Blacet/Wiard Mini Wave Review

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Muff Wiggler
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Blacet/Wiard Mini Wave Review

Post by Muff Wiggler » Sun Nov 26, 2006 3:13 am

I've had this module in my system for a little while now (and there's a second one on the way!), and I'm continually amazed with all the things it can do. It's an absolutely essential module. Basically it is a wavetable lookup device that tracks an incoming saw wave and outputs waveforms from an internal ROM bank. Sounds pretty straigtforward, but it can do SO MUCH ELSE it is unreal. I've written a little (OK pretty big!) review here (this was actually adopted from a post I made at KVR) for anyone who may be interested.

A new MiniWave ships with one ROM - the 'factory' MiniWave bank by Grant Richter (of Wiard Synthesizer fame....Grant actually designed the MiniWave, it is based on his "Waveform City" module for the classic Wiard Synthesizer...., Blacet manufacturers it, because it is very popular, and Wiard builds things one at a time while Blacet has a professional production house...).

Additionally, when you order a MiniWave from Blacet (Modcan makes a 'modcanized' version of it based on the same Blacet/Wiard PCB), you can order a second ROM for the second slot, this one is called "Socket Rocket", and contains 256 more waveforms, and this ROM was also developed by Grant Richter.

Now, Grant provides a free download of the "Wave256" software, which is used to create the ROM images. It lets you load in waveforms, edit, trim, position them, set them into 'banks', etc. And then it outputs a hex file that can be burned onto a PROM if you have a ROM burner. So you can 'roll your own' if you have a ROM burner.

The MiniWave provides a toggle switch to select between ROM 'A' and ROM 'B'. Additionally, there are knobs to select the Bank and the Waveform, and additionally these selections can be made via CV (there are inputs for both, as well as CV attenuator knobs...)

There are about 10 third-party ROMs available as well. Some are based on classic wavetable synths, some are 'vowel' banks, some are 'vector' and 'morph' banks, etc. One of them is a scale quantizer (more on this later).

There is a DIY project that you can easily build that is a "MiniWave Expander". It is basically a daughterboard that has sockets for 9 ROMs, and it plugs into the 'Socket A' on your MiniWave, replacing the ROM that is there. So using the 'Socket B' along with the Expander board, you can have a total of 10 ROMs addressable by your MiniWave. The expander uses a thumbwheel to select which of the 9 'expander' ROMs is currently assigned to the Miniwave.

There is a daughterboard for the expander board as well! If you want to do a little bit more building, it adds CV selection of the 9 ROMs on the Expander and adds an Inverted out from the MiniWave. Finally it adds 10 LEDs so you can see which of the 'expander' ROMs you are addressing at the moment.

Ok, so onto 'what can it do?'. Obviously, the main application is a wavetable lookup/waveform bank device. What happens is that you feed the MiniWave a Saw waveform (from a VCO), and the miniwave tracks the frequency, and outputs the selected waveform (from the 'bank' and 'wave' location of the selected ROM), tracked to the input frequency. So this makes for a easy to use bank of additional waveforms for your synth. Also using a sequencer to 'step through' the various waveforms (especially in the banks that are designed to 'morph' smoothly) gives you that classic 'wavetable' sound. Some of the morph banks do things like add harmonics over a sine wave, so as you morph through waves in the bank you aren't getting 'wavetable scanning' sounds, but rather adding harmonics and 'upper register movement' to the fundamental tone. There are some banks in my ROMs that almost sound more like 'harmonizers', and can make one oscillator sound like two that are tuned differently. Very cool!

But it doesn't end there. Like most things in a modular, it can process CVs as well as audio. Some of the banks are designed to be clocked at a very slow rate (but obviously can be clocked at audio rates to create new audio waveforms) to give you interesting 'sequenced' type CV outputs, nice to rhythmically modulate a filter's cutoff, or you can use them to modulate a VCA to get a 'tarnce gate' effect, or even create rhythmic pulses of drum triggers.

But it doesn't end there either! It's also a distortion box. I mentioned that it tracks a Saw wave input for wavetable playback. If you feed it something other than a saw wave, it acts as a non-linear function processor (distortion) and can give some very interesting distortion effects.

But there's still more you can do! Probably my favorite application is using it as a quantizer. The final bank in the 'factory' ROM contains 16 quantized scales. You can use this in a few ways - if you have a v/Oct pitch CV, you can run it through the miniwave's quantizer bank to have it converted into the scale of your choice. Or if you have something that is outputting 'unscaled' voltages (like an S&H processor for example, or for me the Binary Zone module...), run that voltage through the MiniWave's quantizer bank, and it will quantize the voltages to the selected scale.

This is nice...but a better option is to get the dedicated Scale Quantizer ROM. This is the first 'third-party' ROM I bought, and it is simply STELLAR!! It is arranged as follows:

The first 12 banks are dedicated to each Key. Bank 1 is "C". Bank 2 is "C#/Db". Bank 3 is "D" etc. Within each bank, the 16 'waves' quantize to various scalar modes. So let's say you have a sequencer sending a melody line. You can transpose this melody into different keys by simply selecting a different bank from the miniwave. Within a given key (MiniWave bank) you can change the scalar mode that is being used by changing the selected waveform within the bank.

There remain 4 more 'banks' in the Scale Quantizer ROM that the designer has made good use of. One of them is a bunch of arps, one of them is octave sets, one of them is a 'grab bag', and the final one is a collection of fun 'walking melody lines arranged around C natural'.

This rom is just too cool for words.

So folks, there's a long-winded and detailed look at the wonderful MiniWave, and most of the cool things you can do with it. It's a hell of a lot more than a wavetable lookup device, and my second one should be arriving any day.

