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Page 2: Waldorf STVC

String Synthesizer & Vocoder By Gordon Reid
Published October 2020

In Use

My initial setup for this review comprised the STVC connected to and powered by my MacBook Pro. Once it was switched on, I was pleased to find that the STVC immediately appeared as both a MIDI input and output device on the Mac, but I was disappointed that it neither transmits nor receives audio via USB. Since it's a digital device I had expected USB audio, which would have made it simpler to use in a modern recording environment. I also connected it to a Streichfett via 5-pin MIDI to perform A/B comparisons and immediately discovered that every control other than the octave transposer and the effect selector sends a MIDI CC, as do any changes made in the modulation matrix. Since the STVC and the Streichfett share (as far as is possible) the same CC map, this means that you can use the former as a programmer as well as a controller for the latter. Finally, I connected the gooseneck mic. I soon found that I had to add 21dB to its input gain if I wanted the levels of vocoded sounds to match those of the Strings and Solo patches but, fortunately, the gain range extends from 0 to +30 dB so the necessary headroom was available.

Don't judge the STVC by its factory sounds — there's much more inside once you've learned how to get the best from it.

It was now time to create and save some signature sounds but, before doing so, I stepped through the 51 factory patches to see what Waldorf's programmers had wrung out of the STVC. These contained the expected string ensembles and pads, VP330-inspired choruses and vocoder setups, plus some organ-esque patches, a handful of monophonic leads and basses, as well as some polysynth patches that include a dual-oscillator 'fifth' patch created by using the matrix to offset the pitch of one section against the other. (That was unexpected!) Nonetheless, the underlying character was quite similar throughout so I attempted to push its boundaries by making more use of the matrix and the Solo's filter section. For example, I directed velocity to the filter cutoff frequency and the volume of the sound, aftertouch to the vibrato depth, expression to the Solo/Strings balance, and the modulation wheel to the reverb mix to create a touch-sensitive polysynth patch that I could morph into a cathedral organ using the pedal and mod wheel. On a less ambitious occasion I emulated the Godwin 749 String Concert by using four slots to program the speeds and depths of the LFOs that determine the ensemble effect. But I often wished that I had more slots to play with. Imagine what would be possible if the matrix were large enough to program the starting values of all of its destinations and to modulate them. I discussed this with Waldorf, and they responded that they're not sure if it's possible to increase the number now, but that they might look into it. Fingers crossed.

The STVC measures 740 x 280 mm and weighs in at a reassuring 7.5kg.The STVC measures 740 x 280 mm and weighs in at a reassuring 7.5kg.

Anyway, by the end of the review I had obtained some totally unexpected lead synths from the STVC, as well as patches ranging from bass pedals to percussive keyboard sounds to delicate musical boxes and chimes. I also found that there's a much wider range of vocoded sounds lurking inside, ranging from 'Mr Blue Sky' to some weird and wonderful results when Freezing low amplitude vocal signals. My favourite use of this was to Freeze a short snippet of my voice and use this as a complex filter to modify the carrier generated by the Strings. The results could be gorgeous so, if I were allowed to ask for one more improvement to the STVC, it would be the ability to save the Freeze coefficients as part of a patch. Unfortunately, this wasn't planned when the STVC was designed and its single Freeze plus its 126 patch memories consume all of the non-volatile memory, so I guess that I'll have to wait for an STVC 'Pro'. Nonetheless, my advice would be that you don't judge the STVC by its factory sounds — there's much more inside once you've learned how to get the best from it.

Happily, neither of the bugs that I discovered when reviewing the Streichfett have survived in the STVC, although I encountered one new one during the course of this review. The last destination in the matrix is called Bottom. The manual didn't tell me what this should do and, no matter what I tried, I couldn't get it to affect anything. I contacted Waldorf who told me that I had discovered a bug. When fixed, this will be a bass boost, and the update should be available before you read this.

The only other thing to mention is the STVC's commendable lack of aliasing. Sure, you can create artefacts on a handful of very high notes by setting both the Solo filter cutoff frequency and resonance to maximum and then shifting both the keyboard and the pitch of the sections to their maxima, but that's not something that you would ever do in normal use.


