To start off,
this board gets a special award: it has the most awful and uncreative set
of factory patches I've ever heard. It will drive every "preset guy" into
despair. Equally awful as the Nord Leads. You
know, Nord is a
simple synth, but here? They build a
Maserati Quattroporte only to use it for picking up kids from the school?
How the f do they want to sell it to people fiddling with it in music
OK, if I have to be politically correct or linguistically creative, let's say
Blofeld sound can be compared to an adaptive
plant which... grows in a glass tube. Or to cut the long story short, many times I
find its sound smothered and rigid, or "tin behind
glass". On the other hand we could as well call
that sound "sturdy" and "glossy".
But what it says on its panel is "synthesizer", not "virtual
so I'm not going to treat it as such. It a huge chunky robot, and one
that can cry, so that's a good thing. My basic "magick init sound"
with which I start all programming on all synths sounds good, deep &
juicy, and that means there's every prospect of success. And many
times there is success with the Blofeld, believe me. It's dirty and
clean, growling and smooth, never limiting. Cheesy-classy leads
and stuff? Of course. Unique and challenging sounds? No problem
either. I never liked pad sounds much, but with this thing they really
become interesting. Actually all kinds of patches can be done on this
machine and they sound cool to me, even though I don't like many
styles outside of my own, and I think every musician of any genre will
find Blofeld useful to his own taste. So big props for all that.
Nevertheless it's giving me persistent headaches with clicks
and rumbling. I think one of the culprits is the filter. There's
some small evil troll sitting in there, and I constantly have to ward
him off. It gets too harsh too often. You should check that issue out,
because if your
goals collide with this section of the Blofeld sound nature, you're
doomed. You are going to feel like you're wearing an iron helmet one
size too small. Your ears will bleed.
Blofeld does not have the best or the easiest interface you could ever
imagine, but I guess it's the best and the easiest interface for a new
synth released in 2008 for less than $1000. The knobs are... specific,
and some people may find them uncomfortable to operate. They are of
the 4V-type: very hard, very cold, very tall, very sensitive. On the
I have a feeling that designers at Waldorf tried to look across the
history of synths and pick up the best solutions, so we have the
AN1x-style matrix grid, we have ION-like page-driven menus, and we have
real-time graphs as experienced in OB-12. Although I don't get why the
cool ESQ-1 / OB-12 "function buttons" style is not more widespread in
synths. And would 8 more buttons for the hidden Oscillators, LFOs,
Envelopes and Filter raise the cost so drastically ?... I dunno, maybe
they would. Clicking one button several times to scroll up and down
its several options is numbing for the brain. I would love independent
buttons and I would love to have 2 or 3 assignable knobs, (not rotary
encoders, just knobs) to control stuff wired to them in the mod
matrix. But then again - remember the price. Good interface for the
price, and very cool in its own respect.
Lucky for me, what it
physical attributes outside it boasts inside. The developers did not forget to
provide such engine
goodies like Mod Matrix with Modifiers (mathematical functions / Boolean
operators as mod
sources), widely-editable coool Arpeggiator, Comb Filter, Bit-Reducer,
Loopable Envelopes, and of course wavetables and samples. Although I don't
why they put in samples like "String Chord". Man, who the fuck needs
cheesy string sample with a pre-recorded chord? Or "Impulse" or "Spring" or
whatever it's called. This sound can as well be done on normal oscillators
with some deep modulation, so what's the point of having such samples? I
wish the samples were sounds from mother nature which are really hard to mimic by
oscillators. Well, gotta leave the crappy onboard ones out and upload my own
WAVs through the Spectre thingie (yay!) (update: I never actually did that).
eye (or mind in that case) candy, hours of tweaking and discovering, and
finally reaching things generally associated up to this time with engines of Alesis Ion, Korg Prophecy
or more generally Wavestation and DX7. Speaking of Ion, I think
Blofeld is the only one out of the cheap ones that has the potential of
coming close to (or even surpass) what Ion can do and giving the same sort of programming
bliss. But when I
tweak both synths, Ion's like: "You wanna go that route? Allrighty then!"
and Blofeld's like: "Oh geez why do you want me to do that, it hurts!".
Bad glitches and hostile fuzz quite often. It's just the nature of digital
(wavetable) synths. Programming Blofeld is like kicking a lazy elephant
which doesn't feel like standing up and trumpeting, but when it does, the
trumpeting can sound grand and scare even the lions.
To my senses,
Blofeld is a notable enterprise, and if you've been waiting for a new
killing machine for the masses in the synth domain, you better grab it,
cause that may be the one. Just don't treat it strictly as a VA synth,
rather more of a "modular digital with analog affiliation". It's not the
best VA emulation (the epitome of analogness being, let's say, Juno 60 or
Jomox Sunsyn), but it's tremendous for the stuff VAs like Nord Lead, JP-8000 or MS-2000 can't do, and it can deliver fantastic
timbres (if you're into analog, the Blofeld gravitates towards Jupiter-6's
style "analogueness"). Around $1000 for
a new unit (kb version), so I'd predict half of this price if it had come out a couple of
years before, and then - you can't beat it. Amazing deal & great toy. So if you're happy with the way it sounds
- it's a delicious choice for the money, a powerful engine with gizmos to
perform wicked synthesis and insane arpeggio lines. If you're unhappy about the
way filters and oscillators sound, about some tiny bugs, about the small amount of controls & limited
tweakability - take a different route (jeez, if you're hungry, eat a
sandwich, if not, don't - I feel like an idiot saying such things).
As for me - I'm veeery satisfied. Another synth that lets me define and
reinvent myself once again. I think it's my best buy of 2009 and one of the
most interesting synths on my shelves.