MATRIXSYNTH: Happy New Year! The Year in Synths 2013

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year! The Year in Synths 2013

Happy New Year Everyone!

What a busy year it has been in the world of synths.

This is going to be one doozy of a post, so bear with me. This post is a review of the year in synths for 2013. We begin with Tributes to Those We Lost This Year, followed by New Manufacturers & Makers, Older Manufacturers Added to the Site, New Gear Announcements, Top 10 Posts by Traffic,  My Standout Posts for the Year, and finally This Years' Synth Events. I did my best to keep things as short and concise as possible.

Let's begin with the hardest part of the post.

Tributes to Those We Lost This Year

RIP Bernard Parmegiani - Electronic & Acoustic Composer
Lou Reed RIP
RIP Dick Raaymakers aka Kid Baltan
RIP George Duke - DreamWeaver
RIP Ralph Dyck, Sept 28, 1941 – May 20, 2013
RIP Ray Manzarek

All missed and never to be forgotten. Take a moment to remember them.


New Manufacturers & Makers

Starting last January, I decided to keep a running list of every new manufacturer and maker introduced to the site during the year.  This is something I haven't done before and I thought it would be interesting to see how many there were in the year.   It's easy to focus on the big synth announcements throughout the year, but what about all the new makers and brands? I shouln't have to go considerably into the significance of new designers on the scene, so I'll just say two things regarding them.  One, the number of new makers is a direct reflection on the interest in our scene, and two, these are the creators of new gear which directly translate into new designs not previously available to us.  Think about that for a moment.  These are makers and designs that did not exist before.  They are part of our synth history.  So what is the total count of new synth designers for the year? A whopping 113. Think about that a bit. One hundred and thirteen new synth designers and brands this year alone.

Here they are (note a handful date back to 2012, but 2013 marked their momentum and availability):
soundmachines,DIMEHEADSonic SkunkworksEpoch ModularGinko SyntheseElektor Digital FormantSuper SynthesisSagittronicsowlTTSHFabian Draeger, Giuseppe Di CilloNaonextOm, ArpeggionatetherobotSonic PotionsPT AudioHearn MorelyCreative GalleryTronPIBishop MiscellanystexeNew England AudioCat Full of GHOSTSMiguel Pipashboboadamstan, ShivatekSuperSlavePhillip Stearns, Laurentide SynthWorksCompany of QuailU.V.A. ResearchmakipriRNInstrumentsVG LineSeeSureDijkstar MusicVolt CraftyOskar SchölanderTR-0815mustudio.frxerox fishSoftPotMansonPUCMonotrOndesAudio DamageMicrobe ModularburanelectrixTaunTekFCUKsyntaurGroovesizerR3D ElectronicsPlankton ElectronicsSonic ForestWayne JonesThe BeastSEARCH SOUNDSource AudioMarienbergMichigan SynthworksSpektro AudioDentakuYann SeznecRed WitchPatchblocksMASFpandaMIDIAuraStroh ModularRazmasynthGrayscaleHernan BaldiTouch BoardAUUGPaletteThe GooseCatFullofGHOSTSQu-bit ElectronixMatt SarnoffDan Leuca, Green Dungeon Alchemist Laboratories, Van Daal, DDFX, KRM Electronics, Technology Will Save Us, Orthogonal Devices, Erica Synths, Storn System, Falafular, Digital Warrior, MSI, Volt Crafty, Soulsby Synthesizers, GENMDM, MrBlueXav, Trash Secret, Pratt Electro, FLIPP, Artiphon, Ploytec, emSynth, MidiSizer, STEREOPING, RuprechtM, Bastl Instruments, Medic, Synthetic Instruments, InsWorks, Noise Engineering, Fyrd Instruments

Update: Synthetic Instruments added to the list above for 2013.  That makes the count 110 new makers/designers! Let me know if I missed anyone else!

Update3: Added InsWorks from Columbia to the list.  That makes the count111. InsWorks was actually announced as a $200 modular synth from Columbia back in 2011 here, but it wasn't until 2013 that we started seeing frequent videos for them.  I'm showing zero posts in 2012.

