Many classic instruments (such as the Hammond B-3, Moog Minimoog, and Sequential Circuits' Prophet-5) have been resurrected in the past year as software plug-ins. And one of the best re-creations is Steinberg's Waldorf PPG Wave 2.V (Mac/Win; $199).
PPG Wave 2.V is a VST Instrument with an uncanny likeness in sound and aesthetic to its hardware namesake. The original Wave 2.3 - released in 1983 with a $9,000 price tag - derived its unique sound in part from its ability to read digital representations of waveforms sequentially from wavetables. Although other synthesizers later employed wavetable synthesis and scanning techniques, many musicians prefer the Wave 2.3's unique filter, resonance capabilities, and immediacy.
Virtual WaveMost of the Wave 2.3's features are faithfully emulated - right down to the blue front panel - and several conveniences are added to take advantage of modern computing power. The True PPG mode re-creates a few of the hardware version's peculiarities, including aliasing noise, irregular LFO oscillation, and fine-tuning filter variations. However, the Wave 2.3's cryptic parameter names have been discarded for clearer terminology.
PPG Wave 2.V's filter accurately reproduces the original SSM 2044 chip's behavior, which attenuated the signal by up to 12 dB when the Emphasis (resonance) was cranked way up. The Wave 2.3's filter and resonance characteristics were definitely distinct, and this plug-in's emulation sounds great.
The Wave 2.3's complex modulation schemes also appear in PPG Wave 2.V. In addition, you can graphically edit envelopes, and the onscreen keyboard can be hidden to preserve screen space.
PPG Wave 2.V does not operate in any digital-audio sequencer other than Steinberg's Cubase VST. According to the manufacturer, an update to version 1.01 (available for download from www.steinberg.net) fixes incompatibility problems.
I Hear VoicesEach PPG Wave 2.V sound bank contains 128 programs. In addition to the original hardware's presets, some of Europe's finest Wave 2.3 programming masters contributed eight more preset banks. You can automate program parameter changes, and the Mod wheel setting is stored as part of the program, just like in the original.
PPG Wave 2.V has a maximum polyphony of 64 voices (the original maxed out at eight voices) and receives MIDI data on eight channels simultaneously. As with the original, four keyboard modes are available: Poly, Dual, Quad (one, two, and four notes per key pressed, respectively), and Mono (eight voices per note). Poly, Dual, and Quad stack up to 64 voices. With PPG Wave 2.V, two stereo pairs of outputs can be routed directly into Cubase VST for additional processing or directly to the computer's audio outputs.
Wave HelloOne cool feature of the Wave 2.3 - which modern synths and samplers sorely lack - is the ability to pan individual voices. In PPG Wave 2.V's Poly mode, voices alternate between left and right pan positions. The Basis control sets the panning degree: a zero setting places all voices in the middle.
The Wave 2.3's unique sonic character shines through in PPG Wave 2.V. None of the original instrument samples I've heard capture the animated sound of an actual PPG wavetable synthesizer. Even the most ardent hardware zealot will appreciate PPG Wave 2.V's accurate detail.