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Studiologic Sledge black edition - review
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> General Gear Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author Studiologic Sledge black edition - review
Electronic Battle
To establish my background experience, let me explain that this is my first new "modern" instrument purchase, the previous one being a DX7 in about 1988. I've been taking keyboard and piano lessons for a couple of years but have been self taught, mainly on things like MS-10s/20s and the Yamaha, for 30 years. On a good day my playing skills are mediocre. I am not a musician but I have a good musical ear and I understand subtractive synthesis and a (very) little bit about music theory.

I bought the Studiologic Sledge, black edition ...

http://www.studiologic-music.com/products/sledge-black-edition/

... because of the affordable price, the 24 note polyphony, one control per function interface, and the nice piano sample (alongside others, e.g. a nice Rhodes). The built-in effects seemed a useful bonus (but I have a 1U rack that can do more than reverb/delay/chorus/phasing/flanging) so it wasn't of great importance to me, and I thought the wavetable for VCO1 also sounded a nice feature.

I had a demo play with the usual yellow version at an excellent shop in England (www.emismusic.co.uk) whose price (£829 July 2016) matched that of online sellers, and decided that it was a good purchase for me. This is after having debated whether to buy it or not for the last few months. The black version is advertised as having a better keyboard action than the yellow one; I haven't the finesse to say but I do notice that the keybed is somewhat more "springy" than my DX7 and hence the Sledge is very nice to play, and suits itself to fast runs. (My idea of "fast" is probably very slow, mind!).

The firmware version in the Sledge is v2.2 whereas the website shows v2.1 to be the latest. I don't know what the differences are.

Sound quality: it is superb. Even on long envelope release, it is rare to hear any note stealing due to the 24 note polyphony. The controls all seems to be finely quantised such that there is no jumping in value (all controls send CC data so you can map everything on the panel to a DAW for example). The 3 VCOs can be fine detuned against one another and coarse-shifted in semitone increments by an octave, and they all have range switches so the footage can be changed (64' to 1'). The filter can be switched from HPF/LPF/BPF and 12/24dB per octave slopes can be selected. You can overdrive the filter and in doing so the results sound similar to my various analogue modular/semi-modular synthesisers. Filter tracking and Q can be varied. The immediacy of built-in effects is very handy to have instead of relying on outboard equipment.

It is true 24 note polyphony, so you can set the envelope trigger mode to be single or multiple, the latter case giving you e.g. a filter sweep per note every time you (say) add a note to a chord. In other words, it's not like the 1980s/90s Korg Poly800 where you had 8 note polyphony through a single filter. Studiologic is owned by the keybed manufacturer, Fatar, but the electronics design is done by Waldorf.

The knob ranges seem very wide, so for example you can have a very percussive ADSR attack, or stretch it out to be very long at greater than 30s (I stopped measuring at that point). The instrument's panel is immediately familiar and the only menus relate to MIDI settings and a bit to do with the arpeggiator. The LCD screen is easy to navigate and read. The dark grey vs. black "reverse" keyboard, instead of black vs. white, is no distraction for me although I suspect a classical piano teacher might be perturbed by it! The aftertouch (single channel or mono for the built-in keybed although the instrument can respond to poly aftertouch from an external controller) is quite a firm action compared with my DX7, but there might be settings which you can change to alter the pressure sensitivity. I know there are three velocity curves you can choose from but I haven't experimented.

One clever, slightly "hidden" feature relates to the volume control. When you turn it to zero, an audible click from inside the Sledge can be heard, which is some form of relay which disconnects the audio output stage. This removes any keyboard hiss. What it also does is send a MIDI "all notes off" or "panic" command, so if you end up with a stuck note or the sound of a previous voice is still decaying away, you can whizz the volume pot to zero and back again in a moment and silence everything. That reminds me - the continuously variable knobs control potentiometers rather than optical encoders.

The build quality is solid. The instrument is fairly lightweight but it doesn't feel flimsy. it is all plastic in construction, but the base is some form of very rigid fibreglass/ABS composite and the upper body is heavy gauge, sandblast finished black (polyprop or polycarb or ABS?) plastic. The front panel is probably plastic but it looks or feels like metal. I'm only using it at home but I imagine it would stand up to being used on stage with a flight case etc.

