Review: Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave Wavetable Synthesizer

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Review: Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave Wavetable Synthesizer

3rd Wave Synthesizer
Reviews by John Tucker

3rd Wave Wavetable Synthesizer | Sound and Music | RRP: Enquire for pricing

The PPG (Palm Products GmbH) synthesizer, founded by Wolfgang Palm in the late 1970s, played a pivotal role in the evolution of electronic music. The PPG Wave series, starting with the PPG Wave 2 in 1981, introduced groundbreaking wavetable synthesis technology. This innovation allowed the manipulation of complex waveforms, offering a diverse sonic palette. Notably, the PPG Wave 2.2 and 2.3, released in the mid-’80s, became iconic. 

Despite financial challenges, the PPG Wave legacy endured, influencing notable artists like Jean-Michel Jarre and Depeche Mode. PPG’s final version, the Wave 2.3, marked the end of an era as Wolfgang Palm joined Waldorf.

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3rd Wave Synth

In 2021, Groove Synthesis, led by Bob Coover, released the 3rd Wave synth, serving as a spiritual successor to the PPG Wave series. The 3rd Wave represents a formidable wavetable synthesizer, delivering a contemporary and impressive sound experience. With a remarkable 24-voice polyphony and the ability to perform as a 4-part multi-timbral instrument, it essentially provides the functionality of four distinct synthesizers within one device.

Each of its three oscillators per voice offers versatility, serving as a classic PPG-era wavetable, a modern high-resolution and harmonically intricate wavetable, or an analogue-modelled waveform. Moreover, users can craft up to sixty-four personalized wavetables using the 3rd Wave’s Wavemaker™ tool, incorporating a sample-to-wavetable feature. Connecting an audio source allows for the effortless generation of a wavetable at the push of a button, making wavetable synthesis more accessible and open-ended than ever.

While the 3rd Wave maintains its roots in the classic digital wavetable synthesizers of the past, it propels this concept into the 21st century by delivering a rich and expansive sound derived from its expanded wavetables and warm, organic analogue filters. Equipped with a Dave Rossum-designed 2140 analogue low-pass filter with variable saturation, as well as a second SEM-style state-variable filter offering various modes, it provides extensive tone-sculpting possibilities. Running both filters in series adds further complexity to the harmonics.

Synthesizer polyphony

Boasting twenty-four voices, the 3rd Wave synth possesses ample power to handle even the most intricate musical performances. Its polyphony is particularly impactful, allowing users to layer up to four parts or create four independent split zones, each with a distinct sound, sequence, and dual effect. Each stereo part features independent panning, volume control, and a dedicated stereo physical output. Additionally, the three wavetable oscillators per part/voice have their own 6-stage, loopable wave envelope, enabling the creation of intricate soundscapes whether playing a single sound or a 4-part layer.

The sequencer in the 3rd Wave is an awesome creative tool for both composers and sound designers, offering pattern-based sequencing for notes, songs, and parameters. Sequencing changes of various parameters is intuitive, and real-time recording maintains precision. Composing and performing is made easy, allowing for the entry of notes and chords with or without quantization. The synth’s multi-timbral nature means each of its four parts/layers has its own sequencer track, allowing for versatile arrangements and performances.

Fatar keyboard

The 3rd Wave excels in its modulation capabilities, featuring a versatile modulation matrix with sixteen assignable slots, twelve fixed-source slots, twenty-seven sources, and 114 destinations. The synth offers the flexibility of a modular system, with immediate connections between sources and destinations facilitated by knob adjustments. Additional sound-shaping tools include two digital effects per part, two auxiliary envelopes, and four LFOs for extensive modulation possibilities. Encased in a robust all-metal chassis with a premium 5-octave semi-weighted Fatar keyboard, the 3rd Wave is a wavetable synthesizer designed to inspire creativity.

It didn’t take long for the 3rd Wave synth to usurp many of the synths I grew up revering, instantly becoming one of the finest synthesizers I have had the opportunity to play. In terms of sheer output and timbre, It just sounds excellent, the level of detail and depth on display here is both brilliant and classy, while also capable of some remarkable sonic range at the musical level. Add to that the modularity, with the PPG emulation highlighting a fantastic level of nuance in regards to aspects such as tuning quirks and other little characteristics that make the 3rd Wave feel both classic and fresh-often within the same patch.

While the nod to the past is excellent and well appreciated, the nod to the future has just as much impact, with the layering, FM synthesis, modulation, oscillators, filters and wavetables all in a whopping 96kHz sample rate, the 3rd Wave blows the PPG out of the water in terms of sonic potential and general fidelity which combined with the endless tweakability of the parameters makes for a synth for all occasions. 

3rd Wave synth

Coupled with the impeccable and elegant tones the 3rd Wave exudes, the elegance of the User Interface, and the housing of the synth is just as impeccable and the way everything is exactly where you expect it to be with truly little menu diving is elegant too. In a digital world, with the advent of touchscreens and minimalism, it is refreshing to see controls for all the major features and the majority of the minor features spread across the 116 push buttons and rotary pots across the front face of the Synth gives no illusion of minimalism, it is a Synth that is intended to pay homage to its past, and to bask in the tactile heritage it carries.

Touching on the build quality further, the 3rd Wave bears all the hallmarks of a synth built to last, with its premium aluminium chassis and high quality Fatar Keyboard, it not only looks and feels the part, it leaves you with a sense of confidence in its ability to withstand the rigours of the road.

Overall, I would highly recommend the Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave as it is an immensely powerful and stylish synth that will facilitate and elevate your creativity through the analogue and tactile interface and innovative and expansive tones.

For local enquiries, visit Sound and Music.