Waldorf Kyra virtual analog synthesizer overview and sounds

In this new video, we are going to take a look at the all new Waldorf Kyra Virtual Analog synthesizer.

The Kyra is a virtual analog synthesizer, but unlike most digital synths, it is not based on a processor or dsp architecture, but on FPGA. This means that all the componetens in the synthesizer were modelled into chips thate mulate discrete components like resistors, transistors and capacitors. The benefits of this architecture are speed, accuracy and a widespread number of functions, that can all be integrated in one chip. So let’s take a look how that turns out in the Kyra!

Kyra looks very slick and well made. It si a desktop model synthesizer, with on top all the controls, and on the back all the connections. Let’s take a look at the controls: they are well organised in groups. Over on the left we have two oscillator groups with knobs for the parts of the oscillators, and there is. sub section for each voice part. then we have a filter section, again with knobs for most parameters like filter frequency and resonance, envelope and modulation. Then there is a separate section here for the envelopes, and on the right we have the modulation matrix and effect section. The top section features an OLED display for all the parameters and editing, and next to it we find controls for the part and sound section, and an arpeggiator. On the back there is an usb connection, midi in, out and thru, and 4 output pairs, a headphone connector and the kyra is powered by an external adapter.

Let’s check out how sounds are built. for that we take a look at the oscillator groups section. the Kyra has no less than 1024 oscillators, but they are divided into several categories. There is a 128 note polyphony, so each voice features 8 oscillator sources. For convenience, they have been split into two groups. Each group has a dedicated saw and pulse oscillator, and two wavetable oscillators. There is also a hypersaw function so you get a stack of 8 sawtooth oscillators for extra fat sounds. You can operate most parameters directly with the knobs, and those that are not visible, can be accessed with the select and wave keys, where the display follows your movements. each group has a sub oscillator section, and on top of that, there is a noise and ring modulator, but they have to be accessed from the menu.

I found it confusing sometimes to edit the Kyra. Some of the really nice waveforms from the wavetables are only accessible through the menu. Also, the knobs are not encoders but potentiometers, so you can’t see what your parameter value is. The moment you turn them you can’t see the original value as it moves directly to the current value. Also, there is no ‘mixer’ section, instead each oscillator has it’s own level. To add noise or ring modulation, you have to dive into the menu again. let’s look at the filter: this is a dual filter that can be used in parallel or serial mode, it features various filter types including 24 and 12dB modes. and it has resonance and it’s own envelope. The filter sounds quite digital with a nasty resonance, not something I would prefer but useful for some sounds.

Look at the other features, there are two envelopes, and there is a modulation matrix with 6 sources, that can each be routed to 3 destinations. Again, this must be done in the menu, there is no direct way of selecting source and destinations like some of the synths have. That is too bad as the modulation defines the lively-ness of the sounds to a great extent and therefore should be easy to implement. Finally, the effects section offers a great deal of options, and it is shaped as a kind of matrix, where you go through the parameters with these two keys and use the potmeters for editing. These are also not encoders so a bit clumsy to edit as you can’t see the original value. But mostly, what I found annoying, was that you cannot switch of the effects with one key, you have to adjust the mixer for each of the 4 effects to make them go silent.

So what do we think of the Kyra?
First of all, the Kyra sounds very decent. It is capable of thick, layered sounds, and does very well with pads and soundscapes, as well as leads and wide sawtooth, trancy sounds. Somehow I expected more form the oscillators, as they are very accurate and there are so many of them. The wavetables give them a little more edge but they never get really special. The same applies to the filter, it does a decent job but lacks character. Looking at the modulation and effects, there is a lot you can do with it but it takes menu diving and some searching into the parameters to get things the way you want. It is very nice that the outputs can also be routed over usb, which makes this synths a good companion for computer based music production setups. Some drawbacks are the lack of encoders, confusing sound selection and no effects switch. Maybe some firmware updates can fix that in the future! We leave you with some sounds coming from the Kyra.

The Waldorf Kyra is a beast of a digital synthesizer. Marc recorded 20 presets and he is happy to let you hear these.

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