Waldorf Microwave II

Waldorf Microwave 2 Image

Eight years after the introduction of its first synthesizer, Waldorf's Microwave was updated to the new but not-so improved mkII version in 1997. The original Microwave was a very popular and powerful rack-mount synthesizer in a sparse and unassuming package. At its heart lay a digital polyphonic wavetable synth engine that came straight out of the legendary PPG Wave 2.x, which was itself designed in part and used extensively by members of the pioneering synth-group Tangerine Dream.

The Microwave II has tons of waves/wavetables for shaping all kinds of sounds, flexible resonant filters, a noise generator, a ring modulator, a programmable rhythmic arpeggiator, and effects! While the original Microwave was a powerful synth held back only by its restrained interface and lack of additional features (only 8-voice polyphony, no effects, no easy hands-on editing), the mkII did attempt to address some of the former's issues. However Waldorf made its biggest faux-pas by replacing the original's analog filters and envelopes with digital emulations.

The Microwave II upped polyphony to 10-voices. Hardly a major improvement after eight years, but better than nothing. Patch memory was also increased from 64 to 256 user patches and from 64 to 128 performance patches. An on-board effects processor was added. Four new quick-edit rotary knobs appeared under the LCD display to tweak certain parameters. This was a great and much needed feature for performing and just having fun with the Microwave II, however an external editor would still prove to be the best way to really dig into editing patches.

For 1997, the idea of a synth maker switching to all DSP/digital circuitry was nothing unusual at all. In fact, it was the norm. DSP technology offered far more stable and cleaner sounds. But compared with the original Microwave which used analog VCFs and VCAs, the warmth and character of the new sound suffered greatly.

Despite any sonic drawbacks, the Microwave II was still another success for Waldorf and led to an even bigger better and truly hands-on version with the Microwave XT. Microwaves have been used by Nine Inch Nails, Hardfloor, Jimmy Edgar, Vangelis, and Crystal Distortion.

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5 Visitor comments
June 17, 2012 @ 4:20 pm
I am selling my mint condition microwave II. Email me if you are interested.
Chris A
December 20, 2011 @ 9:21 am
(cont.) But that's all beside the point. The MWII is a very unique digital synth and there has be none like it since. Not a VA, its oscillators play low-res samples, but can produce many of the sounds other VAs can (in the limits of its 2OSC/1 filter structure) and do very good emulations of classic analog sounds. Has a very full sound with lots of low end, always stands out in a mix and takes some effort to tame. Can do crazy stuff with filters and wavetables, which the MWI can't. And it can do beautiful digital and FM sounds, without ever sounding unnaturally cold - unless you want it to.
Chris A
December 20, 2011 @ 9:20 am
This new description doesn't do the MWII justice at all, IMHO. Yes, the filters are not analog, but so what? They sound great nonetheless! And 13 filter models to choose from. Some of them very unique and not found elsewhere, e.g. the crazy waveshaper and the bit-crusher. 65 wavetables, instead of 32 (MWI OS 1) resp. 64 (MWI OS 2.0). Effects are not great, but useful, esp. the delay (only available in units with board revision #2 or #3). MIDI control via CC messages is very extensive (MWI is sysex only), you can control it easily with a MIDI knob-box.
pete m
February 15, 2010 @ 6:31 am
just sold my mw2 for £50, didnt like the thin dsp sound. should have looked for the original in the 1st place
January 27, 2009 @ 12:23 pm
the microwave2 is completely digital where the microwave1 is a mixture of two worlds.
so yeah the two are totally different sounding.
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4.07 (382 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 - 10 voices
  • Oscillators - 2 oscillators per voice of 64MB DSP wavetable synthesis (65 preset wavetables, 32 user wavetables); Osc-sync; FM; 1 Ring Mod; 1 Noise Source
  • Memory - 256 user patches, 128 performance patches
  • Filter - 13 digital filter models (12/24dB, LP, BP, HP, Notch, waveshaper, bit-reduction, dual BP). Additional in-series 6dB LP or HP filter with keytracking. ADSR envelope.
  • VCA - 1 VCA, VCA ADSR, 1 Free Envelope
  • LFO - 2 LFO's, sine, tri, square, random, S&H
  • Effects - Chorus, Flanger 1 & 2, Autowah BP, Autowah LP, Overdrive, Delay (only available on units with board revision #2 or #3), Amp Mod
  • Keyboard - none
  • Arpeg/Seq - Programmable rhythmic arpeggiator, 16 steps, 128 patterns
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - 1997
  • Resources & Credits
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    Review updated September 2011.

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