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 it becomes obvious 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
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 to me that "even though
you may live in a notorious neighborhood where people
shoot at each other and their boxes, I will still use a cardboard box as
I believe it to be a safe means
of transportation", 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.
I spent the entire evening losing my
arm tweaking the heck 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.
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 dislodge 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
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 present 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 producing a fart (=easy...). It just enters
the stage and knocks everybody off of it with a single swish punch. 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, idyllic friendliness 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.
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.