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Brand new synths and drum machines, workshops and opportunities to meet manufacturers… Greg Scarth explains why Berlin’s Superbooth has quickly become a key fixture on the electronic music calendar.

Superbooth isn’t your average synth meet. In fact, it’s become one of the most important annual events on the calendar for the electronic music industry. So much so that you could already class it as a smaller version of the all-conquering trade shows like NAMM and Musikmesse.

Set up by Andreas Schneider, the founder of much-loved Berlin synth store SchneidersLaden and its distribution company Schneiders Büro, the second annual Superbooth event took place this weekend in the German capital. Moving a few miles south-east out of the city from its previous home at Funkhaus, this year’s event took place in the larger, woodland-shrouded FEZ family activity centre, offering a series of workshops, performances and panel discussions plus opportunities to get hands-on with the exhibitors’ kit.

Superbooth is billed as a synth meet, but the huge involvement of manufacturers and software developers shows how important it’s already becoming. Just about every major synth manufacturer was present at this year’s event – many of whom were making their second visit, having appeared at last year’s instalment. Schneider’s links to the modular synth community also meant there were countless smaller companies present, with some of them making their first forays into this kind of event.

 

The key difference between Superbooth and events like Frankfurt’s annual Musikmesse, which has taken place every spring for nearly four decades, is that Superbooth seems far less concerned with the business aspects that trade shows cater to so well. At Musikmesse (as at the NAMM shows in California),

the emphasis sometimes feels like it’s more on men in suits doing deals rather than musicians, instruments and music. The opposite is true at Superbooth, with a focus on letting members of the public interact with synths and the people who build them.

#boothH256 #superbooth17 #ninakraviz

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As a result, Superbooth is a much more enjoyable event to visit, for a number of reasons. At a show like NAMM, the relentless barrage of sights and sounds can soon become tiresome. Superbooth is more laid back in every way: the industry are there, but you’ll also find members of the public chatting to their favourite module designers, kids playing with super-rare synths, or Nina Kraviz excitedly checking out Din Sync’s excellent reverse-engineered TB-303 replicas and the accompanying portrait of a cat in a space suit.

Dinsync RE303s @ #superbooth17

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You can judge how seriously manufacturers are already taking Superbooth by the number of major players who unveiled new products here: Novation showed off their new Peak polysynth and Circuit Mono Station in public for the first time; Elektron had two of their new Digitakt samplers to play with; U-he unveiled a pre-beta (but fully functional) version of a new synth, RePro-5, inspired by the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5; Behringer had DeepMind6 and Minimoog clones. Plenty of smaller manufactures joined in on the act too, with the Bastl Thyme, Sherman Filterbank 2 Compact, Rossum Assimil8or and Eowave Quadrantid Swarm among others making debuts.

The elephant in the room was the fact that this year’s event was bigger than last year’s, but not necessarily better. A few manufacturers could be heard bemoaning the fact that the less intimate venue and higher number of exhibitors made this year’s event feel less special than the first instalment. Rumours that Superbooth 2018 will open the doors to DJ equipment were also greeted reluctantly, with the fear that it might dilute the appeal of the event.

As one of the major manufacturers told us, it’s “harder to make noise” at shows like NAMM and Musikmesse. Not in the sense of blasting people away with bleeps and beats – although there was plenty of that too – but in the sense that it’s harder to stand out from the crowd with new product announcements. There’s a long way to go before Superbooth reaches those levels – Musikmesse attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year to its giant exhibition spaces – but as Superbooth grows, the challenge for its organisers is to keep the magic alive. So long as it doesn’t become just another trade show, Superbooth is one of the most enjoyable events on the calendar.

Author Greg Scarth
26th April, 2017

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