Superlative SB-1 Synthesizer Is A Futuristic Take On The Classic SH-101

At Superbooth 2019, Superlative introduced the SB-1/Space Bee synthesizer, described as ‘The sound of the past, crafted for the future.”

The Superlative SB-1 synth is a futuristic take on the classic Roland SH-101. At Superbooth, we got an overview and demo from creator Ben Stamas.

The SB-1 is currently under development, but is expected to be available later this year.

43 thoughts on “Superlative SB-1 Synthesizer Is A Futuristic Take On The Classic SH-101

  1. The price will determine if this lives or dies. Presumably it will be more than the Behringer, and I think many people would happily pay extra for this superior design. But it has to cost less than buying an original. So that means its going to have to come in around $600, which may not be possible for them.

    1. This looks much better than the Behringer knockoff, and MIDI will certainly work!

      Price is less important, though, than doing something unique and original. You can’t compete with cheap knockoffs based on price, you have to do it on quality. Look at the Moog One – they’ve already sold more than 1,000 which stacks up to be millions of dollars. If this sells even in the hundreds, which seems very possible, it should be a success for the developer.

      1. Yes, looks much better than the Behringer. And a stunning design. But it is neither unique nor original, so the price will be a factor. It simply must be less than an original, which is around $1000 at the moment. The Moog One is an interesting comparison, but if there were a cheaper clone that sounded more or less like a Moog One, that would steal a lot of sales from Moog. But there isn’t, and its a different league entirely. This is a 101 clone, with a few tweaks and a very nice package. But thats all it is.

          1. Yes. Go to http://www.adverts.ie and search for SH-101. You’ll find one for $900, another for $1000, and a few for more than that. Those prices are negotiable, and I’ve seen 102’s sell for less than thatrecently.

            1. There is a newly listed SH-101 on eBay starting at $500. After that they go to $1k and up to around $2k.

              I’d be curious to see a comparison between this one and the MS.

              1. Here in Ireland they’re around $900-1000. They’ve been that for a while now. You’ll see a few on adverts.ie right now in that range.

      2. So you are claiming that the Behringer MS-101 has a midi issue that can’t be fixed via firmware?
        We have no idea if the Midi works on this prototype.

        Keep in min that the keys on this aren’t typical synth keys. If they feel like the Xkeys, most players would not like them (they are based on a similar solution). the Xkey had polyphonic aftertouch, when there were hardly any other hardware with that feature, and still is the cheapest offering. And they are slimmed down much more than this, to fit in a bag, for that on the go situation, where keyboard feel can be compromised, for the portability.

        No, price will be very important. A crushing majority of all sold synths, stays in the studio/home-studio/in-home, and will never be seen on a stage. When it is not going to be shown off, it is harder to justify paying premium for the looks of something.
        Selling in the hundreds, seems a bit optimistic for a SH-101 clone, competing with the Behringer one, and the Roland Boutique one… if it had been modular, then perhaps.

        I do like his design idea. And perhaps that could be the basis for a company. But they most likely would have to focus on making instrument to which there aren’t any way cheaper alternatives to, and with Behringers track record, I think original voice would be the best option.

        There are some people out there that really dislikes the Behringer brand, but not all of them can afford spending a lot of money on synths (a few of them will actually end up buying Behringer, just because, Behringer offer such a great value for money) and not all of the Behringer-dislikers want a SH-101.
        If there was a brand that wasn’t Behringer, that made the same synths, with 20% higher pricetag, well then perhpas there could be a market, for the Behringer-dislikers, but the products would not be of any higher quality, and far from all Behringer gear is of a bad quality some are really good, some are fine, some are quite bad, though, and then Behringer has quality control issues, where they rather take products back, than make sure they work leaving the factory (but that isn’t unique to Behringer.

        I wish this company luck. I wish everyone starting a company to make synths, modular and such luck.
        But in reality, it is a tough business, so a working business plan is essential, and even then it is hard to get through the buzz.

        1. Did you see any videos from Superbooth of a Behringer MS-101 being controlled by MIDI? If it was working correctly now, they’d be showing it, wouldn’t they?

          The MS-10 MIDI is clearly still a problem, if they’re afraid to demo it.

          Who knows if they can fix the problem with a firmware update? How are we supposed to know? Behringer says they can, but they said most of the synths they’ve introduced would be shipping by now, too, and they’re missing in action.

          You’d think that a company with their resources would be able ship a synth with MIDI that works, like every other synth company in the last 35 years has done. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now, but I’d wait to see a rock-solid demo from somebody like Nick Batt before dropping money on that thing.

          Also – no one buys a synth to show it off onstage. Where did you get that idea? That’s not what real musicians do. People buy gear that’s useful, that sounds good, that’s reliable and that inspires them.

