From first glance it is patently obvious that Kyra is a beautifully-designed desktop VA Synthesizer — as the wording elegantly emblazoned on its eye-catching front fascia subtly states. As a truly multitimbral instrument it features eight independent ‘parts’ with up to 32 notes per PART, each effectively being a complete synthesizer with sound sources (OSC GROUP 1, OSC GROUP 2, SUB 1, and SUB 2); FILTERS; modulators (EGs, LFOs, and MOD MATRIX); multi-effects unit (EFFECTS); and a USB 2.0 connection — can exchange MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) information, as well as send the audio from each stereo PART to a computer as eight stereo 24-bit streams at 96kHz (with 48kHz downsample mode available) and one stereo audio return from the computer supporting a single 24-bit stereo audio stream from the host DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
With that being said, the only other resource they share are the four balanced, stereo output pairs — OUT A (Right and Left), OUT B (Right and Left), OUT C (Right and Left), and OUT B (Right and Left) — using 32-bit DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Conversion) running at 96kHz sampling rate connected to four internal stereo busses and that powerful pool of 128 hardware voices. Versatility further abounds as each PART has a dedicated multi-effects unit comprising nine stereo effects modules — namely, three-band EQ, Formant filter, input Limiter, Distortion module, Delay module, six-state Phaser, Chorus flanger, Stereo reverb, and output Limiter — with dedicated audio stream via USB (Universal Serial Bus).
Better still, each PART hosts a Patch from the pool available to the system. Speaking of which, Kyra has a generous Patch storage capacity of 26 banks — A through to Z, each containing 128 patches. That’s a total of 3,328! The first seven banks are ‘user’ patches stored in RAM (Random Access Memory), meaning users can change them quickly and individually using the Store sequence. The remaining 19 banks are ROM (Read-Only Memory) patches that users can recall and use just like RAM patches but cannot be replaced using the Store sequence. It is, however, perfectly possible to freely copy whole banks between RAM and ROM, so all are user- programmable. And any Patch can be recalled via MIDI program changes and Bank select commands.
As a sensational synthesizer with a spectacular specification, Kyra has two primary virtual alias-free oscillator groups (OSC GROUP 1 and OSC GROUP 2) per voice, each with Saw (sawtooth); Wave (waveform) — with no fewer than 4,096 18-bit linear PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) single-cycle 32x oversampled wavetables covering a huge range of synthetic and emulated sound sources with two wavetable sources per voice; Pulse; and noise simultaneously available. Also OSC GROUP 1 and OSC GROUP 2 each has an independent detune-able oscillator — SUB 1 and SUB 2 — with four selectable shapes and two selectable (Octave) pitches. Real Hard Sync, ring modulation, and FM (Frequency Modulation) are available between those oscillator groups.
Get this, though: switching from Wave mode — meaning Kyra adopts a virtual analogue synthesis model which has the advantage that it is easy to construct sounds using intuitive subtractive synthesis — to Hypersaw mode configures the voice to use a special algorithm comprising six real oscillators to quickly create lush-sounding soundscapes. Digging deeper, Hypersaw mode replaces Wave mode’s two oscillator groups with a single source whose tonal content is constructed with just two adjustable controls — Hypersaw Intensity and Hypersaw Spread (geometric detuning). Built entirely out of multiple, harmonically-rich sawtooth waves or ‘partials’ each adjusted to that special algorithm, the Hypersaw provides characteristic soundscapes ideal for a wide range of uses — from high-impact lead sounds through to lush, animated pads. Placed in Dual Mode, the Hypersaw has 12 real oscillator sources with an additional adjustable stereo spread.
What is Kyra?
Kyra is a powerful, hardware virtual analog synthesizer capable of creating a wide range of contemporary sounds for live and studio musicians.
What type of musician/producer is Kyra aimed at?
Kyra is aimed at the semi-professional and professional producer. It is equally at home in live or studio environments. Live musicians will appreciate the big, floor-filling “wall of sound” and built-in effects that means Kyra can go straight to the mixer and venue amplification. Studio producers will appreciate the massive polyphony, multiple parts and ability to integrate completely with their audio workstations via multiple, balanced analog outputs as well as the high-capacity audio streaming via high-speed, class-compliant USB 2.0.