If I missed anyone, please let me know!  Tracking each was a new process and it is possible some could have slipped through the cracks.  Each link above will take you to their respective channels featuring all posts that have gone up to date, most current post first.  Note that not all are companies. Some are DIYers, but don't discount DIYers. You never know where their designs will end up and of course their work is valued and respected in the greater synth community.  Many boutique manufacturers started out as DIY. A prime example would be renowned DIYer Yves Usson who's work resulted in the Arturia MiniBrute and MicroBrute. Mutable Instruments has grown quite a bit last year as well. New products can start anywhere, and part of the charm of this site is being able to look back at how things began and developed over time.  This is why MATRIXSYNTH features them.  Some of the least assuming posts become insights into the birth of that process. I should note that in order to get a site label, makers have to create their own original designs.


Older Manufacturers Added to the Site

Along with new manufacturers and new products for the year, there were quite a few older makers and manufacturers that were new to the site including some from the distant past:

Signal Transport, The Design Laboratories, Sanyo, Dennis Electronics, Waddingtons, Byter, stexe, Schober, Cannon, Okita, Sound Source Unlimited, VDF, Music Mate, Gerd Schulte, Dartmouth Digital Synthesizer, Synthophone, Digiplay, AK Drummer, Ringo, Unitra, Finkey, MIDImplant, JC Sprott.

Be sure to check some of the above out.  These are fascinating bits of synth history not mentioned on the site until just this year.


New Gear Announcements

As for the new products of the year, I've never been one for "best synth of the year" type lists as I think all synths have something unique to offer, and everyone has different tastes as well as needs. That said, I thought I should at least highlight some of the big items for this year.  I might need your help on this, BTW.  If there is anything I missed or anything else you think should be called out, feel free to leave a comment.

On the stand-alone synth front, this year we had a surge in analog and digital hybrid mono synths as well as a few poly synths.  The big items in the stand-alone hardware synth front include the Moog Sub Phatty (they also released the new Minifooger pedals & discounted the Little Phatty), the KORG MS20 Mini using the same circuits as the original, the King Korg, Volcas & littleBits, Arturia's MicroBrute, Novation's BassStation II, Elektron's Analog Keys & an Analog Four update which many state makes it a whole new synth, Dave Smith Instrument's Prophet 12 (with new, unique digital oscillators - this is a good thing - new timbres = new synthesis), the Prophet 12 desktop module & the Mopho SE, the Dubreq Stylophone S2, the Studio Electronics Boomstars, Waldorf's Rocket & Pulse Plus 2, MFB's Dominion 1 Keyboard, Dominion X SED, & Tanzbar Drumcomputer, Analogue Solutions Polymath, AtomoSynth released the new "Dark Side" Mochica XL v2.2 & KRAKKEN v1.2, and Clavia/Nordkeyboards Nord Lead 4.  We also saw the Kiwitechnics Kiwi-106 upgrade for the Juno-106.  BTW, I purposely did not link to the others.  Search for them in the top left of the site for all the posts that have gone up - there were many.  Also check out the NAMM & Musikmesse channels for posts covering new products released during each major trade show at the start of the year.

On the modular front, I won't list every module that came out as there were simply too many (that says something in itself), and I won't call out individual modules over others as that wouldn't be fair to those I miss. Instead I'll mention some of the interesting shifts in the modular scene from my perspective.  Mutable Instruments, Jomox & Audio Damage all entered the eurorack market. Kilpatrick launched its own modular format in July.  Tiptop Audio announced the full Serge experience coming to eurorack. Eowave released a self contained modular system, the Orage Magnétique which consists of individual modules grouped together into one large single panel, similar to semi-modular systems like the ARP 2600.  It's worth noting Pittsburg Modular Confluence created stand-alone eurorack modular configurations with their Cell systems, however unlike the Orage Magnétique's single panel, the systems consist of individual eurorack modules cased together.   The concept is the same, however some will prefer one over the other.   Ken MacBeth surprised us with the Elements 1, an 84HP eurorack all-in-one synth just last week.  Buchla officially launched the Music Easel.  A new ARP 2600 DIY clone, the TTSH was released this year and a new ARP Odyssey Clone by AMSynths was announced late this year. Also, be sure to see the new makers above for new modular makers & brands. Finally the modular documentary I Dream of Wires was released this year.  We also saw a few other films mentioned this year including MODULO & ELEKTRO MOSKVA.

