Waldorf Kyra To Be The First Fully FPGA Powered Synthesizer

Waldorf Music today announced the Kyra – a powerful new synth design that they describe as “the world’s first fully FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array) powered synthesizer”.

So what’s an FPGA and why should you care?

An FPGA is a type of powerful integrated circuit that’s designed to be ‘field-programmable’, so manufacturers can buy generic FPGA’s and then load a hardware description that turns the chip into a custom integrated circuit.

This has two key benefits:

  • FPGA’s are cheap and capable, so designers can create extremely powerful synths much more cost-effectively; and
  • FPGA’s can be updated – giving manufacturers the possibility of updating synth hardware designs after they’re manufactured.

What’s this mean for synthesists?

FPGA designs promise to make it possible to create powerful synth hardware much more cost-effectively.

The Waldorf Kyra will offer:

  • 128 voice polyphony (regardless of settings and effects), each with 10 oscillators per voice;
  • eight-part multitimbrality (with each part having its own dedicated nine-module effects unit).
  • state-of-the-art audio quality: think 32x oversampled hardware with dual wavetables providing over 4,000 waveshapes;
  • true stereo operation, hard sync, FM (Frequency Modulation), and ring modulation;
  • oversampled emulations of classic analogue ladder filters, with 2- and 4-pole configurations;
  • two filters can be used in Dual Voice mode, making for even more creative options;
  • three envelope generators;
  • three stereo LFOs (Low Frequency Oscillators) with 64 shapes and MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) clock sync;
  • an arpeggiator;
  • full keyboard microtuning;
  • true polyphonic portamento; and
  • a comprehensive 18-channel modulation matrix.
  • Effects
    • each of its eight parts featuring a three-band EQ with sweepable mid
    • dual tube limiters
    • formant filter
    • distortion
    • six-stage phaser
    • stereo digital delay
    • comb/flanger/chorus/doubler unit
    • programmable reverb
    • All effects units on all parts can be used simultaneously and run at Kyra’s native 96kHz sample rate.
  • Connectivity
    • four assignable, balanced 32-bit/96kHz stereo outputs
    • a headphone output
    • low-latency DIN MIDI
    • fully class-compliant USB2 implementation for MIDI
    • stereo 24-bit/96kHz audio stream for each of its eight parts.
    • USB (Universal Serial Bus) audio return feature, so Kyra can render final DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) audio under ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output)

Exodus Digital Valkyrie Now The Waldorf Kyra

The Waldorf Kyra is the new name for the independently designed Exodus Digital Valkyrie, which was introduced at Musikmesse 2018.

Waldorf Music CEO Joachim Flor saw the Valkyrie at Musikmesse, thought it was “one of the most exciting synthesizers of recent years’, and decided to help bring the synth to a broader audience.

“I got into conversation with its independent UK developer, Manuel Caballero, and I’m now looking forward to working with this talented, innovative individual, who is also a great guy! Under the direction of Waldorf Music, Valkyrie flies forth into a joint production project called Kyra, which will be shown and delivered at NAMM in 2019.”

Fortunately for Manuel Caballero, the feeling was clearly mutual — Musikmesse mission accomplished. “

After nearly four years in the making, I went to Musikmesse with the intention of finding an established partner for Valkyrie,” he reveals. “There’s little doubt that Valkyrie’s reveal at Musikmesse caused quite a stir in the synthesizer world and I had set the bar high for potential partners to bring the instrument to market. As a result of this,

“I’m pleased to announce a partnership with Waldorf Music. Few companies can match their track record of innovation and delivery spanning several decades,” says Caballero. ”

“Working with Joachim Flor and his technical and design team to achieve this is an exciting and efficient partnership,” says Caballero. “Waldorf’s proven heritage in product design, manufacturing, and distribution leaves me to do what I do best, which is applying the most advanced technologies to the art of music.”

Here’s a look at Valkyrie prototype from Sonic State at Musikmesse:

Pricing and Availability

Waldorf plans to launch Kyra at the 2019 NAMM Show, January 24-27, in Anaheim, California, priced at €1,899.00 EUR as a desktop/rackmount model. A keyboard version is also planned.

52 thoughts on “Waldorf Kyra To Be The First Fully FPGA Powered Synthesizer

  1. oops, not good for rolf wohrmann who tought his baby, the quantum, would be the next big thing at waldorf. not so sure anymore.

