Waldorf Kyra Synthesizer At SynthPlex 2019

At SynthPlex 2019, we talked with Korg product specialist Nick Kwas and he gave us an update on the upcoming Waldorf Kyra synthesizer.

The Kyra started its life as the independently designed Exodus Digital Valkyrie, introduced at Musikmesse 2018. Waldorf Music CEO Joachim Flor thought the Valkyrie was “one of the most exciting synthesizers of recent years’, and decided to help bring the synth to a broader audience.

The Kyra is based on FPGA technology, which promises to make it possible to create powerful synth hardware more cost-effectively. A FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array) is a type of powerful integrated circuit that’s designed to be ‘field-programmable’. This means that manufacturers can buy generic FPGA’s and then load a hardware description that turns the chip into a custom integrated circuit.

In the case of the Kyra, using FPGA technology promises to allow Waldorf to produce a synth with 128-voice polyphony, a 10 oscillator-per-voice architecture, deep modulation options and more.

The Kyra shown at SynthPlex was one of the latest prototypes. While it looked very finished, Waldorf has not announced a release date for it yet.

Waldorf Kyra Specifications (preliminary):

  • 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)

Pricing and Availability

The Waldorf Kyra is still in development and official details on pricing and availability are still to be announced.

25 thoughts on “Waldorf Kyra Synthesizer At SynthPlex 2019

    1. Agreed.

      MPE has been official for a year, so it’s a feature any serious polysynth design should support.

    1. Coz the Virus Ti2 has been released 10 years ago with no upcoming new version. Seen from a technical perspective, this synth has more to offer while maintaining the same sonical identity that made us fall in love with the Virus. Shame and blame is on Access’ part.

  1. Somebody please explain the FPGA thing in English for me?

    It kind of sounds like a new way to make custom analog chips – which would be awesome.

    And can anybody comment on whether this is an analog synth (with digital effects) or is it a new type of digital synth?

    1. from the other synthtopia article:” 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.”

        1. they are completely digital. its basically a grid of gates that you connect via a buss matrix, plus some added circuitry for ram and dsp, depending on the fpga model. there are analog FPAA chips but they are kind of rare and difficult to use in practice. but you can buy FPGA training boards for very cheap these days if you want to try and learn more about the technology

        2. FPGAs are completely digital.
          From a user stand point there really is no difference between a powerful CPU a DSP chip or an FPGA.
          But the programming is different and works in a different way.
          On a CPU you usually have scheduled process that are executed at the clock speed of some major clock. There is usually also at least a minimal OS as well.
          This means that all processes has to be assigned a given time to perform their tasks and then wait until they are scheduled again.
          A DSP is a specialized processor dedicated to signal processing (the same way a GPU is a processor dedicated for graphics calculations). A DSP is generally better at performing tasks in parallel so it can do multiple calculations on one processing cycle which takes several cycles for a standard CPU to perform.
          So it can do signal processing more efficiently using less power and dissipating less heat than a standard CPU.
          An FPGA works a little differently.
          On an FPGA you actually program transistor connections to create routings and transistor flip flops.
          But the transistors are only used for logical voltages, not biased to form any analogue circuits.
          It is entirely possible to generate a general purpose CPU and clock it just like any other CPU with an FPGA, but it is also possible to produce dedicated transistor nets who can run completely asynchronous processing.
          So an FPGA is more similar to taking single transistors or logical gates and soldering them together to form logical functions than your standard CPU.
          This also means that FPGAs can be incredibly fast and that is one reason they are often used in telecom routers and RF networks where a standard CPU would just not be able to keep up.
          But you write code and programs for an FPGA just as you do for a CPU or a DSP.
          They been around for a long time, it is nothing revolutionary about them in that sense.
          They are very good for high speed direct interaction applications, but a modern CPU can also manage most of those tasks without problems.
          So it mainly comes down to design philosophy, what is the best choice for a given product?

          1. Hi Jon, a few corrections to what you said. most modern FPGAs actually have DSP slices integrated into the fabric along with the FPGA cells, so the distinction is not as clear cut any longer. Many also have a small CPU core (most often an ARM architecture nowadays) integrated for tasks where a classic CPU architecture is better suited. Third, the programming of FPGA is definitely NOT the same as programming a CPU or a DSP. rather, you are using a hardware design language (HDL) which describes the gates and architecture you want to implement on the FPGA fabric. everything you write in the HDL happens concurrently, not serially. this is VERY different from common serial programming. you won’t even get past basic tutorials if you try to program an FPGA like a CPU.

            1. So you basically repeated what I said?
              I never said you can’t combine them with other technology and I never said you use C or C++ to program FPGAs.
              I have programmed FPGAs in VHDL I know how they work.
              But they are still programmed with software and compilers just like a CPU or DSP.

  2. Nice features, agree with adding MPE, seems like they went away from the Virus look. Still not looking visually pleasing, it has this sorta Latte Mocha look, poor contrast of things on the interface.

    1. I know what you mean, but I think they’ve been better with that in the last few years. I feel they’re in a more stable place as a company compared to several years ago.

      Personally, I’m excited for the Quantum. The sound is killer, the build quality is really good and the interface is genius. This also looks to be really cool.

  3. It looks a bit like the Arturia Origin desktop (which I’ve always wanted) long since discontinued.

  4. As a collector and a musician, this is easily my most anticipated synthesizer for 2019. I wonder if they are delaying the release of the Kyra in order to not cannibalize sales on the Quantum.

    Honestly I can see being the must have VA synth replacing all the aging Virus TIs out there. Unfortunately I don’t it will ever have the killer VST interface that the Virus has.

    Also rooting for the FPGA path, honestly believe that this will be the future for digital and hybrid synthesizers.

    1. I don’t think the Kyra would cannibalize Quantum sales as the 2 synths are very different. It might be stretching Waldorf’s staff a little thin though as focus has clearly been on the Quantum first. Since there is still no pricing or release date for the Kyra it looks to be still a ways off. Then again maybe Waldorf has learned from the Quantum and doesn’t want preorders sitting for a year plus on the Kyra.

  5. I’ve loosely noted that quite a few people have a Novation Peak front and center lately, for good reasons. The Kyra seems well-positioned for similar use: Big #1 heavily-muscled octopoid centerpiece instrument. I’m seriously curious about how many hobbyists/weekend warriors save a bit longer and then buy a solid tool like this and max it out. Yes, MPE probably should be included with a high-end synth now, but c’mon, 128 voices, TEN oscillators per voice, 9 effects per patch, 8-part multitimbral, etc.? If people who yell for a new synth aren’t blown back by that much power, they can jolly well just eat whatever’s in the back of the fridge. It puts a whole new welcome demand on players to rise to meet the challenge. I doubt its $4k, but $3k may not be unreasonable. I’m looking forward to hearing the whole preset library.

  6. It looks a little like a virus – it sounds a little like a virus – but it is released years after the virus. Maybe it is not a bad thing but is could not be less innovative.

  7. Sounds good. If Access is going to keep making Kemper amp modellers, as opposed to taking their VA’s to the next level, then someone else should do it.

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