In the mobile market, we had a few interesting developments as well.  There are too many new apps to call out, so I opted to focus on ones that stand out because of their history and their impact on the embrace of iOS as a synth platform. If any other apps stood out for you, feel free to mention them in the comments section below.  Wolfgang Palm brought back PPG with the WaveGeneratorWaveMapper & MiniMapper for iOS.  He then followed up with a WaveGenerator VSTi. Think about that - PPG and Wolfgang Palm is back.  Waldorf released Nave for iOS & Wolfram Franke (ex-original Waldorf), came out with his first synth for iOS, Stroke Machine. Arturia entered the iOS market by porting two of their classic software emulations with iSEM & iMINI for iOS.  Propellerhead released Thor Polysonic Synthesizer for iOS.  Virtual ANS modeled on the vintage one-of-a-kind photo-optic ANS Synthesizer was released. Pulse Code Inc. released Modular Synthesizer for iOS with UI design cues from the Modcan B Series white and classic modular synth design.  It's worth noting Jasuto  & Audulus were technically the first modular synths for iOS, however Modular Synthesizer was first to bring the classic modular hardware interface to iOS. TANSU Modular released in 2012 had a modular UI, but it was more of a patchable semi-modular synth for iOS in that I don't believe you were able to freely add, move and remove modules.

Update via David Warman in the comments: "There is one App in the mobile section not mentioned that I believe (along with many others) is responsible for the insane exponential growth and acceptance of Mobile over the year, and that is AudioBus. Without it, iOS was really only like a single synth VST outboard for desktops; with it the whole studio became portable. A qualitative difference in experience."  Although AudioBus was officially released in December of 2012, 2013 marked it's widespread adoption.

The pure software synthesizer front is another area where it would be impossible to call out everything new that went up this year.  I have to admit I mainly follow hardware synthesis, so I'd be curious what your stand out picks for the year are.  We had a number of announcements from UVIRob Papen, Spectrasonics, Propellerhead, and U-He.  Madrona Labs announced Kaivo a stand alone synth that follows their critically acclaimed Aalto.  Audulus for Mac (a port of Audulus for iOS) was released.  Wejaam Designer a companion app for their iOS app Wejaam was interesting.  I first thought it was a port and stand alone app.  It turns out it can be used in conjunction with the iOS app. AAS released Ultra Analog VA-2,  Ju-X released Gimmick Semi-Modular, SYNTHESCIENCE released PRODIGIOUS.  Twisted Tools released MSMAX for Reaktor.  Arturia released Hollwood Essentials and Dr. Bob's Collector Pack along with updates to Spark, SEM V & Wurlitzer V.  Native Instruments released a number of expansion packs.  Again too much to list out in this post.  I'd recommend checking out the soft synths channel for what has gone up throughout the year, and of course feel free to call out your picks in the comments.


Top 10 Posts by Traffic

The following are the top ten posts based on traffic/individual page hits in 2013. It's worth noting most people view posts on the main front page along with other posts. The following are direct hits to the individual posts themselves. It's best to read them as posts most often shared on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and forums. What's interesting is some of these are from 2012 and number 10, the Schmidt, is from 2011!  Still popular in 2013!

1. KORG Volca Leak
2. New York School of Synthesis - Intro to Synthesis
3. One of One Modular Electro-Acoustic Masterwork by ARIUS BLAZE of FOLKTEK
4. WS-101 Online Virtual Synth
5. New KORG Mini MS-20 Revealed in German Magazine?
6. Cyclone Analogic Bass Bot TT-303 Hardware TB-303 Clone Released
7. NAMM 2013: 1st Pics of Buchla's The Electric Music Box
8. NAMM 2013: KingKORG Details via
9. NAMM 2013: Make Noise MMG Filter
10. New Schmidt Analog Synth Debuts at the Musikmesse


