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Physical Activity

Physical Activity

The Superbooth show in Berlin has become one of the highlights of the electronic musician’s calendar, and for good reason. Who could fail to enjoy an event that allows you to check out the latest innovations in synth design, immerse yourself in ambient drone music and eat currywurst, whilst exploring an East German children’s centre? In a forest?

The buzz products at Superbooth are a good indicator of industry trends, and the direction of travel this year was intriguing. There were, naturally, plenty of new analogue synths and modules, with significant launches including UDO’s droolworthy Super Gemini, Tiptop Audio’s ambitious polyphonic Eurorack standard, and a parting gift from Wasp and OSCar designer Chris Huggett in the shape of the PWM Mantis. But there was also an unprecedented focus on a previously neglected synthesis method.

Physical modelling was pioneered by Yamaha nearly 30 years ago, but although the technology has since delivered some stunning software instruments recreating pianos and orchestral instruments, it has never really broken into the mainstream in the way that, say, wavetable synthesis has. If the stand‑out product launches at Superbooth 2023 were anything to go by, that may be about to change.

The buzz products at Superbooth are a good indicator of industry trends, and the direction of travel this year was intriguing.

With their Objekt soft synth, Reason Studios seem to have reined in the tendency of physical modelling to be unpredictable and clangorous. There’s something uncanny about its output, as though we’re hearing real instruments from an alternate universe. By contrast, Erica Synths’ Steampipe positively revels in the tendency of physical modelling to be unpredictable and clangorous, yet somehow retains an organic, musical quality.

Most interesting of all was the prototype “acoustic synthesizer” that Korg Berlin were showing in their wagon in the woods. (Superbooth is the kind of event where multinational corporations show things in wagons in the woods.) This is not physical modelling synthesis but physical synthesis, using electrostatic pickups both to capture and to modify the resonant behaviour of steel tongues. There is clearly a fair way to go before it can form the basis of an actual product, but the concept and the execution are fascinating. A personal highlight of the show was the opportunity to interview designer Tatsuya Takahashi for the SOS YouTube channel: https://sosm.ag/superbooth-takahashi

Finally, talk of shows brings me to our own GearFest UK, which was such a success in 2022 that it’s grown into a two‑day event this year. Across the weekend of July 15th‑16th, GearFest will give you the chance to get hands‑on with the latest pro audio and synth gear at Tileyard in King’s Cross, Europe’s largest studio complex. Visit www.gearfestuk.com to register for tickets and check out the ever‑growing list of exhibitors.

And if it's just synths you're looking for, Sound On Sound's SynthFest UK event will be back in Sheffield, UK on 7th October 2023. We’ll see you there!

Sam Inglis Editor In Chief