Behringer are busy teasing still more analog synth remakes. But messages from the company suggest they may be struggling to produce their Minimoog clone.

Right now, Behringer are shipping the synth that represented their first major foray into the synth business. That would be analog polysynth DeepMind 12 – a 12-voice keyboard loaded up with extras, including built-in Wi-Fi and a bunch of effects from TC ELECTRONIC and KLARK TEKNIK. And it represents a significant acquisition of engineering talent, as Behringer has brought the MIDAS team into the fold.

The DeepMind is unquestionably inexpensive for a polysynth and, from people I know who’ve had it for longer tests, at least reasonably good. If you don’t need 12 voices, you can get a number of great instruments, some of them for less than the DeepMind. And if you’re willing to spend a bit more, Novation, Moog, Dave Smith and others have offerings, as well. But it is fair to say the DeepMind 12 has found a sizable market for itself, at least for now.

Irrespective of the price, the DeepMind seems to face the challenge all synths do at the moment: potential customers are far more familiar with classic instruments of the past. And remakes of a classic Moog, Roland, KORG, Yamaha, or even Oberheim or Sequential instrument seem to earn more immediate attention and recognition than anything new. (Make of that what you will.)

And so it is that Behringer have managed to upstage… themselves.

The DeepMind was itself accompanied by a whirlwind of teasers and spec-by-spec leaks from Behringer across social media and forums, and … then all hell broke loose. There was an unexplained “spy” shot of someone holding an SH-101 (with different lettering) on a day Roland planned a press briefing. There were threads asking users what remakes they wanted to see. There were random photos of gear and prototypes that might or might not represent something they would make. And then there was the weirdest moment of them all – various clones of drum machines and synthesizers suddenly appeared on the official Behringer website, only to be immediately followed by the suggestion that maybe that was all just a dream.

The Behringer synth story over the past twelve months has had as many unexplained appearances as a season of LOST. (Sorry, dated reference. Hey, you know – retro, like synths.)

In the midst of this, there was one synth we know to be real, and we know to be in production – a rack-mount model D based on the original Minimoog circuit design (minus the keyboard, of course). And Behringer got as far as bringing a prototype around for people to test and hear – with reasonably good results.

But while Behringer was busy teasing the Minimoog recreation – and many other synths – Roland went ahead and actually shipped their own compact Minimoog-style instrument, partnering with independent US maker Studio Electronics. Unlike the other Boutique Series from Roland, the SE-02 is analog – should you care about such things. The SE-02 has some extras, too, like a step sequencer, cross modulation, and filter feedback loop, and sound characteristics that come from SE’s Boomstar line.

And you can buy it now.

So what about the Behringer model D? Well, you should be able to buy it soon. I’ve seen preorders at Germany’s Music Store, though haven’t talked to anyone who’s got one in-hand.

Let me turn it over to Uli Behringer, then, who this week wrote:

Please allow me to clarify that the first batch of Model D’s had arrived at our German retailer Music Store right before yearend, which you can easily verify with them.

The next batch will hopefully leave the factory by end of coming week with some units being air-shipped to the US. The production is still relatively slow due to the fact that each unit takes over 30 minutes to warm up followed by a meticulous one-hour calibration and quality assurance procedure.”

Wait… back up. Couple things here.

First, this suggests that in the midst of teasing literally dozens of remakes, Behringer are stumbling on shipping just this first one. The Model D was shown publicly at Superbooth in Berlin in the first half of last year, with preorders taken early in the summer and shipping promised soon. This represents a significant delay – acceptable maybe for a small builder, but less so a massive instrument manufacturer.

Second, the Minimoog authenticity here may have gone a bit far. Recall that there are reasons other than cost that synthesizer engineers largely moved away from pure analog oscillators, opting for digital oscillators or digital-controlled analog oscilllators.

Thirty minutes to warm up? An hour to calibrate?

Some manual tuning is evidently involved in this instrument, just like on the original. And that’s consistent with the specs, which mention an A-440 tuning reference. Note that one feature of the Roland/Studio Electronics SE-02 is temperature-stabilized oscillators with automatic tuning. That plus the extra features on the Studio Electronics piece (and a better stock outlook) make the Roland look like a better compact Minimoog alternative than the Behringer.

Reading through Uli’s convoluted messages, it generally seems Behringer for all this hype are now lowering expectations for their analog clones.

And that should mean reevaluating their impact on the industry. Low price is one thing, but availability matters, too.

Of course, the model D delays are conveniently here buried by Behringer teasing still more instruments – based on the Oberheim OB-X and the Roland VP-330 vocoder / string machine.

But again, availability is an issue. There’s no pricing, and no ship date. There’s no information on the vocoder at all. And the OB-Xa is described as being fairly far off, if in the hands of the same Midas team who did the DeepMind:

Since this is more a labor of love than a commercially viable project, our engineers can’t work full time on this synth and will use some of their free time, hence the project will likely take more than 12 months.

So, here’s the current status:

DeepMind 12: shipping now. ($999 with 49-key keyboard, 12D without $899)
DeepMind 6: shipping now. ($699 with 37-key keyboard, six voices)
Model D: limited quantities, still a preorder. ($299)
Vocoder Plus: unconfirmed; status unknown.
OB-Xa clone: confirmed, 12+ months out, pricing unknown.

(Prices/availability confirmed for US retailers, starting with Sweetwater. Model D appears to be backordered both in Europe and stateside – though you’re welcome to “call and confirm” as Uli suggests.)

Everything else is just vaporware until proven otherwise.

And here’s the weird thing: Behringer have managed to steal the show from themselves and the fact that the full DeepMind range is shipping.

  • The most interesting part of the “UB-Xa” announcement for me is that he’s saying they’re going to do regular videos and posts giving us an insight into their development/engineering process.