          1. That is a strange logic. The MS-101 has built in keyboard, so it would make little sense to control it with another at a show like this.
            I’m not saying that they have fixed the issue.
            But it doesn’t work logically as a proof, that just because they did not show that off, it is still an issue.

            But also where in this video did you see this being controller by another device? or controlling another device. We have no idea if the midi is working with this either, and if the firmware will be completely finished when they put it up for pre-orders, or even when they start shipping the first units.

            Yamaha shipped the EX-5, with midi timing issues, I’m not sure they ever got it right, but it required replacing actual chips in it, to get the latest most stable version as it was hardware based firmware. Typically is seems that Yamaha would replace it for free, even after the warranty ran out. But there was no such official statement, and they also did not produce chips to cover all units.

            From what I’ve heard, the Matrix-brute has some clocking issues.

            And those are far from the only ones I’ve read about, those are just the ones I remember right now. And 35 years ago, pretty much no synth had fully working midi. Most products older than 30 years, had all sorts of issues with midi. But even among newer units, there has been issues.

            Well, it was argued in this thread that looks had an important role to play. But I argue it has much less of a role to play when it comes to people not showing the instrument off, if it comes with a mayor price difference.

      3. You have no idea if MIDI will work cause it isn’t out yet and these are just prototypes.
        So how do you know this is better quality, than lets say a Behringer?

        The next update for MS101 from Behringer will fix the MIDI issues btw.

        “it will be cheaper than a second hand 101”. Was what I got after asking for the price.
        So could basically be anything all they way up to 2000,- lol

        There is also the claim this is to be the first rechargeable analog synthesizer, which it isn’t.

        Nice design, but probably way too pricey for what I would personally spent on a 101 clone.

        1. Has anybody besides Behringer shipped a synth in the last decade with completely broken midi?

          Suggesting that this synth won’t have working midi just because Behringer screwed up doesn’t make any sense. Nobody tries to copy Behringer!

          Midi is 35 years old and a simple protocol and there’s even open source midi to cv code that can be used.

      4. MIDI issues aside the Behringer 101 clone sounds fine. Price absolutely matters, people who say it doesn’t are just snobs who don’t want competition from broke kids.

        1. BTW please don’t interpret that as a negative comment on this synth even if it costs more than its competition. It looks and sounds great and I hope it succeeds! I think it will sell well if it comes in at $600 or less. More than that it may not move enough units to cover the development costs – but whatever the price, Ben’s clearly done his homework and I wish him great success.

    2. I’ve been interested in an SH-101 for some time, but the prices are ridiculous, so I have an order with Sweetwater for a blue Behringer MS-101. They’re saying it will be available in August.

      I would cancel my order if Superlative announces a reasonable price, and if independent videos emerge with a favourable comparison of its sound to an original SH-101.

      I’m certain I’m not alone with these feelings. I really want to support these guys, and they know what they’re up against, so obviously they have to move fast if they want to sell any significant quantity of these.

    3. This is the key here. Many of these companies were working on these analog designs before Behringer started releasing their cheap clones and analogs. Korg was caught off-guard with that nasty little Volca that sounds like a fuzzbox, Teenage Engineering also caught off-guard – thinking that their strange lego modulars would be considered amazeballs for the price. Of course price will be an issue for this product, and I’m not even sure $600 will do it. With all that said, as a keyboard player, the keybed design intrigues me, and I wonder if it would allow for easier fingering of certain jazz chord types.

      Mind you, I’m not a Behringer fanboy, having several of their older products fail me (usually through power supply section), and I feel all the synths built on the curtis repros sound somewhat similar, but hard to argue that they are not sending shockwaves through the synth community. And of course Moog is feeling it, regardless of what others may be saying.

        1. Why, yes, of course. Does that preclude me from being intrigued by the keybed design? I thought in the video he said it had some type of usb/midi or midi out? I imagine it would then have normal midi controller capabilities.

      1. The fuzzbox volca, is that the Nubass? I think there are some issues with the NuTube, I’ve seen test of it, seems to distort in a way that is too extreme for just adding a little tube saturation. So perhaps they expected something else, but simply had to live with what they could get from that NuTube.
        Some people do seem to like things like that. I guess for people wanting to make acid tracks, it is a quick and easy bass module, with a bit of a different flavor to it.
        I’m not a fan.

        The Volca range as a whole though, with battery powered options, and small sizes, does present something that Behringer doesn’t have in their range yet.

        And when it comes to Teenage engineering Behringer hasn’t fully launched their modular plans, although the Neutron and Crave offer quite a bit of patching… So there is stil room for Teenage Engineering to sell some units. Bigger issue, is probably the quirkiness of their products. By using those lego pins, it would in theory be possible to motorize them, but the controls seem to be too tightly packed making it a bit too difficult.

