PPG Wave

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PPG Wave 2.2

The PPG Wave is a series of digital and analog synthesizers built by the German company Palm Products GmbH from 1981 to 1987.


Until the early 1980s, the tonal palette of commercial synthesizers was limited to that which could be obtained by combining a few simple waveforms such as sine, sawtooth, pulse. They are only produced from analog oscillators, and the result is shaped with VCFs and VCAs. Wolfgang Palm transcended this limitation by pioneering the concept of multiple wavetable synthesis (based on table-lookup synthesis),[1][2] 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 provides the user with 30 different wavetables consisting of 64 waves each. While the expansive range of sound is evident, the absence of filters results in the Wavecomputer 360 sounding buzzy and thin, which hampered its original commercial viability.[3][4] 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 represents an evolution of its predecessor by combining its digital sound engine with analog VCAs and 24db per octave VCFs, featuring 8-voice polyphony; and by replacing its nontraditional 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 onboard sequencer that is capable of recording filtering and wavetable changes in realtime. At the core of the Wave's processing unit is a Motorola 6809 CPU, and a variety of 6500 and 6800-series support ICs. MIDI support was added in 1984, via a 6840/6850 daughtercard.[5]

The PPG Wave was produced in three successive variants:[6][7]

  • 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
PPG Wave 2.2 front panel
PPG Wave 2.2 (rear)

The PPG Wave can be connected to multiple peripheral PPG components simultaneously, such as a "smart" keyboard controller (PRK), 8-voice expansion units (EVU), and a wave computer called Waveterm for sampling, editing, and sequencing. Collectively, this setup is referred to as the "PPG Wave System", which was intended to compete with the Fairlight CMI.

Market success[edit]

The PPG Wave quickly earned distinction from traditional analog synthesizers.[8] Notable artists which used the Wave included: a-ha, Alphaville, David Bowie, The Fixx, Go West, Trevor Horn, Propaganda, Laza Ristovski, Jean Michel Jarre, Marillion, Level 42, Art of Noise, Saga, Rush, Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Robert Palmer, Psychedelic Furs, Tangerine Dream, The Stranglers, Talk Talk, Tears for Fears, The Twins, Steve Winwood, Stevie Nicks, Thomas Dolby, Ultravox, Wang Chung, Stevie Wonder and Ilan Chester.[4]

Market decline[edit]

PPG's innovation in the realm of digital synthesizer technology impacted the industry. The PPG Wave synthesizer's price in its initial few years was US$7,000-10,000.[9][10] Within a few years, 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 be launched at lower prices. 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.[citation needed]

After PPG[edit]

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).[11]

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 was codeveloped with Palm, and is reported to accurately replicate the familiar aliasing and filtering characteristics of both the Wave 2.2 and 2.3.[12][13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Andresen, Uwe (Palm Productions) (1979). "A New Way in Sound Synthesis". 62nd Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention (Brussels, Belgium). 
  2. ^ Horner, Andrew; Beauchamp, James; Haken, Lippold (1993). "Methods for multiple wavetable synthesis of musical instrument tones" (PDF). J. Audio Eng. Soc. (May 1993) 41 (5): 336–356. Multiple wavetable synthesis, the subject of this paper, is based on a sum of fixed waveforms or periodic basis functions with time-varying weights. 
  3. ^ "Hermann Seib's PPG History". Hermann Seib. 
  4. ^ a b "Palm Productions GmbH (PPG) • Wave 2". Vintage Synth Performer. Retrieved 10 February 2010. 
  5. ^ Photos of MIDI retrofit kit for PPG Wave
  6. ^ http://www.ppg.synth.net/index.shtml
  7. ^ http://theppgs.com/index.html
  8. ^ Sound on Sound Wave 2.3 & Waveterm B Review
  9. ^ "PPG Wave". August 1, 2008. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  10. ^ Wave 2.2 Price 1984
  11. ^ Waldorf Microwave Series
  12. ^ Sound on Sound Wave 3.V Review
  13. ^ Waldorf Wave 3.V Overview
  14. ^ Synthtopia Wave 3.V Review

External links[edit]

PPG Wave OS V8.3