The Creation of the Waldorf Kyra Synthesizer – Frequently Asked Questions
What is Kyra?
Kyra is a powerful FPGA-based synthesizer capable of producing a large number of complex sounds simultaneously.
What type of musician/producer is Kyra aimed at?
Kyra is aimed at the professional and semi-professional user in both live or studio environments. Live musicians will appreciate the big, floor-filling “wall of sound” and built-in effects that means Kyra can go straight to the mixer and venue amplification. Studio producers will appreciate the massive polyphony, multiple parts and ability to integrate completely with their audio workstations via multiple, balanced analog outputs as well as the high-capacity audio streaming via high-speed, class-compliant USB 2.0.
Why was Kyra created?
Kyra was created to fill a gap in the synthesizer market for a powerful digital, virtual analog synthesizer. Key to the design was to have no compromises on sound quality, ease of use, studio integration and raw power, all with a price tag that puts ownership within reach of producers working to a real-world budget.
How would you characterise Kyra’s sound?
It really is a wall of sound. With so many oscillators and voices, Kyra really does make an impact. Having said that, it is also capable of delicate sounds too. As Kyra is oversampled, there’s no rolloff at higher frequencies. Kyra has a crystal clear sound.
We are discovering new sounds on Kyra all the time and as more programmers create patches for it, we continue to be amazed at what can be achieved. Kyra’s sound is very complementary to other synthesizers in Waldorf’s range. It can be tame and remarkably smooth with very good emulations of classic analog synthesizers but it can also be big, bold and brash.
Tell me about this FPGA technology, what does it do for me as a musician?
Kyra is, as far we know, the first professional synthesizer to be based entirely on an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array). Even though this may be appear to be a technical detail it does have some real benefits for musicians. In particular, it offers the raw processing power of a very high end desktop computer but without the problems that are associated with such machines such as slow start up, unreliable operating systems and copious amounts of heat being generated. Even though Kyra has this sort of processing power, it starts up in under 4 seconds and uses less than ten watts of fan-free power (a typical high end desktop computer would use over 250 watts of power).
Another benefit to this technology is reliability. As all of Kyra’s audio generation, filtering and processing is done on a single chip, reduced component counts mean Kyra is less expensive to build and is more reliable.
What is unique about Kyra? Why should I buy it?
There are few synthesizers, if any, that are as powerful as Kyra. There are some notable features on Kyra that would usually be associated with much more expensive instruments such as a solid, all-metal chassis, 32 bit “Velvetsound” DACs, multiple balanced audio outputs and multi-part audio streaming over USB.
So Kyra has four stereo outputs? How is that useful to me?
Kyra offers four, balanced, stereo outputs that you can freely assign each of Kyra’s 8 Parts to. Studio producers will find this particularly useful as it means you can use outboard processing and effects, either connected directly or via bus sends on your mixer. With each of Kyra’s four outputs connected to your mixer, you can level, pan, EQ and process each of Kyra’s outputs as you wish. You can choose whether to use Kyra’s on board effects or to use your favourite outboard as you wish, on a Part-by-Part basis.
I understand Kyra has a comprehensive USB Audio implementation. Tell me more.
One of the design objectives of Kyra was to “do USB audio properly”. Forums are packed with complaints about synthesizers that have unreliable or under-specified USB implementations. We spent a lot of time getting USB right on Kyra and studio producers can take advantage of this.
Kyra uses its FPGA and a dedicated processor purely for USB and the result is a rock-solid USB 2.0 High Speed (480Mbits capacity) audio and MIDI implementation that is capable of streaming all 8 of Kyra’s Parts as studio-quality 96kHz 24 bit audio to an audio workstation. In addition, to address the one-driver limitation of ASIO, Kyra will accept a single return audio stream for audio workstation setups so that your final playback can be via Kyra.
As Kyra’s USB implementation is completely USB Audio 2.0 compliant, you can be assured of excellent support across a wide range of platforms. Kyra works with MacOS out the box and with Windows 7 and above with a supplied driver. Linux users should be able to use Kyra’s USB too but we do not support Linux officially as there’s so many flavours and distributions to test.
Kyra’s USB is fully USB MIDI compliant too so producers who have moved away from DIN MIDI do not need to buy a MIDI interface unit to use Kyra in their studio.
With all that power, I bet Kyra is hard to program. Is this true?
It’s true that Kyra is powerful but it was designed to be easy to program. Here at Waldorf, we believe that users should be able to create their own sounds and not just rely on the factory presets and commercial patch banks. Kyra builds on familiar foundations – sound sources, filters, modulators and effects. But it takes this all to the next level, in terms of quantity, quality and modulation possibilities. With Kyra, you can use your existing experience and start creating new Patches straight away.
