Superbooth 22 was a huge success, full of a vast array of electronic music-making machines. Here’s what caught my eye in new modules and Eurorack.
We did get quite a bit of information about new releases in the lead up to the show. However, there were plenty of surprises, sneaky prototypes and solid demonstrations to enjoy as the show unfolded. In this Midweek Modular roundup of highlights, I’ll be gathering together the modules that really stood out to me. For the full show coverage do hop over to our Superbooth 22 page.
The show as a whole had a groovy festival vibe with many exhibitors dotted around in tents outside and further out in the Bungalow space. Fortunately, the weather was very kind and beer and food were plentiful. As a few modular makers said to me it’s been three days of making music, drinking beer and meeting up with old and new friends. I think the fact that you can’t buy anything at the show brings a level of relaxation to the proceedings and lets people enjoy the place and the gear without the pressure of selling, holding stock or taking money. As a synth show, you can’t beat it.
Making Sound Machines Stolperbeats
We first saw this a week or two before the show but it has lost none of its intrigue. In person it was every bit as interesting as the video clips had suggested and is going to be one to look out for when it’s released in June.
I really like the way the patterns for the Kick and Snare channels were visually mapped out in 64 steps. So you had what amounted to a 4-bar loop that you could program and see exactly what’s going on without having to go to another page or bank. The shuffling options were weird and fascinating with more brilliantly visual representation going on. It feels really well designed, solid and engaging. I wonder whether a less groovy version, that just ran the pattern side could be half the size and still awesome?
Bastl Instruments Pizza
Launched with a wonderfully animated video of “Lizza and her journey through lend (sic) of shapes and waveforms” the Bastl Instruments Pizza is a delightfully weird hybrid digital oscillator. Pizza contains three interlocking forms of digital sound generation focused around FM crossfading and waveshaping. It then falls into additive synthesis, phase modulation, Ring Modulation and wave folding. It’s like an adventure playground of messing about with FM waveforms.
I’m not entirely sure what’s going on but the sonic possibilities are fascinating, the modulation vast and the control system looks fun.
An unexpected release from Eventide as it’s been a good five years since the release of their last and only Eurorack module. Misha is a strange interval-based instrument and sequencer. It has an array of colourful buttons labelled from -4 to +4 and on each press it will leap to the next note by the interval denoted by its number. So hit +1 to run up a scale, or hit +3 to go up by thirds etc. This gives you an interestingly playable interface in any context.
You can dial in keys and scales to fit what you want to do and then record your performance into the sequencer. The display is very helpful in understanding what’s happening and there are loads of playing modes and ways of manipulating the melodies.
The result is something that’s unusual in Eurorack, very musical and with three channels for chords over CV or MIDI. It desperately needs a more impressive demo as it’s all sounding a bit plinky-plonky at the moment and is almost outrageously wide. Should be available after the summer for $599. It’s more of a highlight because it’s different rather than something I must have!
Dreadbox Dysmetria and more
Dreadbox surprised us with another limited edition desktop/Eurorack DIY synth in the shape of Dysmetria. This follows on from the Dysphonia that they released last year but this time it’s more of an analogue groove synthesizer that perhaps takes some influence from the Moog DFAM.
Dysmetria has a pair of oscillators, a noise generator, multimode filter and a sequencer. It’s looking to run simple bass and percussion lines in a very hands-on, intuitive approach. Again there will be a limited run and they come as DIY kits that you put together. If the Dysphonia is anything to go by they won’t be a difficult build, just a bit of soldering and assembly.
Perhaps the even bigger news is that Dreadbox is bringing back Erebus and Hades in the same format over the summer making for a brilliant collection of modular synths that can run on your desktop or in your Eurorack. Dysmetria is available now for €200 ex VAT.
ALM Busy Circuits ASQ-1 Sequencer
This has been knocking around as an idea in the heads of BusyCircuits for quite a few years. But now it’s ready to be unleashed and it’s a very cute sequencer with lovely clacky keys and a lot of possibilities.
It has two channels of SH-101 style step-sequencing which means you just hit the keys or the rest button to create a dead-easy sequence of up to 128 notes. It can quantise the pitch of incoming voltages to use it like an arpeggiator. And then there are four trigger outputs for running percussion where you can use the keys to create patterns up to 64 steps.
ASQ-1 is a very neat and versatile sequencing solution for both melody and drums which looks like a lot of fun to play. Should be available in the summer for around £300.
Jolin Lab Goblet
I was struggling to understand what Jolin Labs’ new modules were about until I was treated to a demo. I learned that Jolin really likes noise, distortion, and physical interactivity. So, many of their modules include cascading signal paths and touch plates that can both ruin and rescue things.
One module I liked, in particular, was the Goblet optocoupler filter and distortion. It has a pair of faders and other controls that are easy to understand plus a couple of touchpoints that send it to oblivion. The naked look is also very interesting. Jolin has a range of modules that are designed to have the PCB and front panel all as a single element, so essentially, there is no front panel. The result is very striking and quite brilliant in the flesh.
The Gitgud 9 LFO chain is also pretty awesome.
This module was kicking up a storm in a tent at Superbooth. It combines a side-chain compressor with a 909-style kick drum to give you a single, solid module that will pull that kick front and centre of your mix. It can do it in a traditional, pumping sidechain way or it can do some spectral tricks to push kick drum frequencies to the fore.
Kickain is a party in a module that’s perfect at the end of your signal chain. Of course, the 909 kick may not be what you’re after in which case there is an increasing range of sidechain compressor modules appearing on the market, but for ease of use, Kickain knocks it out of the park.
Erica Synths LXR Eurorack
While the Perkons and Syntrx were stealing all the limelight at the Erica Synths booth, the LXR was also turning some heads as a source of Eurorack percussion.
LXR Eurorack is a drum brain taken from the LXR-02 desktop digital drum machine that Erica built with Sonic Potions. It’s a 6-voice digital percussion module with 7 trigger inputs, 6 accents, 5 assignable CV inputs and 4 outputs. You have a different synth engine for each voice and you can build kits that you can also morph between.
Each voice has a lot of parameters you can edit via the encoders and display. There’s a bit of menu diving required but it has a lot of scope for some very individual sounds. LXR should be available in the summer for around €400 ex VAT.