Supply Chain Issues Are Killing Synth Companies And Making It Impossible To Ship New Designs

Supply chain issues are killing synth companies and making it impossible for others to manufacture and ship new designs.

Boutique synth maker Future Retro – creator of the FR 777, Orb and other synths – has announced that it has shut down, saying “Due to the current state of the world and global parts shortages, we are forced to close our doors.”

Texas synth maker – the company that defined the modern MU format – has put itself up sale:

Haken Audio, makers of the Continuum line of expressive synthesizers, can’t get parts to make some of their products and is having to raise prices on others.

EaganMatrix modules are a problem until I can get the DSP chips. Those DSP chips have been on order for over two years, and are now promised in September, but we will see,” notes creator Lippold Haken. “The semiconductor shortage is continuing to make things difficult for us building ContinuuMinis – we are paying over 10 times original price for some of the parts. We will have to raise the price on Minis after the current run is sold out due to our substantial increased costs for chips; the cost of assembled Mini PCBs has more than doubled.”

Isla Instruments announced recently that they’ve finally got the parts they needed for making their S2400 sampler – after a 2 year wait:

“You’re looking at 1000pcs of the STM32H7 microcontroller. The beating heart of our beloved S2400,” they note. “I placed a panic order for these babies almost 2 years ago. Today, they finally arrived. It looks like we’re a go on the next batch of S2400s!”

Behringer has announced dozens of new synths and other electronic music products that they can’t manufacture because of the global component shortage. As a result, they have tagged many of their introductions as #hardvaporware.

Designs that are missing in action include entire lines of synthesizers, including their ‘Soul’ minisynths, a line of $50 minisynths, the ‘Boogerfooger’ knockoffs of the Moog Moogerfooger pedals, the Hirotribe groovebox, a Moog Taurus bass synth knockoff, a Buchla Music Easel knockoff and many other designs.

What’s Behind The Parts Shortage?

Analysts generally attribute the global parts shortage to three main things:

  • US Tax Policy – In 2018, the Trump administration imposed an import tax on Chinese electronics components, and this has stayed in place under Biden. At the time, Moog Music argued that the 25% tax would “drastically increase the cost of building our instruments.” Other US synth makers have had to raise prices because of the new tax. The administration also banned sale of some components to China, which created a disincentive for US companies to manufacturer these parts.
  • Covid – in 2020, Sequential noted that the pandemic could lead to a synth shortage & shipping delays. “Because our products are also built here in San Francisco, our manufacturing facility will be temporarily closed, and this will likely affect the quantity and speed at which our products can be shipped.” The pandemic similarly impacted electronics components manufacturers, especially in China, where plants were shut down for long periods of time. The result of this is that a huge portion of the world’s electronics manufacturing capacity was lost over the last few years. Parts that would have been made, if not for the pandemic, were not made, leading to shortages of all types of electrical components.
  • Increased Demand – unemployment spiked at the beginning of the pandemic, but now it is historically low, at about 3.6%. This is well under the average unemployment rate of 5.75%, which means that there are more people employed who want to buy things, resulting in increased demand for all types of products. The rise of work from home has also contributed to a huge spike in demand, as people upgrade their computers and home office gear.

Other reasons cited for the parts shortage include:

  • Power grid failures in Texas, which shut down chip production at several plants;
  • Fires, which shut down several Japanese plants; and
  • The Russia invasion of Ukraine, which has disrupted the supply of semiconductor-grade neon and other materials.

At this point, there’s no end in sight to the global parts shortage and other supply chain issues. Behringer recently suggested that the situation was only going to get worse, because of the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Have you been impacted by the parts shortage or increased prices on electronic music gear? Let us know in the comments!

59 thoughts on “Supply Chain Issues Are Killing Synth Companies And Making It Impossible To Ship New Designs

  1. golden age of electronics will be ending until western manufacturers get up to speed

    and im no expert but im guessing decades? especially if war with china ever heats up

    1. It was fun while it lasted. Fast forward 10-15 years: Those $300 analog Behringers will go for $1000-1500 if u can find one. Things are not going to be expensive, things were too cheap for too long.

      1. necessity is the mother of invention

        but if anything “excels” i can promise you it wont be some global corp tied to all the other global corps

    2. war with china isn’t going to happen, at least not in the current environment – there is a reason politically they walk the fence. China has as much to lose as everyone else if economic or any other kind of war breaks out. They have maintained a seclusionist policy for hundreds of years now so there is no reason to stop that now.

