to you: when other synths sweat to make some sophisticated sounds, for the Q making them is like a fart. It just enters the stage and brushes everybody off it by a single arm-sweep. It's a beast at evolving massive cinematic pads, mellow resonance organics, out-of-this-world ethereal fantasy aromas, what-the-fuck-is-going-on unmusical drones, faraway wailing (am I being vague enough?), industrial hostility, and an entire palette of diverse and rich electronica sounds. I'm not gonna make friends with the Q basses though. The Klang tone and the envelopes don't really make it a bassy synth (so the quest for the perfect synth still continues, haha).

To give you the best outlook on this, you'll have to let me call Waldorfs GD (Grandiose Digital) instead of VA (Virtual Analog). Of course, like I said, the Q is fantastic for some of the analog timbres; great for Juno-timbres, bad for Prophet-timbres. My idea of a VA is the OB12, the Nova, or Nord Leads, meaning ULTRA RAW sound and an interface that is a gateway to the synth's heart. So it all boils down to the type of analog-ness you seek. Besides, calling the Q just a VA would be an understatement.

Q STANDS FOR...QUALITY, DID I GUESS RIGHT?

The Q is neither overhyped nor underrated. It's in the top 5 of the ultimate synths list and judging by its sound, features and build quality, it's obviously worth the money (compared with Blofeld it may seem a bit pricey, or it's just that the Blofeld is sooper-cheap and less sturdy). Even if I'm not using it on a daily basis, I find it hard to imagine selling it. If a gold bar is a stable source of security and wealth, the Q is a timeless source of quality sound and inspiration. It's a great experience of something mighty that encompasses quite everything that a Nord Lead 3, Alesis Ion, MS2000 and DX7 / JD800 can do altogether (in engine terms, that is). Just make sure you want to go through that experience the way Waldorf wants.

 

ps. OK, I do eventually love it.

 

 

watch the demo part 1:

 

watch the demo part 2: