The Waldorf Quantum and the Sequential Prophet X are like the Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster of the synthesizer world. It’s a BIG deal for an all digital desktop version of the Quantum to be released.
Yay, my Quantum is back from “repair”. It was gone one day shy of 2 months, which was faster than expected, especially with COVID-19 virus world in full bang…
Waldorf service (via Sweetwater, then Korg the USA service center) gave me a completely new synthesizer. The screen is a beauty. It has the touch sensitivity I would expect, the XY pad will blow your mind. There is no bubble in the middle or dead spot on the right edge. The keyboard has quiet keys, and the panel has all the right buttons, even the Komplex Modulator has a printed line under it.
This Waldorf Quantum rocks. It looks and feels like all $4000 of it should.
I want to stress that I believe all currently manufactured Quantums are at this same level of high quality control. I would not hesitate to buy a new Quantum today. Waldorf is a top notch company, I have nothing but high marks for them. Even more so, kudos to Sweetwater.
I’m retired now, but most of my pre-retirement career was in technology related industries. It’s a fact that 1% of technology products are going to arrive DOA, with some elemental flaw or go down in the 1st 30 days. It is so important to choose who you buy technology from wisely. Most of the time your dealer is going to take your money, ship you the product and that’s that. It’s that rare moment when something goes wrong that resellers really show what they are made of.
I’ve never had a defective musical product in my life before, but my first Quantum was in that 1% experience, as I documented in First 48 hours – Waldorf Quantum joins “Studio”. It had a non-functional key, other keys were unacceptably noisy and one of the oscillators had 2 Resonator buttons instead of Particle and Resonator buttons. This was just past a time period where people were waiting months for Quantum preorders to fill. Immediately Sweetwater shipped out a replacement with prepaid shipping back for the old one.
A month later as I documented in Some first month thoughts about Waldorf Quantum I was very happy with my 2nd Quantum. In time I did become more aware of some screen characteristics, a bubble in the middle of the screen, a dead zone on the right edge and a general lack of the touch sensitivity I would expect.
My bubble wasn’t that bad, I didn’t even blog about it and I have seen more significant bubbles online. And though it didn’t impact use of the synth, the bubble was kind of like a coin sized dent on the hood of a brand new Ferrari. It sullied the shine of a state of the art machine just a bit. As I blogged about in 6th month thoughts about the Waldorf Quantum, the pain of the dead zone on the right edge and a general lack of the touch sensitivity was reduced by OS 2.0 beta redesigns, but it was still an issue I wanted resolved.
There is little doubt in my mind that the Quantum is so amazing and so unique that I could have lived with these ‘quirks’. Some luster was missing though, and I didn’t have that I want to buy another Waldorf product feeling like I do with Sequential products.
As 2020 arrived, two unrelated events cemented my decision to send Quantum #2 for repair. For one, at the beginning of February I was planning to buy a Sequential Prophet X, so I knew the pain of the Quantum gone bye-bye for 2-4 months would be less. For second, for ministry business reasons in the middle of February, a few of us were making the 3 hour drive from Chicago to Sweetwater to take a tour of their operation.
Advice: Never visit Sweetwater. No wonder that place sold $850 million dollars worth of gear in 2019. What an amazing place, what great people. You will never want to buy musical equipment anywhere else after you visit there. Stay far far away.
Anyhoo, I missed the final stages of the Quantum OS 2.0 beta so I was anxious to see what the release version was like. So far so good! The sound packs are nice too.
My corner of the Waldorf Quantum world is better today, amen.
I think in my future synthesizer purchases, I will wait until a synth has been available for a year. Most of the time, issues will be firmware, but sometimes there are hardware revisions. That may be common knowledge but I’m an experience learner, ha! That said, critiques in this post should be properly weighted; the Waldorf Quantum is an amazing machine. Under my new 1 year policy, I would not hesitate to pull out my credit card and buy the Quantum today, and I have little to no regrets about having bought one 6 months ago.
The Quantum is definitely my stranded on an island with only one synthesizer (and electricity) choice. Even analog purists would be well advised to open their minds. Those without $4k to spend would be well advised to move mountains to get one. Those who are not ready to appreciate the value of a $4k synth yet, need to spend time with a Quantum. The Quantum is one of the few pinnacles of synthesis on the market today.
I think there are a few resolvable hardware issues in some 1st year Quantums. Aside from miscellaneous defects or QC issues which all new electronics are likely to have a 1% rate of, here are a few to be aware of.
Squeaky keys – This one is the easiest to fix. You don’t have to tolerate it or take pass on a used machine with the issue. This condition is common to many brands which use Fatar keybeds. The keybed just needs lubrication, check with Waldorf support or your dealer.
