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.”
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.
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.