  2. After all is gone over with the specs and what it will do, if a synth doesn’t sound great, then what good is it? This is one beautiful sounding machine. And at this price, it should also gain a good market share. This one looks like a winner for Waldorf. Great Job!

    1. There are sound demos on the Valkyrie’s soundcloud page (google it). It sounds at least as good as a virus.

      I’m pumped.

  3. My hopes are for an analog keyboard workstation with enough FPGAs to provide 512 polyphony with an in-depth built-in multitrack sequencer and at least half of the proposed outputs (or more if additional are included) available as inputs instead. Manuel has brought a humble rumble to the synth market and this thing rocks.

    1. @Analog Addict: Analog workstation with enough FPGAs? Don’t really know what you mean in the context of this Waldorf Kyra. But an analog workstation with FPGA’s already exists, and is called Novation Peak.

      1. “But an analog workstation with FPGA’s already exists, and is called Novation Peak.”

        Right! I even see the link to the Peak video in this article…

  4. Sounds like a Blofeld x 100? — feature wise. Love that multitimbrality. Hmm wait for this or consider a Quantum.

    1. From the specs on the Quantum, it shows 8 voices, digital oscillators with analog filters. The Quantum is pre-ordering for $ 4,300 USD. The Kyra is around $ 2,000 USD.

    2. Are you aware of that Blofeld has 16 part multitimbrality, while this new one only has eight-part multitimbrality?

      1. What I’ve heard is that that the Blofeld’s 16-timbrality is mostly theoretical, and is only achievable with the very simplest (single-oscillator no-filter?) patches.

        1. Yeah 16 part multis with 25 voices is limited on the Blofeld, but it’s cool it exists whereas many manufacturers are skimping on this: Dave Smith, Korg, Novation, Behringer, etc.

          Ensoniq SQ80 was eight voice digital analog and 8 part multitimbral. Kyra should be epic hopefully, but I’m hoping that you can seamlessly record those parts via USB.

        2. Plus the Blofeld only has 1 set of stereo outputs. That’s the main reason I got rid of mine. that and the synchronization gets messed up with more patches going.

  5. Maybe Waldorf should deliver their Quantum and STVC (or whatever it’s called) before they announce another new synth.

  6. Previous digital synths are to Kyra what automobiles are to rocket ships.

    128 voices @ 10 oscillators each, did I read that correctly?

    Now all I want to hear is the filter(s).

  7. Ladies and Gentlemen today was the day that the future began, we were here to see it.
    The revolution was televised.

  8. Much on the positive side:
    Looks interesting, promising and affordable
    Innovative
    Company embracing (or giving an offer that cannot be refused?) an individual synth product designer giant.

    Vaguely and cloudy:
    – What’s true stereo operation? I’d guess it is full stereo processing from source (samples / wavetables) to end, but no details explained.
    – What’s true polyphonic portamento? On a polysynth portamento is polyphonic. Please define true polyphonic.
    – What’s low latency DIN MIDI? Can’t be MIDI over USB. MIDI has a fixed baudrate, and any synth since 1983 is supposed to be able to cope with that (allthough there are some that really don’t)

    And all of this while their Quantum has yet to be released. Did they hire Uli B’s campaign promotion team?

    We’ll just have to wait and see. First my interest goes to some real Quantum videos by some actual users and an everyday common sense indepth review by Nick Batt to see it this is really worth the buck (from specs: yes, from sound snippets I heard so far: no)

  9. Stereo LFO’s? Massive polyphony could be useful in some situations, but we’ve been here decades ago with EMU synths and samplers and they had very comprehensive and good sounding 128-note poly synthesis engines (and 32-part multi-timbrality), using custom DSP chips. There’s a buzz about FPGA just now, but it’s just marketing.

    1. Speaking of E-Mu, let’s keep in mind that E-Mu Ultra were made of VLSI, RISC processors etc. etc. and that was probably the main reason we thought we’ll never see hardware Emulator again (of course many of us thought the future was in software synths etc…).
      But now the FPGA technolotgy changed the game (much easier and cheaper development platform!) and maybe we can start dreaming of a new Emulator sampler (keeping in mind that Manuel Caballero developed a Virus competitor almost on his own!).
      If I could tag Dave Rossum! 🙂

  10. Will be priced well under 2000. So “Well” means 5% Hmm….. Should be “marginally” priced under 2000. Probably a large part of that “Well” Was Wanted by Welldorf.