What it sounds like - anything from a decent 3VCO analogue 70s/80s synth through to a 21st century digital machine. You can get good sound effects out of it, or very useful musical voices. The wavetable is 64 deep and each individual one can have its phase or waveshape continually morphed from one end of that wave's "shape" range to the other. There are some great sounds to be had when mixing the wavetable of VCO1 with VCOs 2 and/or 3, which can cross-modulate each other (by audio rate FM or sync for example).

I haven't done very much voice editing yet - the two or three edits to the nature of the voice which I *have* done have been easy by virtue of its front panel interface, and renaming and saving to a different location is fairly straightforward. It's all easier than the DX7!

The software that comes with the Sledge works well under Windows 10 and also using linux. One is the Soundmapper which you can use to move voices around in the 1000 memory locations, or copy them to your computer, or load new sound banks, and it is a Java executable so is OS independent. The other application, Spectre, is used to upload new sample banks. The Sledge has 60MB into which various samples can be loaded, available from the website and presumably interchangeable with Waldorf Blofeld. It takes about 30 minutes to very sloooooowly upload four voices to the Sledge. You can't (at the moment) change one of the four, you have to do them all, so if you wanted to get rid of the Rhodes and replace it with a Hammond sample you'd need to re-upload the (original piano + new Hammond + original Wurlitzer + original Clavinet). Spectre works in Win10/OSX and also in linux, via Wine. The USB interface on the Sledge is class compliant so it shows up, somehow, in any OS as "Studiologic Sledge".

It takes less than two seconds, when you switch it on, to be ready to play it which is nice. I presume some modern instruments (certainly soft synths etc.) might take quite some time. I haven't had any weird glitches or crashes. I have spoken to support by email to ask a few questions and I have had prompt useful responses. Thanks Gianni!

I think the machine has been designed by experts who are musicians. It is an extremely capable musical instrument sold at a suprisingly low price and I am delighted with it.

If anyone has a "Sledge" question, please post here and I will attempt to answer it.
albiedamned
Thank you very much for this review! I've been considering a Sledge for a while. I have one question for you - is it difficult to read the labels on the panel? How about in low light conditions?
Electronic Battle
hello albiedamned!

albiedamned wrote:
... is it difficult to read the labels on the panel? How about in low light conditions?


Short answer = no.

Long answer - the bright white fonts used stand out quite well from the black background of the panel. The black is quite matte, so there don't seem to be problems with reflection. The smallest characters are probably 3mm tall (e.g. the numbers 0 .. 127 around the knobs) and seem easy enough to read [edit 28/8/16: even when the lighting is a bit dim].

I use glasses to see my computer monitor, and with or without them I can see the writing on the Sledge when I am standing over it such that it's approx. 800mm below me. (If instead I sit down in front of it I'm then a bit too close for my eyesight now, unless I wear my glasses).
metalbox
Thanks man have wondered about the Sledge ! It differently looks Beast
sine
Electronic Battle wrote:
The aftertouch (single channel or mono for the built-in keybed although the instrument can respond to poly aftertouch from an external controller)...<snip>
I'm very interested in your comment about the Sledge responding to poly aftertouch, as I have a MIDIboard that generates P-AT. May I ask, how did you test this?

Thanks for your review. Now I really want one!
Electronic Battle
sine wrote:
I'm very interested in your comment about the Sledge responding to poly aftertouch ... how did you test this?


I haven't tested it, but I did read on a review (Youtube perhaps) that it responded to poly aftertouch, although I can't cite where I heard that.

However, I now see that page 52 of the manual states the MIDI implementation, which says the Sledge responds to and transmits channel aftertouch (no mention of poly aftertouch response).

I think I have made a mistake, in that case, and we ought to assume that the Sledge is NOT capable of poly aftertouch. Sorry.

However - it is an excellent synthesiser and the piano is very nice. I am playing it a lot and it's a lot of enjoyment to have one knob per function and to just get stuck into it!

edit:
This URL

https://chrissieviolin.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/experimenting-with-aft ertouch-on-synths/

describes how the Blofeld responds to poly AT, and seeing as the Sledge shares a lot in common with the Blofeld (both Waldorf designed and they share a lot of common MIDI implementations), perhaps that lends credence to the idea that in fact the Sledge will respond to poly AT after all. I will do some more searching!
sine
No worries. Yes, I read elsewhere that Blofeld responds to P-AT. It may yet be an undocumented feature in the Sledge. There's enough to like about it, regardless. Thanks for your reply.
YellowBlood
Excellent review, I have a question about the sampling. Could you upload say a pad sound from other synths/vintage and play it over the whole keyboard and manipulate it with the onboard parameters?
Electronic Battle
YellowBlood wrote:
Could you upload say a pad sound from other synths/vintage and play it over the whole keyboard and manipulate it with the onboard parameters?