    “In around one week from now, Pete and Rob will post our first video and share some thoughts with you. Our intention is to not only post videos on a regular basis but also write articles and publish them on our social media pages so you can follow this project.
    Now that we have decided on the project, next is the discussion around the basic concept, the feature set and also the building blocks including potential component choices. In the near future we will be able to show you the first “bread boards” of the sound engine and hopefully let you hear some sound samples.
    Next will be PCB and mechanical designs, followed by hand- and tool made samples. And then of course we will be sharing the exciting mass production where we will be showing the production setup and testing plus quality control processes. And if you’re not yet bored by then, we can also show you the packaging and shipping process.”

    • I mean… I guess that’s interesting. At this stage, we’ve had makers as big as KORG share entire schematics under open licenses. It wasn’t necessarily that we wanted more information from Behringer, but more reliable information about what they’re actually producing and when. Instead, they’ve purposely teased products that then haven’t seen the light of day, but have managed to steal attention away from products that are actually shipping from other makers. With so many small and independent makers eager to get their products known, that’s a bit unfortunate.

      • AnalogShmalalog

        °With so many small and independent makers eager to get their products known, that’s a bit unfortunate]
        Mmm…I wouldn’t exactly call Roland, Korg, Novation, or Moog « small ». If you’re referring to the real small makers like Dreadbox, Mfb, etc… well they always had their show stolen as soon as one of the formerly mentionned companies opened their mouth. Nothing new there.

  • The model d is out, first videos arrived. Uli explained in a another new forum post why it takes so long to calibrate perfectly.
    He also mentioned earlier why the release took so long and why they had so many delays. They moved their whole factory in china to a different place and it took them much longer than thought. Also: It’s their second synth ever… It’s not a small undertake to produce a new category of products. They got over 10.000 preorders.

    I find it rather refreshing to have somebody like Uli who is very vocal and explains all the processes and ideas. There are two cases where he responded to user suggestions and added them: On the model D adding all the input/output jacks and the Juno 60 chorus clone (tc electronics) making it from mono to stereo. I guess the same will happen with the UBx-

    Yes it means that we all have to wait longer, instead of the „announcing a new product that is directly available“ approach, but I rather prefer this.

    • Analogic

      I share the same view and find it refreshing too when a company listens to customers and gets them engaged to design products even when it takes longer. In my view this is the way to go and hopefully other companies follow.

  • Analogic

    Peter having read your many posts about Behringer and Uli, I can’t avoid the impression that you must really hate them. Whatever the reason, I am not sure you’re doing yourself a favor. My 2 cents.

    • TJ

      It seems pretty measured and objective to me. Can you name another large and mainstream manufacturer that has operated in this way? Teasing products a year (or more) in advance, “accidentally” releasing a promo for a line of synths that may or may not ever see the light of day, while simultaneously further delaying the product that they promised to deliver much earlier?

      If even a smaller company, like Arturia, did this, I would fully expect a *somewhat* critical article about the situation. To me, it’s all just sort of interesting. It’s at least worth writing about.

      • Analogic

        I have no dog in this race but in my view you are missing the point. Behringer are inviting customers to participate in the design of the products . You call it teasing and I call it customer engagement. The model D was changed several times when customers jumped in and made suggestions. The Ub-xa is following the same way and they made it is clear that this will take a year or so but invited customers to participate. I respect this approach rather than just dumping a product on customers. My real point was that peter’s comments about behringer and the dislike for the company and the owner sound more like a personal vendetta than critical journalism. Again just my 2 cents.

        • TJ

          Sure. I guess it can be seen from that perspective, or seen from the perspective that they want to stay in the public eye and are fishing for a consensus on what will sell, without really anticipating the timeframe and technical hurdles in advance. It’s a good business move though. It’s user research that fosters goodwill and generates great word of mouth while keeping the focus on the bottom line.

          I still say this article is pretty objective, giving due credit to the Deep Mind, while being mindful of the mishaps that are happening with the Model D and probably fairly aware of Behringer’s reputation as a company that copies other people’s designs, and undercuts the price as it’s business model. Behringer has done this while not maintaining the same quality control as the companies it takes it’s designs from. We can agree on that, right? I’ve owned Behringer mixers since the early 2000’s and currently have two patchbays sitting in my studio. The mixers were great Mackie clones, but the components had a tendency to bite the dust a few years in. It’s a Behringer, what do you expect? So, perhaps Kirn is basing his critical eye on their actions, but also their well documented history.

          • Analogic

            Look I am not here to argue but what I saw on major retailers’ websites, the DeepMind was the best selling poly synth. Not sure what you mean by mishaps for the model D – do you mean the two months delay in shipping? What’s the big deal as they were moving factories from what I’ve read? Do you mean other companies don’t encounter delays?
            I personally have no problems with companies taking designs from others as long as it is legal. Everyone does it just look at the guitar or phone industry or how many times the 303 drum machine has been cloned?
            I agree that Behringer’s quality was spotty a decade or so ago, but they’ve cleaned up their act. I’ve read that things got much better when they moved away from third party manufacturers many years ago to start their in house production. Now they own a new mega factory and also acquired 10 major brands. I saw on Music Trades that they’re now the 8th largest pro audio company. Coincidence?
            I always look at customer reviews and from what I see Behringer’s quality seems perfectly fine. They know how to make a reliable US 50,000 Midas console so I am sure they know how to make reliable synths. Coming from the electronic industry I believe their low prices are not a matter of cheap components but economy of scale and vertical integration. If their quality was poor, they would have gone out of business long ago. But what do I know.

  • Max

    Let’s create a lot of PR fluff, throw it against the wall like spaghetti and see what sticks. Bah.