These powerful self‑contained instruments blend analogue and digital sound generation to devastating effect!
It’s always interesting when a modular company curates a self‑contained system. It gives you a window into how they perceive modular synthesis, and what they believe are the essential modules needed to produce a satisfyingly integrated synthesizer. Wavefonix have done exactly this, first with the W314 single row and now with the W614 double row, in both cases pulling together an array of modules that fulfils the brief of being a workable synthesizer while adding some surprising flavours. The process neatly demonstrates how nimble boutique builders can be: I received the W314 some time ago, and Wavefonix quickly responded to my experience of that instrument to hone what would become the W614.
Wavefonix, run by Christopher Willocks, have only been trading since 2020 and already have a collection of over 40 Eurorack modules, hand‑assembled and tested in the UK. The focus is on clean, elegant and ergonomic designs, which have more than a whiff of the classics about them. The range of modules on offer is impressive, and so is the pricing, which feels remarkably affordable for a boutique manufacturer.
The black front panels and styling reflects some Moog modular influence, and looks great. Each module feels solidly built, the knobs are good, the sizing is snug in places but works well with your fingers, and there’s no sense of wobble. This is one good‑looking system. In most cases the patch points are away from the knobs, minimising any struggle with the jungle of patch cables. The cases have evolved since the W314 was first introduced as Wavefonix struggled to find the perfect match. Both systems now come with beautifully finished solid walnut cases and integrated Konstant Lab power supplies.
Whichever one you go for, it’s undoubtedly an impressive machine on your desk, full of dark and serious‑looking potential. It’s not too serious, though, because it comes with a bunch of pleasingly squidgy and colourful patch cables. While the larger knobs are great to use, the smaller ones are a little lost against the background, and it can be hard to see the indentation that shows you where they are pointing. I have the 8‑Step Sequencer in my rack and I’ve added ‘Trimmer Topper’ knobs over the top to make them easier to see.
There are 12 modules in the W314. You get a MIDI Interface, 4x4 Buffered Multiple, 3340 Dual VCO, 1847 Wavetable VCDO, six‑channel Mixer, 2140 Lowpass Filter, two 3310 Envelope Generators, a 3360 Dual VCA, a Dual LFO, a Noise Generator and an Audio Out module. Of course, any Moog aficionados will tell you that the LFO should be on the left of the VCO, but otherwise, what you have here is a cool dual‑oscillator monosynth with a wavetable fun park built right into the middle.
The dual‑row W614 doubles up on the oscillators, giving you four VCOs, adds some voltage control to the envelopes and LFOs, puts in a Ring Modulator, Dual Sample & Hold and 2710 Envelope Follower, and adds the fabulous 8‑Step Sequencer along with a Clock Divider, attenuator and switches. It’s all rounded off with a three‑channel Stereo Panning Mixer, giving 23 modules.
Wavefonix give you some options on the mixer response type, and a choice of low‑pass filter design depending on which reissue legendary filter chip you want inside.
The 3340 Dual VCO is an absolute delight. The CEM 3340 oscillators found in classic synths such as the Prophet‑5 work together beautifully to produce fat and delicious tones when riding in unison and pure waveforms when used independently. One new feature is that the 1V/oct Sync, FM and PWM inputs of VCO1 are normalled to VCO2, which simplifies the patching. You get triangle, sawtooth and pulse‑width‑modulatable square‑wave tones on separate outputs, a switchable exp/lin FM input and sync on each oscillator. Patch them through the mixer to the filter, and you have the makings of a perfect analogue synth voice. Complete the patch through the VCA, and you can start working the two envelopes to shape the notes and rub the filter up the right way.
Talking of filters, Wavefonix give you a choice of three. The review W314 came with the 2140 LPF, whereas in the W614 I was treated to the 3320, and the 2144 is also available. They all derive from a similar heritage: the 2140 is based on the Dave Rossum‑designed chip found in the original Prophet‑5, the 3340 is based on the Curtis chip that followed it into later versions and the 2144 is based on the chip used by Korg in the Mono/Poly and Polysix. Of the three, the 2140 low‑pass filter deserves special attention. It is terrific, thick and playable, with lots of character and modulation possibilities. Push the resonance past 12 o’clock, and it wants to fly. It has switchable resonance signal‑drop compensation that the others don’t have, so you can choose to keep punishing that signal or let it dive into self‑oscillation, giving you another sound source. It’s simply marvellous. The 3320 LPF is a bit more sedate and sweet‑sounding, but give me that raucous 2140 LPF every time.
Once you’ve satisfied your need for analogue bass and lead lines you can start crafting different tones by introducing the Noise Generator and Ring Modulator. You have separate pink and white noise outputs with level controls and a slightly quizzical Random LF Noise output, which is really good for a Sample & Hold module. In the W614 we have two of them, which lets you get into resequencing the sequencer and grabbing modulation from noise. The Ring Mod is a four‑quadrant multiplier with level controls over the carrier and modulator, which makes good use of a dual oscillator. The FM inputs on the 3340 VCO can get quite exciting in exponential mode, where they can fight each other for those glassy and bell‑like tones. In linear mode, the LFO offers some nicely vintage vibrato.
