Renowned synth manufacturer Waldorf has just released their new USB-powered monophonic synthesizer which offers the company’s signature sound in an affordable package. Detroit’s Mike Huckaby drops in with his thoughts about this pint-sized powerhouse.
The last three years have seen a rise in the production of monophonic synthesizers by several different manufacturers. As competition increases, many hardware companies are producing inexpensive synthesizers marketed around popular styles of electronic music. Furthermore, there also seems to be a rise in the demand of hardware synths in comparison to software. Many producers are enticed by hardware synths because they are not affected by RAM, processor speed nor the need to upgrade to a newer computer in order to continue using it.
Following this trend, Waldorf recently released the Rocket, a $329 tabletop monophonic synth that can run off USB power and brings the classic Waldorf sound to a highly portable instrument. I picked up one of these synths while on tour recently and decided to give it a test drive for the benefit of future users.
Waldorf Rocket First Impressions
This is a very sleek mono synth with a stunning build to it. The unit has a great design and has an extremely sturdy build. The switches on the unit are very strong and they do affect the signal flow (ie: hearing audible clicks) when you are switching to a different filter or key tracking type. This is something that I really like about this synth. The Knobs feel great, with a nice build to them. The knobs produce a very continuous response while being adjusted.
The filter on the Waldorf Rocket is one of the best features on the instrument. The filter is very sharp and has a great bite to it. In relation to the resonance and envelope modulation knob, this synth can really deliver some sharp filter sweeps and subtractive synthesis sounds.
LFO + Arpeggiator
The LFO and Apreggiator are a bit tricky on this synthesizer. Neither can be tempo-synced (like you can with the MiniBrute for instance) which is disappointing. On the other hand, you simply have to use your ears and rely on the timing within the track you are trying to record, to get accurate results.
The oscillator on this mono synth offers saw and pulse waves. This may not seem like a lot to choose from, but the “Booster” function on the Rocket enables the sound to have more saturation and harmonics, especially when used with the chord function on this synth. The Chord feature is very unique and useful. I have been able to create sounds on the Rocket synthesizer that sound close to those that would be created on my ROLAND MKS 80!
Warning: You Can’t Play Chords on This Synth
The Chord feature on the Rocket can be misleading at first because it doesn’t actually play chords. What happens is: the sound becomes stacked with more voices and you can then select a “chord like” voicing such as a 3rd, 5th, or other chord interval which has its own pitch associated to the sound itself. I don’t think many other mono synth offers this function, and this is highly useful while using the Rocket synthesizer.
One of the biggest gripes that users have been voicing about this synthesizer is its lack of an A/D/S/R envelope. The Rocket synthesizer only has a Decay envelope, which actually acts like the release stage of the envelope as well. I’m under the assumption that this was a design issue related to space available on the front panel, and in terms of price. I can live with this while programming this synth.
This is one of the strongest points about this synthesizer. The Rocket ships with a universal power supply that includes adapters for America, Europe, and Asia. This is a feature that im sure you will see other companies adapt to in the future. For example, i bought my unit in Scotland from Rubadub, and was equipped to use it later in Milan, and then 2 days later when i arrived at home in the United States because the adapters are all included.
The launch button is also another great feature on the Rocket and allows you to audition sounds without a MIDI controller. You can program sounds and apreggiations by simply pressing the launch button. Furthermore, when you are using a midi controller with the rocket synthesizer, the launch button will respond to the pitch of any key selected by the midi controller. This is a handy feature.
Summary of the Waldorf Rocket Monophonic Synth
I really like this synthesizer. I like the design, sound, functions, and features. The greatest thing about this synthesizer is that you feel like you are programming an expensive synth that sounds well above the Rocket price tag. I have never been much of a fan for mono synths, especially expensive ones. But I have learned a lot about programming synthesizers from using mono synths. They make you concentrate on a particular frequency, or type of patch such as a bass line, lead or effect sound, and that is a good thing. But if you have any concerns or needs for polyphony, a monophonic synthesizer is NOT for you. A monophonic synthesizer is good for a producer that may want to concentrate on a particular type of frequency such as a lead line, bass line, blips, or effects. There is often a need for this in the production and sound design process.
• Great build
• Great design
• Very affordable price
• Aggressive filter
• The launch button
• Versatile power supply included for all regions of the world
• Audio input
• MIDI in and out ports
• A boast function
• Flexible in the amount of sounds that can be created
• Lack of a full A/D/S/R envelope control
• LFO and apreggiator are not tempo synced
• Saw and Pulse wave limitation for oscillators
• No saving / patches
Detroit’s Mike Huckaby is a living legend and has long been an influential player in the city’s techno and house scene. With over two decades of work as a creator, remix artist and DJ, he’s become one of the most sought-after producers in the world. Mike’s love for music is shadowed only by his love for sharing knowledge about music. He’s mentored brilliant new stars such as Kyle Hall, and continues to tour the world as an expert in Ableton and Native Instruments software, teaching Live and Maschine to up and coming producers everywhere.