Some ugly stuff:
Why does it feel like Uli isn’t even attempting to contact the Curtis family, etc? He seems to have some funny ideas about the meaning of “community”. If he is aware that he’s making Behringer look like a cannibal within the community, he seems to be unconcerned about such perceptions.
Some ugly stuff:
Has anyone ever considered Behringer anything but a cannibal? I’m not sure I’m aware of any other music equipment manufacturer more given to feeding from the bottom. Their history seems built on a game of maximizing supply chain efficiency to the point of devaluing labour entirely, and using other companies’ designs as an excuse to manufacture something/anything just to make use of all this efficiency.
It’s interesting that he kicked all this off with a long story about his father’s pipe organ project. So he apparently has seen what a labor of love looks like. He just doesn’t seem to care.
These are certainly interesting & murky waters! Personally I have much more of an issue with the idea of Behringer selling numerous ‘clones’ which rely heavily on the name & history of the original components / instruments. Remaking old chips that were designed, and sold commercially, 40 years ago is less of a concern in my mind.
I’d encourage folks to separate out the issues here – you can dislike Behringer for numerous reasons, but I’m trying to stop my personal distaste of their business model from automatically decrying everything they do as destructive to ‘the community’.
Think for a second why it’s more ok for Moog to ‘remake’ the Minimoog, than for Behringer to make a ‘clone’? I’m not a big fan of thinking the Moog Corporation has an indefinite moral right to profit from a now unprotected design. When it comes to the Curtis chips, remember that they were designed from the beginning to be sold commercially and put in synthesizers, which they were in large numbers, and with the knowledge that those designs wouldn’t be protected indefinitely. I’d be surprised if Behringer didn’t try to buy out Curtis rather than doing it the hard way with the supposed 6 figure IC setup costs.
None of this is to say I appreciate what Behringer is doing. They are openly pursuing hyper-capitalist goals, and their business plan is one that makes it impossible for small manufacturers to directly compete commercially. I’m not bitter about that, it’s just a reality. The consequence though is that it allows Behringer to make a lot of money doing boring things – which actually leaves more room for innovation amongst the small manufacturers. Behringer products are cheap, in large part because they focus on a very different kind of R&D (manufacturability & scalability focused). The only problem is when customers complain that the BOM->Retail markup is too much for innovative products, rather than accepting that they are two independent value propositions.
In terms of the Mannequins eurorack modules, the first 3 modules I designed were largely enabled by the Cool Audio recreations of the ssm2164. I’m super grateful that these out of production components were made available, and in new surface-mount packages – I literally wouldn’t have been able to design what I did without them. I am appreciative that the components weren’t made only for in-house use – at a guess there’s probably hundreds of euro modules that wouldn’t exist without them, and they also enabled the Elektron Analog series. That said I’m choosing not to design with those parts into the future for numerous reasons.
Totally agree. I generally find it hard to get worked up about cloning in general, as so much of the industry is propped up by clones, copies, inspirations, tributes and iterations of old designs, from compressors, EQs, mixing desks, guitar pedals, and amplifiers right through to synths and so, so many modules. Taking a stand would largely require total abstention from any of it. Plus patents end in a timely fashion for good reason, I’m not sure the moral high ground lies with keeping them active perpetually, even if just through the harvesting of guilty consciences.
Something that bothered me about Behringer’s recent reveries is the underlying suggestion that synths are just a matter of the cost of components and shipping to retail. It all seems short-sighted and destructive.
On the one hand it seems kind of shitty that they are just taking designs other people created and by virtue of their massive resources are able to make more profit from those than their original creators ever could.
On the other hand, those instruments and designs are not likely to ever be reissued by their original creators ever again, and this provides an opportunity for people who would never otherwise be able to use one to own a low cost recreation. The sales go towards funding the development of further technology which is then sold to creators of other instruments to use in their own designs…
Yeah, even as I cringe at their hypercapitalist attitude, I also sort of expect I’ll end up owning one or two of the upcoming synths. I might not tell anybody here about it though, out of embarrassment at my transgression. But they’re talking about some synths that I will never be able to justify in their original vintage forms, but that any synth enthusiast has lusted after at one time or another.
