Superbooth 2021: the very best synths, drum machines, modular equipment and out-there oddities

Superbooth 2021 was usually likely to be a tiny little bit distinctive. To place it mildly, some points have occurred in the world due to the fact we past decamped to Berlin’s FEZ centre in 2019, meaning a compelled fallow year for Europe’s most influential synth meeting. In actuality, for us Superbooth 2021 marked not just a return to Berlin, but our very first in-particular person function in virtually two many years.

Even by the usual enterprise-meeting-satisfies-unlawful-rave expectations of Superbooth, 2021’s celebration experienced a notably ‘chill’ vibe. Unsurprisingly, there were being a little bit fewer exhibitors and attendees than we’ve observed in past several years, and people that have been in attendance have been substantially a lot more spread out. The typical cluster of booths crammed into the FEZ’s restricted hallways and classroom-like areas experienced this year spilled out into the outdoor spots, occupying room in the woods and – in Moog’s situation – a circus tent.

That currently being reported, there was also a reassuring familiarity to Superbooth 2021. It was fantastic to see a few acquainted faces once again and, much more importantly, a nutritious stream of new electronic songs gear. Much from getting the washout some had feared, Superbooth came back again out the blocks with the usual blend of remarkable new instruments, oddball improvements and much more Eurorack modules than you can shake a fistful of patch sales opportunities at.

Best synth – PWM Malevolent

Malevolent is the debut instrument from British isles manufacturer PWM. It is some thing of a collaborative project, owning been designed with enter from Bristol’s Future Audio Programs and previous ROLI and Focusrite worker Ben Supper.

Malevolent is an analogue semi-modular monosynth (while it can be patched to work paraphonically). It features two multi-wave VCOs outfitted for FM, plus a resonant VCF, two ADSR envelopes and an LFO. 

Whilst the normalised signal route is rather uncomplicated, it will come geared up with 19  outputs and 19 inputs on its entrance panel, making it possible for customers to get innovative with its synthesis motor. 

Malevolent also offers a manage joystick, arpeggiator and some useful MIDI-to-CV abilities. Most importantly it appears fantastic, and we were being carefully amazed from our to start with appear. With a cost position just shy of £500, Malevolent appears to be terrific for musicians searching to dip a toe into the modular realm.

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Honourable mentions: Despite being overshadowed by its creator’s well-which means if arguably clumsy information of feminist assist, Dreadbox’s astonishingly very small Nymphes is a magnificent-sounding analogue poly. Away from the analogue realm, Mayer’s MD900 is a neat-hunting VA/wavetable synth designed on the good results of the company’s Eurorack modules.

Greatest drum device – Erica Synth Perkons

There looks to be no halting Latvian manufacturer Erica Synths. Obtaining now impressed us this 12 months with the LXR-02 drum device, the firm stole the demonstrate with its hybrid Perkons percussion synth. 

This most up-to-date drum equipment throws the clarity of electronic oscillators into a heady combine of analogue filtering and modulation. The authentic BBD and compressor include to the noisy mother nature of Perkons. It’s all topped off with some appropriate x0x sequencing with a good deal of more methods up its sleeve.

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Most plant pots – Moog

Moog has designed a distinctive design for its trade exhibit booths in latest situations, just one that walks a line concerning wooden-panelled chillout space and competition merch stand. 

This year’s Superbooth noticed them getting matters to an additional degree, decamping into the wonderful outside in a circus tent with a branded mini blimp tethered previously mentioned its entrance. The house inside of housed a combine of synth demo zones, a modular general performance area and, commonly, an abundance of foliage. Oh, and Moog even experienced a little something new to exhibit off far too – a three-tiered addition to the company’s exceptional Audio Studio bundles.

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Very best Eurorack – Winter season Plankton ZAPS

This collab concerning Plankton Electronics and Wintertime Modular is a percussive synth voice built to create organic grooves that evolve and mutate about time. The synth voice by itself is a digitally managed, two-oscillator analogue generator geared up for FM and AM synthesis. 

This will come geared up with an assortment of artistic resources such as freeze/snapshot capabilities, accents, morphing, randomisation and – normally – a lot of CV command. From what we can explain to, it all provides up to a complete load of rhythmic enjoyment.

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Honourable mention: The 6m0d6 from LPZW.modules and Tubbutec is basically a classic TR-606 beefed up with extra control and additional grittiness. Tough to argue with that.

Most welcome revival – Waldorf M

It wouldn’t be a synth exhibit with no the shock revival of some piece of vintage gear. This year’s comeback arrives from Waldorf, which is returning to the wavetable roots of its ’80s and ’90s devices with M.

M is a twin-oscillator wavetable synth that can be switched concerning two modes based on Waldorf’s Microwave and Microwave II devices. Alternatively than becoming a pure reissue, M is a hybrid instrument in its very own ideal, 1 which shares quite a few critical attributes with Waldorf’s additional the latest Iridium.

Here these wavetable oscillators are paired with an analogue lower-pass 24dB/Oct VCF, total with resonance and analogue saturation. It also packs a legitimate stereo analogue VCA with panning possibility.

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Honourable mention: If M’s £1800 price tag tag is a bit substantially for you, Arturia’s new Ensoniq-inspired  SQ80 V is established to seize a similarly gritty, analogue-satisfies-digital vibe albeit in computer software variety.

Most inventive use of a panna cotta – Playtronica

Superbooth is by no means limited on eccentric solutions, but ground breaking electronics manufacturer Playtronica stood out this 12 months. Blurring the traces involving education, accessibility and tunes building, Playtronica specialises in regulate gadgets created for unusual and intuitive interaction. Of certain fascination is the forthcoming Orbita, a turntable-like product intended to sequence audio by transferring coloured markers around a revolving platter. 

Just as eye-catching is Playtron – a crocodile clip-primarily based procedure that will allow assorted conductive objects to be utilised as handle surfaces. Demo films display it getting employed with several fruits and veggies. The Superbooth stand had Playtron hooked up to a pair of jelly-like mounds resembling traditional Italian desserts (they were basically designed from soap, we assume). Fantastic for all your wobbly modulation requirements. 

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Greatest controller – Intech Studio

There’s no absence of ‘modular’ items at Superbooth, but Intech’s controller technique is a little various. The style and design reminds us of (the late) ROLI’s Blocks range  – an assortment of square models that clip alongside one another magnetically to form a larger management surface area. On the other hand, the place Blocks manufactured use of silicon surfaces, Intech Studio is all about proper tactile controls. 

The present-day assortment has four possibilities, sporting banks of bi-directional knobs, countless rotaries, clicky buttons or fader-geared up channel strips. Each individual is geared up with a USB C link, and it’s probable to chain many units from a solitary link by snapping them with each other.

The modules are course compliant and completely ready for MIDI-mapping. The procedure will come with its very own Grid Editor software far too, for state-of-the-art configuration and visible customisation of the units’ coloured LEDs.

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Exceptional contribution to signage award – Superbooth banner

As all accurate devotees know, the actual hero of Superbooth is the extensive-serving and much-altered banner that hangs higher than the show’s entrance. At first debuted in 2018, we past saw our outdated friend as it welcomed us to Superbooth ‘19, crudely current by the use of gaffer tape. 

Despite worries the pandemic may well have compelled it into retirement, it was reassuring to be greeted by a familiar confront at this year’s demonstrate – considerably more professionally up to date now, but however showing its roots by means of the faintly seen define of an ‘18’. Kudos to Superbooth organisers SchneidersLaden on their motivation to recycling. 

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