Superbooth 2023 began yesterday, and with it a flood of new product announcements, demos, and so on. This year it seems the synth industry is bouncing back from its relative slump with a vengeance.

There’s a lot and I’m not interested in all of it, but:

  • WMD which went out of business last year, is kind of coming back in the form of AMMT, a partnership of four designers including William Matheson. They’ll make some of the more popular WMD modules and possibly create new versions of some of the good ideas that could use an update, as well as creating new things. So that’s pretty promising.
  • Noise Engineering announced the Roucha firmware for their Legio platform. It’s a filter and wavefolder, which I thought might be redundant since I like Lacrima Versio so much already. But no, it’s a great combination and my new favorite Legio firmware. Legio and Versio just keep on giving!
  • Korg showed the Acoustic Synthesis Phase 5, a very cool little box that’s like a miniature Rhodes electric piano with an Ebow for every tine, for haunting sustained tones. It’s just an R&D prototype, but maybe they’re showing it to gauge the public interest. This particular public is very interested.
  • TipTop has a couple of big Buchla collaborations, as expected… but they also announced a new thing called ART that carries polyphonic note messages on a cable within Eurorack. It is kind of crazy, apparently proprietary and incompatible with anything else. Personally, I don’t much like the trend of polyphonic MIDI stuff masquerading as modular, and this is worse because they’ve invented a whole new format for it that can’t talk to anything else.
  • Out of Xaoc’s new stuff, the one item of interest to me is Rostock — a shift register or delay line for the Liebniz system. It has a max of 64 stages, which is decent-sized for sequencing but miniscule for an audio delay. But the potential here is high. You can loop the data, and optionally XOR it with incoming data. There are independent clock inputs for each bit, which would be great for mutating patterns and potentially wild for audio. The stage length is constructed from 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, and 1-stage sections, so as you change the length you switch which buffers are active and introduce glitches. It’s the kind of thing I would like to experiment with, but I’m not sure what I would drop out to make room. Not Synchrodyne because it’s also a useful clock for Liebniz.

But the biggest news to me by far is the Make Noise Spectraphon.

This is a DPO-style complex oscillator, but replace the two analog VCOs with digital spectral additive resynthesis…! In SAM mode it works as a sort of vocoder, analyzing input audio and translating it in real time to additive partials, with control over the range of analysis and a sort of spectral blurring or even a resonator kind of feel, with even and odd partial outputs. In SAO mode it uses stored arrays of additive data to synthesize, letting you scrub or step through the snapshots and offset the frequency of the odd and even partials. And in either mode you can FM it (apparently phase modulation since it leaves the fundamental sine output unaffected, and cross-FM is stable).

This sort of module is a serious chameleon, so some of the demos have sounded fantastic and very relevant to my interests, and some have been less to my liking. It all depends on the source material and what you do with it. The potential seems very high to me here. I can certainly see integrating it more with the software end of things, playing sample loops into it or using software drones as the source for its spectral data.

The FM-with-chords thing sounds very Akemie’s Castle to me. But being a complex oscillator with lots of timbral control puts it in Shapeshifter’s zone… and as an additive oscillator it’s also trading on Odessa’s ground. Obviously it’s not a direct equivalent of any of those, and it does some things none of those do either. It’s 34 HP, bigger than everything else I have except Akemie’s Castle. But aside from its size, it has the potential to disrupt more stuff; I feel like the best choice is to get one, try it out, and see what shakes loose.