NAMM 2017: Erica Synths, LZX, Sputnik, Roland, And More

There are multiple superbooths of modular synth makers this year. We visited the first (and smaller) of the two this afternoon.

The folks at Erica Synths have a new DIY kit inspired by the legendary Soviet synth Polyvoks.

It’s a raw but sonically rich instrument and we at CatSynth could see using it. They have also updated their flagship black series.

We would be remiss if we didn’t also show their adorable logo ๐Ÿ˜บ.

One thing we have observed this year is that many module makers have upped their game when it comes to visual design. We saw that with the Erica Synths offerings, but with others as well. Consider this Euclidean Circles from vpme.de:

The Charcot Circles is a collaboration of Studio Electronics and eowave. It is a rather complex and enigmatic module providing sequencing and CV with non-linear processing.

The round designs are reminiscent of Buchla synthesizers, which of course brings us to Sputnik Modular which produces Buchla-inspired “west coast synthesis” modules.

LZX Modular is all about the visuals, as their modules process video rather than audio. They have several new offerings, including an LCD display module and an all-in-one starter. You can see a little bit in this video.

New video modules from LZX. #namm #namm2017

A video posted by CatSynth / Amanda C (@catsynth) on

The both also featured Roland’s AIRA series, including the System-8. The setup featured remakes of some classic Roland modules that we reported about last year in addition to the “plug-out” system.

It is interesting that Roland has moved its display of these instruments from their main area at NAMM to the modular-synth booths. It would seem they know their audience.

Finally, we have new offerings from Industrial Music Electronics, formerly known as The Harvestman. They still have the same characteristic orange knob style.

Among there new modules are the Argos Bleak, a CV processer, the Bionic Lester mk II, a capacitor filter; and our favorite name-wise, the Contempt, a dyamics processor.

Modular manufacturers haven’t lost their edge even as the industry matures.

Wordless Wednesday: Modular Synthesizer

Modular Synthesizer

New analog modular improvisation, May 9

Here is another improvisation, or perhaps a meditation, on the analog modular synth. Enjoy!

This one used most of the modules in the system, including the Metasonix R53, both Make Noise modules, the Morphing Terrarium from Synthesis Technology, the Koma Electronic SVF-201 filter, the Polyvoks filter, and the Noisering from Malekko Heavy Technology, all mixed together via Pittsburgh Modular’s Mixer and Out. The Noisering was in many ways the foundational element for this meditation.

Please share your thoughts either in the comment section here or on SoundCloud.

NAMM: Analogue Haven

The visit the Analogue Haven booth is another of the annual pilgrimages at the NAMM show. The highlight of my visit this year was a performance by Richard Devine on a system consisting exclusively of Make Noise modules.

This virtuosic performance showed what these modules are truly capable of with practice. The music moved between rhythmic staccato textures and longer resonant tones in multiple layers. It was also a showcase for the DPO, Make Noise’s oscillator, which was the only tone generator in this system. I have a Make Noise Maths and an Ecophon, and the performance inspired me to practice these along with the other modules to get more complex musical results.

Analog video is looking like a potential area of creative expansion, and LZX Industries was prominently demonstrating their video modules. Here we see our mascot being processed live.

One thing I would like to see more in video synthesis is interaction between analog audio, video and control signals.

On the opposite end from the modules was the massive Schmidt Eightvoice Polyphonic Synthesizer. A beautiful looking instrument with an interesting set of filters inspired be Moog and Oberheim:

This synthesizer is truly a labor of love by its creator Stefan Schmidt, who spent many years on this project. It remains to be seen if it will sell.

Other quick views from around the Analogue Haven booth included this demo of modules from Snazzy FX:

Percussion modules and a novel sequencer from Delptronics:

And the distinctive orange controls of the Harvestman modules.

There were three new releases from Harvestman, including a new Hertz Donut.

And the distinctive clean white design of Koma Elektronik, including the SVF-201 Vactrol Filter module and their infrared controller.

It is great to see the popularity of the analog instruments and new designs coming each year. If there are any drawbacks, it is that the field of available modules and effects boxes has become quite bewildering, and that the Analogue Haven booth is always quite crowded.

CatSynth pic: Alessandro Cortini on CDM (and SFEMF)

From CDM, also on matrixsynth:

The CDM link features an extensive interview with Alessandro Cortini as well as several photos and videos, and more information about his SONOIO recording and accompanying portable synthesizer SuONOIO, a joint project of Cortini and Harvestman.

You can see previous articles that feature Cortini and SONOIO (and his cat Frank) by following the SONOIO tag.

He will also be performing at the upcoming San Francisco Electronic Music Festival in September. I will be attending.

CatSynth pic: Monsturo: modular set-up

From Analogue Haven on flickr, via matrixsynth:

“Beautiful photo of a nearly full Monorocket Lexington by Monsturo. Nice selection of modules from a variety of manufacturers. Lots of oscillators, multiple filters and several sequencers for control. The Harvestman Stilton Adaptor is used for integrating external effects. LINK: www.myspace.com/monsturo.”

I have tagged some of modules I recognize (e.g., from NAMM). ย Click on the tags for other pictures, info and articles.

CatSynth pic: Aki, Arp 2600 and modular

Submitted by Phill Hendricks via facebook:


[click photo to enlarge.]

“That’s Aki, he’s on the Arp 2600. As for the modules, a little bit of everything- Metasonix, 4MS, Malekko/Wiard, Make Noise, The Harvestman, FoH, …. and even a little bit of Buchla in front of the 2600.”

Analogue Haven

Our last post from NAMM 2010 features more images from the Analogue Haven booth, where I spent a fair amount of time.

First up, a modular from Make Noise:

I was particularly intrigued by the two-dimensional sequencer module (in the lower left). A wide variety patterns can be generated along the X and Y axis and modified by selectively removing elements or subsections.

This video probably doesn’t do it justice, but it at least provides some atmosphere:

A portable modular rock (from Analog Rocket) featuring modules from The Harvestman, including the Hertz Donut and Piston Honda:

If I put together a modular system anytime soon, I would want that monorocket case.

Livewire modules, also some remakes of Wiard modules by Malekko Heavy Industry:

Of course, there are a splattering of Doepfer modules in many of these setups.

A compact modular setup from Tiptop Audio:

CatSynth pic: Sid

from g, via matrixsynth:

“Here is my late Cat, Sid… he loved hanging out with me when I worked on the synth, and also patch cables were one of his good games ๐Ÿ˜‰

Sid-Charlot:
Mar 1996-
Sep 2008”

We at CatSynth send our thoughts for Sid’s family. As matrix says: “Cats and pets in general are the few things in life that unconditionally have your back, through the good and the bad times.”

Unconditional love and hanging out together while working on the studio. What more could one ask for?