A Distant View of Knobcon Number Seven

Knobcon is an annual synthesizer convention located in the Chicagoland region. Featuring synth vendors, electronic music performances, and more, the event continues to grow in popularity. This year’s edition took place at the Hyatt Regency in Schaumburg, conveniently offering a full experience under one roof.


Part of Eventide’s booth at this year’s Knobcon synth convention. Photo copyright Eventide.

Some year, I’d like to venture northwest to attend in person, but this time out just kept an eye on the proceedings from afar. TabMuse needs a larger travel budget! Nonetheless, here are a few insights on what piqued my interest at Knobcon 2018.

The Behringer Analog Drum Machines Intrigue

Behringer’s expansion into the synthesizer instrument market continues unabated. The company’s Minimoog clone – the Model D – garners praise from synth nerds looking for quality analog sound on a budget. Naturally, it makes sense for the German instrument manufacturer to now turn its eyes on those classic Roland drum machines of yore: the TR-808 and TR-909.

Knobcon 7 saw Behringer feature its Roland drum machine clones – the RD-808 and RD-909 – to the discerning ears of convention attendees. The 909 clone is still in a prototype stage. Check out the following video for a quick overview of this proto beatbox.

On the other hand, the RD-808 is closer to hitting the market. Rumors place the price point for the Behringer TR-808 clone around $400. Not merely an imitation, the RD-808 features an internal filter and wave “mangler” for an extra measure of sonic manipulation.

Here is a video overview of the RD-808. No release date is available at this time.

If I didn’t already own an Arturia DrumBrute, a PO-12, and a host of software-based drum machines, either Behringer kit would be on my shortlist. That classic analog sound combined with additional features and functionality likely place both units in the wheelhouse of anyone doing electronic music. Their releases remain highly anticipated.

Eventide’s Knobcon Presence illustrates Guitar Effects are now for Synth Players

We regularly cover Eventide’s software effects plugins. In most cases, they beautifully simulate the company’s legendary hardware units. Speaking of which, I’d love to purchase an H9 someday.

The fact that guitar effects are increasingly the domain of synthesists and sound designers is indisputable. We harp on this topic regularly on TabMuse and in person. Eventide’s booth at Knobcon 7 nicely illustrates this point.

The company displayed nearly their full line of synth stomp pedals and effects with nary a guitar in view. Oh wait; I see one in the Twitter picture in the above link. Sigh. The booth also featured a Eurorack setup with some of Eventide’s products for that format.

This provides another example of the blurring between the effects pedal and synthesizer markets. I think the Eurorack format is one of the key factors driving this trend. Once you get used to patching cables on a modular synth, plugging in a few hardware effects seems like nothing.

For those synth musicians not dipping their toes in the Eurorack pool, it offers the means to take those synthesizer patches to a different place. Personally, it helps give me a small taste of the full modular experience, since I only own (and have the room for) the Make Noise 0-Coast.

The Reemergence of the Polyfusion Modular Synthesizer

The resurgence of the modular synthesizer market continues to bring former manufacturers back into the scene. Polyfusion is the latest company riding this industry trend. They originally issued the Polyfusion Series 2000 system in the 70s, inspired by Bob Moog’s seminal modular synth. In fact, the company cofounders were former Moog engineers.

Now nearly five decades later, the brand name reemerged at Knobcon 7, with the announcement of the Polyfusion Series 3000 combined with a collection of new modules. The new series appears to be Eurorack compatible. The company demoed the original modular system at Knobcon: a unit owned by Toto’s Steve Porcaro.

We’ll be keeping an eye on this great music technology story. Check out the video profiling the Series 2000 with insights from Polyfusion’s 74-year-old cofounder, Ron Folkman. The Series 3000 is expected to hit the market in 2019.