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Waldorf Pulse Plus

Monophonic Synthesizer By Paul Nagle
Published February 1997

One of the hit synths of 1996, Waldorf's Pulse is now available in a slightly upgraded version, incorporating an external audio input and CV/gate interface. Paul Nagle sets it squizzing and phzweeing to find out exactly what has put the Plus in the Pulse.

It's only fair that I come clean at the outset and declare: I love the Waldorf Pulse. Since I reviewed it a year ago (see SOS February '96), it has become a vital component of my studio. The reasons are simple: it has a tremendous bass end, two fast, snappy envelopes, three powerful digitally‑controlled analogue oscillators, and two low‑frequency oscillators with a remarkably wide frequency range (from 0.0008Hz up to 261Hz — equivalent to MIDI note C3). If that's not enough, the mixer section can be set to overdrive the analogue cascade filter for a wide range of tone colours. An arpeggiator, a flexible modulation matrix and a separate MIDI controller for each parameter all make the Pulse a dream for performance, programming or sequencing.

Not content to rest on their laurels, Waldorf have now released the Pulse Plus, which is equipped with a comprehensive CV/Gate interface and an external audio input to the filter. In this quick tour, I'll look mainly at the new features, so check out the aforementioned SOS Pulse review for the full picture.

At first glance, the Pulse Plus doesn't seem radically different. The restful green LED that indicates the position in the programming matrix has been replaced by a dazzling red affair, familiar to Microwave users. An additional level for external audio has been added, and the lettering of the Global section reworded to allow for an extended range of parameters. But it is on the rear of the unit that the most changes are evident: six extra quarter‑inch jack sockets give a wealth of new connection options.

Software Enhancements

In typical Waldorf style, the Pulse's operating system has undergone several upgrades since its release; at the time of the review, it stood at version 1.42. New features include MIDI synchronisation for LFO 1, enhancements to the arpeggiator, and a few fixes. The manual has been overhauled and now includes some helpful hints, as well as a section at the end detailing the extras in the Plus version.

Three LFO waveforms are available for MIDI sync: triangle, sawtooth and square. When controlled externally, LFO speed becomes selectable from a stately eight bars' duration up to 32nd notes, including dotted values. I hope that a future update will allow the Sample & Hold waveform to be MIDI‑sync'ed too, with perhaps the extra sweetener of LFO phase‑shifting to better align blips against a sequenced rhythm section.

The arpeggiator is now very respectable, encompassing a maximum range of 10 octaves, selectable from whole to 32nd notes, with triplets and dotted values available for each. Sixteen preset pattern variations extend the possibilities still further. In addition to the usual up, down, up/down and random options, three new Assign modes have been added which replay notes (up to a limit of 10) according to their incoming order. Both note and MIDI Clock data are sent via the MIDI Out socket, and arpeggiator settings are memorised on a patch‑by‑patch basis.

CV Or Not CV?

Many recent analogue synthesizers have included a CV/Gate interface, but few come close to the extensive implementation that appears on the Pulse Plus, which boasts no fewer than eight parameters with which to fine‑tune those pre‑MIDI incomings and outgoings. At the most basic level, the CV/Gate Out jacks re‑send the notes that drive the Pulse, as either Oct/Volt (as used by Moog, Roland, Sequential, and so on) or Hz/Volt signals (as used by the Korg MS series, Yamaha CS monosynths, and the like). Four selectable triggering modes should cater for all but the most obscure old synths that may be lurking in your attic. Better still, the interface can be assigned a discrete MIDI channel so that it is addressed independently of the Pulse, providing, in effect, the same functionality as a dedicated unit. The fun doesn't end there, because a second CV output is available: CV2. Its value can be controlled by any of the Pulse's 15 modulation sources; handy if your ageing synth has patch inputs, as in the case of the Korg MS series. A new modulation matrix entry is used to specify source and level. The CV and Gate inputs allow the Pulse to be controlled via pre‑MIDI synthesizers or analogue sequencers, providing they adhere to the Oct/Volt standard. When Waldorf decide to add a feature, they don't do it by halves!

Audio Input

The audio input allows an external signal to be routed through the filter and amplifier sections. Furthermore, since the audio input has a unique controller assigned to it, it is possible to vary the level dynamically via MIDI, as well as swirl it around in the stereo field via the Pulse's twin outputs. When using an external signal, you need to trigger the amplifier envelope in order to hear anything — this can function as a simple but effective noise gate for chopping up audio signals. Other interesting possibilities occur if you connect a polyphonic synthesizer and modulate the Pulse's filter with Sample & Hold. Setting the LFO rate to 0 means that a new cutoff value is generated for each incoming MIDI note, which almost makes up for the lack of MIDI‑sync'ed S&H. This is great fun for those fast and wibbly sequenced chords, and if I didn't have this review to write I'd still be playing with it, squeezing some impressive squelches from my otherwise non‑squelchy Wavestation.


I've had almost a year to appreciate the original Pulse, and I think I'm now brave enough to say that this is the best analogue monosynth I've ever owned — even including my Minimoog. I know that this amounts to nothing less than heresy for many seasoned synth players, and I do concede that the Mini has that instant accessibility factor that the Pulse's matrix and six knobs cannot replace. Nevertheless, I find the Pulse to be more versatile, and it integrates so well into my MIDI studio that I can only urge you to try one out and judge my sanity for yourself.

I think that if I had to make the choice between a Pulse and Pulse Plus, I'd pay the extra £100 and get the Plus version, mainly for the filter input. If I still had any old monosynths lying around, the CV/Gate interface would be a great bonus — far better in my cluttered studio than having a separate unit. But decisiveness was never my strongest point (or was it?) and as a result I now have something in common with Dr Who: I have two Pulses!

Humble Pie Time

My initial Pulse review scorned the quality of the factory sounds, stating that many were strange and too low in volume. In fact, an unexpected bonus of getting the new one to check out was that I confirmed an irregularity in my own Pulse (an early model), which inexplicably loses volume if all three oscillators are mixed near maximum. I can now belatedly report that the presets do contain some very usable analogue leads, basses, arpeggios and, of course, wild noises. My apologies to Waldorf for bringing their programming ability into question! Another point worthy of note: the output of this synth is hot. I got a reminder of how loud it could be when, during the review period, I slotted the Pulse into the mixer channels normally reserved for my Korg Prophecy and was almost blown away by the gain difference. This is a powerful instrument, capable of shaking the most flaccid of bass bins like a frantic terrier with a rat.


  • Great range of analogue sounds.
  • Direct control of every patch parameter via MIDI controllers.
  • CV/Gate interface includes Oct/Volt and Hz/Volt as standard.
  • External input to the (excellent) filter.


  • Still only 40 user memories.
  • No Sample & Hold option for LFO MIDI Sync.


A stunningly powerful monophonic analogue synthesizer, now complemented by a built‑in CV/Gate interface and an external input. If you want to get the beat going and inject some life into the heart of your music, you need a Pulse! [that's enough circulation‑related jokes — Ed]