Highlights From Knobcon 2021

After pausing last year due to the pandemic, synthesizer enthusiasts once again gathered in Chicago for Knobcon 2021 this past weekend. Though this comeback show was not as jam-packed as previous years, companies from all over the globe still came to showcase their latest and greatest, and we wanted to highlight a couple of the most exciting new introductions.

Osiris by Modbap Modular

This year, the coolest new module on display was the Osiris by Modbap Modular—makers of the popular multi-fx module the Per4mer. The Osiris, introduced by Corry Banks in collaboration with Ess Mattisson of Fors, is a bi-fidelity wavetable oscillator made for Eurorack and sized at only 12-hp.

"I always feel like I want to explain bi-fidelity, because it's a term I've kind of made up, just like ‘modbap’—[it's] this idea of having hi-fi and lo-fi coexisting in one space,” Banks said. “The module runs at 96kHz; it has this fidelity knob, or parameter, that lets you dial in lo-fi characteristics, [which are] kind of inspired by the Amiga computers of old and old samplers."

The bi-fidelity can be dialed in via the Fidelity knob and is CV controllable. There’s several timbre or waveshaper modes. It also includes FM, phase modulation, and a pitch quantizer. Osiris’ wavetable features four banks of 32 wavetables each (128 wavetables in total). Each wavetable has 32 waveforms at 256 samples per waveform.

Banks went on to explain, "You scan through two dimensions of wavetables with the X and Y axis knobs. You’re using X to scroll up and down through wavetables and Y to scroll side to side through the waveforms, and you can modulate all of that and start to get these really interesting textures."

The Osiris also packs a sub oscillator that adds subharmonic notes on top of the wavetable by default. The sub can be tracked independently as it comes with its own sub-volt per octave pitch input, essentially adding a second oscillator with extra waveforms like square, sine, and triangle.

There is a built-in VCA with envelope control via the Decay knob/input, making the Osiris an ideal primary oscillator that does great in a performance rack for transitioning from soft sustained notes to percussive plucks. The Osiris should be among every Eurorack user’s wishlist. The Osiris will retail for $359 USD, with an expected ship date of October 1.

Honorable mention of the coolest new gear at Knobcon ‘21 belongs to Ashun Sound Machines, the innovative creators of the Hydrasynth.

ASM has introduced two awesome synths, the Explorer and Deluxe, that take the original Hydrasynth architecture even further. Both of these synths are sporting the same engine as the Hydrasynth, and patches are completely cross-compatible with the original.

The Hydrasynth Deluxe is the new flagship Hydrasynth, offering a dual-sound engine setup. At 73-keys, it features the largest keybed with polyphonic aftertouch (what ASM calls the "PolyTouch"). The two sound engines on the Deluxe feature three oscillators, dual wave-mutators, and two filters that can be run in series or parallel.

Hydrasynth Deluxe Introduction

With double the power of a single Hydrasynth, the Deluxe further expands on ASM’s unique approach to modulation. Pierce explains, "We’re allowing you to kind of pick and choose what you want and modulate everything from everything. You just kind of have a free palette to do what you want with it."

The Explorer is an amazing mini-synth and quite possibly the most advanced in its class. It features a 37-note semi-weighted keyboard that runs the same engine as the Hydrasynth and can run on AA batteries. The solid metal chassis and PolyTouch keybed puts the Explorer ahead of the pack of similar portable mini-synths because it doesn’t feel flimsy or too light.

Hydrasynth Explorer Introduction

The Explorer lacks a sequencer but makes up for it, Pierce explains, with its arpeggiator and five LFOs. "Our LFOs also have the ability to turn into a step mode, where you can lock them to semitones and use them as their own step sequencers. So then you have five step sequencers [five LFOs] built into it, and that could modulate everything you want from pitch, filter, mutators—whatever you want.”

The new Hydrasynth Deluxe and Hydrasynth Explorer are both expected to ship in November of this year. The former will retail for $1,999 USD and the latter will go for a more affordable $799 USD. Check back soon for preorder availability of all these products on Reverb.

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