My Standout Posts of the Year

As for my picks, a few years back I created an "exclusive" label for the posts that stood apart from all others, each for their individually unique reason.  This is a hard one to explain.  Your first thought might be these should include new product releases.  They don't for one good reason - although I'm likely as excited about new product releases as the next person for obvious reasons, they get saturated on the site and get plenty of coverage of their own.  The idea behind "exclusive" posts is to call out things not so obvious and likely to be missed as well as news items significant to synth history aside from new product releases.  I live and breathe synths posting daily on the site.  After over eight years of doing this these are the posts that made me stop and think, "wow, that's interesting." This year only 65 out of 16750 posts elicited that response from me.  Of course they will differ for you, so just consider this as my personal list. Feel free to call out your picks in the comments.  Mine were as follows:

MODULO - A New Documentary on Modular Synthesis
The Yamaha DX7 II FD D Video Manual by The N.Y. School of Synthesis
Benge Releases All EMS Polysynthi Album - Forms 3
Finkey DS-2 Analog Synthesizer Drum Module
Pics of the One of a Kind Performance Music Systems S.W.A.N.
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese's Vintage Moog Modular Sequencers for Auction
Hitachi Lo-D Hitachi HMS-30 Vintage Analog Memory Synthesizer Sequencer - surprisingly there is one older Hitachi post, so Hitachi didn't get on the list of new labels.  Click through the link, followed by the Hitachi channel label at the bottom of the post to see it.
1972 Moog MINIMOOG model D explanation, early years progressive music
Buggles "Video Killed The Radio Star" SELIDOR iNCONSEQUENTIAL CIRCUITS Modular Synthesizer System Up for Auction
Prototype R.A. Moog 702 Percussion Synthesizer Module
VDF Super Pedal Synthesizer Demo Flexi Disc Record
Oberheim DMX Electronic Snare Voice Card with original box and manual 
1981 PPG Wave 2 German Ad with White PPG Rack System
The First Moog Ever
Paul F. Conly Resume from 1970 Featuring Bob Moog as a Personal Reference & Experience with a Moog Modular
Vintage EMS SYNTHI 100 Compositions Featuring Paul Turner & Simo Lazarov
Bob Moog Foundation Objects to Archives Moving to Cornell, New York
Schober Tunesmith Analog Synthesizer & 1968 Dynabeat Rhythm Machine
Roger Powell's One of a Kind Controller Finds its Way Home to the BMF
Chicken Lips, The Emperor Machine, Bizarre Inc, Future Four - Studio Tour
The Story of the RCA Synthesizer - Video
R.A. Moog 701 Drum Synthesizer Module
Simo Lazarov UFO 1981 on EMS SYNTHI 100 & More
David Cranmer's Owl Theremin
Apple II Plus, Apple IIe and Apple IIGS Echo+ Speech Synthesizer with Software
Chimeror by Benge on Vintage Buchla 700
STEELPHON S-900 Rare Vintage Analog Synthesizer
Norwegian Roland MIDI System From The 80's Video
Vintage Arp Axxe Analog Synthesizer & Little Brother with Original Case & Stand
New Run Original EMS Synthi A
Vintage Custom "Yamaha" Rack DIY MIDI Synth?
City of Asheville Proclaims May 23rd Bob Moog Day
MidiSizer MidiALF Sequencer
Stylophone Model 350s
Robert A. Moog National Inventors Hall of Fame Certification of Induction
The Moog Ladder Filter - National Inventors Hall of Fame for Patent No 3475623
Bob Moog Officially Inducted Into the Inventors Hall of Fame
Congratulations, Dad - A Message from Bob Moog's Children
Frank Eventoff Sonica SN 227 Video
emSynth Affordable Breadboard Modular Synthesizer System
THE BEACH BOYS' ARP Pro-DGX MkI 2720 Pro-Soloist Up for Auction?
Vintage Roland Stickers From the 70s
Mystery Synth - Korg 700s/770 Prototype?
Video Interviews with the Creators of the KORG MS20
Flying GX-1 
Rare Buchla Polyphonic Keyboard Model 237 Electric Music Box for Auction
1930s Russian Drawn Sound
1979 KOLB Roboterwerke Percussion System Ad
MMTA SYNTHFEST 2013: Dave Bristow & The History of Yamaha FM Synthesis
1980 Moog T-Shirt Pic
Rare Massive Jellinghaus DX Programmer for Yamaha DX7 TX7 TX816 for Sale
Serge Tcherepnin Coming Back to Modular with Tiptop Audio
Restoring an Analog Synth - RITMI Musicali
The Packrat Sampler Arrives
Design Labs Prologue Retro Synth MIDI to CV Filter Module
Sanyo Synthesizer Card Player DP-10
Pinball Pianola Synth
Schulmerich Americana Carillon Electronic Bell, Chime Instrument for Auction
NAMM 2013: Dr. Lonnie Smith meets Sub Phatty
Early Doepfer Sampler Module & The Start of Eurorack
1977 Dennis Electronics Synthesizer Ad 


