The last 2-3 years has seen a rise in the production of mono synthesizers in the market by several different hardware companies. As competition increases, it seems that a quick way to generate revenue for hardware companies is by producing inexpensive mono synthesizers marketed around popular styles of electronic music.
Furthermore, there also seems to be a rise in the demand for hardware synths vs software programs. Many of the leading mono synths are slightly less than the full price of a DAW, or software synth as well. This is a favorable aspect that the market seems to be responding to. Many hardware users also are enticed by hardware synths because they are not affected by ram, processor speeds of a computer, or the need to upgrade to a newer computer in order to continue using it. These are competitive factors that are here to stay, and will continue to influence the market place.
So lets move on to reviewing the Rocket Synthesizer by Waldorf. ( Mind you that i am a Waldorf fan, and in particularly of the Waldorf wave. But i will not let my biases interfere with this review ) This is a very sleek mono synth with a stunning build to it. The unit has a great design, and has an extremely sturdy build and design to it.
Switches on the unit :
The switches on the unit are very strong, and are NOT weak and ineffective. They will last. The switches also seem to not interfere with hearing audible clicks when you are changing them in realtime modulations or recording. For example, switching to a different filter or key tracking type, while the unit is running or being recorded dosent seem to produce hardcore clicks which would normally prevent you from doing this. Thats something i really like about this synth. And if minor clicks do seem to appear from doing this bother you, you could simple just record 2 different parts with 2 different filters and join them together within your DAW.
The Knobs feel great, and are of a great design and build too. The knobs don’t produce steppy results while being used either. The knobs produce a very continuos response while being adjusted. That is a great feature that you don’t have to worry about as well.
The filter is one of the best features i like about this synth. The filter has a very aggressive feel, and sound to it. The filter is very sharp and has a great bite to it. In relation to the resonance, and envelope modulation knob, this synth can really deliver some sharp filter sweeps, and subtractive synthesis sounds for what its worth.
Lfo and Arpeggiator:
The Lfo and Apreggiator are a bit tricky. Both cannot be tempo synced, like it can be done on the Minibrute Synthesizer. ( The Minibrute synth is a comparable mono synth to the Rocket synthesizer ) Too bad that this is not an included feature. However, you will simply have to use your ears and rely on the timing within the track you are trying to record in to get accurate results. This is just a lost feature in terms of space on the actual unit, and cost of keeping price of the synth very low.
The oscillator on this mono synth is selectable between a saw and pulse wave. This may not seem like a lot to choose from, but whats unique about this is the boast function, which enables the sound to have more saturation, harmonics, and to appear more fatter, especially in relation to the chord function on this synth. The chord feature is very unique and useful. I have been able to create sounds on the Rocket synthesizer that sound close to those that would be created on my ROLAND MKS 80 !
WARNING : YOU CANNOT PLAY CHORDS ON THIS SYNTHESIZER !
This feature is a bit misleading at first glance but the manual does describe it. What happens is that the sound becomes stacked with more voices. And when that is achieved, you can then select an appropriate “chord like ” voicing while this is in unison mode such as a 3rd, 5th, or other chord interval which has its own pitch associated to the sound itself. I don’t thing any other mono synth offers this function, and this is highly useful while using the Rocket synthesizer.
This is one of the biggest gripes that users have been voicing about this synthesizer. The fact that it does not have a full A D S R envelope included. The Rocket synthesizer only has a Decay envelope, which actually acts like the release stage of the envelope as well. Again, im under the assumption that this was a design issue in terms of space available to include it on the front panel, and in terms of price. I can live with this while programming this synth. The Rocket synth also has a sustain and release switch included as well. i wonder why they didn’t include another aspect of the A D S R envelope Stage instead of including that ?
This is another one of the strongest points about this synthesizer too ! The Rocket Synthesizer. The Rocket synth ships with a universal power supply that includes adapter for America, Europe, and Asia, and further ! You really don’t have to wonder where you have to buy this synthesizer from now, because the appropriate adapter is included ! This is a feature that im sure you will see other companies adapt to in the future. For example, i bought my unit in Scotland from Rubadub, and was equipped to use it later in Milan, and then 2 days later when i arrived at home in the United States because the adapters are all included !
The launch button is also another great feature. after you plug this unit in to begin playing it, no midi controller is absolutely necessary. You can program sounds and apreggiations by simply pressing the launch button. Furthermore, when you are using a midi controller with the rocket synthesizer, the launch button will respond to the pitch of any key selected by the midi controller. This is a handy feature.
SUMMARY OF THE WALDORF ROCKET SYNTHESIZER :
I really like this synthesizer. Both in terms of the design, function, and features.
THE GREATEST THING ABOUT THE ROCKET SYNTHESIZER IS THAT IT DOSENT MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE PROGRAMMING A SYNTH THAT SOUNDS EXACTLY LIKE ITS PRICE, OR WHAT YOU PAID FOR IT !
like the sound of this synthesizer, for what its worth. I must say that i have never been much of a fan for mono synths. Especially expensive ones too. I have already learned a lot about programming synthesizers from using mono synths. A mono synth makes you concentrate on a particular frequency, or type of patch such as a bass line, lead or effect sound. And that is a good thing. I must reiterate my statement, that the whole time im programming this synth, i don’t feel like im using a 320 dollar synth. Nor does it sound like one either. Each user must determine if a mono synth is for him or not. I just discovered that one or 2 of them in my studio certainly are welcomed by me. But if you have any concerns or needs for polyphony, a monophonic synthesizer is NOT for you !
So what type of producer is a monophonic synthesizer good for ? And what is a monophonic synthesizer good for in general ?
A monophonic synthesizer is good for a producer that may want to concentrate on a particular type of frequency such as a lead line, bass line, blips, or effects. There is a need for this, as i am finally aware of now.
PROS AND CONS OF THE ROCKET SYNTHESIZER:
1. Great build.
2. Great design.
3. Very affordable price.
4. Agressive filter.
5. The launch button.
6. Versatile power supply included for all regions of the world.
7. Audio input.
8. Midi in and out ports.
10. A boast function
11. Flexible in the amount of sounds that can be created.
13. The Rocket synthesizer does not sound or feel like the price of the synthesizer itself.
1. Lack of a full A D S R styled envelope.
2. lfo and apreggiator cant be tempo synced.
3. Saw and Pulse wave limitation for oscillators.
4. No patch sheet, or overlay is included, or even created, to save your patches
– Mike Huckaby