Why was Kyra created?
Kyra was created to fill a gap in the synthesizer market for a powerful digital, virtual analog synthesizer. Key to the design was to have no compromises on sound quality, ease of use, studio integration and raw power, all with a price tag that puts ownership within reach of producers working to a real-world budget.
How would you characterise Kyra’s sound?
It really is a wall of sound. With so many oscillators and voices, Kyra really does make an impact. Having said that, it is also capable of delicate sounds too. As Kyra is oversampled, there’s no rolloff at higher frequencies. Kyra has a crystal clear sound.
We are discovering new sounds on Kyra all the time and as more programmers create patches for it, we continue to be amazed at what can be achieved. Kyra’s sound is very complementary to other synthesizers in Waldorf’s range. It can be tame and remarkably smooth with very good emulations of classic analog synthesizers but it can also be big, bold and brash.
Tell me about this FPGA technology, what does it do for me as a musician?
Kyra is, as far we know, the first professional synthesizer to be based entirely on an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array). Even though this may be appear to be a technical detail it does have some real benefits for musicians. In particular, it offers the raw processing power of a very high end desktop computer but without the problems that are associated with such machines such as slow start up, unreliable operating systems and copious amounts of heat being generated. Even though Kyra has this sort of processing power, it starts up in under 4 seconds and uses less than ten watts of fan-free power (a typical high end desktop computer would use over 250 watts of power).
Another benefit to this technology is reliability. As all of Kyra’s audio generation, filtering and processing is done on a single chip, reduced component counts mean Kyra is less expensive to build and is more reliable.
What is unique about Kyra? Why should I buy it?
There are few synthesizers, if any, that are as powerful as Kyra. There are some notable features on Kyra that would usually be associated with much more expensive instruments such as a solid, all-metal chassis, 32 bit “Velvetsound” DACs, multiple balanced audio outputs and multi-part audio streaming over USB.
So Kyra has four stereo outputs? How is that useful to me?
Kyra offers four, balanced, stereo outputs that you can freely assign each of Kyra’s 8 Parts to. Studio producers will find this particularly useful as it means you can use outboard processing and effects, either connected directly or via bus sends on your mixer. With each of Kyra’s four outputs connected to your mixer, you can level, pan, EQ and process each of Kyra’s outputs as you wish. You can choose whether to use Kyra’s on board effects or to use your favourite outboard as you wish, on a Part-by-Part basis.
I understand Kyra has a comprehensive USB Audio implementation. Tell me more.
One of the design objectives of Kyra was to “do USB audio properly”. Forums are packed with complaints about synthesizers that have unreliable or under-specified USB implementations. We spent a lot of time getting USB right on Kyra and studio producers can take advantage of this.
Kyra uses its FPGA and a dedicated processor purely for USB and the result is a rock-solid USB 2.0 High Speed (480Mbits capacity) audio and MIDI implementation that is capable of streaming all 8 of Kyra’s Parts as studio-quality 96kHz 24 bit audio to an audio workstation. In addition, to address the one-driver limitation of ASIO, Kyra will accept a single return audio stream for audio workstation setups so that your final playback can be via Kyra.
As Kyra’s USB implementation is completely USB Audio 2.0 compliant, you can be assured of excellent support across a wide range of platforms. Kyra works with MacOS out the box and with Windows 7 and above with a supplied driver. Linux users should be able to use Kyra’s USB too but we do not support Linux officially as there’s so many flavours and distributions to test.
Kyra’s USB is fully USB MIDI compliant too so producers who have moved away from DIN MIDI do not need to buy a MIDI interface unit to use Kyra in their studio.
With all that power, I bet Kyra is hard to program. Is this true?
It’s true that Kyra is powerful but it was designed to be easy to program. Here at Waldorf, we believe that users should be able to create their own sounds and not just rely on the factory presets and commercial patch banks. Kyra builds on familiar foundations – sound sources, filters, modulators and effects. But it takes this all to the next level, in terms of quantity, quality and modulation possibilities. With Kyra, you can use your existing experience and start creating new Patches straight away.