This Years' Synth Events

On the event front we are one busy community!  I thought I would only need to call out a small handful of events this year, along with a link to the events channel for the rest, but it turns out my short list is rather long.  Some of the larger events for the year included: two MMTA SYNTHFESTs, Knobcon, TRASH_AUDIO & The Bob Moog Foundation at Mountain Oasis, Control Voltage Faire in New York, Brooklyn Modular Equinox, AHNE, Cornell DIY Electronic Music Symposium, 4th Annual Dallas/Arlington Synth Meet, IO Austin/SXSW, Robotspeak in San Francisco, IO at SFEMF, IO Chappel Hill Synth Meet, 12th Annual Outsound Music Summit, Synth-O-Mania in Austin/Texas, Boulder Synth Meet, Electro-Music 2013, Montreal Modular Synth Meet, Buchla at the New Forms Festival, Vancouver BC, Circuito Electronico in Brazil, Festival Oscillations with Herb Deutsch in Brazil, Expo DJ with AtomoSynth in Peru, Synamiitti in Finland, Dinosaurier-Treffen in Germany, Modularsquare events in France, London Modular, SDIY UK, Brighton Modular Meet, All Connected in Brussels, Belgium, Copenhagen Modular Meet, Brussels Modular Meet, Torino Synth Meet Italy, Mobile Music Making Seminar, Tokyo Festival of Modular, Happy Knobbing Fischbach, Meet The Knobbers, and of course NAMM and the Musikmesse.  Links take you to the posts for each.  That's 39 events or an average of 3+ a month for the year not including all the workshops and smaller events!  Think about that for a bit.  We have one active global community.  For all events, including workshops throughout the year, not listed above, see the Events channel. Again if I missed any major events, let me know in the comments, Facebook, or email!

And that's it folks!  It's been quite a year in synth history when you stop to think about it. It's easy to focus only the major synth releases, but when you stop to think about everything else that happened this year, it's pretty impressive. The goal of this site has always been to bring some of that to you. I hope we succeeded. By we I mean everyone that has contributed to the site. I want to send a special thanks to the sponsors on the right of the site, as well as everyone that has contributed to the site over the last year sharing things via The MATRIXSYNTH Lounge, email, Twitter and Facebook. Thank you!

Happy New Year everyone! Onto the next!

Update: some comments have come in on The MATRIXSYNTH Lounge as well.  Thank you!



  2. Happy New Year, Matrix!

    I hadn't fully appreciated how big of a year it was for synths until you laid it all out like that. Wow! Here's hoping 2014 can top it!

  3. Thank you Mauricio and Tim! Post updated with Synthetic Instruments making it 110 total!

  4. happy new year matrix! keep it up for 2014 (i *think* i saw all 16750 posts last year...)

  5. Happy New Year! I already know what you do here is quite impressive, but it's still something to see it compiled out like that. And thanks for the shout-out for the Outsound Music Summit :)

  6. 2013 was the year I seriously got back into synths, specifically resurrecting my old vintage gear and integrating it with iPads and mobile synths. MatrixSynth was a forum that had a lot to do with my track, and I visit at least once every day. Thanks.

    There is one App in the mobile section not mentioned that I believe (along with many others) is responsible for the insane exponential growth and acceptance of Mobile over the year, and that is AudioBus. Without it, iOS was really only like a single synth VST outboard for desktops; with it the whole studio became portable. A qualitative difference in experience.

  7. AudioBus definitely deserves a mention. I updated the post with it. Thanks for mentioning it! Glad you enjoy the site! :)



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