Review: Waldorf PPG Wave 3.V

Waldorf PPG 3.VThe Waldorf PPG Wave 3.V is a software emulation of the legendary PPG Wave synthesizers which were build in the seventies and eighties. The German Wolfgang Palm and his company PPG (Palm Products Germany) introduced wavetable-synthesis to the public with the innovative PPG Wave synthesizer. This synthesizer uses wavetables in which digital waveforms are stored. With these wavetables the synthesizer passes through the waveforms while playing. The character of the sound changes in a continuous way, which causes the characteristic sound of the PPG Wave. For comparison: traditional synthesizers only use one waveform.

The waveforms can transform smoothly or make high jumps for extreme sounds. The transformation of the waveforms is controlled by envelopes, LFO’s or other controls. The wavetables of the PPG Wave are digital, but the filters analogue.

Recognizable for synth veterans
While building the PPG Wave 3.V, Waldorf has tried to get close to the original. Users of the original PPG Wave will instantly recognize the user interface. All buttons are placed in the same area as the original. Even the digital display made it in the interface of the VST-plugin. Users will be happy to discover the Edit button though, which opens a big digital display with many more parameters.

The bigger display is not the only difference with the old PPG Wave. Superfluous menus did not make it in the VST plugin, and the built-in sequencer is left out because any DAW with VST support can handle that much better now. The arpeggiator is still there. Unlike the original, the VST-plugin includes effects: an equalizer, overdrive, phaser, chorus, delay and reverb. Thus the PPG Wave 3.V is a contemporary version of its famous predecessor.

Although the PPG Wave 3.V might be a modern version, Waldorf also has thought about  the purists among us. In True mode the VST plugin reacts as close as possible to the original. In the eighties PPG built improved versions featuring reduced aliasing. In True mode you can choose the characteristics of the PPG 2.2 and 2.3. You can also choose for the 2.V for compatibility with the previous version of the VST plugin.

The PPG Wave 3.V includes about thousand presets, which give a good impression of the sounds. The presets are presented in a browser with search functionality for quickly finding the suitable sounds you need.

The presets feature sounds of the original PPG’s, modern presets by Wolfgang Palm, the creator of the original, and presets by some talented sound designers including Rob Lee. The presets by Rob Lee sound very good but they often even don’t use wavetable synthesis, showing the versatility of the synth.

The PPG Wave 3.V can load and play until 8 presets at once in Multi Part mode. You can
assign a MIDI channel to every preset for individual play back or in groups. This all depends on the power of the CPU of course.

The PPG Wave 3.V features 133 wavetables, including those of the original. The VST plugin can load wavetables with 64 or 128 waveforms. Most of the wavetables contain 64 waveforms. Most of the time the first 60 waveforms (0-59) are variations of the same kind. The last four waveforms in the wavetable (60-63) are often the traditional waveforms: the triangle, pulse, square and saw. The last four waveforms make big jumps and are more suitable for extreme sounds.

While passing through the wavetable from one waveform to the other, the PPG gives a characterful, nice sound which is pleasent to the ear. Like the original, the wavetable is controlled by the envelopes and the LFO. You can also control the wavetable with the modulation wheel or aftertouch on your MIDI keyboard. You can pass through parts of the wavetable, which greatly increase the sound possibilities of the PPG. So you don’t have to use all the waveforms in the wavetable. Beyond that you can select one of the waveforms, for example the saw, triangle, square or pulse, for traditional synthesis. The PPG Wave 3.V supports sample import, but unfortunately wavetable synthesis is not possible in this case.

Great sounds
For some of us it might be disappointing that wavetable synthesis is not possible while using your own samples, but the fact remains that the PPG Wave 3.V sounds great. The synthesizer has its own, characterful sound which you don’t easily find on other synthesizers. It’s fascinating to hear the PPG Wave 3.V passing through the wavetable, from one sound to the other while playing. Because of the very cool sounds you keep on playing the synth for hours.

The graphical user interface is not easy to understand for those who are new to the PPG Wave. You should really grow to use the synth. The user manual is required reading if you want a full understanding of the synthesizer. For example it appears that the parameters of the oscillators are to be found in different screens: Digi, Tune and Global. You also should learn the function of the envelopes and LFO which control the wavetables.

Fortunately the user manual is a great read. It offers many examples and tips on programming the synthesizer. All parts of the VST plugin are explained, including a comprehensive description of the effects section. It is highly recommended to read the manual, for getting a good impression of the possibilities of the PPG Wave 3.V. The demo works for 100 days, which is very generous.

On the internet, enthusiasts who want the original hardware version complain that the PPG Wave is seldom for sale. And when it is for sale they have to pay an enormous amount of money. For these users the PPG Wave 3.V can be a great alternative, see also the comparison of some sounds of the PPG 3.V with the original hardware version on MusicRadar.

The PPG Wave 3.V is a great synthesizer with a characterful sound. If you don’t own the original hardware version and are desperately seeking for the sounds of this illustrious synthesizer, the PPG Wave 3.V is a very good ánd affordable alternative. The PPG Wave 3.V is also a great candidate if you are looking for a synthesizer with a different, unique sound. The VST plugin includes a great amount of wavetables and presets and a comprehensive manual. Highly recommended!

Score: 9/10

+ Pros:
Great synthesizer with a characterful, unique sound;
Excellent manual.

- Cons:
User interface is not very intuitive for new users.

Waldorf PPG 3.V

PC and Mac




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