Touch screen sensitivity and/or dead zone – Most of the issues with this are firmware design, fixed in the 2.0 beta 9. You may notice in the image at top of this post, the 6 control areas on the left and right sides of the screen are redesigned to reflect more accurately that there are no buttons for selections like normal and mod; the whole rectangular area is a touch area/button, which once you understand that, makes selection a snap. The middle selector knob between save and previous has been programmed to scroll through selection choices much more accurately and easier than previous touch only selections. You could get a new screen through warranty that is purported to be more sensitive, however the firmware changes make a world of difference and you may not care. Likewise, many Quantums have a dead spot on the right 1/4″ of the screen that can be fixed with a screen firmware update (not to be confused with the OS firmware, this is completely distinct and not currently upgradable from SD or USB. A user upgradable screen firmware may become available in the future, but there is no guarantee at this point). I think most people will not bother to deal with repair of these screen issues since the beta take almost all the pain away. To replace the screen or update the screen firmware, you will need to ship the synth to a warranty center.
Voices with inconsistent resonance – See image at top of this post. I wouldn’t have even noticed this if I hadn’t read about it. Thanks to Paul Cotton, who provided these issue confirmation instructions and .wav files: Boot, load a patch > Init the patch > Turn off OSC1 in the OSC MIX (so audio will be just filter self resonance) > Left of the screen, change analog filter 1 cutoff to 67 and resonance to 85.5 , then repeatedly play middle c to cycle the voices. Before fix .wav / After fix .wav To fix this, you will need to ship the synth to a warranty center.
So I’m trying to decide if it’s even worth the bother to send my Quantum off to fix the 2nd and 3rd issues in February 2020, when I am buying a Sequential Prophet X and will be busy with that new synth for a bit and will have a fresh outer box to ship it in.
What happens in the beta stays in the beta. I will say this though, the current 2.0 beta 9 firmware is more stable and polished than the the non-beta 1.3.0 firmware release. Don’t be shy or paranoid, get the beta, you won’t regret it!
The Waldorf Quantum factory patches
Like most Quantum owners I would imagine, I didn’t buy the Quantum to use presets primarily. I bought it for sound design so I didn’t really spend much time cruising the presets. After 5 months, I did start checking out the presets in more detail. I was pleasantly surprised, there are some amazing presets. Like all synths, some are basic and they could be expanded. There is more than meets the eyes initially though.
1-88 are “best” of selections from the rest of the 100-1529 presets.
I have to say it. I wouldn’t promote the concept or seek it on purpose, but if I had to have only one synthesizer, the Waldorf Quantum might be the one to have.
After a few hiccups and an exchanged unit (Waldorf Quantum joins “Studio”) the second Quantum has been near flawless. I say near flawless, this however is what I expected.
OK, one super small thing. This morning, I was thinking about how much I like the layout of the Quantum, except for how dark it is around the Selection Dial. See the bottom center of the image above, the Selection Dial is between Save and Prev. You know it is there, even in the darkness. It’s funny how blind I can be, at the same time I was pondering this, I noticed an LED beneath the dial. Unlit. I couldn’t find a setting to turn it on, or documentation about it. On the Facebook Waldorf Quantum Synthesizer Group, it was thought the LED would stay off in OS v1.3.0 and earlier, but could be fixed in a newer firmware release. Weird. I was hoping it was an obscure setting. Oh well, no big deal though it does seem strange that a non-functional LED in the machine would be missed in quality inspection number one, even though I missed it for a month as well. Other than that, the hardware is designed well and works great.
So back to the beginning, my Quantum came with OS v1.2.3. I didn’t spend a lot of time experiencing that version. After making sure everything was basically functional I upgraded the system to OS v1.3.0. This process was easy and quick. Like everyone, I anxiously await OS v2.0, currently in beta. OS v1.3.0 is as I expected, buggy and unstable at times. Again, this is what I expected and not a problem, but I do want OS v2.0, ha! I’m in information technology and I can tell you that a lot of software runs properly when it is run correctly, but when people push the wrong buttons or don’t know what they are doing is where the cracks in the system show up the most. So I probably put the Quantum through its worst tests and I have managed to crash it or make a reboot necessary a few times.
So there you have it, the unexpected bad and the expected bad. Beyond that, all I can say is WOW!
The integrated panel and screen are state of the art
This machine has redefined what I want in a synthesizer. It lives up to the hype. The Quantum is beyond flash if you ask me.
The panel layout is great, lots of knobs with LEDs that may change color, depending on the function of the moment. These colors are custom selectable but in stock configuration, as an example in the Oscillator section, the Wavetable LEDs are teal, the Waveform LEDs are green, the Particle LEDs are blue, and the Resonator LEDs are red. This can be a huge help to know what state you are in at a glance.
