Waldorf Music has (finally) announced the availability of Kyra — its 128-voice, FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) powered virtual analog synthesizer. The instrument was introduced as a working prototype under the name Valkyrie for the first time at Musikmesse 2017 by an indie designer, Manuel Caballero, who later found a design, manufacturing and distribution partner in Waldorf Music.
According to the German company, Kyra “…is one of the most powerful music synthesizers ever built.” Marketing claims aside, Kyra looks like a powerful beast indeed. 32x oversampled hardware sound generation, 96kHz floating point sound processing, 32 bit DACs, 4 stereo balanced audio outputs, multi-part audio streaming + MIDI over USB (no driver required!), OLED display, 128 notes at the same time (up to 32 on any single Part), 8 independent effects chains (one per each Part!), not to mention the high-grade steel of the metal chassis.
Better still, each Part hosts a Patch from the pool available to the system. Speaking of which, Kyra has a generous Patch storage capacity of 26 banks — A through to Z, each containing 128 patches. That’s a total of 3,328!
So, the question is, how does it sound? Waldorf says “It really is a wall of sound. With so many oscillators and voices, Kyra really does make an impact. Having said that, it is also capable of delicate sounds too. As Kyra is oversampled, there’s no rolloff at higher frequencies. Kyra has a crystal clear sound. It can be tame and remarkably smooth with very good emulations of classic analog synthesizers but it can also be big, bold and brash.”
Enough with words, here’s the first official video, so you can judge for yourself:
Switching from Wave mode — meaning Kyra adopts a virtual analogue synthesis model which has the advantage that it is easy to construct sounds using intuitive subtractive synthesis — to Hypersaw mode configures the voice to use a special algorithm comprising six real oscillators to quickly create lush-sounding soundscapes. Digging deeper, Hypersaw mode replaces Wave mode’s two oscillator groups with a single source whose tonal content is constructed with just two adjustable controls — Hypersaw Intensity and Hypersaw Spread (geometric detuning). Built entirely out of multiple, harmonically-rich sawtooth waves or ‘partials’ each adjusted to that special algorithm, the Hypersaw provides characteristic soundscapes ideal for a wide range of uses — from high-impact lead sounds through to lush, animated pads. Placed in Dual Mode, the Hypersaw has 12 real oscillator sources with an additional adjustable stereo spread.
Successfully synthesizing sound is inextricably linked with flexible filtering. Fortunately for discerning users, Kyra’s FILTERS front panel perfectly positions powerful control, creatively implementing accurate emulations of classic analogue ladder filters with 2-pole (12dB/octave) low pass (12dB LP), band pass (12dB BP), and high pass (12dB HP), plus 4-pole (24dB/octave) low pass (24dB LP), band pass (24dB BP), and high pass (24dB HP) configurations. Creatively, 128 filters are configurable for single or dual parallel (Dual Filter) true stereo operation.
Onwards and upwards, three fast-response ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release) envelope generators with EG Slope setting are also at hand. Helpfully, one is assigned to the VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier), another to the filter, while the third can be freely assigned. All are available in the MOD MATRIX (modulation matrix), itself being a six-channel affair with up to three destinations per channel giving a maximum of 18 routings. It is also worth noting that the three LFOs (Low Frequency Oscillators) — with 128 wavetable shapes, monophonic, polyphonic, random, anti-phase, and quadrature stereo phase settings — are also available in the MOD MATRIX and additionally as a MIDI clock sync source.
Creativity continues courtesy of an arpeggiator (ARP) on each PART with 128 preset patterns; Up, Down, Random, and Chords modes; and an ability to synchronise to MIDI clock. Arpeggiators are aimed at live performance, primarily, but can clearly complement composition. Kyra’s ARP is an integral part of a Patch, so settings are always stored.
Price and Availability
The Kyra VA Synthesizer is available through Waldorf Music’s growing global network of distributors at an SRP (Suggested Reseller Price) of €1,843.00 EUR (excluding tax). As far as we know, a keyboard version should be available for Q1 2020.
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