Waldorf Blofeld vs Dave Smith Tetra Synthesizers

Modulate This reader Deman recently commented on a post from February entitle “Blofeld LFOs Gone Mad” – One Patch Performance Series. Deman wanted to know which I preferred, the Blofeld or the Tetra.

Well Deman,  while I’ve only played the Blofeld, I did consider the Tetra so I did some research on both before going with Blofeld. I’ve put together a table highlighting the major differences below.

Update 3/3/2013: Updated pricess since original Post

  Blofeld Tetra
Price $699 $499 $799 $849
Sound Generation Circuit-models of analog waveforms: Pulse with variable pulse-width, sawtooth, triangle, sine wave, wavetables that were introduced by the Waldorf Q and appeared shortly thereafter in the Micro Q series. 100% analog signal path. 2 – analog sawtooth, triangle, saw/triangle, square with variable pulse width.
Synthesis Types Subtractive/FM/Wavetable Subtractive
Multi-Mode 16 Splits/Layers with 2 outs Four-part multitimbral capability with four separate outputs.
Polyphony 25 4
Display 128×64 LCD 2 line LED
Non-Volatile Sample Playback Memory

64 Meg of Non-Volatile Ram wih SL Option
99.00 €

FX 2 Independent FX Processors None
USB Yes, Third-Party Editors Yes, Manufacturer supplied editor


Both synths have strong arpeggiator/step-sequencer capabilities. Here is a summary as described by the manufacturers:

Blofeld Arpeggiator (From the Blofeld Web Site)

Okay, Blofeld’s arpeggiator could very well become the biggest chapter of this page but let’s try to keep it short…

It features variable clock divisions from 1/64 triplets to more than 1000 bars, with variable swing/shuffle, a range of up to 10 octaves. Up, down and alternate figures, selectable play order from low to high note, low to high velocity, as played or reversed, variable note length, different velocity modes. And Hold or One-Shot, if you like.

But more importantly, it has the most powerful Pattern Editor we have ever seen.

You can set each Step to either play the note it would do so anyway, to pause, to play the previous note again, play the first or the last note, play those together, play a chord consisting of all held notes or a randomly selected note.

Then you can adjust the Accent of each step (including silence), activate or deactivate Glide for each step, set the timing to play a step ahead or behind its nominal time, and finely adjust the note length between short staccato and full legato.

No wonder this arpeggiator had great reviews when it first appeared in the Waldorf Q. It will take you straight to arpeggiator-heaven, as has already happened to thousands of Waldorf customers. Dig it!

Tetrai Arpeggiator (From the Tetra Manual P. 35)

Tetra features a 4 x 16 “analog-style” step sequencer that can generate four separate sequence tracks of up to 16 steps each. Each of the 4 voices has its own sequencer. Individual sequencer tracks can be routed to any standard modulation destination (see the table on page 35). Using VCA Envelope as a destination, for example, varies the volume of each step; a destination of Filter or Filter Envelope Amount will produce different filter settings per step. Typically, however, at least one sequence is routed to an oscillator to control pitch.

The sequencer is a “gated” sequencer. That is, a note must be played, either from the PUSH IT switch or via MIDI, in order for the sequence to be heard and it will continue to play as long as the note is held (gated).

Note: The PUSH IT switch’s Toggle parameter enables notes (and,
therefore, sequences) to be latched on for sustained playback.

The Clock Parameters determine the note value/tempo of the sequencer. The actual gate duration for each step is fixed at half the step time. Use the envelopes to generate notes of longer or shorter duration.

One very useful way to modulate a parameter in sync with a sequence is using LFOs with sync; LFO frequency runs from 0 to 150, after which you can select the sync settings. A setting of 16 Steps for LFO Frequency with a Triangle wave selected and routed to the filter will provide a clean filter sweep over a 16 step
sequence, perfectly in sync! This is much easier (and smoother) than programming a filter sweep using sequence steps.

In a nutshell, Tetra is a strong choice for those looking for a pure-analog solution in a very small desktop form factor. Blofeld is the choice for those looking for a more versatile solution in the sound design department with a more workstation-like set of features (16 splits/layers, built-in FX, option for non-volatle sample memory…). The large LCD display makes the and MIDI matrix make the Blofeld experience similar to using a soft synth on a computer.

I am in the latter category and was also looking for more bang-for-the-buck so I chose the Blofeld. I also felt the virtual analog was quite good. If I had extra budget for an analog desktop unit would I buy a Tetra? You betcha.


Blofled Tetra


Mark Mosher
Electronic Musician, Boulder CO

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Hi, this is Mark Mosher. Welcome to my blog. I’m a synthesist, Composer, Producer, and Visualist living in Boulder CO. I’m also the founder of the Rocky Mountain Synth Meet and Synth Patrol.

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12 responses to “Waldorf Blofeld vs Dave Smith Tetra Synthesizers”

  1. I’m finding after the beta firmware update I almost never have any problems with it. The only bug I have is if you are editing a split in Multi mode, you can cause a note to hang. I don’t gig with any hardware synths anymore because any synth can go down. Instead I use all virtual synths and have a primary and a backup laptop. So the whole rig is duplicated and fits in a backpack. These days I’m going deep with Absynth, Zebra, ACE, ElectraX. ACE is CPU heavy but multiple instances load fast. Just just have to arm one at a time.
    I agree, Blofeld has that “leave scars on your wall” attitude I really love!!!