    Oh, and the possibility for a rack version is probably “Well” gone as well now…

  11. The Peak has FPGA oscillators. The rest of the machine is not FPGA-based. The Kyra is end-to-end FPGA.

    There is already a Eurorack synth/sequencer module that is all done on a high-capability FPGA, the Percussa SSP, but it costs more than the Kyra it is not as feature-complete. It seems to be a work in progress.

  12. On specs it seems great but from the few presets here it is quite disappointing! Surely there must be some great sounds ‘selling” this…

  13. That first “piano” sound was hideous. Not that I would ever get this for lame piano sounds but geezus that just sucked.

  14. As all the other ‘cutting edge’ producers keep throwing money at the never-ending cycle of Modular upgrades, the VA/combo synths are making great strides in musicality and usability. For instance, you can get a used Access Virus on Reverb for ~$500, less than the cost of some single complex modular doodads. Ridiculous!
    Once these producers realize their folly, you’ll start to see modular items at garage sales (which is already starting in the FB group ‘modular garage sales’).

    In other words, I’ll take the cost-effectiveness of a Waldorf/Novation/Behringer axe (even iPad app) any day over the whimsy of modular. I’ve had my run-in with them – 40 years ago (PAIA), and there was a reason I threw it out in the trash back in the day. Once the DX-7D-50/M1’s/S612 came out, it was game over for modular. We’re reliving early 80’s history, just because the current crop of producers was too young to remember/live through the mistakes of the past.

    1. +1 to that sentiment. I think that’s more like what Caballero had in mind. Looks like he partnered with the wrong manufacturer.

  15. Definitive too expensive. I think Waldorf wants a too big margin on each unit. 800€ for desktop would be reasonable to get into competition with Behringer, Novation and Access. For that price i’d prefer Omnisphere or tiny Electrax-VST. No easy buy for me.

    1. Your desired price is completely stupid. Honestly, get a reality check.

      So sick of the mentally ill something-for-nothing crowd. Thank god no one relies on you for their paycheck, they’d end up on the street.

      1. Keep your wig on, nobody is suggesting a giveaway, only that the price bears some relationship to its cost. Not only does it lack a keyboard, but inside there is only a handful of chips. Compare this to Behringers poly that has 12 physical synths and a decent keyboard. With such a low production cost, they could easily drop sub 800, sell more units as a result and make an even bigger profit overall.

  16. While I would like to see the price sub €1500…

    To be realistic – its all wishful thinking & speculation until be see and hear the production unit.
    Will it have a touch screen builtin, will it have iPad link, will it be gold plated, will it have Polyend pads added, will it be remote controled & fly…?

    If it can Fly. the price could be justified?

    I’m looking forward to seeing the end result.

    1. You have the specs. The differences are obvious. The only thing we don’t know is the price. But Caballero have stated earlier that the price will be way below 2000 Euro. Since it doesn’t have any analog synth parts, it might be same or lower price than Peak. We shall see.

  17. At least now they replaced the ugly orange side caps with dark wood. Hope they also get rid of those awkward top and bottom panels, or at least replace them with something more stylish. Features and sound are good and all, but if the synth looks like a tacky kitchen appliance I need to get drunk to use it.

  18. Looks cool. I guess the right presets could really show what this synth can really do. I’m just not hearing it yet though. I’m quite happy with my Blofeld for these kinds of sounds and the resale price is so good you could just buy a few of those and still save money? I think the price of this is maybe still a bit high but of course cheaper than Quantum which seems like an amazing synth. I think though that Waldorf would be smart to produce a high level synth along the lines of Kyra with some limitations for about $850. Or not…the price of the Kyra might sell more Blofelds. But with a synth in the $500- $800 range they’d hit a good spot in the market and balance it out with their high end and lower priced products.

  19. please have cv control inputs for the modbus
    one of the best features of the novation peak is cv control input for the mod bus, would love to see it in the kyra.
    it would definitely grab the attention of all the euro rack community.

  20. I love the rendered image, I like the colors. Looks like a different layout of buttons and knobs too, which might be a good thing. I do hope the keyboard version will have 5-octave fatar keybed, then I’d most likely get one.

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