Waldorf Microwave

Waldorf Microwave Image

Looking back at the 1980's, one standout German synthesizer manufacturer was undoubtedly PPG (Palm Products GmbH), fueled by the technology in its wavetable based synthesizer, the Wave 2.x series. But like most vintage synth makers, the company was fading. Towards the end of the 1980's, PPG's technology and several of their employees joined Waldorf, another German manufacturer, and the first product to come out of this collaboration was the Microwave, released in 1989.

The Microwave was built upon what was the PPG Wave. A digital/analog hybrid in which digitally sampled wavetables are processed through analog VCA envelope and VCF (filter) sections producing a classic and warm yet highly complex sound. In fact, the Microwave uses the same wavetables from the PPG Wave 2.3! In effect, the Microwave sounds like the PPG, which in turn, sounds like synth-pioneers Tangerine Dream. To lower production costs and simultaneously attempt to make it more accessible to more musicians, the Microwave was packaged in a two-unit rack module. It's a powerful instrument in a small and unassuming package.

Unfortunately, Waldorf streamlined its design a little too far. With only a handful of on-board buttons and one parameter adjustment knob, editing sounds was quite cumbersome and usually required some sort of external editor to really dig into the power on-hand. Polyphony is slim but decent at 8-voices. There are 64 on-board memory patches, plus another 64 via external memory card. There are no on-board effects.

Over the years, the operating system (OS) could be upgraded via EPROM chips from Waldorf. These added additional wavetables, the options to create custom wavetables, a speech synthesizer, and numerous other improvements. The final OS was version 2.0, released in 1994.

A few years after the Microwave's introduction, a fully realized knob-laden hands-on version of the sort of wavetable technology used here came in the form of the Waldorf Wave. Designed for the high-end synth market, the Wave represented the pinnacle of Waldorf and PPG's wavetable synth technology in its time. However, the success the Microwave found among "every-day" musicians was not lost on Waldorf, leading them to release the much more common yet inferior Microwave II in 1997. The mkII did offer improved features in terms of effects and processing, however it was a fully digital DSP-driven machine and thus, lacked the warmth and character of the original Microwave. Microwaves have been used by Nine Inch Nails, Hardfloor, Jimmy Edgar, Vangelis, and Crystal Distortion.

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19 Visitor comments
December 10, 2010 @ 12:37 pm
The Microwave 1 is a very different machine to the MW II. This was the first Waldorf synth, and is the most PPG-like. I've had my Microwave for 20 years too, and it's still as unique and crazy as it was back then. It can produce some of the nastiest and dirtiest sounds i've ever heard on a synth. With it's amps up to max the raw sounds are brutal. Perfect for industrial, techno, it sounds far more like a recent synth, or even a modular, than something with that 1990 heritage. It's actually pretty easy to programme too. I love mine!
November 17, 2010 @ 5:01 pm
I had one of the first Waldorf Microwaves in the US. I got it From Russ Jones who was distributing them. I had a PPG wave before them-Wolfgang Durham and Wolfgang Palm owned PPg-I believe Waldorf was Durhams company. I had a PPG wave 2.3. used it on many classic recordings-I got rid of it because the Midi was terrible and it was so freakin heavy-But it was so unique and interesting-I've had this Microwave for over 20 years-It works like a charm and sounds great
January 13, 2009 @ 7:18 pm
Nice machine. Sounds warm. Like the PPG, but much much lighter.
Never tried brass on this one, but other sounds are nice.

Thank You to the whole team who made and designed this!
December 30, 2008 @ 3:21 pm
I love my Waldorf MW1.

Fat basses, crispy bells, wide strings and fat brass - no problem with this synt module. It's like having Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and late realeases from Wendy Carlos in one module.

The module is very complex! A software editor is a great help in the creation of new sounds. I use Dr. T's XoR on my Atari 1040 STE.

My MW is rev. 1 with the "old" Curtis chip's running under OS version 1.20. The final OS was 2.0. Unfortunatly all OS came on pairs of E-proms from Waldorf in Germany. Those E-proms can be very hard to find nowadays....

It's a piece of art!
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VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4.3 (511 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 8 voices, 8-part multitimbral
  • Oscillators - 64 ROM wavetables and waveform samples
  • VCF - Analog Curtis CEM 24 dB/oct lowpass filter
  • VCA - 4 envelopes
  • Effects - None
  • Vocoder - Speech Synthesizer
  • Arpeg/Seq - None
  • Keyboard - None
  • Memory - 64 internal, 64 external card
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - 1989
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from

    Review updated September 2011.

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