SUPERBOOTH 2023: Knob tweakers, assemble!
Superbooth, Europe's premier synth show, now eclipsing NAMM as the world's most important music tech shindig is back with another truckload of exciting, innovative new ways to make some noise.
As you'd expect - demand, even - we're on the show floor in Berlin, and will be bringing you a flavour of proceedings in this here live stream.
So keep checking in here for the inside line, and to get the full skinny on the biggest announcements check out our Superbooth 2023 news hub...
All the biggest stories in one place
The biggest Superbooth 23 stories right now
Nebula Instruments secure the coveted foyer entry into the hotly-contested ‘weird ambient instruments we don’t really understand’ category...
Great to be greeted by an old friend - the familiar Superbooth signage in full effect, complete with now-traditional year update via the medium of sticky tape.
Turned out nice...
We're happy to report that we have beautiful festival weather here at Fez-Berlin, home of Superbooth.
The £1,300 dictaphone?
Teenage Engineering’s TP-7 is a beautiful portable recorder that’s designed “to do one thing well”
UDO’s debut instrument, the Super 6, is one of our favourite synths of recent years, and its creators have just released a new, supercharged follow up: Super Gemini.
Just like the Super 6, Gemini takes a fair influence from the hands-on design of vintage hardware, but adds in some thoroughly modern features. Whereas Super 6 took an obvious influence from Roland’s classic Junos and Jupiters, Gemini looks and sounds like an updated take on the CS-80 - particularly in its inclusion of a touch strip.
The sound is appropriately rich and complex too, brilliant for throbbing Vangelis-like drones and majestic chord progressions. But through the versatile, modern modulation tools and interesting digital effects - including a lovely freeze-able – it can also do some thoroughly modern electronic textures.
As with the Super 6, the sound engine is fully binaural, allowing for unique design of the stereo field. Gemini has a full 20 voices and is dual layered too - allowing for bi-timbral patch creation. A quality poly-aftertouch-equipped keyboard makes it thoroughly playable too. Its inventor George Hearn describes it as a ‘soundtrack machine’ and we’d say it lives up to that moniker.
UDO is also showing off some updated colours for their existing Super 6 and Super 6 desktop, including a lovely white Super 6 that looks great next to the Super Gemini
AMMT Audio is a new offshoot brand from US modular outfit WMD, jointly owned by four members of WMD’s development team. WMD shut down towards the end of 2022, citing spiralling costs.
The new brand is taking ownership of several existing WMD modules including the Metron sequencer, debuting at Superbooth with a new aesthetic. The brand is also showing off a new - as yet unnamed - hi-hat module, which uses dual sample layers and includes user sample upload in order to create some brilliantly textural percussive sounds.
Thanks to the new arrangement, WMD itself is set to continue as well, showing off a newly revamped Performance Mixer at the show, which adds a stereo aux bus, added MIDI capabilities and more.
Mantis is the second synth from British brand PWM, which made its debut with analogue monosynth Malevolent in 2022. It's a duophonic hybrid synth, created in collaboration with legendary synth designer Chris Huggett, who sadly died in 2020.
Mantis is a spiritual successor to Huggett’s cult classic Wasp synth. Its combination of digital oscillators and effects with analogue, Wasp-inspired filter plays as a fitting tribute to Huggett’s design pedigree, with a rich and characterful sound with a nice touch of aggression and a deep low end.
Korg’s Acoustic Synthesis Phase 5 isn’t a full product release, but more of a technical showcase. It works by blending acoustic and electronic sound generation.
Playing a note hits a physical resonator, which can be played as a purely acoustic instrument, however, turning up the feedback control targets and boost certain frequencies, which can then be further excited to bring out higher harmonics. Because it’s electronically controlled, things like LFO modulation can be applied for more synth-like tones.
The results, at least in this current state, produce the bell-like tones familiar from FM synthesis, but with powerful acoustic resonance that sounds like playing a giant marimba. Although it’s an electronic instrument, it allows for physical interaction with the acoustic elements (think of it like a synth you could palm mute like a guitar). Tatsuya Takahashi from Korg Berlin talked us through the potential – the idea being that different resonators and controls could be used to apply the concept to synthesis, percussion or even convolution-style effects.
Right now, there’s no concrete product launch planned, but Korg Berlin are keen to talk about potential applications and develop the concept into a full release.
Teenage Engineering is going off-road for demos of their Field range.
Rumour has it they’ve brought their own beer too. Out intrepid reporters are on the case...
One of the odder aspects of Superbooth often overlooked is the fact that it takes place in what is effectively a massive kids’ playground. Here they are getting ready for a rave at Villa Kunterbrunt...
We appreciate a product release that lives up to its name, and Elektron’s Analog Heat +FX is exactly that – the Swedish brand’s already impressive analogue distortion/filter, now enhanced with a crop of flexible digital effects.
Elektron’s booth saw the company hooking the unit up to a range of interesting acoustic instruments, which provided a smart basis for exploring just how much AH+FX can mangle sound.
Combining drawn-out reverbs, tape-like delays, compression and bit crushing, all alongside the existing distortion circuits, resonant filter and EQ, this is a seriously powerful box of effects.
With a few twists and turns we transformed simple acoustic tones into crunchy, wavering soundscapes. Onboard modulation adds to the usability by keeping things moving. AH+FX allows users to rearrange the flow of its effects too, which is great fun for exploring extreme effect combinations.
