Which hardware company do you think is the most interesting/innovative?

Recently I was thinking about Elektron’s fallow period and how hardware makers change over time. Some companies seem to hit it out of the park with every product they release while others grow stale. The synth market is more crowded and competitive than ever, which puts pressure on those companies to walk the line between remaining interesting/innovative while selling enough volume to stay afloat.

What hardware companies do you think are the most consistently interesting and/or innovative?

Elektron gear was my biggest inspiration at the beginning of my hardware journey, and continues to be the backbone of my rig. I love almost everything that Erika Synths releases. Soma Labs always manages to blow my mind.

But for me, Arturia has unexpectedly vaulted to the top of my favorite synth-makers. They don’t have the name recognition or pedigree that Moog or Sequential has, but I think they make the coolest shit. I love the chances they’ve taken with flagship-level hardware such as the Matrix- and Polybrute. And their mid- and lower-tier stuff is really underrated. I never see anyone mention the Minibrute 2S in any “best of” list, but that thing is a jam party with its 4 lane sequencer and parameter knobs for each step. And of course this is the company that brought us the Microfreak. You definitely see the genius of Pigments leaking into their hardware development.

How about you people? What hardware makers generally inspire you the most and why?

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See existing discussion from a couple years ago @ Innovative companies to watch

Skidoosh!

Ha, totally! dumbass OP didn’t even realize there was a 2yr-old, slightly related thread!

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The one that comes to mind for me is Make Noise. But there are many, many good answers, especially in eurorack.

Edit: completely forgot about Soma… I’m telling you, there are too many good answers to this.

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I agree with you about Arturia. They are crushing it. There is so much good gear out there these days. It feels like the community and, as you point out, saturated market really drive ideas.

What about small pedal companies? Chase Bliss and Hologram come to mind. Their products are a nice marriage of quality and creativity.

I have to give a nod to Moog though. Between the grandmother/matriarch releases and the small semi-modular boxes it’s almost like they have made their own music genre now with the ecosystems they have going on.

So many to mention though……

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…i had an akai crush…back in the days…
…an emu crush…
…a waldorf crush…
…a pro tools crush…
…an akai crush again…but rewarmed relationships don’t hold for long…but we’re still friends…
…then started my swedish love affair…turned into a long term relationship…
but, well, what can i say…nothing lasts forever…but we have a date next year…so we might wanna give each other another try…we always enjoy nice talks…
cheated on her with a greek goddess of the night…her name was nyx…but she was pretty dreaded…so we broke up…was pretty tough…
in the background i have always this french connection with oto…
but at the moment, i have a little fling thing going with soma…

but i was always in love with my sonic mum apple anyways…
while i can still and always count on nord…
and in general, swedish girls i like the most, no matter what…

and all those japanese one night stands…well, they don’t count…don’t they…

but hey…at least i never dated a behringer…
and still wonder why i never gave the english novation a try…peak’s damned hot…
but u never can have them all, can u…

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Soma

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Long time between releases, and some major flaws, but Teenage Enginnering’s instruments are amazing. The OP-1 is a bona fide classic, the OP-Z is just incredible, and the Pocket Operators are neato.

There’s nothing else like them.

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Arturia is a very interesting company. Take a product like the MicroFreak. It’s seen some great free updates, including an option to add a vocoder. The feature set is way beyond what it was when originally relesed.

Akai is the same. Multiple devices at different price points running the same firmware and, thus, helping to fund continued development. The feature set on the current MPC range is light years ahead of the original release to market and has just seen a huge update with further developments expected.

1010Music is another company that I really like too. The Blackbox is a great device that’s just seen some great features added too.

Ensoniq is the one I really miss though. Their samplers were something special and still offer stuff that most current products can’t match.

G

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Frap tools
Make noise
Mutable
Befaco
Vcv rack - Geodesics

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Mutable Instruments
Soma
Teenage Engineering
Bastl
Chase Bliss
Arturia

These are companies that take risks and i like that.

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For me it is definitely more on the experimental or Eurorack side.

Make Noise have been mentioned, and the 0 Coast was my entry level into Eurorack, opening up a whole new methodology that is based on hacking, researching and working with limitation to push creativity, while still staying “musical” somehow.

Industrial Music Electronics and Rossum are also two big inspirational companies, but because of different reasons: Rossum with his knowledge and reputation from his time at EMU still does not shy away from experimentation and innovation, with the Assimil8or, Trident and the Panharmonium being my favourites, while IME is bringing back what I loved about gritty digital synthesis, but putting it in a great format and opening it up to modern approaches with the new preset system and higher resolutions in sample rate etc., with the Piston Honda MK3 and the Bionic Lester MK3 being my alltime favourites kn my rack so far.

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Soma no doubt.

i wish big hitters like Roland, Yamaha etc would take more risks.
At least one wacky out there instrument a year.

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Mutable
Mannequins
monome
Meng Qi
Ciat-Lonbarde
Chase
Soma

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My personal favorite at the moment is the much underrated Norand. With their flagship Mono, they have a very interesting take on the equilibrium between live performance and sonic depth, and introduce previously unseen features.
Unfortunately, at the moment, the Mono is plagued with a quite unfinished firmware. But I bear with this as the implemented features already make the synth a pleasure to operate. And it’s a very small company (essentially one guy) who has been very responsive, so I have good hopes they will come up with something more polished soon.

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Most of the really interesting/innovative stuff is coming from the former Soviet Union.

Soma (obviously)
Erica Synths
Polyend
Elta music
AVP Synth
Bastl
Black Corp. (I know, not strictly Russian, but Russians)

Most of the more established makers in the west/Japan are stuck in some sort of never ending nostalgia loop, but then it’s difficult for them, as that’s what most of their customers seem to be asking for.

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I don’t know, it may not be so “cool” to name big players in the industry, but it seems to me Korg released interesting stuff these last years.

Just the Volca Drum is already something IMHO

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I don’t think there is much innovation around currently, lots of variations on a theme, lots of oddball for the sake of it stuff, lots of revisiting past ideas.

Then there are things like AI, and other emerging technologies being looked into, but as far as I can see not much innovation in terms of bringing new ideas and means of expression, or user interface.

I think the technology exists to create electronic instruments as (or more) expressive than acoustic instruments, to create sequencers with features not yet seen, and to control all of this with precision, reliability and without being fiddly or awkward to use.

But I’m ok with it, sometimes half the fun is coming up with your own concepts and adapting and combining gear into your own instrument.

DIY instruments are getting easier to create with the numerous platforms available now in hardware and software.

I think one to watch is Tats from Korg, he seems like he is interested in making interesting stuff, and he certainly seems to know what he is doing wrt user interface and interesting features.

Teenage Engineering could be much more interesting than they are, but I think they have been drinking their own for too long, and their quality control is shameful, and that is a shame. Lots of design faux pas in most of their products, ironic as they are a design company.

Elektron has some extremely talented people, but I think they are a bit too large too innovate now, maybe?

Polyend have done some interesting things, I think they are also worth watching.

Going slightly off topic here, but not much gear is built to last, or built with longevity/servicability and environmental impact in mind, that is pretty criminal IMHO.

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That’s one of the reasons I’m a big Soma fan. Their stuff is all super well built and laid out in such a way as to make things pretty repairable.

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