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Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave Spotlight

Examining the 3rd Wave from Groove Synthesis

A Rich Pedigree and Synth DNA

The 3rd Wave is the first synth from California based Groove Synthesis -- and it's a flagship-class juggernaut -- with a powerful sound engine and tons of versatility.  While it is Groove's inaugural product offering, it's a fully mature one -- a state-of-the-art synth like you might expect from one of the major industry players who have been producing synthesizers for decades.  

The reason for this is due to the leadership and engineering team for Groove Synthesis.  They come from a rich pedigree -- working for Avid, Digidesign, Sequential, Oberheim, and other music tech companies.   They have been involved in the pro audio and synth industry for the past twenty years, working on some of the most popular synths from Sequential/Oberheim, like the Prophet 12, Prophet 6, Prophet 5/10r4, Prophet Rev 2, Take 5, Pro 3, OB-6, and OB-X8.   The 3rd Wave has a similar feel and quality to high end synths from Sequential/Oberheim, and anyone who is familiar with those synths will feel right at home with the sound quality, functionality and workflow of the 3rd Wave.  

Groove Synthesis Website 61-Key Synth: $4995 MAP Desktop Synth: $3495 MAP



More Resources on PresetPatch: Download FREE 3rd Wave Patches PPG Wavetable List 3rd Wave Vintage Voice Modeling Info


Four Synth Sound Engines Per Oscillator

With the latest beta operating system released in Dec 2023, the 3rd Wave now features four distinct synth sound engines.  There are three oscillators per voice, and each oscillator can run in any of the following four modes:


1. Classic PPG Wavetable Synthesis
The primary inspiration for the look and name is an homage to the classic PPG Wave synths from the 1980s.  The PPG Wave synths were revolutionary at their time, bringing digital wavetable synthesis to the forefront of music in the 80s.   The PPG Wave synths were used on countless hit songs and records from the 1980s through modern day.   The 3rd Wave features a highly accurate model of the vintage PPG Wavetable operation, complete with all the peculiarities, aliasing and artifacts associated with the original PPG synths.  The Groove Synthesis team's attention to detail have made this synth a true successor to the PPG lineage.

2. Modern High Definition Wavetable Synthesis
In addition to the classic PPG wavetable mode, the 3rd Wave also features high definition 96khz wavetable synthesis, for modern wavetable morphing and cutting edge sound designs.  Each of the wavetables has a dedicated six-stage envelope to control the wave motion over time.    A built in wavemaker tool allows users to create their own wavetables from audio input, or import custom prepared wavetables, including Serum wavetables.  

3. Hybrid Analog Subtractive Synthesis
A third oscillator mode is available for all three oscillators, which allows them to behave like classic analog oscillators (Saw, Square, Triangle, Sine, +Multiple Types of Noise)   The virtual analog oscillators can then be fed into a true 4-Pole Analog VCF filter, and a separate 2-Pole digital State Variable Filter.   The 3rd Wave is an excellent hybrid analog subtractive synthesizer for recreating classic/vintage synth sounds as well as modern subtractive sounds.   With the built in vintage voice modeling / circuit drift functionality, it can go head to head with the top analog poly synths on the market, for creating organic analog synth sounds.   More info on the 3rd Waves Vintage Voice Modeling Capabilities.  

4. Prophet VS Waves - New Dec 2023
With the latest firmware release, Groove Synthesis has included a fourth option for the sound engine - replicating the sounds and behavior of the classic Prophet VS synthesizer. 
Article:  More Information on Prophet VS in the 3rd Wave.


Spectacular Specs

The 3rd Wave is a premium synth, with a premium price, but it delivers a top-shelf set of features and specifications. 


24 Voices with SSI-2140 Analog Filters
The 3rd Wave gives you an exceptionally healthy twenty four (24) voices of polyphony.   Each voice has three oscillators with the above mentioned sound generation options.  Each voice has a SSI-2140 Analog VCF 4-Pole resonant filter, along with a digital 2-Pole state variable filter which can be bypassed, or routed in series.   The SSI-2140 analog filter chip is the same one used in modern Prophet 5 and Prophet 10 synths as well as Take 5...  and based on the original vintage Prophet 5 filter.  It's one of the most desirable filters for a poly synth to have, and the 3rd Wave has twenty four of them, one for each voice.    The state variable filter gives additional flexibility, with variable low pass, high pass, notch and band pass modes.   There's really no other poly synth on the market that offers this type of configuration with 24 voices, each with analog filter.


