Whatever happened to

Whatever happened to  ·  Source: Robin Vincent

Looking back over the year there are a number of products that made a bit of a splash and then seem to vanish without a trace. Trade shows like NAMM and Superbooth are great places for showcasing prototypes but do they always make it to market? And where are those Kickstarter projects that promised so much? Well, I’ve done a bit of digging to see if I can discover the current status of the synthesizers and modules that were seen but are yet to arrive.

Behringer Model D

Behringer are having a bit of a time of it at the moment. After totally delivering on the Deep Mind 12 synthesizer all their talk of their Moog beating Model D hasn’t resulted in a whole lot. They also seem to be working up concepts on a load of other classic synthesizers while the Model D still doesn’t exist on their website. It was seen in the wild at Superbooth – I saw it, I touched its very small knobs. And it was promised for November. Currently, Guitar Center has estimated availability set to the 12th January 2018. Sweetwater, on the other hand, is playing it safe with March.

Behringer D Synthesizer

Behringer D Synthesizer

Uli Behringer has just published an update saying that the move to a larger factory was more troublesome than they thought and has been the cause of the delay. They hope to squeeze a couple of hundred out by the end of the year, more to follow in January. UPDATE – Behringer just posted an image on Facebook of a Model D in the wild so is it starting to happen.

More information here.

Shear Electronics Relic 6

One of the most awesome finds at NAMM this year was this Oberheim OB-X clone called the Relic 6. It was designed by the 18-year-old Jacob Brashears who became everyone’s new best friend as we all went mad for his reinvention. A website appeared with some interesting information about his research into the voicing of the Relic-6 and an email address to be added to the waiting list. They hoped to have a limited production run in the summer of 2017.

Shear Electronics Relic-6

Shear Electronics Relic-6

And then nothing. The last Facebook and Instagram posts were from the end of January. I made some enquiries and have heard nothing back. Maybe Jacob decided to go back to High School and sod this synthesizer lark. Or probably more likely Behringer (or some other company) gave him a bag of money for his designs on the condition that he keeps his mouth shut. It just all happened so fast after NAMM.

More information here.

Oberheim Eurorack SEM-X

Talking of Oberheim, the man Tom himself was there at NAMM with a Euroracked version of the SEM. It’s a condensed down version of the SEM with some additional features, although we’re still not sure what they are. It does have a cool 35 jack patch bay which is separate and so can be mounted either side of the synthesizer voice. I reached out to Mr Oberheim and he told me that they expect SEM-X products to emerge in the spring. So there’s still plenty to hope for and maybe NAMM 2018 will be showing a more finished product.

Oberheim SEM-X

Oberheim SEM-X

More information here.

System80 Rhythm Composer 808

Images of a TR-808 stuffed into Eurorack caused quite a stir back in January as System80 appeared on the scene. They are calling it the Rhythm Composer 808 for Eurorack and despite its size, it looks completely fabulous. Actually, it would be about the same size as the Roland Boutique TR-08 which is near as dammit 3U tall. The website still shows the teaser video and no further information. I spoke to Jeff at System 80 and he says that they have some news about the 808 in the New Year. And honestly, it was the unexpected demand for their JOVE Jupiter-6 filter module that’s put development back a little bit. That’s always a good problem to have.

System80 Rhythm Composer 808

System80 Rhythm Composer 808

More information here.

Dax & Winston Groove Engine

This was an awesome looking desktop MIDI and 16 channel CV step sequencer that appeared on Crowd Funding site Indiegogo back in July. It looked stunning and had a ridiculous too-good-to-be-true price point of $349. Sadly it was far too good to be true. After generating a load of interest a few independent synthesizer makers started to raise doubts on the project’s viability at those sorts of prices. In some very public discussions on Facebook it turned out that it was just a concept and there was no actual prototype in the works. The guy behind it, Miles Andy Thatch, tried to increase the prices to more realistic levels but everyone quickly lost confidence in it and the project crumbled. But fair play to him, he took good advice from people in the industry and decided not to pursue it.

Dax & Winston Groove Engine

Dax & Winston Groove Engine

I had a conversation with him on Twitter and this is what he said:

As a result of advice from many industry veterans, starting the campaign thus early without a prototype was a plan doomed to fail from the get go. So we’re going to start up with smaller performance units prior to handling a project this size… As a hard lesson learned from the Groove Engine project, there’s no benefit to announce anything based on just a concept. At this point, few small mix-n-match sequencing tools but nothing to write home about. When something news worthy comes up I will be sure to let you know.

He did have a great concept, so maybe it’s one to keep an eye on.

More information here.

