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Superbooth17 Day One: The Weird and the Wonderful

April 21, 2017
On April 20, 2017, Superbooth17 opened its doors to a record number of attendees and exhibitors. Hosted this year in Berlin, Germany at the FEZ—a sort of space-and-science center for children housed in an old East German building—the event offers a wide variety of workshops, discussions, concerts, and films, as well as a trade show. The manufacturers in attendance run the gamut from major MI players (Yamaha, Roland, Novation, Avid, Propellerhead, Clavia, Softube, u-he, Adam) to the bigger modular companies (Doepfer, 4MS, Make Noise, Rossum) on down to the smaller developers. Moreover, the place is packed with visitors from around the world, who were enjoying the event's focus towards hands-on music making. 
Here are a few highlights from the first day of the show. 
The Soviet-era Polivoks has made a surprise return. This officially licensed, fully analog module includes 85% NOS parts, but offers a few extras such as limited MIDI and extra routing capabilities. Although the entire panel is in Russian, you can get an English-language faceplate (or simply turn it over for the translation). Only 100 of these are being built, and they'll run you about $1,850. 
 Italian synth maker Soundmachines was showing an "alcohol-to-CV" Breathalyzer module. 
 The Retrokits RK-002 Smart MIDI Cable for use with Korg volcas and other products. 
In addition to announcing the MX-88 keyboard workstation, Yamaha showed a really fun, experimental project—the Reface Robot, which mechanically controls the parameters of the Reface synth in an LFO-like way,  There are three rows of knobs on the controller, the top one for waveshape (sine, triangle, square, sample-and-hold, etc.), the second row for depth, and the other for speed. You can also put each robotic arm into manual mode and move it directly. Practical? Who cares! It's a labor of love from their creative team and it was a blast to play with.
CG Products, a German modular manufacturer, showed their wares in this cool, custom-made case.
Ableton was showing how Lego Mindstorm's products can be creatively used to control Live using MIDI over Bluetooth. A pendulum set the tempo, while a series of rotating objects changed notes and the cutoff frequency of a filter. Quite clever and surprisingly musical. 
Software developer u-he is showing its soon-to-be released synth, Repro-5, which is an hommage to a classic polysynth you may recognize from the control layout. The few presets it has so far sound very rich. 
This is probably the only device at the show that doesn't have CV and gate I/O, yet it's essential for any studio environment.
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