Until the early 1980s, the tonal palette of commercial synthesizers was limited to that which could be obtained by combining a few simple waveforms (e.g. sine, sawtooth, pulse) produced from analog oscillators, and shaping the result with VCFs and VCAs. Innovator Wolfgang Palm transcended this limitation by pioneering the concept of wavetable synthesis, whereby more complex single cycle waveforms could be stored in memory and digitally reproduced. Palm's efforts resulted in PPG's first wavetable synthesizer, the Wavecomputer 360 (1978), which provided the user with 30 different wavetables consisting of 64 waves each. While the expansive range of sound was evident, the absence of filters resulted in the Wavecomputer 360 sounding buzzy and thin, which hampered its commercial viability. Palm's efforts to resolve the apparent shortcomings of the Wavecomputer 360 would result in the creation of PPG's Wave series of synthesizers.
PPG's Wave series represented an evolution of its predecessor by combining its digital sound engine with analog VCAs and 24db/octave VCFs, featuring 8-voice polyphony, and replacing its non-traditional series of push buttons and sliders with a control panel consisting of an LCD and a more familiar arrangement of knobs. Also added to the Wave series was an on-board sequencer that was capable of recording filtering and wavetable changes in real time. At the core of the Wave's processing unit was a Motorola 6809 CPU, and a variety of 6500 and 6800-series support ICs. MIDI support was added in 1984, by adding a 6840/6850 daughtercard.
- Wave 2 (1981–1982) - 8 oscillators (one per voice), 8-bit resolution, single modulation wheel, CEM 3320 VCFs
- Wave 2.2 (1982–1984) - 16 oscillators (two per voice), 8-bit resolution, dual modulation wheels, SSM 2044 VCFs
- Wave 2.3 (1984–1987) - 16 oscillators (two per voice), 12-bit resolution, dual modulation wheels, SSM 2044 VCFs, 8-part multimbrality
The PPG Wave could be connected to multiple peripheral PPG components simultaneously, such as a 'smart' keyboard controller (PRK), 8-voice expansion units (EVU), and a sampling/editing/sequencing wave computer (Waveterm). Collectively, this setup was referred to as the "PPG Wave System", which was intended to compete with the Fairlight CMI.
Despite its notoriously arcane programming, the shimmering digital timbres of the PPG Wave quickly earned distinction from traditional analog synthesizers. Notable artists which used the Wave included: a-ha, Alphaville, David Bowie, The Fixx, Go West, Trevor Horn, Propaganda, Jean Michel Jarre, Marillion, Level 42, Art of Noise, Rush, Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Robert Palmer, Psychedelic Furs, Tangerine Dream, The Stranglers, Talk Talk, Tears for Fears, Steve Winwood, Stevie Nicks, Thomas Dolby, Ultravox, Wang Chung, Stevie Wonder and Ilan Chester.
PPG's innovation in the realm of digital synthesizer technology didn't go unnoticed by the rest of the industry. Ultimately, the high asking price of the PPG Wave synthesizer (7,000-10,000 USD) would prove to be its undoing. Within a few years, far more affordable digital FM and wavetable synthesizers, such as the Yamaha DX7 (1983), Korg DW-8000 (1985), Ensoniq ESQ-1 (1986), and Sequential Prophet VS (1986), would appear at a fraction of the price. Furthermore, the rapidly evolving development of digital sampling technology and reductions in memory prices facilitated the emergence of a new generation of standalone, easy-to-use samplers, such as the Emu Emulator II (1984), Ensoniq Mirage (1984), and Sequential Prophet 2000 (1985). PPG's dwindling market share and the high development cost of new products created financial difficulties that resulted in the cessation of company operations in 1987.
Post PPG years
The end of PPG saw the beginning of Waldorf GmbH (later Waldorf Music), which used PPG's technology to create the Microwave (1989), a streamlined, rack mounted approximation of the PPG Wave 2.3 with original wavetables and analog filters. Further evolutions of the original theme would appear in later years, including the extensive WAVE synthesizer (1993), the DSP driven Microwave II (1997), and the knob laden Microwave II variants, the XT and XTk (1998–1999).
More recently, advancements in personal computing technology made possible the release of VST plugin models of the original PPG Wave series, including Waldorf's Wave 2.V (2000), and Wave 3.V (2011), the latter which was co-developed with Palm, and is reported to accurately replicate the familiar aliasing and filtering characteristics of both the Wave 2.2 and 2.3.
- "Hermann Seib's PPG History". Hermann Seib.
- "Palm Productions GmbH (PPG) • Wave 2". Vintage Synth Performer. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
- Photos of MIDI retrofit kit for PPG Wave
- The PPGs
- Sound on Sound Wave 2.3 & Waveterm B Review
- Sweetwater PPG Price 1984-1986
- Wave 2.2 Price 1984
- Waldorf Microwave Series
- Sound on Sound Wave 3.V Review
- Waldorf Wave 3.V Overview
- Synthtopia Wave 3.V Review
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to PPG WAVE 2.2.|
- Virtual Music´s Synthesizer Service - Specialized in worldwide PPG Wave repair/service (also card-repair only)
- Hermann Seib (2001–2008?). "WaveSimD - PPG Wave 2.2 / 2.3 / EVU Simulator".
A hardware-level software simulator of PPG Wave with software Waveterm C these were newly developed to work with hardware/software mixture environment of PPG Bus system. Latest Wave OS "V8.3 Upgrade" was completely developed on it. A demo version is available including VSTi plug-in, factory sound set, and new "Wavetable '08" sound set by Wolfgang Palm himself.
- The PPGs - Information and resources on various PPG components
- PPG Webpages - Detailed information on various PPG components