streichfett_keys

A dedicated hardware synth just for vintage string sounds is about the last thing you’d expect to make headlines at Europe’s biggest music trade show. But an even bigger surprise: Waldorf’s new Streichfett is pretty delicious.

The pun isn’t directly translatable. German speakers use the same word for “bowing” as spreading (as with a knife), and are passionate enough about putting fat on bread that they have idiomatic ways of talking about it that makes sense only to them. (At least, this is what my research into the Waldorf name and, um, eating have suggested.) But after a first hands-on with the new Waldorf Streichfett, I can say this: it’s thick, buttery goodness.

The Streichfett isn’t quite done, so you can expect they may smooth out some rough edges here and there. But the instrument is already fun to play, thanks to some rather clever controls for mixing different sounds. Hopefully some of those sounds come across in our CDM sound demo, but part of the fun is easily dialing in different layered sounds with the onboard controls.

I recorded some improvs as I fiddled with the different synth sections, effects, and ensemble settings. It’s recorded un-processed on an iPhone with a dedicated Guitar Rig audio interface from Sonoma WireWorks, my current favorite mobile device (with some fairly pristine A/D conversion):

The Streichfett is essentially several synths in one, in an all-digital design. There’s a String section, which includes not only string sounds but also morphs into brass, organ, and choir presets. To that, you can then trigger an Ensemble effect that thickens up the sound; with it off, they’re more like solo instruments. There’s also a Solo section that morphs between Bass, E-Piano, Clavi, Synth, and something called “Pluto.”

streichfett_top

You can layer String and Solo, or listen to just one at a time, via a continuous control. Or you can set up a split.

There are also different timbral controls for each. Each has its own envelope – “Crescendo” and “Release” for the strings, and then a full envelope generator (Attack/Decay – Release and Sustain). The Strings get Octave switches and adjustments to the 2nd voice. There’s a Tremolo pot for the Solo section.

There’s also a nice Effect section with Animate, Phaser, and Reverb. Animate makes some particularly lovely sounds, especially with the formants on the chorus.

With so many possibilities, the presets are welcome, with three banks of four presets available via push buttons.

streichfett_registrationstreichfett_solotremolo

I/O: stereo audio output, headphone out, USB MIDI.

All of this would be a little silly. But I think the combination of an impulse buy price and lots of performance controls (presets, splits/layers, and intuitive timbral parameters) make it a winner. 235€ is the list (minus VAT), which means you’ll be well below 300€/$ street. And despite that, the Streichfett, like the Rocket before it, feels like a top-quality synth, not a toy.

Sure, there’s plenty of software that could do this job. But Waldorf makes a pretty nice argument for hardware if this is your thing.

More:
http://www.waldorf-music.info/streichfett-overview

  • Seth Elgart

    OK, after listening to your demos I’m a little confused. I saw some Waldorf videos yesterday that sort of sounded like they took the accompaniment section out of an awfully cheesy home organ and was wondering what they were thinking. But now I listened to your demos and it sounds like it’s a tiny piece of a Waldorf synthesizer that happens to do just string type things and it sounds amazing. So, which of those things is it? (Or is it somehow both of those things?)

    Sign me,

    Scratching my head in New York

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I think it’s more the latter. At least, this is what I want to play when I touch the thing.

  • heinrichz

    Nice Peter, that sounded awesome ! How did they create that grainy character of this sound ?

    • Lorinc Del Motte

      I think the amp is overloaded. I think there should be some way of turning that off.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      The output level isn’t quite right yet; I wasn’t overdriving my recording but this was essentially what was coming out – very, very low levels.

    • Foosnark

      It sounded great to me as is. Lots of character.

  • elsewire

    That layered string sound has a lot of possibilities, might be making room on my synth table for another Blofeld

  • Miguel Marcos

    Heh, street price more than list? !!!

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      No, here’s the math. 235€ list means 282€ *with* VAT. That usually winds up being about the same in USD if something like this is coming from Germany.

      I’d guess somewhere in the 250€ street range including VAT, something similar to Rocket.

  • http://flexyvoid.com/ Yanakyl

    I really like this, I need to upgrade keyboard though. 2 octaves is a bit small

  • Syn-Fi

    The Phaser sounds very nice and grainy.

  • Em Wilson

    I’m in love with this sound!

  • Arthur

    I’ll try to explain the name to any interested party:

    Streichfett is basically another name for margarine, because it’s fat (fett) which you spread (streichen). String instruments are called Streichinstrumente or Streicher for short, because the movement of the bow is also called streichen. They are instruments which you streich (<- this should make sense by now ; )

    So if a german calls a string instrument Streichfett it basically means: "This is a string instrument which sounds fat!"
    Only possible in german…

    It's pronounced Shtrichfat with a long i as in bike and a ch sound just like the one a scotsman makes when he says loch.

  • chaircrusher

    I remember back in 97/98 I passed up a bunch of cheap used string machines — Arp Solina, Roland RS-09, even this weird Akai organ/synth combo thing — because they didn’t have MIDI, and I don’t really play piano/keyboards very well.

    Now I’m kicking myself because over the years, I’ve evolved my own self-taught crappy keyboard playing and I’d love any of those machines. This thing sounds pretty great actually, but mostly it makes me want to trawl through kvraudio.com for string synth VSTs.

    I can see ths Streichfett appealing to people who don’t want to take a computer with them to play live, but something rubs me the wrong way about software-in-a-box products, because they might as well be virtual instruments. If a device is analog (or part/analog) there’s a lot of personality that comes from how it’s implement. If it’s just an embedded computer with knobs on, it just isn’t the same.

  • Matt

    When I first saw this I immediately panned over it as too specialized for my tastes. Then after hearing demo’s I now really want it. It just sounds so nice to my ears, I can’t put it any other way.

  • Albert Netrum

    Is this really USB-powered?