4MS Spherical Wavetable Navigator

Saw this awesome module at Superbooth. With a similar layout to their Spectral Multiband Resonator, this sports 6 wavetable oscillators with a row of 6 LFOs. The oscillators are arranged in a sphere in 3D space and you sort of travel in the space between them, morphing from one position to another. It sounded flipping amazing.

Not a sausage of information since and in asking 4MS if they had any news the only response I got was “Nope, but we do have the Tapographic Delay shipping this week”.

4ms Spherical Wavetable Navigator

4ms Spherical Wavetable Navigator

More information here.

Erica Synths Drum Sequencer Computer

The fabulously retro looking Drum Sequencer was one of the finds of Superbooth. Those mechanical keyboard keys – you just have to play with them. It felt like you could be entering the nuclear launch codes, or defusing a computerised bomb – but with a groovy beat. It has 16 tracks of gate sequencing going on in this massive module. 12 tracks had accent outputs and it also has MIDI built in. It is rather irresistible. I had a chat with Erica Synths about it and they say it is nearing completion and they hope to be able to talk about in the new year. No big feature changes, it just takes a bit of time to perfect.

Erica Synths Drum Sequencer

Erica Synths Drum Sequencer

More information here.

Waldorf Quantum

A new synthesizer from Waldorf is always a cause for celebration and the Quantum 8-voice hybrid polysynth looked amazing when we saw it at Musikmesse. Since then there’s been nothing. There’s an image on the Waldorf website but no actual information. Most music stores have an entry for it with pricing ranging from £3500-£4000 and a splattering of specifications. Requests on the support forum for more information have been ignored, as has my approach via email. All a bit strange really. It was supposed to be here by now, but hopefully someone will perk up at Waldorf and give us an update.

Waldorf Quantum

Waldorf Quantum

More information here.

Rossum Electro-Music Assimil8or

This is the Eurorack sampler we’ve all been waiting for. From the guy behind the Emu samplers, the Assimil8or Phase Modulation Sampler has got to be awesome right? This was described as “tissue-ware” at Superbooth, meaning that it was just about holding together. But they hoped to have it in production after the summer. The latest Facebook update was in November showing the current version of the edit screen. In the discussion beneath the post Rossum said that they hope to have a completed module for NAMM in the New Year.

Rossum Electro-Music Assimil8or

Rossum Electro-Music Assimil8or

More information here.

Missing in Action

There were a few others that made a splash and then vanished without a trace. Catalyst Audio had a range of Buchla modules for Eurorack at NAMM but only have the single module on the website. UPDATE – Catalyst Audio just got in touch to say they are just starting to ship the new modules so that’s good news! Fabulous Silicon were showing the interesting looking Paradigm synthesizer at NAMM but haven’t moved forward with it. There was an Ableton Link Eurorack module project called Pink-0 that kept up some potential for a couple of months but now seems dormant. Tinami were going to let you custom build your own MIDI controller – the web app that lets you design your controller is still functional but you can’t turn it into a reality. UPDATE – Tinami got in touch to say they are still very much alive and working hard on making it a reality, more news to come.

And finally….

Adidas TR-808 Trainers

These Adidas trainers with an inbuilt drum machine and Roland TR-808 styling were a massive Internet hit back in May. Apparently, 6 billion people saw the concept. But it was purely a concept and a fun idea that seemed unlikely to see the light of day. I assumed them to be missing without a trace but these beat infused shoes may yet become a reality. Margo Neely from Neely & Daughters, the firm behind the concept, got in touch to say that there’s still masses of interest in the project. She says that top brands, celebrities, venture capitalists and crowdfunding sites all believe it’s a goer. Most importantly the leadership at Roland has been “incredibly supportive and enthusiastic”. She’s slightly more coy about Adidas suggesting that they are also considering offers from similar brands with similar cachet in the lifestyle space.

What is perhaps more interesting is that Margo and her firm have been inundated with requests and offers from all sorts of top brands in the electronic music industry. And now Margo and her team are hard at work on a “revolutionary product” that, she claims, will surpass the TR-808 trainers in every conceivable way. There’s talk of lifestyle, wearables and game-changing, which all sounds very exciting. If any of Margo’s enthusiasm and self-belief could ever materialise as a product then I think it’s going to be awesome.

Concept Adidas TR-808 shoe

Concept Adidas TR-808 shoe

More information here.

Manufacturing musical gear and getting it to market is hard. Hopefully, we’ll see at least some of these marvellous devices appear in 2018. And I hope to see many more risk takers and potential products to get excited about. If you have any updated news on these or other products then please get in touch.