Knobcon 9 took place over the weekend of 10-12 September 2021 and there were all sorts of synths, modules and devices that we hadn’t seen before. With the help of JAde Wii’s fine camera work, let’s see what we missed.
Big props to Digital Artist, YouTuber and Beat Maker JAde Wii who shot some great video over the whole weekend. JAde also operates under the name Dawless Jammin’ and is a talented video maker, producer and musician. Check out JAde’s stuff here – https://www.dawlessjammin.com/
Knobcon 9 took place in Chicagoland USA. It’s a synthesizer convention complete with performances, workshops and exhibitors from the world of synthesizers, modular and music technology. And we’re here to talk about the gear.
Here’s JAde’s first day at the show – below I’ve pulled out my highlights.
We’re kicking off with Modbap Modular, who arrived on the scene last year with the Per4mer effects Eurorack module. This year the company is showing the Osiris wavetable oscillator. We also saw the limited edition “Diggin in the Wires” white vinyl double LP produced by Modbap’s Corry Banks featuring all sorts of modular artists. Modbap was showing some little 20hp modular cases – a perfect companions to modules like the Osiris – that look lot like the 4MS Pods, with the same ability to daisy chain the power for desktop modular – nice!
Check out the video at around 3:48 for an explanation of the Osiris followed by a fantastic demo.
Five12 showed the Vector sequencer, with a full explanation and demo from 6:27.
ASM Hydrasynth Explorer and Deluxe
11:29 – First demos I’ve seen of these new Hydrasynth versions with a good explanation of the Explorer features. The Deluxe is covered from 14:17, with a good demo of the split and layer modes of the dual Hydrasynth engine.
18:05 – The wooden fronted STEM Modular looks like it’s expanded beyond what we saw at the online SynthBooth last year. The focus is on education and affordability, embracing the organic aesthetic of a brilliantly cheap and cheerful system. STEM Modular was showing the 84HP and 60HP Wave Station systems including a new Quad Window Comparator module to bring some sequencing to its racks.
21:16 – The indomitable Marc Doty had the new Buchla Music Easel in a briefcase and was happy to give up a few details while leaving us completely mystified by this iconic musical device and then awed by the demo. Essentially it has the new 208C version of the Easel, an enhanced keyboard and a new Input/Output module that can be many things.
24:21 – The Suit & Tie Guy is the man behind STG Soundlabs and the person behind Knobcon. I’ve never quite got a handle on what STG Soundlabs is about, it seems to have all sorts of projects on the go but I’m not sure what the actual products are. We reported on the Radiophonic 1 at NAMM 2019. But the company seems to be onto the Radiophonic 3 now with a whole 3-tier thing going on with different 60HP rows with different configurations. If you can work any of it out then let me know!
New Systems Instruments
NSI is a modular manufacturer operating out of the SF Bay Area I’ve not come across before. It had a new module called Inertia on show, a “universal movement simulator”. That sounds like an LFO to me but this generates output curves from input stimuli and the weight of its own motion – sounds intriguing. Inertia can be an oscillator, LFO divider, filter, envelope generator, LFO, phase-locked loop, slew limiter, percussive sound generator and more. Check it out from 30:15.
Day two! Here’s JAde’s video:
Synthrotek and Schottkey
Along with a demo of a video synth module that looked like it was running an arcade machine, there was a remarkable-looking AstroNoise module (3:59) that’s an 8-bit chiptune drum module with noise, LFOs and sub-oscillator.
IME Industrial Music Electronics
The people behind Piston Honda, Stillson Hammer and Kermit had some new modules to show. First up at 8:12 is the fabulously named Volkmires Inferno which is a granular synthesizer that was obviously in the prototype stage. Samples can be loaded from an SD card or recorded directly in and then granulise that into a new cloud of sounds.
We also saw the Andore Jr envelope generator with velocity inputs and LPG. And finally, at 9:07 the Stillson Hammer MK3 which adds gate keys above each step, more CV outputs, OLED display and song modes.
From Division 6 was showing off its new Dual Mini Synthesizer and MIDI expander (from 13:55) plus a light-up buffered multiple – although we still don’t know much about it.
Dial through to 14:47 for a first look at the ZOIA Euroburo with a little bit of a demo of… something.
17:17: Catalyst Audio is back from its Buchla adventure, where it produced the Red Panel series for Buchla USA. The company is now doing its own thing again with Eurorack versions of those modules. They look great! They are a recreation of the Buchla 100 series in Eurorack. Some of the modules already exist, others are coming out over the next 6 months or so.
Although JAde, a.k.a. Dawless Jammin’, is not into the computer side of things, she did stop by for a demo of the new version of VCV Rack (from 19:49).
From 22:32, you can see WMD present its full range of percussion modules including the Kraken snare drum which sounds amazing. At 24:26 you can see the prototype analogue oscillator with thru-zero FM and interesting sawtooth wave manipulations with windows cut out of the waveform that can be pulse width modulated.
Din Sync / Michigan Sound Works
Dial though to 27:57 for a demo of the MSW-810 synthesizer kit. We also see glimpses of the Din Sync 808 and 909 drum machines.
From 29:13 you can check out Grove Audio’s huge rack of 5U modules. The firm has 49 different MU modules and is now moving more into Eurorack to replicate some of its modules in the 3U format.
31:47: A quick run-through of the new Circuit Tracks and Circuit Rhythm. You can check out my review of the Circuit Rhythm here.
Head to 39:04 for Zlob’s demo of the VC F3DB fixed filter feedback distortion bank. It has 6 bands of voltage controlled filters that are overstuffed with gain, clipping and feedback. It’s epic.
41:24: OK200 was showing the Degree performance-orientated VCO touch controller. It has 56 touch-responsive keys and is designed to work with 4 independent VCOs. I’ve never seen this before and it was quite fascinating. It has built-in pitch bends, sequencing and note selection running through the touch controls.
Thank you JAde for taking us through Knobcon and whetting our appetite for Superbooth that starts tomorrow (at the time of writing this). Was there anything we missed? Let us know in the comments. Don’t forget to check JAde’s stuff out here.
More information about Knobcon and Superbooth
- Buchla Music Easel: Jade Wii
- IME Volkmires Inferno: Jade Wii
- IME Stillson Hammer Mk3: Jade Wii
- WMD Prototype oscillator: Jade Wii
- Zlob Modular VCF3db: Jade Wii
- OK200 Degree: Jade Wii