Although accordions and mandolins might first come to mind when you think of Italian instruments, keep in mind that the country has been a source of influential products for generations—from historic keyboards by Farfisa, Crumar, Fatar, and Elka, to popular hardware and software from MarkBass and IK Multimedia, not to mention boutique synths by Frap Tools, GRP, and Soundmachines. So, it makes perfect sense that Italy should also have its own world-class instrument and pro-audio event.
Valeria Vito, owner of PCNA Electronics (pcna.it), holds the tiny circuitboard for her cool, low-cost DIY theremin kit.
Staged in the outskirts of Turin at the historic Lavanderia a Vapore (Italian for “steam laundry”), Soundmit billed itself as an International Sound Summit and delivered on that promise. The three-day event not only provided an opportunity for attendees to get hands-on time with new products from around the world, but it also included a program of pro-level workshops. Run by topnotch music professionals such as Enrico Cosimi, Gianni Vallino and Gianni Proietti (aka Gattobus), the workshops included “Modular Synthesis with VCV Rack” (the burgeoning, open-source virtual Eurorack synth), “Mastering for Different Media: CD, Vinyl, Digital Download, Streaming,” and “Synthesizing 808.” Unlike other events that I’ve attended, the Soundmit workshops were very well-curated and timed so that they wouldn’t overlap, allowing visitors to catch everything.
Hands-on Eurorack demos
Dozens of manufacturers were represented in the tradeshow portion, ranging from major brands (Roland, Arturia, Yamaha, etc.) to boutique companies that have never shown their wares outside of Europe. For example, Finegear (finegear.net) showed prototypes of its low-cost, modular DIY mixer called Mixerblocks, which allows you to create a personalized configuration for less than $100 a channel. And if the theremin is your thing, Nori Ubukata has altered the traditional circuit in his handcrafted Theresyn (theresyn.com) products to achieve greater expressivity. His instruments have CV and trigger outs for use with external synths, and one model even has a set of resonant strings on the back that are activated by a bone-conduction transducer.
The Fingersonic EXP-1
Other Soundmit highlights include the Arthur series of high-end portable mixers by Schertler (schertler.com); Keen Association’s Buchla-inspired Polyphonic Touch’N’Run Voltage Array controller and Graphic Waveform Generator module (sssrlabs.com); the Audio-DJ (audio-dj.com) SP3 stereo mixer with three tube-based channels and 3-band EQ; the outstanding Frap Tools (fraptools.com) Sapel “tamed random source” module and high-quality UNO cases; and the killer Fingersonic (fingersonic.com) EXP-1, an open-source, portable workstation disguised as a toy keyboard.
Visit Soundmit.com to learn more.