Acoustic Synthesis_phase 5
We caught up with Korg Berlin's Tatsuya Takahashi and checked out the company's fascinating Acoustic Synthesis concept instrument. Check out what he told us below or read more about Acoustic Synthesis_phase 5 here.
PWM’s Paul Whittington calls Mantis a “unique-sounding synth” and a “beautiful collaboration”, confirming that it’s being released with the blessing of Huggett’s family.
We cornered Paul at Superbooth 23, where he talked us through the company's latest box of tricks.
Oberheim’s new OB-X8 module is surprisingly diminutive, but we like the classy wood panels. Read more about the OB-X8's desktop iteration here.
UDO has followed up the Super 6 with a second synth in the range, the Super Gemini. Billed as a “bi-timbral analogue-hybrid powerhouse”, this has a dual-layer, bi-timbral design and promises to give you a huge amount of control.
We caught up with UDO founder and director George Hearn to check out its big USPs.
Teenage Engineering beer. Classy looking but impracticality small
And if Japanese lager isn’t lavish enough for you, then you could just chuck 50 grand on a tricked out Suzuki Jimny, AKA the Teenage Engineering FV-2.
And... we're back
As day two or Superbooth squeeks and squawks into life here at FEZ-Berlin, check out what we found when we demanded that AMMT demo their new, as yet unnamed, hi-hat unit and the WMD performance mixer it's taken under its wing.
We’ve had mixed feelings about some of Teenage Engineering’s Field range in the past, in part due to the often eye-watering price points but also - in the case of the TX-6 mixer at least - a few questionable design choices. However, we have to admit that the new mic and digital recorder units the brand is showing off at this year’s Superbooth have some genuinely useful-sounding features.
In the case of the CM-15 mic, a key part of the appeal is its simplicity – there’s just a single gain control on the hardware, along with dual line and USB audio outputs that can be used simultaneously to route audio to multiple destinations.
It’s also battery powered and rechargeable. We’re yet to hear it in action though, so we’ll have to wait to see if its sound justifies the £1k+ price. Even more useful looking is the TP-7 digital recorder.
Its mini jog wheel lets users manipulate audio playback live for some fun creative effects. It can also stream 6 channels of audio directly from the TX-7 mixer via USB-C. Its non-musical applications are the most handy-sounding though.
Text-to-speech transcription, powered by OpenAI’s Whisper, allows professionals to instantly capture text from a conversation or meeting (via a companion app), and its easy-to-use recording controls look like a doddle to use in interview, meeting or podcast situations.
Latvia’s Erica Synths is a brand often associated with hard-hitting techno and raw, analogue synthesis. True to form, between the pounding Perkins drum machines and rasping Eurorack rigs, the brand’s Superbooth room is the closest you’ll get to the experience of Berghain’s main room you’ll find at a trade show.
Against this backdrop, the wonderfully named Streampipe stands out as surprisingly delicate and wistful. This is a digital physical modelling synth, created in collaboration with 112db, that emulates the sound and texture of wind instruments. Rather than using standard oscillators, the signal flow starts with a noise source which is shaped and tuned using resonators. It also features an interesting, ambient-sounding reverb effect.
Sonically, it spans a range from lightweight (and impressively realistic) flutes and clarinets, through to slightly raspy tuned noise and into wonky circus organs. It’s something very different, not just for Erica Synths, but the hardware synth market as a whole.
It’s certainly a specialised machine - don’t expect this to become your next synth workhorse - but we can see creative musicians getting some really interesting results out of it.
Perhaps wary of such a departure from their signature grittiness, Erica tells us that they are considering adding an analogue distortion, to create unique overtones and added heft
Superlative Monolab is a compact all-analogue modular synth designed, according to its creator, as a distillation of all the best elements of classic modular/semi-modular gear from the likes of Roland, ARP and more. It’s intended as a simple and user-friendly synth, but one that offers plenty of depth for advanced exploration and patching too.
Although it’s Eurorack compatible, it’s built in Superlative’s new 1200 system format, with an ultra-thin profile and USB power for portability. It’s still in the early stages, but we can expect more info on price and shipping over the summer.
The Teenage Engineering van is now an established hotspot at every Superbooth. We clambered aboard to learn more about the firm's latest highly-desirable offering, its £1,300 TP-7 field recorder.
Oxi Instruments Coral
Getting polyphony in Eurorack can often be costly and awkward, but Oxi Instruments Coral could be an efficient and good value solution. It’s an eight voice synth and wav sample player, which can lend its hand to melodic and percussive sounds all at once.
You could, for example, use three voices for a chord progression, one for a bassline and the rest for drums. Filters and envelopes help shape the sounds, while reverb and chorus effects round out the signal chain. It’s all controllable via MIDI or CV. At a price around €400 and a 14hp size, it seems like a smart investment.
Make Noise’s Spectraphon is another collaboration with Soundhack’s Tom Erbe, who previously contributed to the company’s excellent Erbe Verb and Morphagene modules. It’s a complex dual oscillator capable of additive, vocoder and spectral synthesis-style sounds.
That results in brilliantly bright and characterful digital synth tones. As with the best Eurorack voices though, it really comes to life with modulation, with plenty of CV to keep the synthesis techniques and timbres moving. From our demos it seems like another experimental powerhouse.