Welcome to the Funkhaus
For the first time, long-running synthesizer stand, Superbooth took itself from the clutches of Musikmesse to break out on it’s own, in Berlin's Funkhaus.
With the explosion of Eurorack modular in recent years it seems fitting that burgeoning corner of the music-tech business should get its own show.
We headed to the German capital to see what all the fuss was about and to take in the sights and sounds.
Get on the boat
A free boat-shuttle service to the Funkhaus was provided, enabling visitors to experience a leisurely cruise down the River Spree, taking in some of Berlin’s fine architecture.
Most notable is the Berlin nhow hotel, which, aside from its striking design, houses a recording studio facility and Guitar Room Service, where you can have a guitar, keyboard or DJ setup delivered to your room free of charge.
Nestled in an industrial part of town, the somewhat dilapidated environs of the Funkhaus give off an almost free-party feel. The network of small blue signs directed us to the front door of what was an Aladdin’s cave of modular.
Erica synths debuted its brand new, affordable and tiny Pico range, alongside the new Black Hole DSP module.
Sitting on the Endorphin.es stand was the update to the Terminal module, the Grand Terminal. The Cabin Pressure section now features eight selectable effects and the much improved Filter section now includes eight resonant filter modes.
The Ableton stand was a blend of Ableton Link, Push 2 controllers and modular gear, all ready to play with.
Moving on from its rather arid NAMM stand, Moog brought along a few more modular toys in the shape of a System 35 and three Model 15s. They were joined by the venerable Voyager, Sub 37 and Sub Phatty synths.
Jürgen Michealis of Jomox fame had, amongst other instruments, the wonderful and slightly bonkers-looking Akasha Synth Dodecaedron.
The main body rotates and is formed of 10 touch-capacitive control nodes, all able to output a signal to a connecting node.
According to Jürgen, this experimental instrument has evolved over several years and is by no means finished. You can see it in action here.
If the cacophonous sounds of weren't aren’t enough, then how about a visit from the green fairy?
The Absinthe bar was open for “green hour” at 4pm. Unfortunately, we kept missing out on a taste.
u-he was offering a preview of its latest synth, RePro1. It’s an emulation of the Sequential Circuits Pro One, and u-he is offering the Alpha edition for free.
The company is calling it research-ware and inviting users to try the five different filter types on offer, of which one will be chosen for the final version. Interestingly, each different filter is different in CPU load and an anonymous poll will allow users to chose their favourite.
The Japanese giant had a large presence at the show, with a programme of demos featuring all its latest gear. Which, of course, included the new System-500 range.
Pittsburgh Modular brought its new Lifeforms system to Superbooth alongside the immensely deep but hugely fun Game System multi-mode sequencer.
Two new modules from AJH Synth’s MiniMod range made their debut at the show: the SV Diode Filter and Ring SM module.
The filter is based on the original Musonics Sonic V design and the Ring module is based on an old design that doesn’t feature any ring modulation chip, but is built around transistors.
It wasn't all about Euro, of course. Moon modular was one of few manufacturers representing large format modular with its newest modules: dual VCA, multimode filter and expander modules for the M569 sequencer.
Keeping up with the eclectic mix of music tech manufacturers was Roger Linn, with the Linnstrument. Sandwiched in a sea of modular noise, Roger was representing “ the note” at the show, in contrast to everyone else's beeps and blips.
Another Japanese giant with a large presence at the show was Yamaha. Regular performances featuring Montage and Reface were accompanied by a Nuage setup in an adjacent room.
If you were lucky, then you would’ve been collared into posing for a photo with a Reface round your neck for the Polaroid wall.
Building on its very impressive stand at this year’s NAMM, Bastl Instruments had upgraded its mechanical instrument with the addition of a guitar. All running through the latest Dynamo, Tromsø and Hendrikson modules, of course.
Sugar Bytes demoed its brand new plugin, Factory. This is a polysynth built around a dual oscillator engine and modulation matrix.
Tiptop Audio had a new prototype module in the form of the Quantizer playing at its Superbooth16 stand, alongside the new SD909 unit and latest compilation release from its own label.
Dave Smith Instruments
Not only was Dave Smith bringing the OB-6 to Europe for the first time alongside the Prophet 6, but we also got a look at a new prototype Eurorack module, the DSM03 Feedback. This features feedback circuitry taken from the DSI Evolver.