OK but I guess there’s a lot of menu diving right?
Very little in fact. All of Kyra’s main functions have their own controls. Only a few more obscure functions require some menu navigation.
What type of display does Kyra have?
Kyra features an OLED display. This is a newer technology than the LCDs found on most synthesizers. It is much clearer and can be viewed from any angle.
I’m a power patch programmer, I need an Editor. Does Waldorf offer one?
Currently, Waldorf does not offer an Editor for Kyra. However, we expect good support by third party providers. Kyra has a comprehensive MIDI implementation to support this.
Is Kyra fully stereo?
Yes, Kyra offers a full stereo signal path. When configured for “Dual Mode” operation, there’s two complete sets of oscillators, filters and modulators and these feed into a full stereo effects chain. You can achieve very animated, stereo sounds with Kyra.
What’s Kyra’s build quality like? Can I rely on Kyra for live gigs?
Kyra is solid, you’ll feel that when you first use it. The chassis is made from high grade steel, the controls are custom made. The connectors are designed for professional use.
Tell me about Kyra’s effects?
Effects were a design priority for Kyra and it has a lot of effects modules. Each of Kyra’s 8 Parts has a complete, independent effects chain. Effects are an integral part of a Patch in Kyra and you don’t need to share them across the Parts. Kyra features nine effects modules for each Part including a 3-band shelving EQ with sweepable mid, a formant filter, a distortion unit, an input limiter, a 6-stage phaser, a digital delay line, a chorus/flanger/comb unit a reverb unit and a final output limiter. You can use all the effects on all the Parts at the same time and they’re all oversampled and full stereo.
You can selectively defeat Kyra’s effects units. This allows live musicians to use Kyra’s multiple analog outputs as effects sends to their favourite outboard and it allows studio producers to use their favourite virtual effects on their workstations. With Kyra, you can pick and choose what is best for you when it comes to effects.
Is it true that Kyra really has 1,280 oscillators?
Yes, Kyra has 1,280 oscillators available for use. These are actual, real oscillators and not “best effort” or simulations of multiple oscillators. With so many oscillators, Kyra can produce powerful sounds with lots of detuning where required. Stack them up into a stereo hypersaw or slice and dice them with the ring modulator, FM or hard sync. The choice is yours.
Is Kyra really 128 note polyphonic? For real sounds not just simple ones?
Kyra can play 128 notes at the same time (up to 32 on any single Part). This is always the case regardless of the patch settings and effects used. The only exception is Dual Mode which uses two voice channels per note. Kyra’s polyphony is not a “maximum” or “up to” it is actual.
I hear Kyra’s wavetables are static? Is that true?
Kyra provides two oscillators per voice each with the huge amount of 4096 possible waveforms to choose from. You can cross-fade between two waveforms as well as apply ring modulation, FM or hard sync between them. When combined the possibilities are almost unlimited.
- Virtual analog synthesis
- 128 voices
- 8 parts
- All sound features can be used simultaneously
Oscillators per voice:
- two Wave osc with 4096 waveforms
- two Pulse osc
- two Saw osc
- two Noise osc
- two Sub osc with several waveforms
- Hard Sync
- Hypersaw Mode
- Oscillator FM and Ring mod
- Oscillators are in two groups for better overview
- All osc per voice are available simultaneously
- 9 simultaneously available effects
- 6-slot Mod Matrix with multiple destinations per slot
- 2 filters: 12/24dB and LP/BP/HP in all configurations
- 3 envelope generators (EG)
- 3 LFOs with 128 shapes each
- 26 patch banks (A to Z) with 128 slots each
- Arpeggiator with 128 preset patterns
- Octave Transpose
- Double Mode: layers the same sound two times and detunes them against each other
- Sturdy full metal case
- 256x64 pixel OLED
- Kensington Lock
- USB 2.0 for MIDI and audio
- 5-pin DIN MIDI In/Out/Thru
- 8 balanced analog audio outputs plus Headphone out
- Kyra can be used as an audio interface
- Audio is transmitted to the computer via USB in up to 24bit/96kHz
- Each Part is transmitted to the computer in stereo (16 channels in total)
- 2 audio channels from the computer can be played back through Kyra