Review of Nave VST by Waldorf


Nave is an advanced wavetable synthesiser that started life as an iOS app, growing to one of the most popular synths on the ipad and is now also a plugin available for PC and MAC in 32 bit and 64 bit versions.
It comes as a 500Mb download and uses elicenser as the license storage device. This takes a little time to install and set up and is usually a fairly straightforward process. Once installed, I loaded the activation code, downloaded a licence which then apparently I hadn’t loaded and couldn’t repair. However, a simple exit and reload sorted the problem.
Once loaded into my DAW (MuLab 6.5.32), I realised the display is slightly too big to fit onto the screen for my resolution but no problem, in the system settings you can change the size of the window from big to small which makes it fit on the screen and is still very readable. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to retain this setting which needs changing every time you launch the VST.
If you’re not familiar with wavetable synthesis, it is quite different to other synthesis techniques. Essentially for Nave, the wavetable is 2 waveforms which you can move through in 3d in any way you choose. This means that each note on a keyboard can access a different wave of the wavetable; You can cycle through all waves in a wavetable; An LFO can modulate the position within the wavetable for subtle or dramatic sound changes; Controllers can be used to change the position within the wavetable.
The first impression is that the GUI is well organised and easy to navigate around. I decided to dive straight in and try out a few presets. There’s a great range that are pre-installed from various designers and by category including basses, arps, pads, keys, leads and atmo. The basses sound very good, as do some of the keys, leads and atmos. I’ve put together a short demo track to highlight some of the sounds. These are all presets, the only external effects used were Convex by Glitchmachines and Raspberry filter pad by Dover Audio on the Time Lapse preset by Richard Devine to give it more of a rhythmic feel.

Looking a bit deeper shows that the GUI is arranged into different sections. There’s the top section which has the system settings and preset manager; wave oscillator section with all the controls for the wavetable oscillators; The oscillator section with the additional oscillator and mixer; An LFO section; A filter and drive section; An envelope detail section which also changes to the arpeggiator detail section, effects detail section, wave detail section, matrix detail section, control detail section and controls section depending on which button is selected.
That may sound really complicated, but in practice the workflow all makes sense and you can create a preset from the init patch in about 3 minutes, a bit longer to fine tune the sound to your exact requirements. Nave has a handy init button on the top section, meaning you can start from scratch really easily – and there is a confirmation in case you click by accident. The process is as follows:
Select wave 1 from the wavetable oscillator section. Click on the text below the 3d rendition in the middle of the screen to bring up a list of wavetables – there are 83 to choose from. Then adjust the travel setting for automatic scanning, the spectrum setting to change the sound colour and the wave setting to choose the start point.
Repeat this for wave 2 and make sure you turn up the volume of wave 2. You can add an additional oscillator and activate Uberwave for a boost to the sound but if you do, make sure you turn up the osc volume too.
Choose your filter type and set the cut-off and resonance. You can adjust keytrack and set drive values too if you wish.
And that’s a basic patch. Obviously there’s an awful lot more you can do to detune the waves, add effects, edit the wavetable, change starting points, increase modulation and so on.
For instance you have built in effects of phaser or flanger or chorus; reverb; delay; EQ and compressor which you may want to use and you could add an LFO modulation to the filter, ensuring you set the values in the matrix and/or modulate with envelopes – three are available, one for filter, one free and one for amplitude. You can loop the envelopes too which will then act like an LFO. There are 10 modulation slots and each modulation source can be used for more than one target. If I was being picky I’d like to see effect parameters listed as modulation targets too. The screenshot at the top of the post is taken from one of the presets I created and shows the modulation parameters.
One particular point of note that really stood out during this review was the CPU usage. It is incredibly low for what Nave is doing – I had 7 instances loaded for the demo track above and usage was about 30%.
Other points to note are that the arpeggiator is really good; there’s also a ‘blade’ keyboard option which is like a normal keyboard but each key has a blade (like a slider) that can be used to release additional modulations – and you can set up scale, keys and chords from incoming midi notes; There’s also X-Y pad controllers too.
Waldorf have also rolled out the Nave demo challenge. They are curious what you are doing with Nave and would like to listen to what musicians across the world are producing and will award the best sounding Nave demos with one of their soft synths – PPG Wave 3.V, Waldorf Edition, Largo, Lector or Nave and will publish the song on their website.
And I’ve created one which is embedded at the top of the post. I appreciate this makes the blog post back to front but if you’ve read all the way to the end it will make sense. It also means the track appears in my twitter and facebook posts. Hopefully. Apart from the drumloop, all sounds are from 6 presets that I’ve created in Nave. One of them is processed using Convex by Glitchmachines and the bass and lead sound have also been processed using Convex in the filtered drum sections. There are a couple of different delays that I’ve used too but it shows the variety of sounds that you can produce. It also shows with 8 instances of Nave, 3 instances of Convex, 5 instances of EQ and 4 instances of delay the CPU usage on the laptop was only 65% and it has fallen over with much, much less running than that before now.

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