Four Part Multitimbral Operation
The 3rd Wave features four timbral layers -- meaning you can divide up those twenty four voices into a variety of configurations of keyboard splits or stacks.   You can create giant, complex stacked sounds, multiple part sequenced motion patches, binaural/stereophonic panned layers, or classic splits with separate sounds in different areas of the keybed.    Each layer can optionally be routed out of separate 1/4inch outputs on the back of the synth, or mixed together in a main stereo 1/4 output.  Some synths offer bi-timbral, or tri-timbral operation, but there are very few modern synths that offer quad-timbral functionality like the 3rd Wave.


Deep Modulation Capabilities
The overall sound engine is extremely deep as well.   For each of the 24 voices, there are four LFOs and four envelopes. (plus an extra dedicated 6-stage envelope for each wavetable oscillator)   The 3rd Wave also has a very deep 16-slot customizable mod matrix where you can route 27 different mod sources to any of 114 different destinations.   In addition to those 16 customizable mod slots, there are an additional 12 fixed-source slots.    For those interested into getting deep into sound design and building in layers of nuance and performance modulation, the 3rd Wave gives you an extreme level of depth and versatility.  


Two Built in Stereo Effects Slots
The 3rd Wave also features two built in stereo effects slots, which are independently customizable for each of the up to four parts in the multitimbral engine.   The effects algorithms are all high quality, and include a variety of delay, chorus, phaser, flanger, rotary, reverb types and other effects.   In addition, you can modulate the effects from the mod matrix and tie their parameters to mod wheel, key pressure, or other sources.  


The 3rd Wave Hardware, Build Quality and Feel
The 3rd Wave doesn't skimp on mechanical quality.   All the knobs and buttons have a sturdy, high quality feel, and the keybed is a premium Fatar TP9S keybed - similar to those used in other high end 61-key synths from Sequential and others.    It has an excellent synth key feel, with responsive channel aftertouch / pressure, and good feeling pitch and mod wheels.  


3rd Wave Desktop Synth - New
The 3rd Wave is now available in desktop format, for those looking for a more compact solution without the keyboard.   The desktop unit provides all the same features and specifications as the keyboard, but with a reduced physical footprint and price.    


MPE Polyphonic Pressure Input Support - New
The 3rd Wave and 3rd Wave Desktop both now support MPE Polyphonic input as well.   If you have a polyphonic aftertouch keyboard and connect it up to your 3rd Wave, you can route polyphonic aftertouch pressure to modulation destinations, for per-key modulation based on pressure.  


Improvements and Updates

Not only has the 3rd Wave been a great synth since its initial release in 2022, the Groove team has been continually listening to user feedback, and making improvements -- adding new features and functionality.   The user base has gotten vintage voice modeling for classic analog synth patches, a free running oscillator mode, a poly unison mode, MPE support for polyphonic input, the new Prophet VS wave engine, Serum wavetable import option, and various other updates and quality of life enhancements.   


Final Thoughts: 10/10

The 3rd Wave is one of the most exciting synths to debut over the past decade.  It combines authentic PPG Wave and Prophet VS sound capabilities, with modern high definition wavetable synthesis, and probably the best hybrid-analog subtractive engine that has ever been produced on a hardware synth.   With four part multitimbrality and 24 voices, each with a "Prophet" SSI-2140 analog filter, it's truly in a class of its own.   

This is an inspirational and fun synth -- with great sound, a thoughful user interface, and tons of versatility.   The hardware build quality is top shelf as well.   A highly recommended synth for musicians and composers looking to cover both vintage and modern sounds in a single hardware unit.   Verdict:  10/10


Video Demos:
Here's some more demos of 3rd Wave Features and Sounds:

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