Short answer = yes you could.

I have just tested these aspects on my sledge in order to confirm the longer answer below:

long answer = I have only played with the piano sound which *is* a sample. I can filter it and change the VCA envelope and modulate it too (e.g. add pitch vibrato).
Clearly, I can't change the "decay" portion of the piano envelope to become infinitely long (like an organ) because the original sample data is that of a piano. If I had downloaded an organ or string sound etc. from Studiologic's website, then I could change it into any envelope I wanted.


You can mess about with the filter and you could mix in VCO2 and VCO3 waveforms (VCO1 is the sample wave source) and you can shift the pitch of the sample up/down with the footage stops and semitones etc.

It's a brilliant synthesiser!
softroom
Is the filter envelope depth steppy? When I spent a week with the original Sledge that was the only non-smooth control. Great synth though and the 60Mb of sample RAM is a real deal-sweetener.
Electronic Battle
softroom wrote:
Is the filter envelope depth steppy?


Yes it is; I have tested it just now. This is the filter envelope "amount" control which varies the envelope's depth of filter cutoff from -64 through 0 to +64.

It's steppy in that you can hear it quantise to perhaps those 128 levels when you turn the knob whilst playing. What you get is a nice effect which is a bit like a sample and hold CV into a filter. Perhaps intentional, perhaps not but now that I know it's there, it seems like a bit of a bonus!
Xmit
just noticed this thread.

Oddly, & almost accidentally I just bought a Black 2.0 Sledge. hihi

have needed a poly for ages, don't care about the VA-ness...wavetables & sample support is a bonus...knob per function is definitely a big thing for me & for £750 delivered I think this a pretty damn fine deal.

yeah I don't think they're a sexy or hip board that all the cool kids want ... but I think it'll do a job.
Psalm37
I'm sold on the update alone : /
zaphod betamax
Don't forget to access the hidden PPG, comb, and notch filters via cc!
Xmit
^

yeah - my pal has a Blofeld : I'm going to hook up the MIDI, use his Blo's CCs to change the filter types & save to a new a patch each time.

Loving the Slege so far anyhow : I think for the cash it's really excellent. The keybed is great & the arp is a total blast. Rockin' Banana!
zaphod betamax
As you well may know, BYPASS filter is also an option!


Xmit wrote:
^

yeah - my pal has a Blofeld : I'm going to hook up the MIDI, use his Blo's CCs to change the filter types & save to a new a patch each time.

Loving the Slege so far anyhow : I think for the cash it's really excellent. The keybed is great & the arp is a total blast. Rockin' Banana!
Electronic Battle
zaphod betamax wrote:
... hidden PPG, comb, and notch filters [and] BYPASS filter is also an option [via cc]!"


Good point - in my case I haven't had chance to experiment yet, mainly because I don't know how to send MIDI cc data (I'm using linux as my OS and there are a number of tools but I haven't worked out which is suitable but maybe I can use a VM to lauch midiOX or similar).

Presumably I could get a MIDI controller of some sort and somehow map/translate (say) the joystick or control wheels to send specific CC data?



Can you post the CC values required for these undocumented features please?
zaphod betamax
https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=99340&highlight=
Electronic Battle
zaphod betamax wrote:
https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=99340&highlight=


Thanks. If I had half a brain I'd realise that I saw this excellent post from you quite some while ago. Sorry.
Badoverman
Hi..new here! I’m thinking of getting the Sledge as a master keyboard controller and beast digital synth, i don’t have a 61 key synth and using a Korg Prophecy as controller thru my Yamaha RM1x. But I’m wondering about sampling and if the software (spectre and ?) will be able to run on my old emac wgich has OSX 5.xx? I have a great sample pack of Yamaha FS1r patches which I’d like to play chromatically across the keybed. Theyre all 24bit and im using a Korg Microsampler to load and play them, but i would sell it if the Sledge can take over the sampling duties! Thanks!
Panason
You can download Spectre and try it.
Badoverman
Just tried to get the software and it’s not supported by my old eMac lol! Guess I’m in the market for a cheap laptop
Rex Coil 7
Re: poly after touch;

The Sledge is fitted with the FATAR TP9 keybed, which does not have poly aftertouch capability. That keybed only has a single "channel aftertouch" ~strip~ under the keys. So the synth engine may have poly AT (perhaps accessible via MIDI?) but the keybed ... for sure ... does not offer that capability.

