Blofeld: German Humour


There really is something about the Blofeld that inspires inadvertent snickering. Like an editor being released by “Soft Knobs”, which makes perfect sense but … c’mon. The funny starts with the manual explaining how to use piano keys and just keeps on rolling.


But if we take a close look at the soft knob, the design of the Blofeld is clear. It’s two wavetable oscillators plus a third VA mostly for subs, through two filters which are multimodal and act as output channels. Very simple really, and the devil is all in the details.


Wavetables are very interesting and I’ve made a subsection for them. A well made table takes harmonics into both natural and and surreal journeys. All the old PPG tables are here, which is nice for making old Depeche Mode songs, but I am having a much better time attempting to squeeze odd sounds into monotones – for a wave table is all one pitch. For example a recording of buzzing bee made a great wavetable. Compared to samples, tables invite bowing through them at odd angles. So the Blofeld can be a odd metallic buzzy thing.


The difference between this and the Waldorf Nave for example is that tables are optional to using the Blofeld just as a virtual analogue, pumping traditional waveforms through filters with too much volume to get overtones that way – and it also does this role quite well. The filters are nicely made and tend to do what your fingers were expecting – the box can be very warm when asked.


The sampling option has turned out well for me, I’ve been loading up air conditioners and aircraft and old bits of vinyl – the way you get them into memory is clumsy, but once they are there they stay there and its quite a different feel to using a sampler – your sound library becomes a familiar source of textures and after a while you use them just like oscillators, to start something.


When you try to use wavetables AND virtual analogue AND samples AND the patchbay you can get lost. I mean, I get lost. And it can get too shrill and fuzzy. Better to pick a tactic for each patch.


The Blofeld is a dependable thing, like good shoes or a dog. It is going to do what you wanted, and you will think it well done. You tend to take it for granted after a while, but as you struggle with some other bitter and twisted keyboard made in Japan you long to be back in Waldorf.


Bad things – plug in the USB cable and it makes a quiet shrill whine. Get an earth-lift box for the outputs. Apparently the twiddly knobs start to become unreliable after some time. I’m lucky to have have a near new machine. The sample feature is another 99 euro. You don’t need it, but I really enjoy running Frank Sinatra through a comb filter and damn it, I will pay for my jollies.




A wavetable is an arrangement of single cycle audio waveforms of equal frequency. Multiple complex sounds can be generated from a single table by playing the waves in different order. This technique allowed Wolfgang Palm to develop the powerful PPG synthesis system with minimal data storage and processing.




















Although processing power has grown to the point where synthesisers such Uhe Zebra can generate waves on the fly, a wavetable is still an efficient way to describe the deformation of a wave shape over time. They are currently used in PPG Wave Generator and Wave Mapper, Waldorf Nave, Largo and Blofeld, Native Instruments Massive and Absynth.


Transwaves are a hybrid where a loop point is jumped through a sound sample organised such that looped ‘frames’ have smooth joins. They have an advantage over wavetables in that the frames can carry multiple pitches for detuned and inharmonic sounds. Ensoniq developed the technique, the most infamous example being the ill fated FIZMO synthesiser, but also the ASR-10, ASR-X and others. The KORG Wavestation uses a later idea called wave sequencing.

It was either this or a red car and I think I chose wisely.