I suspect that many prospective purchasers will view the STVC as a direct alternative to the recent Chinese copy of the Roland VP330 but, with its velocity and aftertouch-sensitive keyboard, far more flexible string synthesis, mono- and polysynth capabilities, formant shifting, morphable sounds and carriers, modulation matrix, onboard effects, patch memories and more, it's a much more powerful instrument. As for its price, people are now trying to sell vintage string synths and vocoders for eye-watering sums and, as I write, a Solina, two RS505s and a VP330 are all on sale in the UK, each with an asking price in excess of £3000$3000. At this point (and provided that you don't suffer from rabid anti-digital personality disorder) the STVC begins to look like excellent value. Furthermore, since it's not in excess of 40 years old, the chances are that it will also prove to be more reliable than any of them. It might be unassuming, but there's a lot here to like.

The Rear Panel

Waldorf STVC rear panel connections.

The STVC's rear panel starts with unbalanced stereo quarter-inch audio outputs and a 3.5mm headphones output that carries the same signal. Next to these, there's a dual-purpose TRS quarter-inch socket that can act as an expression pedal input or as a monophonic audio input (although not both at the same time), while a conventional quarter-inch sustain pedal input applies a permanent sustain rather than an extended piano-style release.

Alongside these you'll find a USB 'B' socket that acts as both MIDI In/Out and as the input for the supplied 5V PSU. Since there's no other way to get power to the STVC it would have been good to see some sort of cable stress relief here but, even were this provided, I don't feel that a USB connector is suitable for rock & roll. The final two sockets are 5-pin MIDI In and Out.

System Settings

In addition to the matrix, the Tweak function accesses a short menu of System settings. Many of these determine the instrument's MIDI configuration, including the single MIDI CC accessible as a matrix source, and what the STVC transmits when you program and play it: control panel changes, program changes, as well as notes, wheels and aftertouch. Tuning is also carried out here, with controls for transposition, master tuning, and the pitch-band range. (The Streichfett had no tuning capabilities, so this is a significant improvement.)

Further items allow you to set up the microphone, with parameters for input gain, a high-pass filter to remove rumble, an on/off switch for the 2.4V phantom power and the Freeze threshold. Another determines whether the line input acts as an expression pedal input or accepts audio for use as either the vocoder's carrier or modulator. The final system menu allows you to dump sounds, save the global settings and the current Freeze signal, restore the factory sounds, and upgrade the firmware.

The Modulation Matrix




Vibrato depth

Set value

Vibrato rate

Add constant

Strings section registration

Subtract constant

Strings EQ setting

Aftertouch +ve

Strings oscillator shape

Aftertouch -ve

Strings Attack

Mod wheel +ve

Strings Release

Mod wheel -ve

Solo/Strings balance

Pitch-bend +ve

Master volume

Pitch-bend -ve

Master pitch

Expression pedal +ve

Strings pitch

Expression pedal -ve

Solo pitch

Velocity +ve

Solo Tone

Velocity -ve

Solo filter cut-off frequency

Selected MIDI CC +ve

Solo filter resonance

Selected MIDI CC -ve

Solo Attack

Vibrato LFO

Solo Decay/Release

Tremolo LFO

Initial Tremolo rate & depth

Chorus LFO

Tremolo depth

Ensemble low speed LFO

Tremolo rate

Ensemble high speed LFO

Solo portamento rate (monophonic Tones only)

Animator LFO

Reverb room size

Phaser LFO

Reverb mix

Random value

Phaser LFO rate

Random value on new note

Phaser depth


Animate LFO rate


Animate depth


Chorus LFO rate


Chorus depth


Ensemble low LFO rate


Ensemble low LFO depth


Ensemble high LFO rate


Ensemble high LFO depth


Vocoder formant shift


Vocoder carrier jitter (Strings only)


Vocoder adaption speed


Vocoder modulator leakage


Vocoder Freeze speed


Vocoder Freeze position


Matrix slot 5 amount




  • It offers the same rich string ensemble and choral sounds as the Streichfett.
  • The Solo section has double the polyphony of the Streichfett.
  • There are two new monosynth Tones in the Solo section.
  • There's a polyphonic resonant low-pass filter section lurking inside the modulation matrix.
  • Hang on... there's a modulation matrix!
  • The vocoder is far more flexible than most vintage instruments or their copies.
  • The range of sounds available is considerably wider and more useful than you might imagine.


  • You can only save one Freeze (vocoder coefficient sample) within the STVC itself.
  • You can't separate the Strings and Solo sounds using the STVC alone.
  • It would be nice if the modulation matrix were larger.
  • Phantom power is limited to +2.4V.
  • There's no audio over USB.
  • For many, a USB power supply won't be suitable for stage use.
  • The manual lacks detail in a few places.


If you're interested in string synths and vocoding you should take the STVC very seriously. But don't limit yourself to using it like a vintage instrument — it's capable of much more.