Many of you may well be asking “Who is Studio Logic?” Well, for those that aren’t aware, this is Italian key bed manufacturer Fatar, who have created the keyboard action for all manner of synthesizer manufacturers for many years. Those of you using a Nord, Arturia, Korg or a number of other controller and synthesizer units are probably using a Fatar key bed. But, as well as supplying the key bed action to many synth and MIDI controller manufacturers, they have also had a very successful selection of controller keyboards available for some time, and are now making a real scene with their synthesizers and stage pianos of their own. So, although many of you may not be unfamiliar with StudioLogic in one sense, you may have never actually had one of their Italian made synthesizers to try. This is where you might want to look into the Sledge. A keyboard that is as confronting as the name, with a sound to match.
Anyone who has seen one of these units will have noticed the keyboard is yellow. Really yellow. So much that you just can’t look away in an eerie fashion, it just draws you towards itself. Although, I would argue that it is more of a tangelo colour when you see the actual unit, which is neither here nor there. But, if you want to stand out, the Sledge is certainly going to help you do just that. Beyond the wild looks, it is a well thought out unit with a large format that makes it very workable. The full sized keys will be a blessing to all those who like a real keyboard, and the Fatar key bed is great under the fingers. It all looks like a great first step for StudioLogic in the world of modern synthesizers. There are some teething problems: there’s a loud pop when you fire it up, as well as notes that ride out extremely long decays and reverb even when you have moved on to the next patch. I have come across a few of these units: the first was a prototype that then saw some well thought revisions by the time I got another look at it. The hung notes were all sorted, but you still need to ensure your speakers are turned down before turning the unit on or off. But, these are all part of the development of the beast and new firmware updates continue to improve this synth. If an audible ‘pop’ on ignition is your biggest concern, you need to get out more, because there is a lot more going on here than just a couple of negatives.
A German in Italian clothing
I will make no secret of the fact that I am a massive fan of German synth manufacturers Waldorf. They have created some absolute beasts over the years and have a very definitively German sound that is a techno wonderland of tone. I have owned a number of these and rank them up there with some of my favourites alongside the British and Japanese contingents in my collection. So, I was delighted to see that the Sledge houses an engine designed by Waldorf to bring together the Italian Fatar key bed and German engine, and what a combination they create. I was simply stuck scrolling through pre-set sounds for a couple of hours before I even had a chance to get really involved in the Wavetable options, three oscillators and super-fast filter envelopes.
If you were a fan of the Wave series of synths by Waldorf, this is going to get you excited. Oscillator 1 has a wavetable generator that totally twists the sound you can derive from this monster. Beyond this, the engine is built around a classic subtractive synthesis design and incorporates a series of effects that really give added life to the already pumping sounds. This is a techno monster, but it is so much more than just that. It will adapt to create sounds for so many uses and with the new addition of being able to upload Korg sounds with the included editing software, there is even more added flexibility.
For a company that has been around in this game for so long, it is surprising that we haven’t really seen a synthesizer of this calibre from them already, but it has really been worth the wait. Although, technically this isn’t really a StudioLogic synth (in that it is just another Waldorf with a Fatar key bed), it is branded StudioLogic and will continue under that guise for future models. You can’t really blame them either? If I was building a new synthesizer and Waldorf were prepared to offer me an engine for it, I’d have to accept the offer in a flash. What StudioLogic have delivered with this product is possibly the most solid introduction to the synth market from any manufacturer to date. It looks wild, it sounds wild and it is built really well at a price that is very much under what you would expect to pay for an engine like this. This is one to keep your eyes, and ears, out for.