Eight months after last year’s delayed edition of Superbooth, it was time to return to Berlin for what is now generally regarded as the world’s leading dedicated synthesizer exhibition. More than a simple expo, Superbooth provides enthusiasts, professionals and equipment designers with a space to share their love of electronic instrument design and music while meeting hundreds of interesting people along the way...
This year was no exception and the 2022 edition followed the same arrangement as the previous Covid-friendly edition, with vast swathes of exhibitors showing their latest designs (and some old favourites) under tents and bungalows. Feedback from last year was so positive that they felt confident about repeating the same format this year. After all, why fix something that’s not broken?
As a result, Superbooth feels more like an outdoor festival than a trade show, with an incredibly chilled atmosphere, a far cry from most Pro Audio events and it is this atmosphere that really helps build and nurture the strong sense of community experienced at Superbooth. Here are our top picks for 2022...
Undoubtedly the star of the show, the Oberheim OB-X8 was made available for everyone to play and aside from the usual “Jump” by Van Halen, some of the sounds that came out of them were nothing short of stunning.
An amalgamation of all the favourite synths of the OB Series the OB-X8 manages the extraordinary feat of keeping true to its heritage while providing much more sonic versatility than any original synthesiser in the OB-series. In the flesh it exudes quality throughout and is a real joy to play.
Buchla’s stand was understandably hugely popular, with a complete 200 Series Classic Reissue showcasing two new modules - the 288 Time Domain Processor and 248 Multiple Arbitrary Function Generator, two iconic modules that have shaped the 200 Series in the past. We’re looking forward to making these modules available in the UK as soon as they start shipping.
Buchla also showed the new Preset Card for the 208C that removes the need for an iPad and can connect via USB to a computer.
SoundFreak and EMS
Staying in the Buchla format, Soundfreak were showing three new 4U format (Buchla-style) modules based on the legendary EMS VCS-3, built under licence. For people unaware, Soundfreak is the project of Alina Kalancea from Digitana who worked with Future Sound of London to bring the FSOL: Digitana SX-1 and EMS - inspired synthesizer.
The three modules are very impressive and will sound reassuringly familiar to Buchla fans, starting from the Triple VCO and its recognisable Frequency controls, the Trapezoidal envelope and the filter. The possibility of porting the EMS VCS-3 to the 4U format is certainly an intriguing proposition and we’ll be curious to see what else they’ll bring.
Northern Light Modular
Sitting outside the official show, Northern Light Modular were showcasing some of their new modules on a solar-powered booth. Visitors were able to play with their Model HQP Quad Panner, Model hQK Quad Keyframer and a powerful upgrade to their Card Oc, now allowing up to 24-points of controls.
Random Source / Serge
After a great show last year, Random*Source / Serge showcased their versions of the Paperface panel, an upgraded version of the old serge panels with better tracking, and accurate clocking.
The highlight was, however, the Resonant Q module, now voltage-controlled. A short demonstration blew us away and this new iteration will bring a whole new world of possibilities to Serge musicians.
As always, it was impossible to walk past Gert’s Jalass booth of 5U goodness. This year Gert showed us a mini version of Hans Zimmer’s live system. Although one case, the monolithic system remains nonetheless incredibly powerful and sounds nothing short of (inter)stellar.
This was also the occasion to show two new modules, the M532 Voltage Controlled Phase Shifter and M502S Simple Dual Voltage Controlled Amplifier.
This year Erica Synths showcased its new version of the Syntrx and the updated Perkons HD-01. The Syntrx MkII was perhaps the biggest attraction on the Erica Synth’s booth. The striking new look and redesign delivers a great synthi-like experience and sounds awesome.
The Perkons HD-01 has seen some improvements with an expanded compressor to make it snap.
Discovered at Superbooth last year with their Anima-Phi physical modelling synthesizer, we decided to go back and were hugely impressed by the updates that were featured in such a small box.
The Anima-Phi is a digital synthesizer using physical modelling to create impressively realistic and completely unique sounds with a level of playability I have never seen at this price point. Certainly a synthesizer and a company to watch in the future.
The Soma booth was buzzing for the whole duration of the show, where they presented the Terra, a new microtonal, organic digital synthesizer that is as unique as it is beautiful. Like so many of Soma’s instruments, Terra is deep and complex and yet invites the user to discover and play outside the traditional confines of electronic music.
Rhodes also exhibited their highly anticipated MK-8, the latest development in their legendary line of electric pianos, now made in Leeds, UK. Built to the highest specs including the same keybed as the one found on the Steinway Concert Grand. It also now includes stereo XLR outputs in addition to stereo unbalanced output to connect to an amp for the traditional sound and more importantly it is noticeably lighter. The preamp section includes distortion, a powerful EQ and vari-pan to recreate the effects of the suitcase versions of yesteryear.
Klaus Fischer Audios
We were blown away by this pitch/delay processor originally built-in 1978. The quality of the processing is up there with the best and an incredible tool to modify pitch and mangle the sound beyond recognition. Think somewhere between AMS DMX and Eventide H3000 but with an additional layer of performance that is unparalleled. What impressed most, however, was the super-low latency and the very low number of artefacts. The pitch transitions are very smooth and harmonies can be created with superior realism.
It is always difficult to cover everything at Superbooth but we got to see first-hand some amazing products such as the DF Audio Minibay, Mixthesizer or the Octopus Euclidean sequencer, or the incredible Knif Audio Knifonium.
This year’s Superbooth felt perhaps more like a gathering of old friends, with more exhibitors and more visitors, keeping the casual, relaxed feel of last year that sets it apart from anything else in this industry. After what has been a tough couple of years for anybody in business, It was great to see so much energy and innovation on display. But perhaps more than anything else, it felt good to be back to cement friendships, make new ones, and feel part of an effervescent community.