Waldorf Nave is a digital dream. The sounds it can create are vast and very, very expressive, given the amount of control available.
Pros: – In-depth wavetables creation – The CPU cost is impressively minimal
Cons: – No undo on the wavetable editing – Price in line with other VST synths but considerably higher than the iPad version
Nave got very warm reviews when it was originally released for iPad in 2013. Waldorf have since ported it to a full VST/AU/AAX plugin for Mac and PC, and this is the Nave that we’ll be gazing at.
Nave is a wavetable synth, and the GUI is dominated by an absolutely beautiful graphic landscape of the waveform that’s being used on the patch, with a thin red line outlining where in the table the waveform that’s sounding sits.
There are 3 sound sources to Nave – two wavetables, and an ‘uberwave’ oscillator.
Wavetables Each oscillator has a built-in menu of about 80 wavetables that you can pick as a source sound. The waves vary in timbre, from more classic waves such as saw waves, square, PWM, etc through to more organ-like tones, formant vocals, resonances with loads of harmonics. The real beauty of the wavetables however, is that you can travel through the wavetable as it evolves. You can either scan through manually, using the big Wave knob in the centre of the oscillator section, find a waveform that you like, and leave it there static, or you can use the Travel knob, to create a moving waveform that travels either forwards or backwards cyclically through the waveform. The speed depends on the amount you choose. It’s a shame there isn’t more of an LFO type travel modulation, with forwards and backwards, different waves modulating etc (you can do this with the 2 LFOs, but it seems a shame to miss out on a third LFO!) but it still gives a beautiful way to travel through the evolving wavetables for great effect. To further adjust the timbre of the wavetables, there is a ‘Spectrum’ knob that I think shifts the spectral information up and down. This can radically transform the timbre of the sound. BIG caveat though – be careful – you can create a whole load of sound that is inaudible without subs (think 20Hz or below), but can be maxing your volume output. Keep an eye on your outputs, as I encountered this several times, especially when pitching the spectrum envelope down!
The uberwave oscillator is essentially analogue represented waveforms (and a couple of noise generators) in up to 8 unison waves, with a spread, to make big wide sounds, that can be mixed in with the wavetable oscillators. This creates a nice balance with the more digital sounding wavetable oscs.
All these waveforms can be mixed together in the mix section – which not only offers the levels of the 3 separate oscs, but also levels for the ring mod between the two wavetables, and wavetable one with the ‘analogue’ oscillator. sometimes these two ring mod levels throw up some really interesting and beautiful sounds that you hadn’t anticipated.
MOD and FX The mod section consists of 3 envelopes and 2 LFOs. They’re assignable alongside other parameters such as aftertouch, velocity and some xy control pads, and can be assigned to the wavetable oscillators, the pitch mod, the 3rd OSC pulse width, the filter, etc. There’s also glide and pitch mod for the oscillators as a whole.
The filter section is a simple affair, with 12 and 24Db slope High Low and Band pass filters, with resonance and cutoff. A filter envelope is assigned, and the amount can be adjusted, as with the mod amount. Below that, there is a distortion module, assignable before or after the filter (and EQ) with 5 different types of distortion emulated.
There are two effect pages, with some master effects, consisting of phase, chorus, flange, delay, reverb, compression, and an equaliser. These are all great sounding effects. You wish that they could be assignable per oscillator, as well as master effects
Matrix control is a page that offers 10 slots with 17 sources affecting 30 destinations of your choice. It reminded me a little of the Oberheim Matrix, and was a lot of fun to use. I found myself wishing that there were a few more destinations to choose from, especially in the envelopes. Still, plenty to mess with!
The Wave page was the most fun for me. This page opens up a larger version of the wavetable graphic. You can then use the tools provided to select areas of the wavetable, and work on the fundamental and harmonics to your liking. This is the place that I could lose hours sculpting and shaping a waveform that I liked. If you fancy a change from the 80 provided waveforms, you can either load one up, or scan any audio source for a new waveform. If that doesn’t excite you, there’s a built in robot voice creator, where you can type in a phrase, and the fundamentals and formants are created to wavetable the phrase typed. Brilliant! I found myself really wanting an undo function however. I’d make a little mistake tweaking the waveform, and there was no way back. Disaster!
Conclusion Nave was made in collaboration with Axel Hartmann, of Neuron fame. It’s hardly surprising then, that this synth is a digital dream. The sounds it can create are vast and very, very expressive, given the amount of control available. The digital edge of the wavetable meant that it was fairly easy to get some cutting bass sounds, and piercing leads. But with the evolving element of the wavetables, I had the most fun creating warm and crystalline pads that slowly evolved and shifted. I particularly loved the depth you can get to in programming and creating wavetables, using whatever sound source you wanted to create new waves to integrate into the synth. And the CPU cost is impressively minimal. All in all, even though it also seems fairly pricey considering its original cost on the iPad, this is excellent stuff! There are a couple of small niggles, including no undo on the wavetable editing, which I would say is a must. There are also a couple of elements that have remained from the iOS port that feel like surplus skin (such as a ‘blade keyboard’ choice which is absolutely perfect for an iPad, with gliding and virtual mod on each key, but kind of pointless for this use).
Waldorf Nave costs $150 and you can read more about it, request a 30 days evaluation license or buy it on their website.
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About The Author
Composer/Producer, and keyboard player. He has written and recorded soundtracks for a wide variety of media and co-owns DOsounds.com with Jake Owen, a music production company that gives him an excuse to buy more analog gear.
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