  2. i owned a blofeld keyboard and i absolutely fell in love with the sound. everyone that heard it noticed how much GUT it has. pure beefy mean tone. but I sold it to get my Korg Kronos but the Blofeld also had issues with locking up. it really should not be used near BUG SPRAY because it will kill the synth. it is one big bug. BUT i am looking to get another one because i just miss the sound so much. The Kronos is really amazing but compared with the Blofeld it just doesnt hit you as hard. i sold my dave stewart Prophet 08 to get the blofeld and never looked back. IF YOU ARE USING THE BLOFELD PRIMARILY IN THE STUDIO SETTING IT IS WELL WORTH DEALING WITH THE BUGS! BUT I DONT RECOMMEND USING IT LIVE WITHOUT A BACKUP. YOU WONT FIND ANY OTHER SYNTH THAT HAS THE SOUND POTENTIAL AND IF YOUR NOT CAREFUL IT WILL LEAVE SCARS ON YOUR WALLS. built like a TANK! get one.


  3. hi, i had both at one time and ended up selling the tetra over the blofeld kb. i have had so many synths this year trying them out keeping / selling..ugh!!! and decided to just keep 5 of the 12 i tried out and had. ( my wife was pissed )..lol. i own the mopho as well for analog. i own the blofeld KB as mentioned and love it! but the bugs suck! hope to update the OS and get around the octave button issue now. ( not responding ? ) sometimes i miss the tetra. that is my problem..missing them! they all have a use somehow in the studio! love the look of it too. used it on our new upcoming release before i sold it.


  4. yes, overall, i see that now. however when you have a tight budget a comparison is inevitable as they do indirectly compete in the marketplace. i went with blofeld. overall, i think i’m very happy but i’m just scratching the surface. it seems to me that in terms of sound the blofeld can delve (albeit as simulation) into the analogue ‘warmth’ the DSI tetra resides in, and yet it can do all the crisp, cold, metallic stuff (or insert your adjective) one wants from digital synthesis. so that was what made up my mind.
    i do think however, that the DSI tetra has its charms & a few features the Blofeld could use, like the step sequencer. I would very much like this. *Also, if you’re an Apple Mac user -editing via computer w/Blofeld kind of errm..sucks. There is no official editor for Mac. I did find a decent alternative (unless Mark, you know of a better one!) as an environment in Apple Logic: http://home.redstair.net/index.php?cs=core&rootsection=redstair&entry=191&BBSID=16ac78a8b2b7cd2bd6b1129d4634f653
    The editor for DSI Tetra seems much more friendly to the Apple Mac, and much more intuitive based on youtube videos I have seen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Od0skgDNpmI
    So, While I love Blofeld…I’d still like the Tetra when I can get up some cash…of course perhaps by then there will be a Tetra Keyboard 😉
    And…of course Teenage Engineering has the OP-1 coming out..if it’s not a hoax. It seems amazing from the description and videos. But, now we’re talking cherries in addition to apples, & oranges! http://www.teenageengineering.com/products/op-1/


  5. Hi G,
    I compared the two because it seems those who don’t know the details of either seem to naturally compare them – I think because of price point and form factor. So I’ve been seeing people ask about the differences on forums and then Deman specifically asked me what the differences were.
    As you point out, once you understand the details of both units they it’s more like comparing apples and oranges. In the end they are are more complimentary in nature than competitive.
    I’m using Blofeld for live performance as well, but separate outs is not a requirement for me. I’m pairing Blofeld with Tenori-On and it’s ability to quickly map to the 16 layers of the Tenori-On works really well for what I’m using it for.


  6. I owned both the blofeld and the tetra (still own the tetra).. I think comparing them in a ‘vs’ format at all really is kinda strange, since they are both aimed at pretty much the opposite ends of the timbral spectrum…
    The main reason I got rid of the blofeld was that I decided to ply live which meant I needed multiple separate outputs.
    (The whole OS bugs/updates thing was driving me crazy and DSI support has been much friendlier to me, this may have also had something to do with it)
    I would put it at this:
    The sound you should choose for the sound you want.
    The blofeld has only 1 stereo output, but it has a nice LCD screen.
    it has a funky arpeggiator but no step sequencer. It has no midi out/thru.
    The tetra has 1 output per part but isn’t as quick to edit.
    It has a 4-param step sequencer and midi out/thru port but no arpeggiator.


  7. also, isn’t everyone bored by now by analog synths?
    The sound possibilities are not ‘endless’ and I am tired of ‘fat’, ‘warm’ and other tired adjectives that people throw out to describe what are 30-50 year old ideas when, in modern times, we should be far far beyond this…


  8. i came to the same conclusion eventually. i’d love to have them both. but, if i have to choose, the blofeld is more versatile.


  9. I only own the blofed, so I can’t say anything abou the Tetra (which I have considered buying a couple of times though).
    The arpeggiator of the blofeld is really the most advanced I have ever seen on a synth, though it should be noted here that to the present day it still has some big issues, like flaky midi tempo sync, which have not been properly addressed by waldorf since, at least on my Keyboard version.


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