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Cat-A-Tonic
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NEW Wiard Mini-Wave ROMs

Post by Cat-A-Tonic » Mon Mar 24, 2008 11:31 am

Does anyone have any comments about Grant Richter's
- GR-PPG
&
- GR-NEW
ROMs :?:

They are available from Hylander for $20 :!:

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Post by Kwote » Mon Mar 24, 2008 12:14 pm

lookin more forward. wondering if the blacet megawave makes it into the fold what that'll offer.

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Re: NEW Wiard Mini-Wave ROMs

Post by plord » Mon Mar 24, 2008 12:35 pm

Cat-A-Tonic wrote:Does anyone have any comments about Grant Richter's
- GR-PPG
&
- GR-NEW
ROMs :?:
GR-NEW ships with the Waveform City. I played with it all weekend, it is very useful! :) It has a real grab-bag of sounds. The first bank morphs smoothly from Sin->Tri->Sqr->Saw->dbl-freq-Saw. There is another bank with a similar smooth sweep with 3 flavors of noise at the end; careful CV application and filtering of this bank will spit out an *evil* drone with random bursts of static. There is a bank with 16 steps of variable square wave sync. There is a bank that takes a sine wave and rectifies the bottom half. I had them on the scope this weekend, maybe I can take a video and post it (never tried to film the scope).

I have a whole expander full of ROMS that I haven't played with in months, waiting on my own DIY effort and now on a new rack/PS solution for the third row of 300 format modules. These are weak excuses, but I'm sticking to them. I agree that the scale quantizer ROM is the bees knees, I basically built a module dedicated to running them. I'll review the other ROMs (and if I get it working, post videos) once I get things racked up and powered.

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Post by Muff Wiggler » Mon Mar 24, 2008 12:55 pm

yes I have both of those GR roms as well - GR-NEW also is the 'demo bank' with the Wave256 software for people who want to burn their own MW ROMS

the GR-PPG is waveforms taken from a Wave PPG synthesizer by Grant R.

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Post by nathankirchner » Thu Mar 27, 2008 8:19 am

Kwote wrote: ...wondering if the blacet megawave makes it into the fold what that'll offer.
What do you think it should offer?

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Post by consumed » Thu Mar 27, 2008 9:38 am

nathankirchner wrote:
Kwote wrote: ...wondering if the blacet megawave makes it into the fold what that'll offer.
What do you think it should offer?
good question. ive been thinking about this for awhile, since the miniwave module is so useful and i dont find much lacking from it. except that it does not have an onboard saw to drive it. (i dont consider "only" two prom slots to be a limitation, honestly. 2*16*16 is a lot of shapes to choose from!)

here's an idea: what if the sample playback reversed direction depending on the slope of the input? so a saw wave would cycle forward through the wave, a ramp wave would cycle backward, and a triangle would alternate? (i dont know how the miniwave currently handles a complex wave input, except that it can get pretty mangled.) this might be interesting for low frequencies, maybe not so much for audio. i dunno.

another idea is to allow users to load in their own samples on the fly.

another idea: use two onboard oscillators (one to drive the MW, the other to FM the driver, for really complex waves). i mention this only because i've used my modcan vcdo to drive a miniwave and the results can be pretty dramatic.

how about a clock input, and more binary type waves, so the MW can be used for more periodic timing-based stuff when used in a low frequency mode? the clock could step through 4- or 8- or 16- bits [EDIT: i mean "samples", not "bits"] of the wave at a time (user selectable from 1-16?). it could potentially work as a frequency multiplier? (similar to a burst generator)

im just rambling about functionality that i imagine would be fun for me. i have no idea how this would work behind the panel or if its possible. :lol:

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Post by Kwote » Thu Mar 27, 2008 11:50 am

consumed wrote:
nathankirchner wrote:
Kwote wrote: ...wondering if the blacet megawave makes it into the fold what that'll offer.
What do you think it should offer?
good question. ive been thinking about this for awhile, since the miniwave module is so useful and i dont find much lacking from it. except that it does not have an onboard saw to drive it. (i dont consider "only" two prom slots to be a limitation, honestly. 2*16*16 is a lot of shapes to choose from!)

here's an idea: what if the sample playback reversed direction depending on the slope of the input? so a saw wave would cycle forward through the wave, a ramp wave would cycle backward, and a triangle would alternate? (i dont know how the miniwave currently handles a complex wave input, except that it can get pretty mangled.) this might be interesting for low frequencies, maybe not so much for audio. i dunno.

another idea is to allow users to load in their own samples on the fly.

another idea: use two onboard oscillators (one to drive the MW, the other to FM the driver, for really complex waves). i mention this only because i've used my modcan vcdo to drive a miniwave and the results can be pretty dramatic.

how about a clock input, and more binary type waves, so the MW can be used for more periodic timing-based stuff when used in a low frequency mode? the clock could step through 4- or 8- or 16- bits [EDIT: i mean "samples", not "bits"] of the wave at a time (user selectable from 1-16?). it could potentially work as a frequency multiplier? (similar to a burst generator)

im just rambling about functionality that i imagine would be fun for me. i have no idea how this would work behind the panel or if its possible. :lol:
sweet ideas though. i especially like the two onboard oscillators concept.
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Post by J.w.M. » Thu Mar 27, 2008 6:17 pm

Hmm... from everything I've heard, the Miniwave alone is amazing. I don't currently have one in my setup, but my current plan is to add one to my next rack. As such, here are the two things I'd like to see in the "Megawave" that the current one doesn't offer:
1) An onboard saw wave.
2) The ability to easily load new waves in.

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Megawave w/ Flash Media

Post by Cat-A-Tonic » Thu Mar 27, 2008 7:03 pm

If the Megawave would be to make use of a microcontroller wouldn't that make it possible to load custom waves and perhaps even looping samples via flash media?

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