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Waldorf STVC

String Synthesizer & Vocoder By Gordon Reid
Published October 2020

Waldorf STVC

The STVC is much more than just a string synth.

There are some who seem to think that playing a string synth will turn them into spotty, friendless nerds doomed to a life of nothing but endless porn and early Genesis albums. This is bollocks, although many still believe that string synths are the preserve of sexagenarians nursing a half of Old Peculiar while repeating stories of how great Reading Festival was back in 1976. However, the popularity of string ensembles has soared in recent years, and the first dedicated hardware string synth of the 21st century was introduced in 2014 when Waldorf took the plunge with the Streichfett module. Now they're at it again, releasing an instrument that some may see as a keyboard version of the Streichfett with a vocoder bolted on for good measure. But, as we shall see, it turns out to be considerably more than that.

The Technology

Although it weighs just 7.5kg, the STVC's thick steel case is quite hefty, and the lips on either side are ideal for live use, making it easy to lift it in and out of cases and on to stands. Similarly, the full-sized, four-octave, velocity and pressure sensitive keyboard feels solid and has a surprisingly firm feel. The feeling of sturdiness is let down a little by slightly wobbly knobs, and even the change from plastic to stainless steel can't hide this, but the only disappointment for me was the position of the pitch-bend and modulation wheels. You'll find these behind the keyboard rather than to its left and, while I understand the desire to save a few centimetres, I wish that manufacturers would stop doing this. The final performance control is an octave selector with a ±2 octave range.

As on some other recent instruments, the STVC's 128 x 64 pixel screen is tiny, but it's just about sufficient if you're prepared to squint. Having done so, you may notice a horizontal line at the bottom of the display. This represents the saved value of any parameter you adjust and allows you to see whether the current knob position is above or below this. That's a nice touch.

The other feature on the top panel is the XLR socket for the supplied gooseneck microphone. As always, the neck of the microphone is too short so a separate mic mounted on a conventional stand is the way to go. Bear in mind, however, that the STVC provides only 2.4V phantom power; you won't be able to use a +48V phantom-powered mic unless it has a separate power supply.

Strings & Solo

The STVC's fully polyphonic Strings section appears to be identical with that of the Streichfett, and an A/B test — even checking for the unevenness in the loudness that I had discovered when reviewing the earlier module — didn't allow me to slip a 1976 Rizla between them. Consequently, the STVC's character remains closer to that of an Eminent 310U or a Solina than other string synths of the era.

The large Registration knob determines the underlying waveform, interpolating between a handful of additively generated waves ranging from the aforementioned strings to various formant-y vocal sounds and a small range of pipe organs. The resulting wave can then be heard at one of three octave settings — 8', 4' or the sum of both — and each note is shaped by its own ASR contour generator. The sound is then directed to the chorus/ensemble that generates the classic string and choral effects. As before, there are three settings for this: Chorus provides a slow modulation using a single LFO, String generates a more complex modulation using two LFOs running at different frequencies, and the combination of both generates the rich ensemble effect that's underpinned every string synth from the Solina onward.

The second sound generator is again called Solo and offers the same polyphonic Bass, E-piano, Clavi, Synth and Pluto waves (here called Tones) and, as before, you can morph smoothly between these. Happily, the polyphony has now been increased from eight voices to 16, and this proves to be a significant improvement. In addition, there are two extra monosynth Tones called Mono and Full. A switch selects between this section's AD and ASR contours, with an Attack that adds a loud (and intended) percussive thunk between the 7 o'clock and 10...

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Published October 2020