The Berlin Superbooth show comes of age with a host of major launches and an overwhelming display of modular synth love.
It might still be a long way off the cataclysmic orgy of gear fever that is the winter NAMM show, but Berlin’s Superbooth has become a key focus of the calendar for synth manufacturers. Certainly on a European level, it’s clear that a number of major brands now take it more seriously than the long-running Frankfurt Musikmesse, which was the main event for product launches for some time but seems to have slipped off the radar in recent years. Superbooth is a much smaller event in terms of physical scale and visitor numbers, but it’s impressive how quickly it’s matured.
The biggest launch of this year’s event came from California’s Dave Smith, who attended NAMM in January but chose not to exhibit. Superbooth played host to the public unveiling of his new Prophet X, a flagship samples-and-synthesis keyboard which was being demonstrated by Gerry Bassermann on behalf of DSI. Undoubtedly the biggest single new release of the show, it’s notable that DSI chose to unveil it here rather than at one of the bigger shows.
it's clear that a number of major brands now take Superbooth more seriously than the long-running Frankfurt Musikmesse
Elsewhere, Korg showed off the software development kit for their new Prologue synth; software doyens U-he debuted their first hardware product in the form of the CVilization Eurorack module; Roland brought along their new System-500 modules (the SYS-510 synth voice, SYS-505 VCF, SYS-531 mixer and SYS-555 utility module); Moog showed off pretty much their full range of products on a large stand, although they didn’t have the Subharmonicon present, saving it for this month’s Moogfest (as with the later announced Grandmother).
Despite the increasing presence of the bigger brands, Superbooth hasn’t lost its roots. The show began life as a way for Andreas Schneider to showcase some of the equipment – largely Eurorack modular-focussed – which he sells and distributes via Schneiders Büro and SchneidersLaden. The sheer number of modular synth brands present this year was remarkable in its own right, but the fact that the majority of them were showing off new products was even more impressive.
The new modular releases were too numerous to list in their entirety, but some highlights which caught our eye included a prototype sampler module from ALM/Busy Circuits, the Eurorack version of Modor’s comb filter, Bastl Instruments’ new Timber ‘dual waveform lumberjack’ and a brutal techno drum system from Erica Synths.
The key difference between Superbooth and the more traditional shows is the fact that it isn’t just a trade event. Musikmesse and (to a slightly lesser extent) NAMM are fairly sterile events populated in large part by men in suits doing deals with each other. Superbooth of course has a heavy trade presence (morning sessions are trade-only), but in the afternoon as members of the public arrive, the show takes on a unique atmosphere. It’s that mixture of real musicians, manufacturers, synth enthusiasts and industry types that gives Superbooth it’s own personality: this is an event that feels like it’s really come of age.