There are a lot of angles here… Roland refuses to reissue analog versions of their synths. This is what people want and they just won’t do it. Korg on the other hand seems to be more attentive to their audience and gets it right most of the time. With that being said, Korg still hasn’t reissued the 2600 and I think there was an expectation that they would have done it 2 years ago or this year, given that they had reissued the MS-20 and the Arp Odyssey. Instead, they release a ‘full size key’ version and a desktop version of the Odyssey. Behringer sees an opening in the market and is seizing it. The Moog thing bothers me the most, especially because they have made an effort to make their products more affordable (below $1000) while still making them here in the US.
I don’t really plan to buy any of their synths, but we definitely use their parts in Intellijel products, as do most of the other major Euro manufacturers.
This was always the one that really seemed sad to me: small US manufacturer designs great, affordable, universally useful product. Behringer takes it, makes it 1/3rd the price and gives nothing in return.
ugh, yeah - even making the enclosure the same. It’s just distasteful.
So I could forgive them if I felt there was a shred of inventiveness.
For instance: I’m not particularly into Korg’s reissues (though the MS-20 is at least unusual enough to make one worthwhile) - but I’m pleased that they stand alongside products like the Minilogue, which is (as four-voice poly analogs go) an interesting and modern take on an idea, at the right price, with a nice interface, and I really enjoy its sound.
What I can’t see is Behringer making any developments of any interest. Not fundamental developments, entirely new inventions - just developments in terms of instrument-building. Fastidious reproduction of old instruments isn’t necessarily hard (especially if your build quality and margin is garbage). What’s more interesting - but harder - is having new ideas. Look at the Deepmind 12: it isn’t quite a straight-up Juno clone - and some things they’ve added (effects) seem sensible… but the UI just looks like such a hot mess and the screen is garbage and it ends up feeling almost the opposite of a straightforward, sturdy instrument like a 106.
Invention in this field isn’t just about completely new circuits - sometimes it’s reconfiguration, or providing a better UI, or a different form factor. What I find annoying is the complete refusal of that idea: the idea that Behringer are proudly stating that they wish to invent nothing, and instead copy a thing at a price point.
And how that price point becomes possible: a) market size and b) labour costs. If more people weren’t ready to just drop $400 on a wobbly Minimoog clone, you couldn’t make a $400 Minimoog clone.
Good points @infovore. The one upside to this is that maybe it will force new types of invocation that can’t just be copied by Behringer, whatever they may be… my money is on FPAAs (field programable analogue arrays)…
Two more points, the Minimoog is ~47 years old now, it should have commodity pricing (along with other older synths & chips).
And also, given the lead times, is it possible that both Curtis/OnChip and Behringer were both working on the reissue at the same time, unbeknownst to each other?
This is an interesting point if you look at a Fender Telecaster. Fender sell the original in variations ranging from £500 to £4000; all with identical components (that is, identical in Uli-speak = wood + varnish + pots + pickups).
They’re differentiated by features, finish, where and how they’re made; Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, American, Custom Shop. They sell Squier, their own ‘diffusion’ range ranging from £180-£500.
All these products can do what they like in terms of logos and designs as they all have access to Fender IP and brands. They can all say ‘Telecaster’ for example.
Then there are non-Fender clones, which range from £69 to £??? boutique hand-built guitars. These also have identical components (in Uli-speak) but no access to the IP. They can’t say ‘Telecaster’ so they say ‘T-Style’.
It’s a whole ecosystem; anyone can afford a T-Guitar, and almost anyone can afford a Fender-group Telecaster, some people want the cheapest, some people want something better. Some people want the name, some want features.
I don’t have a £69 telecaster, and I don’t have a £5000 telecaster. I have one in the middle.
Likewise, I don’t want a £3.5k Minimoog, and I don’t want a £400 Beri-Moog. I’d quite like a well-made (Mexican?) Moog-branded Minimoog for £800, with PCB and modern SMT components and wooden bits.
