PPG Wave

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PPG Wave 2.2

The PPG Wave is a series of hybrid digital / 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. The result was shaped with VCFs and VCAs. Wolfgang Palm transcended this limitation by pioneering the concept of wavetable synthesis, where single cycle waveforms of differing harmonic spectra were stored in adjacent memory slots. Dynamic spectral shifts were achieved by scanning through the waveforms, with interpolation used to avoid noticeable 'jumps' between the adjacent waveforms. 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.[1][2] 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.[3]

The PPG Wave was produced in three successive variants:[4][5]

  • 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, sequencing and creating user defined wavetables. 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.[6] 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.[2]

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.[7][8] Within a few years, digital 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).[9]

After PPG, other manufacturers also produced Wavetable synthesizer such as Ensoniq with their VFX series of synthesizers and their FIZMO. Ensoniq and Waldorf would be the only manufacturers to employ this method of synthesis until recent years when synthesizers such as the Access Virus Ti housed 64 wavetables. 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.[10][11][12]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

PPG Wave OS V8.3