It's a string machine sound module. Having had several of them, Solina, RS 09, lambda, and elka rhapsody, the rack format is wise, because it's not the kind of sounds you use all the time, it's just another color and a dedicated keyboard often takes up space, even if it provides a vintage touch and you can put keyboards and effects on top! Total polyphony and a mix between, roughly speaking, chords and more lead-oriented sounds (for once, you get closer to the lambda spirit).
There's no real need for a manual, editing is easy.
Animate is not very useful and, even if well-designed, I would've liked better to be able to select each type of voice rather than to have algorithms.
The famous chorus is well replicated and gives a it a mushy touch! The sounds, even without chorus, can sound fine (personally, I like the raw sound of my rs09 without chorus, because the latter has a somewhat "artificial" drift) and, while being typical, the sound palette available is pretty vast.
Yes, sometimes it lacks softer highs, but you can filter them, and I can perfectly imagine a DEP 5 behind it.
The lows are incredibly granular for strings and the choirs are interesting.
The envelopes are very useful and more comprehensive than on the Streichfett's older siblings.
The sounds are vintage, but you can also change that. However, be careful since it's easy to go into bad-taste cheesy territory!
I think it's adequately priced, I wouldn't have spent more given the editing possibilities, which can't be compared to a synth. The window of opportunity is now open, other brands can jump into it and a keyboard version will certainly find a good response.
I've had it for one month and I don't regret my purchase, even if I sometimes wish I still had something vintage because the Streichfett sounds a bit too proper.
No special remarks in this section, except that it's great that it's USB powered, but you don't have the possibility to connect a pedal to vary an effect or a filter, it has only the bare minimum to offer a rock-bottom price.
Does it have user's manual? Okay, it isn't necessary, since the device is simple and self-explanatory and there's that quickstart guide, but I like to read and reread why things are the way they are, I like that someone explains to me the whole process, the types of waveforms, even though I did recognize the squares (or maybe I read it in a review), with pictures, names, diagrams, references. I'm a fan of the Microbrute manual, in fact.
And if someone knows how to find the software bundled with it, which isn't inside the box, and doesn't seem to want to install on a Mac after trying to download it from the Waldorf site, the perfect opportunity to confirm the firmware version, although the update seems to have worked fine.
To repeat what has been said everywhere, this Streichfett IS NOT a Solina, not at all. Not really a Korg Delta nor an Omni. It sounds fat, it trickles, it's all over the place, pretty far from thin and ethereal sounds, although, at the same time, that's what's expected from a string machine. Once again, it's a style of its own, you need to get used to it. I wanted all vintage machines on the market inside a portable box, for $250, but the Streichfett isn't that. Big expectations, big disappointment. I spent all day thinking about sending this useless product back to Germany. So, in a desperate act, I saw what other people have done ─ there's a very good demo on the waldorf site. Finally, I made it undergo the final test, reserved as a last resort before putting up the "for sale" sign and reselling it on AF: The review of my favorite effects, a good phaser, not the one on the machine, which isn't bad (yes, I know I'm really hard to please), and what had to happen happened: I spent an hour with it, doubling the strings of the song I'm currently writing. In the end, I'll keep it!
I've been using it since this morning. I'm passionate about strings machines and know quite a few of the most famous ones. Excellent value for money, obviously. I'm not sure that everybody will keep it, though. It has a particular sound and it won't replace your favorite strings machine. There will be lots available secondhand on AF, who needs such a sound? Or maybe a new music wave will adopt it. It's nevertheless something you should try, the machine sounds really good. I spent several hours telling myself that with a couple of oscillators I would be able to achieve the same result...But failed! In my opinion, the guys at Waldorf did a great job with the sound sources, when you see that an oscillator sells for the same price as this machine in Eurorack format...
It's the first instrument I have bought new since 1981. Among the old machines I have kept are three string ensemble that I love and still use 30 years after they came out: an Eminent, a Yamaha SS30 (the first Yamaha string ensemble) and a Korg PE2000 (not really a string, more of a chorus+brass ensemble, but beautiful all the same). I also tried some Italian models (Elka...) and tasted Roland's sweet strings (RS).
Saturday, by chance, I stopped by a local store that had received three. Sometimes ─ once a year in fact ─ I go visit music stores and hear new gear. And I always come out empty-handed, not having heard anything that stirred any emotions in me.
But the Streichfett really moved me.
It's very simple.
The string registers, especially alto and cello ─ in relation to the whole, obviously ─ provide a very nice sound material in all ranges, less silky than an Eminent, but with a dynamic response that the old string ensembles don't have. It has a character that is very similar to the originals, even if the sound is not exactly the same.
The vocal register, at the beginning of the travel, gives ─ always in relation to the whole ─ a layer of choirs that resembles a VP330 a lot. Gloomy and rough.
The solo section, and its very nice amplitude modulation, allows you both to find the "cheesy" side of the original instruments (like the old Elka), but also more modern things. Especially if you invert the classic settings: A slow attack on the solo and a fast one on the strings, rather than a slow attack on the strings and a fast one on the solo...
The "animate" function and the phasing aren't any good. On the other hand, the reverb sounds fine.
I'll give you my musical and business opinion.
Business-wise, I can only praise the innovation of SMBs on the other side of the Rhine river. It amazes me that for $250, Waldorf can manufacture an instrument of this quality in Germany.
Music-wise, it's a cookie-shaped instrument. It's not the same as having an Eminent, or an Elka, it's not as sleek, but it's more dynamic and, all in all, it's very nice for a change.
The good news:
- Integral polyphony in the String section
- CC and sysex implementation (which is rarer everyday...)
- No exotic power supply required, the USB port is enough
The bad news:
- Insensitive to velocity and aftertouch
- 12 memories... which means you can save 24 parameters * 12 patches = 288 bytes!! In a time when a 1GB USB key costs about $1, this is taking the vintage concept way too far...
- No volume control via midi (cc 7 is not recognized) nor sysex. Since the velocity doesn't affect the volume, there is no way to influence it. So if you use MIDI from a DAW you'll need to write down somewhere the position of the volume control for each song...
Excellent! No need of a control surface, editor or even an LED indicator, it has everything!
The only drawback is that to edit effects you need switch + a knob. So, when you "switch" to another effect you don't know where you the knob was... I would've preferred something more obvious, like three knobs.
In the same line, the mix of 4 buttons + selector 1-3 to choose a pad is a bit complicated. Why can't you simply have 12 buttons instead? There is enough place and that shouldn't be too expensive.
It might seem I'm raving about it, but not only is the sound very inspiring, I can see a new musical wave spawning around this incredibly awesome device!
I predict that in 2015, Roland, Korg, Yamaha, and Akai will have their own PCM-based "string machine" ("yeah!").
I've had it for a week and, in my opinion, it will be a collector's item and a turning point for 2014!
The firmware still needs to be improved to solve some issues: Sysex problems, no volume via midi, a bit of velocity that can be activated at will to control the level, cutoff or percussive attack of the solo part...