In the future: Behringer buys Moog, invests in the US factory (‘custom shop’), opens a Mexican branch and does the rest at their Chinese city-factory. He launches a ‘Bob, by Moog’ Chinese-made range. Scraps the R&D, modern products and expensive festivals, creates the £300 -> £4,000 range of heritage instruments that people want.
Plus merchandise. Lots of merch.
Pre-Behringer instruments go up in price. Then, by 2040, early Behringer instruments are worth just as much, because they’re ‘warmer’.
The other part of this story is that the quality and range of cheap guitars is phenomenal now. You can get really, really good guitars for £400 and excellent, completely playable guitars for £150. That wasn’t true in the 1980s or even 1990s, even allowing for inflation.
"First they came for Mackie, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a pub soundtech.
Then they came for Boss, and I did not speak out—
Because I was into boutique pedals by Z-vex.
Then they came for Peavey Valve amps, and I did not speak out—
Because I am not a shred guitarist.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
This kind of discussion has been going on for years in guitar circles, and probably longer in sound-tech circles. I’ve got to a point where I just try to vote with my wallet, and ignore the pantomime. The number one rule for me is: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. A £3 t-shirt from Primani? A 50p pint of milk? A £20 guitar pedal? Someone is getting screwed.
So one thing that getting more into weirder instruments, and simultaneously into making my own has changed is: I’m much happier to buy more expensive things, within reason.
I’m OK with some of my Eurorack modules being quite expensive: they are made by small outfits in small runs. I know where the money’s going. I understand why a grid is $700. It’s not even about the word ‘craftsmanship’; it’s just about paying for work.
And sometimes, I vote with my wallet in the other direction, because no amount of telling me a cheap tubescreamer clone is ‘handwired’ is going to make it necessarily worth what some makers want.
I like @TomWhitwell’s point about ranges of manufacture. Right now, it feels like entire manufacturers represent one point on that scale; compare Arturia, Sequential/DSI, and Moog.
(Oh - the other thing we’d not mentioned is inflation; I still reel when Juno 106’s go for twice what they did when I was 16, but then I remember how money works, and what a Minimoog being $3000 in 197X really means.)
I think this logic might be slightly inverted– I’m quite sure the only reason they sell the parts to other manufacturers is it leads to more profit for them (no selfless community boosting). Here’s hoping they don’t decide against it, or a whole lot of products will instantly go out of production!
Problem here is these different ranges require entirely different business models / manufacturing approaches. For me I struggle to stay on top of one very specific manufacturing approach. Even for companies with dozens of employees it’s difficult to have these models work side by side. Fender has to be extremely careful with positioning Squier so it doesn’t compete with the more expensive instruments. IMO Epiphone guitars are made deliberately poorly to up-sell Gibsons – if you’re looking to buy an inexpensive guitar the ‘off-brand’ options are almost always a better value option.
Further the country-of-origin has little direct bearing on quality. Made in China often means “made by workers with low wages & massive quotas”, but it doesn’t have to! The sheer scale of Chinese manufacturing often means they have better tools & automated testing than US (or other countries) manufacturing.
Some food for thought:
When you’re talking about small-scale manufacturing (of new designs), it’s important to remember the R&D cost isn’t negligible. I’m working on a project currently which has taken over 6 months of full-time work and it’s still not complete. Let’s say I earn $30k/year (barely enough to survive on in nyc), that’s $50/unit just in R&D costs! Mark it up by 300% and the retail price is $150 higher than it would be for a massively scaled manufacturer like Behringer (This is why you don’t see Volca-style instruments from small manufacturers.)
I’m not saying that they are doing it to benefit the community, but it’s a side-effect of what happens. Of course they are only doing it to make money, that’s the only reason businesses do things. But so what? They get money, we get chips. Otherwise we’d have no chips and then we’d just have to give money to someone else or not make things.
I’ve generally been willing to give Behringer the benefit of the doubt. Having a low cost alternative to the premium manufacturers could reasonably be seen to be in the interest of the community. This action, however, shows they do not deserve my good will.
sheesh! this is not a good look. it’s not like that suit would hold up, but there’s no way that the music blog would want to pay the legal fees to find out.