Inside Superbooth 2017 – The Berlin synth gathering show


This year’s MusikMesse in Berlin is over, but in the wake of the event we’ll take a look at what was more interesting than others, and perhaps provide some guidance where your next salary payout will end up. Schneidersladen has in just two years turned the Superbooth to the place to be if you’re into anything electronic, be it modulars, synths or desktop stuff.  The show is twice as large this year and the sheer amount of new stuff that was launched and demoed on day one is simply stunning.

Even the top brands are now a given in the Superbooth, for example Novation who demonstrated two new synthesizers, the visitors also had the chance to see the new Jomox AlphaBase drum synthesizer, two new Behringer synthesizers, updates on U-He plugins, and a lot of other cool new gears.

Novation’s development crew were on hand to show off their latest two synths, the Circuit Mono Station and Peak. Central to Peak is the use of a high-powered processor component called a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). In contrast to traditional DSP chips, which often need to run in pairs or quads, the FPGA is a single processor on which many functions can run — from oscillators to the modulation matrix. The key benefit to an FPGA is that it runs at a much higher rate than DSP-based technology, and this has a direct impact on the clarity of sound.

The Peak is a polyphonic synthesizer whose eight voices each have three digital high-resolution oscillators processed by an analogue multi-mode filter. With three envelopes, two LFOs, effects and a modulation matrix this is an ambitious hybrid.

Another interesting machine is Elektron’s Digitakt – it boasts a compact size to enable both easy at-home programming and use in live performances. The Digitakt has eight dedicated MIDI tracks and can control your external gear as well as coming equipped with a suite of its own sounds.

It also has a digital and highly flexible sound engine, a live-friendly sequencer and, of course, sampling capabilities. The buttons are back-lit and it has an OLED screen.

The Jomox Alpha Base is another interesting product. It is a new drum machine design by Jürgen Michaelis that features eleven drum voices, sequencer, Midi/USB/SD-Card and individual outputs. The outcome may be the best sounding and most versatile drum machine that Jomox has ever built.

Here’s what they have to say about it:

Although it may appear similar to the classics XBASE 09, 999 and 888, the ALPHA BASE has an entirely new design under the hood. We have put in the concentrated know-how of the Jomox drum machines and of our synths of the past 20 years. We have simplified some things, but also added new components or have combined them new.

A close look at the impressive JoMoX Alpha Base drum synthesizer, presented by Mr. Jürgen Michaelis at Superbooth 2017.

Quandrantid Swarm is the latest creation from French boutique Eowave. The Quandrantid Swarm is a unique instrument for sound designers and musicians looking to explore exquisite and unfamiliar timbres that range from subtle to outrageous, nebulous to shimmering. It is comprised of a digital synthesizer voice with a percussive element, 2 pole analog filter, 8 waveforms for modulation, and a spring reverb. The 8 touch keys can be used as a mono keyboard, polyphonic keyboard or an 8 step sequencer. The QS interfaces with other instruments via MIDI, and CV/Trig inputs.

The Polivoks has gotten itself a nice re-issue.

The we have Winter Modular’s Eloquencer – a real treat for anyone with modular interests.

The 8×16 matrix in the middle pulls you in immediately, and the way that the design flows from the play/stop button to the gate and CV outputs gives a sense of intuitiveness amongst the chaos of everything that’s going on. It makes a fabulous first impression.

Getting into the details Eloquencer is an 8 track sequencer with 16 steps. Although patterns can be chained to build parts up to 256 steps in length. The middle matrix displays the step information and the buttons at the bottom can act as a note input keyboard as well as other functions. The OLED screen on the left provides contextual feedback for all the parameters and lets you navigate menus. The defining factor of Eloquencer is how it deals with the randomising of parameters. CV, gate, gate length and ratcheting can all be randomised in different ways. This can push the sequence into permanently evolving patterns. The probability function for each gate, CV, variation and range is adjustable for each step or track. It’s the same with ratchet type and variation. That’s a whole load of probabilities operating on all sorts of steps within a pattern. And if you pull away from individual steps you can also apply randomization to entire patterns, creating new ones or partially changing existing ones.

Looking for Software? Then we have something nice from U-he. U-He has unveiled an updated version of the Zebra 2 virtual synthesizer, now featuring a brand new look and slightly tweaked functionality.

One of the most widely talked about analog synthesizer of the past few months has been the upcoming Behringer clone of the Moog classic, Minimoog Model D. There’s really no debating that the intention from Behringer to clone this vintage synth, and make some improvements, has been met with both praise and distress from all corners of the internet.

The Model D was one of three new synths brought to the show by the company, which only announced plans to make its own version of the Minimoog Model D  last month. Behringer’s Model D clones the circuitry from Moog’s ‘70s original and places it inside a smaller case designed for the Eurorack modular format. As Synth Anatomy’s video from Superbooth demonstrates, it sounds pretty convincing.

Check it out below:

Wrapping up with this one and see you next year in Berlin