The Synths of Knobcon 2016

This was a big weekend for new synth products.

Friday saw the release of the Roland SYSTEM-8, the Roland TB-03, and the Roland TR-09. Saturday and Sunday followed up with the fifth annual Knobcon, a gathering just outside of Chicago featuring some of the biggest synthesizer enthusiasts and manufacturers.

Reverb sent a small crew to get the scoop on the latest releases and commune with fellow gear nerds. Here’s what caught our eye.

Qu-Bit Chord

SoCal synth makers Qu-Bit had one of the hottest modules at the convention. Their extremely innovative Chord brings polyphony to the Eurorack world with a unique and thoroughly well-designed approach.

Offering intelligent harmonization with extensive control over chord structure and inversions, the Chord makes for a fantastic composer that offers a more musical approach to modular synthesis.

Arturia MatrixBrute

Announced for Winter NAMM in January, the Arturia MatrixBrute has been delayed as production ramps up for most of the year.

A behemoth monosynth that packs the Minimoog-style format with a bunch of modern features and an innovative matrix interface, the MatrixBrute seems poised and priced to enter the void left by the Moog Voyager when it stopped production earlier last year.

While access was relatively secretive at Winter NAMM, this biggest of the Brutes was available at Knobcon for fully amplified demos, generating a never-ending line to play it.

Behringer DeepMind 12

The most hyped synth of the summer, the Behringer DeepMind 12 was finally on display and ready to play at Knobcon this year.

Much of the attention on the synthesizer was generated by the juxtaposition of the instrument’s ambition, a 12-voice analog polysynth, with Behringer’s less-than-sterling reputation for sound and build quality.

Regardless of any controversy on that front, the DeepMind generated a huge amount of interest at the conference. Even with multiple units on hand, the exhibit was consistently crowded with attendees looking to demo the instrument.

FutureRetro 512 Touch Keyboard

The FutureRetro 512 takes the capacitive touch keyboard concept to its logical conclusion, offering a super flexible, premium take on the idea.

Extensive support for sequencing and custom scales - both MIDI and CV output - and top-notch build quality make this a best-in-class keyboard solution for not only Eurorack cases but any kind of electronic production and performance.

Korg Volca Kick

The latest in Korg’s red-hot Volca series, the Kick focuses on doing one thing and doing it well in a compact format. It’s purely based around providing analog kicks, with a MIDI programmable pitch and full control over the envelope in real-time.

Support for syncing with the rest of the Volca family is of course on-board. If the previous Volca models have set any precedent, this is sure to be a highly in-demand unit right out of the gate.

EarthQuaker Devices Tine Machine

Earthquaker Devices made a splash at the convention with a unique tine-based system that combined mechanical and electro-acoustic elements into an instrument that looked as fantastic as it sounded.

Their full array of pedals was on deck as well, which pair amazingly well with both synthesizers and guitars.

Roland TR-09

The stars of Roland’s 909 day releases were on display at their booth, with the titular TR-09 garnering a huge amount of the attention.

The flexible and compact drum machine was put through its paces by a variety of synth enthusiasts and garnered a lot of positive feedback.

Arp Odyssey Module

Korg showed off the newest iteration of their ARP reissues, which drop the keyboard and turn the instrument into an awesome duophonic desktop module.

Offering Mk1 and Mk3 faceplates, the Odyssey module brings the inimitable sound of that instrument into the modern-age for integration with any production setup. Demoing the keyboard version synced with the module in unison made for some incredibly thick and powerful four-oscillators leads.

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