I am a big fan of the Sequential/DSI knob and screen combinations on synths like the Pro 2, Prophet 12, and Prophet X/XL. However with its touch screen, the Waldorf Quantum takes screen control to new heights. The visual representations of the LFOs, oscillators, filters, envelopes, mod matrix, and effects are cutting edge. Like the Sequential/DSI adjusting any knob brings up the related area on the screen display. On the screen there are 6 more knobs to fine tune various parameters, 16 buttons to jump to major screens, and the Dial Selection knob to scroll and select with. This is flat folks, there is no sensation of menu diving.
Not only all that, but this screen is a touch screen, you can select even more with your finger. You can even draw things like waveforms, envelopes, and in the example image at the top of this post, sequencer notes.
The digital oscillators
I’m biased towards digital-analog hybrid synths. I have and have had some analog oscillator synths like Korg, Moog and Novation, and they no doubt have certain analog-y sounds, characteristics and charms to them, but I’m still preferenced to digital oscillators like the Sequential/DSI Pro 2, Prophet 12, and Prophet X/XL synths.
That said, the Quantum in its wide open, out the door state, is a little more digital-y than those synths. You are going to notice that digital sound, in some cases metallic or windy. This is not to say you can’t analog and warm it up, you can. I think most Quantum demo videos don’t really show that well, so know you can.
Speaking of videos, the revolutionOSC Waldorf Quantum Page has over 120 Quantum curated videos in 2 YouTube lists, which are good and useful. There are no complete and comprehensive tutorial video sets for the Quantum to my knowledge out there, however. An example of what I mean by complete and comprehensive would be like Marc Doty’s Automatic Gainsay The Dave Smith Instruments Pro 2 YouTube List, a 15 video collection. Hopefully someday Waldorf will produce or underwrite something like this for the Quantum.
Back to the digital oscillators, there are 3 of them, and a choice of 4 synthesis engines – Waldorf-style Wavetables, Classic Waveforms, Granular Sampler, Resonator and soon with OS 2.0, a 5th – Kernel synthesis.
You could write a large book chapter and several videos minimum about each one of these synthesis engines. There is so much functionality and choice in the Quantum oscillators, that you could have no other functions or controls and still have your hands full.
Well, that’s it for now. If you are interested in the Waldorf Quantum, be sure to check back for more. The Quantum will be a major focus of mine for years to come, I’m sure.
My Atmospheric and Noise Quotients Just Went Way Up
Yeah, I know… buying the synths has (so far) really overshadowed properly mounting the synths. That day will come though. It has to. Living in a Jesus commune means I’m just a little shy on self-fulfillment space. Now if I want to have a auditorium concert, there are multiple options that I wrote about in a previous post A Musician Supportive Sober Home, however, my private studio space is very limited. Still I’m gonna imagine many bedroom producers have issues even worse than mine, so I’ll thank G-d for such a wonderful problem and move on.
A problem I have with saving up for a piece of reasonably expensive gear, is I have time to way overthink the choice of gear. Saving my coins for nearly a year total, I agonized between buying the Waldorf Quantum or the Sequential Prophet X first. Being more of an information technology kind of synthesist than a talented keyboard player, the sound design functions of the Quantum won out in the end. I still intend to get a Prophet X next year, unless something better presents itself.
OK, on to the Waldorf Quantum itself! The first thing I noticed after removing it from triple boxed packaging and firing it up, was that the 4th C key did not work and the keyboard was creaky. On a whim, I upgraded the OS to v1.3 from the v1.23 it came with. This was very easy to do, but there was no change. My reseller’s tech support confirmed they would replace the unit, so I’m waiting on a new one. I also noticed a Particle Oscillator button on OSC3 was named Resonator, another must return item. Tech support said defective returns on the Quantum are around 1% which is normal for electronics from my computer experience. Still, I think these 2 flaws are quality control gone a bit sloppy. In the meantime I get to play with a mostly functional synth until the replacement arrives.
So with 48 hours experience, I am still semi-lost on the machine but I can see the coolness of this synth matches the hype. As I mentioned above the OS is very easy to upgrade. With the SD card, I think it was a bit easier and faster than most USB type OS upgrades. Like everyone else, I anxiously await the OS 2.0 release. I’m not sure what to think yet about the 2.0 beta program.
This synth is built. It’s 40 lbs. folks, def not a lap synth. The Quantum Fatar keyboard is more similar to my Moog Subsequent 37 than my Sequential Pro 2, a little more solid feel of the three higher end keyboards I have. The Pro 2 feels lighter, faster with more of that ‘plink’. The Subsequent has more ‘plunk’ and the Quantum even a little more so. How’s that for scientific description?
Now I would expect no one would buy a synthesizer like the Quantum to use presets primarily. Still for $4k+ I think the preset collection should be world class. There are some really good presets on the Quantum, and some so-so ones. I hope Waldorf releases updated presets periodically.
July 2, 2019 Update: Two business days later, Sweetwater had a replacement Quantum delivered which appears to be in very good order. July 8, 2019 Update: The replacement Quantum has been rock solid and the impressive machine I expected.