Link = http://www.fatar.com/Pages/TP_9S.htm

That is not to say the TP9 is a bad keybed, quite the contrary. The Dot Com keyboard controllers (both the 37 key and the 61 key) are TP9s, as is the Kurzweil PC3A6 which is their top of the line performance synth (I have both, the PC3A6 and the Dot Com QKB61). The TP9 is a top tier keybed, without any doubt.

Re; the Sledge sound. I am so glad to learn that it sounds better than the MP3s on the Sledge webpage. Those demos make it sound like a total alias monster. Those demos sound SO NOISY and DISTORTED, everything sounds like there is so much alias going on that the synth is essentially useless. The Rhodes/Tines programs are super duper sweet sounding, and very responsive to velocity. But anything else in those MP3s sounds like very early VA engines that hit you square in the eyeballs with shit-tons of oscillator aliasing. So as I said, it is very good to learn that it doesn't actually sound that way.

I've had my eye on on the Sledge ever since the 2.0 was released. Hell bells, the price is certainly right!

With the I/O jacks being on the side of the left endbell, it would suit my particular setup very well. It could stack quite nicely atop the Dot Com QKB61.

Question: Does the arpeggiator send via MIDI (as in can it send arp'd notes out to other MIDI gear)? Please say yes.

Thanks for the info-thick review!

thumbs up
Rex Coil 7
It turns out that the Black Sledge 2.0 has an uprated keybed compared to the Yellow Sledge 2.0. Here's a copy of the post I just put up in another Sledge thread ....

Rex Coil 7 wrote:
RE; the key action between the black one and the yellow one.

Directly from the Studiologic Sledge info pages....

Black =
61 Keys, TP/9S semi-weighted Action
Balanced spring action

Dual switch detection system
Aftertouch

"The reverse color keyboard perfectly matches the black look and thanks to semi-weighted keys and new balanced springs, gives an unbeatable feeling, for a more satisfying musical experience." ..... "The exclusive dark look includes a black case, a semi-weighted keyboard with reverse black and grey keys and an even more professional touch feeling." ..... "Looks darker. Feels better. Sounds stronger." (end quote).

Link = https://www.studiologic-music.com/products/sledge-black-edition/

Yellow =
61 Keys, TP/9S unweighted
Dual switch detection system
Aftertouch

(no further info on the yellow one)

So per the Studiologic website, the black one has a "semi weighted balanced spring action FATAR TP9S"

The yellow one has an "unweighted FATAR TP/9S" keybed.

The FATAR website describes the TP/9S keybed thusly:

"TP/9S: Universal Keyboard for any kind of instrument (Synthesizers, home organs...). The keyboard is available in various configurations: 37, 44, 49 & 76 weighted and unweighted keys, dynamic or monophonic bubble contacts. Monophonic aftertouch."

So the TP/9S may be had either weighted or unweighted.

I have two keyboards with the semi weighted TP/9S, one is a Dot Com QKB61 and the other is a Kurzweil PC3A6.

Per the Dot Com QKB info page ... "Keybed:
These are not your typical economy, mass-produced, light-weight keybeds found on most modern keyboard controllers - these are quality Fatar units with semi-weighted diving-board style keys providing a solid feel, quick response and professional durability."

Link = https://synthesizers.com/qkb.html

The semi weighted TP/9S is a wonderful synth keybed. In my opinion (whatever that's worth) the extra $100 bucks is well spent on the black Sledge.

thumbs up


So there's that to add to the Black Sledge 2.0 specs.

(unsubscribed - not mad or having a hissy fit - just trying to keep my number of subscribed threads under better control - if you wish to correspond please feel totally free to send me a PM - thanks!)

cool
1986Bowler
Hey guys,

Seems a black Sledge has come to light for sale- 1000 CDN.

Worth it in 2019?

I do love the sounds, the fact you can load samples, and generally looks cool. Has the right amount of keys, etc.

Seems like it could sort of hold its value- I try to buy stuff that I can sell for what I bought it for.
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