April 5, 2016
by Chris Randall
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few whiles, you are perfectly aware of last week's Superbooth 16 in Berlin. Schneidersburo is one of the largest Eurorack retailers (and via their Alex4 subsidiary, the European distributor for almost all North American Euro manufacturers), and every year they've had an Analogue Superbooth at MusikMesse in Frankfurt.
The MusikMesse has, in the last few years, become a hostile environment for boutique manufacturers, and Schneidersburo/Alex4 decided, to their credit, to make their Analogue Superbooth a stand-alone event, and put it in Berlin (where it's cool) instead of Frankfurt (where it's basically Dallas Plus Schnitzel). We'd been dreading the inevitable trip to Messe, so when Schneider's announced this event, we immediately jumped on board, as did virtually everyone else. All the larger North American Euro manufacturers were in attendance, with one notable exception. Essentially all of the European manufacturers were there, as well as many other companies that ran the gamut from one-dude-in-a-basement-with-an-invention on up to U-He, Ableton, Native Instruments, Roland, Korg, Yamaha, and Moog, along with several pro-audio companies.
It was, basically, all the cool shit in the music tech business under one roof.
The venue was the splendid former state radio building of the GDR, and while it was a bit run down, having sat idle for some decades now, the Schneiders folks did an amazing job cleaning it up and running the event. I'll admit that the potential for a clusterfuck of massive proportions was a distinct possibility, given the location of the venue (on the corner of the Ass End Of Nowhere and Bumblefuck) and the high cost of attendance. I am personally of the mind that these sorts of events should be free to the attendees, and I give any event that has even a moderate fee the side-eye, but in this case, the stars aligned and all went perfectly.
Schneiders organized it so the first half of the (very long) days were for trade only and the second half were for the public. Since we don't actually have a whole lot of trade to do, being distributed exclusively by Alex4, the first parts of the days were spent hanging with old friends and meeting new ones, seeing the new stuff everyone's working on, and talking about the industry. The public half of the days was outstanding; the people that attended were the best informed I've personally come across at one of these events. I didn't talk to a single "so... what does this... do... exactly?" n00B. (I despise those conversations, as I've worked in this business so long I just assume everyone I talk to has the same knowledge base I do, and when I find myself explaining how an oscillator works, my eyes glaze over immediately.)
All in all, this was the single best event of this sort that I've ever attended. We've been discussing not doing the major trade shows any more (NAMM in particular) because the signal-to-noise ratio is so bad that there's no noticeable return on our investment. This, however, was money and time well spent, and we very much look forward to next year.
Adam was unable to attend, as he had a vacation in Japan planned for the same time period, and due to personal reasons was unable to change the dates. So I took Jeremy Highhouse to work our booth for the public parts. I've been to Frankfurt many times, and spent a couple months in Hamburg and Cologne, but I've never visited Berlin. I only had about a day and a half to explore, but what an outstanding city! I loved every minute I was there, except for the first day. (And this is my fault, not Berlin's. Like some sort of diptard, I left my one and only coat in Phoenix, and arrived to a very cold and wet Berlin at 7AM, unable to get in my rented flat until 3PM, after 21 hours of travel. That was... amusing.)
It was great to see people in real life that I've known for years online and talk to daily, and to make a whole mess of new friends. Well worth the trouble of getting there. Special shout out to the Koma Elektronik boys, who are, quite frankly, the coolest people I've ever met.