OK but I guess there’s a lot of menu diving right?
Very little in fact. All of Kyra’s main functions have their own controls. Only a few more obscure functions require some menu navigation.
What type of display does Kyra have?
Kyra features an OLED display. This is a newer technology than the LCDs found on most synthesizers. It is much clearer and can be viewed from any angle.
I’m a power patch programmer, I need an Editor. Does Waldorf offer one?
Currently, Waldorf does not offer an Editor for Kyra. However, we expect good support by third party providers. Kyra has a comprehensive MIDI implementation to support this.
Is Kyra fully stereo?
Yes, Kyra offers a full stereo signal path. When configured for “Dual Mode” operation, there’s two complete sets of oscillators, filters and modulators and these feed into a full stereo effects chain. You can achieve very animated, stereo sounds with Kyra.
What’s Kyra’s build quality like? Can I rely on Kyra for live gigs?
Kyra is solid, you’ll feel that when you first use it. The chassis is made from high grade steel, the controls are custom made. The connectors are designed for professional use.
Tell me about Kyra’s effects?
Effects were a design priority for Kyra and it has a lot of effects modules. Each of Kyra’s 8 Parts has a complete, independent effects chain. Effects are an integral part of a Patch in Kyra and you don’t need to share them across the Parts. Kyra features nine effects modules for each Part including a 3-band shelving EQ with sweepable mid, a formant filter, a distortion unit, an input limiter, a 6-stage phaser, a digital delay line, a chorus/flanger/comb unit a reverb unit and a final output limiter. You can use all the effects on all the Parts at the same time and they’re all oversampled and full stereo.
You can selectively defeat Kyra’s effects units. This allows live musicians to use Kyra’s multiple analog outputs as effects sends to their favourite outboard and it allows studio producers to use their favourite virtual effects on their workstations. With Kyra, you can pick and choose what is best for you when it comes to effects.
Is it true that Kyra really has 1,280 oscillators?
Yes, Kyra has 1,280 oscillators available for use. These are actual, real oscillators and not “best effort” or simulations of multiple oscillators. With so many oscillators, Kyra can produce powerful sounds with lots of detuning where required. Stack them up into a stereo hypersaw or slice and dice them with the ring modulator, FM or hard sync. The choice is yours.
Is Kyra really 128 note polyphonic? For real sounds not just simple ones?
Kyra can play 128 notes at the same time (up to 32 on any single Part). This is always the case regardless of the patch settings and effects used. The only exception is Dual Mode which uses two voice channels per note. Kyra’s polyphony is not a “maximum” or “up to” it is actual.
I hear Kyra’s waveforms are static? Is that true?
Kyra provides two oscillators per voice each with the huge amount of 4096 possible waveforms to choose from. You can cross-fade between two waveforms as well as apply ring modulation, FM or hard sync between them. When combined the possibilities are almost unlimited.
- Virtual analog synthesis.
- 128 voices.
- 8 parts.
- All sound features can be used simultaneously for each part.
Oscillators per voice
- two Wave osc with 4096 waveforms.
- two Pulse osc.
- two Saw osc.
- two Noise osc.
- two Sub osc with several waveforms.
- Hard Sync.
- Hypersaw Mode.
- Oscillator FM and Ring mod.
- Oscillators are in two groups for better overview.
- 9 simultaneously available effects.
3 band EQ, Formant Filter, Input limiter, Distortion module, Delay module, 6 stage phaser, Chorus flanger, Stereo reverb, Output limiter.
- 3 envelope generators (EG).
- 3 LFOs with 128 shapes each.
- 6-slot Mod Matrix with multiple destinations per slot.
- 12/24db/octave with LP/BP/HP available. Two filters per voice and true stereo signal path available in Dual Mode.
- 26 patch banks (A to Z) with 128 slots each.
- 128 Multi configurations.
- Arpeggiator with 128 preset patterns.
- Octave/key transpose.
- Dual Mode: layers the same sound two times (which can be detuned against each other) .
and provides true stereo signal path, Dual Filters and stereo LFOs.
- Sturdy full metal case.
- 256x64 pixel OLED.
- Kensington lock receptacle.
- USB 2.0 for MIDI and audio.
- 5-pin DIN MIDI In/Out/Thru.
- 4 stereo, balanced, analog audio outputs plus stereo headphone output.
- Kyra can be used as an audio interface to stream a single stereo stream from your computer.
- Kyra can stream its 8 parts individually to your computer via USB in stereo at 24bit/96KHz (48KHz option).
- USB MIDI and Audio 2.0 class complient - can be used with Mac OS and Windows (windows with supplied driver).