The 1847 Wavetable VCDO is a real surprise. It brings such a different flavour to this system and really pushes the versatility. It comes with 16 waveforms that you can morph through with the Wave knob or via CV. They sound good, all wavetable‑y and familiar, and offer some decent tones with a nice modulatable feeling. However, it’s the sub‑oscillator that takes the cake. I was expecting a square‑wave sub‑oscillator but instead what you get is eight new waveforms, each of them at four different octaves. These don’t morph so, as you turn the Sub Wave knob, it leaps to each waveform and then through the different octaves. Get some modulation into that, and you have this weirdly wonderful sub melody going on beneath the main oscillator, adding character and unexpected variations.
It’s all finished off with some bit‑crushing to take out the digital cleanliness, and some glide if you want things to sound sloppy. The 1847 is a little playground of an oscillator and a gem of a module inside these systems.
The 1847 Wavetable VCDO is a real surprise. It brings such a different flavour to this system and really pushes the versatility.
On the original W314, the six‑channel Mixer became a bit of a conundrum. Six inputs with a mix output seems fine until you realise that everything then has to go through the filter. That’s all good if you’re using the 3340 Dual Oscillator — you can stuff all six waveforms into there — but if you want to introduce the 1847 Wavetable then it would be helpful to be able to split that off. You could patch the Wavetable output straight to one of the VCAs, but that would leave the awesome sub‑oscillator behind. Splitting the mixer into two lots of three channels would help pull those things together. Talking to Chris about this issue resulted in him offering a split mixer as an option — another triumph of nimbleness, and that’s what we find in the W614.
The funny thing is that in the W614 we have three double sound sources, in the two Dual VCOs and the Wavetable VCDO. You sort of need three lots of two channels rather than two lots of three. Of course, it’s never going to be completely right because there are so many different ways of configuring a modular. You have to balance the available rack space and functionality with a desire to have everything running simultaneously, when you probably wouldn’t do that.
Wavefonix have added a three‑channel Stereo Panning Mixer to the larger system, which lets you sit your three sound sources in a stereo mix. It has a pair of headphone outputs and a pair of main outputs that can be set to modular level or line level via jumpers on the back. Next, they’ve put an Audio Out module that gives you individual level control over the left and right balanced jack outputs. It feels a little redundant on the W614 but is helpful on the W314.
There’s not much room for interesting utilities on the W314, and it fully expects you to be sequencing or triggering sounds from elsewhere. The MIDI interface makes this easy. The W614 has the fabulously playful 8‑Step Sequencer, which is instant, fun and uncomplicated. It will generate pitches, gates and triggers; you can hold notes, reset at any point and add glide separately to the twin outputs. It’s not enough to run the show, but it’s a great starting point. It’s sat next to a Clock Divider and a pair of Sample & Hold circuits, all of which require a clock. There’s no clock module, so you have to take one from a square‑wave LFO or from a MIDI input. It’s a shame there’s not one built into the Clock Divider.
The 2719 Envelope Follower is a useful addition inspired by the one found in the ARP 2600. It’s great as a guitar input and will pull envelopes and gates from the incoming audio signal to add to the modulation possibilities.
Spending time with these systems has been a complete joy. It’s interesting to work within the confines of someone else’s idea of what should go into a system. While every module choice may not inspire you, it pushes you to think differently and find your way around to interesting places. Of course you can expand the system in any direction or reconfigure it however you like, but there’s something good about dealing with what’s in front of you.
Highlights for me are the 1847 Wavetable oscillator, a riot of tones and meandering modulated wavetables, and that chunky analogue sound coming from the gorgeous 3340 VCOs. Both systems offer a bedrock of high‑quality traditional modular functionality that hangs together so well. If I was buying the W614 I would probably be tempted to swap out the Audio Out, Switch and Attenuator for another 2140 LPF, but that’s just me. Wavefonix will put together whatever you want in that space, and they have plenty more modules in the pipeline.
The W314 would make a great system for someone wanting to explore modular synthesis for the first time. It has enough versatility to make for an interesting row of modular in anyone’s setup. The W614 takes things to the next level with the sequencing, envelope following and voltage‑controlled modulation that could become a central feature of your setup.
- Premium look and feel.
- Familiar synthesizer system.
- Great‑sounding dual oscillator.
- Fabulous wavetable oscillator.
- Lovely filter options.
- Affordable and versatile.
- No configuration will be right for everybody.
- Dark trimmers hard to see.
- Not entirely self‑contained (but then should a modular system ever be?).
Superbly curated modular systems from Wavefonix that combine a dual‑oscillator analogue feel with a fun bunch of wavetables.
W314 £1679.99. W614 £2759.99. Prices include VAT.
W314 £1679.99, W614 £2759.99 (approx $1720 & $2824 at time of going to press). Prices exclude tax & shipping.