        But surely Behringer has put the pressure on the synth industry. Probably more than they ever did with stomp boxes.
        But that is perhaps only a good thing. Forcing makers to make something a bit extra, because any of the more basic stuff Behringer will offer at a bargain price. It might put companies like this out of business. but in reality one has to accept, that the only reason for success in a field can’t be that everyone is too lazy, because then when others step up their game, if one hasn’t gotten the market shares or reputation needed by that time, the competition will most likely be crushing. In the car industry; Tesla is facing this issue, and they have even gotten fairly established.

        As for the keyboard of this, I have my doubts.
        But if they have made something interesting, that could be their basis for future business (key-beds or full controllers).
        The design is quite cool as well, and Axel Hartmann has made a name for himself as a Synth designer, perhaps this company could evolve to be that.
        I doubt they will sell enough units to make all the R&D back. But if they can use that R&D for future endeavors, it could be all fine.

  2. Nicely done but not the most inspired update. A Roland 101 is battery powered. No keytar strap? No extra envelope or log for the mod wheel or any new synthesis functions?

  3. Sounds like the real deal. Looks fantastic. Small? Battery powered? Check.

    Second sequencer track is a great idea. Wonder if you can loop it back into the CV MOD IN to have a separate parameter automation sequence.

    One thing that should absolutely be ‘fixed’ as compared to the original: latch that transpose button! Holding it down is PITA. Bonus if the sequence can be remotely transposed via MIDI or CV when that button is latched.

    1. You can loop the second track CV out back into the CV mod input for additional automation, and there is a new latching transpose function (shown in another video).

  4. Behringer: boo because they are big and they copy Roland.
    Superlative: cheers because he is a small company, has a good design, and pays tribute to Roland.
    Interesting.

    1. Yes the hate against Behringer clones is quite unfair.
      Studio Electronics have “cloned” the Minimoog Model D twice, the second time with Roland (be it that they added more functionality than Behringer did, but still).

      MoogMusic today isn’t actually the same company that made the original Model D, so theirs is just as much a clone as anyone else..
      The company that made the original is no longer around. And there are no patents to it anymore. And Bob Moog is no longer alive (his idea was to modernize the concept, so he came up with the Voyager). I can’t find any information if the original Engineer is still alive, if he is, he is the only link any claims of Original maker.

      When it comes to Roland, they are still around.
      But the SH-101 has been cloned before, just not with the same looks.
      But Roland doesn’t own any patents related to it.
      They could perhaps make a claim based on the design, by saying it looks too much like the SH01A, Same with their Drum machines and the boutique versions of them.
      So in that regard, Behringer could run in to legal issues, that this would be safe from.
      But the idea of actually cloning the instrument in terms of sound architecture, isn’t at risk.

      Behringer does have quality control issues. And they have made some products in the past, that were just bad. And they have made some decisions in the past at least, under-designing products, to save a few cents, resulting in products that became much less than they could have been, in terms of durability or audio quality.
      So I can understand a level of skepticism about the build quality. (And sound quality, had there not been demos, to assure people that they got that part right).
      But the hate on them for actually cloning instruments, that is quite unfair.

      1. I had the good fortune to meet Bob Moog at a trade show back in the early 2000s at Messe Frankfurt, before the revival of Moog music as a manufacturing concern. He was super nice and very encouraging about the product I was there to sell. I asked him how he felt about people (like Studio Electronics) cloning his designs and he laughed and said ‘I love it, why wouldn’t I?’

        It’s not surprising that he did somewhat poorly as a businessman; money was just the means to an end for him, the end being ‘more synths!’ Although he graciously answered some business questions, when we got to the Superbooth where all the boutique analog manufacturers were (a fairly small group then, with only 5 or 6 exhibitors) all he wanted to do was geek out over lush sounds.

        1. Cool.
          I guess in the creative fields, it is quite common with people not understanding the business aspect. And it seems the opposite can be true, when creative companies start involving business oriented people.
          I don’t know if it is true, but I’ve heard that Moog, intentionally did not patent the subtractive synthesis concept, because they wanted it to catch on. But they did patent the filter design, though.

  5. Looks great, something I’d actually consider buying. One has to realize that much of the hate being heaped on “Boringer” is because their design (not just the circuitry) is so lazy and derivative. However these guys from Superlative have substantially expanded on the original, while keeping the original sound quality and innovating from the design angle. That’s how this stuff should work, and if the price is right I’d be glad to support this new company.

  6. Behringer’s MS-101 is still listed on most Music Store Websites as Pre-Order. Plus the MIDI was not working. Also, they are trying to get as many synths made, without actually making something?

    This synth the SB-1, I can actually see coming to market. It’s like the SH-101 but better. I would support this!

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