The biggest synth show of the year is over once again; Berlin’s Superbooth is the place to be if you have a passion for synthesisers and electronic music! Hot from the Berlin show floor, Gearnews editor Bob Malkowski gives his picks of The Best of Superbooth 2023.
Ah, Berlin! One of my favourite cities in the world and host to Superbooth, one of my favourite technology shows in the world! Superbooth is one of those shows that brings synth and electronic music aficionados and manufacturers together. It’s less of a trade show, and more a three-day hang-out for anyone and everyone into electronic music and synthesisers.
Amid the beautiful summer sunshine, Superbooth felt to have returned bigger and better than ever before. It can sometimes feel like an impossible task trying to take in everything the show has to offer! Nonetheless, here are my personal picks of The Best of Superbooth 2023!
Arriving early at the show on Thursday, I hot-footed it to the PWM booth to see the eagerly awaited Mantis being “unboxed” for the first time. Paul from PWM then explained the background to the synth and, being the hopeless romantic I am, I was drawn in by how personal and emotional this project was.
Synth nerds will know of the late Chris Hugget as the designer of the legendary EDP Wasp and OSCar synthesisers; The Mantis represents Chris’ final design collaboration. It’s easy to be blase about yet another subtractive synthesiser, but the Mantis had qualities that piqued my interest.
The sound was unique but with that unmistakable wasp aggression and bite. I loved the menu-free control panel which cleverly integrated preset selection without any screens. I sincerely hope the Mantis is a success for PWM; it will always stand as Chris Hugget’s epitaph.
Tasty Chips GR Mega & Integral Reverb
My counterpart editor at Gearnews.de, Marcus Schmahl, ushered me in the direction of the Tasty Chips booth. There on demonstration was the GR Mega, a beefed-up and enhanced version of the GR-1 granular synth. It’s easy to become jaded in the business, and feel that you’ve perhaps “heard it all before”. However, the sounds and textures I heard from the GR Mega came as a real surprise…
Packing in Spectral Synthesis, Granular Synthesis, Granular Slice and Tape Scratch Modes, it soon became clear that the GR Mega had incredible potential as a sound design tool. Tasty Chips focus on making powerful tools above aesthetics, and hence it would be easy to overlook this very workmanlike box. In the right hands though it’s capable of some absolutely astonishing sound manipulation and was undoubtedly one of my “wow” moments of the show.
I was also given a demonstration of their Integral Reverb pedal, which uses a clever implementation of convolution Reverb. Even on a noisy show floor, it produced dramatic, exciting and unique reverb textures I hadn’t heard before. Without a doubt making my list of The Best of Superbooth 2023.
Superlative Monolab 1210
Every now and again at Superbooth, something catches your eye and stands out. This year that “attention grabber” was the exquisitely designed Monolab 1210 from Superlative Instruments. I think the Monolab 1210 must rank as the most beautifully crafted synthesiser I’ve ever seen. Delicious design details such as the concentric waveform/width controls were utterly beguiling. Then, you spin the thing around and see how shallow and almost “skeletal” the design is.
The design is more than just skin deep, too! The LFO section can be configured as a third audio oscillator if required, making this seemingly minimal synth really quite versatile. This form factor will apparently be carried into a bespoke modular format, we’ve yet to see…
The best piece of industrial design I have ever seen at a music tech show, bar none!
KORG Phase 5 Acoustic Synthesiser
And now onto what is my personal highlight of the show, KORG Berlin’s prototype Phase 5 Acoustic Synthesiser. I have a deep love of electro-mechanical instruments, however, it’s no surprise that there’s been little innovation in the field for the last half-century. KORG Berlin, however, has just changed all of that…
We were ushered into KORG’s boho-chic trailer and given a talk on the technology behind the Phase 5. Immediately I recognised key elements from Wurlitzer’s long-expired patents on vibrating reeds and capacitor pickups; employed in their famous electric pianos (and not-so-famous reed organs). As is the case with innovation, however, KORG has taken that technology and brought it to a whole new level…
By using an inductive motor and the electronics available to us in 2023, I saw first-hand how it’s possible to use a physical oscillator as the basis of a new form of synthesiser. The technology is fascinating, elegant and beautiful; I pleaded with the kind people on the KORG stand to “please make something with this technology”. It was an undoubted highlight of my trip and, from the after-show discussions I had with other industry colleagues, a highlight of many others’ Superbooth 2023, too!
The Best of Superbooth 2023
And so, for another year, Superbooth is over. I’m already missing the atmosphere and feeling of being amongst a family of enthusiasts all in one place. Did you visit Superbooth this year? If so what was your impression of the show? Equally, if you’ve been following the coverage from home, what were your standout releases from this year’s Superbooth 2023? Drop us a line in the comments!
- PWM Mantis: Gearnews
- Tasty Chips GR-MEGA: Gearnews
- Tasty Chips Integral Reverb: Gearnews
- Superlative Monolab: Gearnews
- Korg Berlin Acoustic Synthesizer_phase 5: Korg Berlin