    1. Not for this reason though — Paul specifically said “This decision is based on not just lack of ARMs “going forward”. My wife is retiring her business in May 2023 and wants us to relax and play full-time grandparents. I’ll be 67 and agree. I’ll let Tom Oberheim represent old farts trudging onwards.”

      1. well that is true of every industry – as boomers retire and die, you are going to see a whole lot of industries suffer. This isn’t because boomers are more important or better but because they have tended to continue on far past when previous generations retired and bypassed passing a lot of knowledge and responsibilities to gen x. this is why it is incredibly common to see gen x working in different industries and locations than their parents.

  2. If beringer will bankrupted it will be interesting to see all the knokoffs products ramp up in price and become “legendary” 🙂

  3. Oof. I guess you’ll never know you were living in the golden age until it’s over. Expressive E has been having issues getting their Osmose out the door. November will the 3 year mark. As a day 1 pre-orderer, I’m hoping we get it sooner than later, but they too seem to be at the whims of the supply chain. I truly hope they are able to weather the storm. I was hoping this Osmose was going to be a V1, before the line is expanded to things like an 88 key version, but with the way things are going it could be the only run they ever do, who knows.

  4. It’s unfortunately not only electronic components: some wood went crazy, the cardboard we use had an increase of 20%, the glue we use also had a terrible increase, etc. So I’m afraid that we need to be ready for some unusual times (and not only in the music industry), and be prepared to “reconfigure” the production when necessary, to built what can be built with what is available.

  5. These are great times with great change. Now is the time for the 2nd hand market to come alive. Make music with whatever you can get a hold of and consider yourself lucky. All of this supply chain issue… is a blessing in disguise. The planet will be better off for it. And for the record.. I am not a tree hugger or an environmentalist… I just do not see the point of this industry some times if we are talking about making a living from being an expert at turning a cuttoff resonance filter at the same time. will be getting my business soon…

      1. All of my synths and outboard gear are secondhand…. bought on eBay or Gumtree over several years… I keep what I like, re-sell what I don’t and use the money to start the cycle again…. secondhand instruments are a great way to scratch that itch in a reasonably affordable way (crazy vintage synth prices excepted).

    1. Have you been paying attention? The second-hand market is completely out of control. Everywhere you look people (typically speculators) are selling super hyped price items… Literally the next entry on the main page of Synthtopia is about a guy listing a DX1 for six figures. That is not an isolated incident. And because they’re doing that, other folks try to get away with it too. There’s a guy on craigslist here asking $500 for a Timbre Wolf with the usual “No lowballers! I know what I’ve got” disclaimer. I promise you within a month every Future Retro listing on ebay and reverb will double as greedy speculators try to cash in.

  6. Expressive E is likely hurting badly too. Their Osmose is over two years late with no definite ship date in sight.

  7. We have open orders for thousands of microcontrollers from NXP and Microchip. The problem extends far beyond processors. Texas Instrument power switchers used throughout the industry are in very short supply; we use them for pulling down 15V supplies to 3.3V or to generate +/- and 48V phantom power rails. We also cannot get some ESD protection parts, power MOSFETs and a number of somewhat obscure analog switching ICs. We’re also paying 30-40% more for metal cases and packaging.

  8. I hate to state the obvious as I love hardware as much as the next guy, but VSTs anyone? It seems only a matter of time before the pricing on software adjusts itself accordingly, even though one could argue that the supply chain issues also affect the computer hardware that the software runs on.

    1. Yes, we will only have virtual synthesizers that are played at virtual concerts by avatars that we watch with our 3D glasses in our prefab highrise apartment (because the green socialists even don’t want us to have homesteads either). Beautiful new world…..

  9. This is not rocket surgery.

    The USA and other countries handed virtually their entire electronics manufacturing capability over to Communist China so as to avoid paying decent wages to their own personal. Now that nearly ALL components are made by ultra cheap, nearly slave labor in Communist China the Western electronics moguls have reduced themselves to nothing more than warehousers, distributors and middle men. That eliminates most of their overhead and they can make more for less effort and creativity on their own part.
    Had Communist China not used that move to establish a near global monopoly on the world-wide chip and electronics component market, the entire planet would not now be under their control and synthesizer makers (most of whom are very small companies) along with auto-makers and just about everyone whom makes things that run on electricity, would not now be shutting down all over the globe.

    1. Your understanding is incomplete. Microchip (a US company) makes processors and many other ICs in Thailand. They are having supply issues. Texas instruments makes components in Malaysia and Vietnam. Supply issues. Heck, most discrete components made in southeast asia are supply constrained right now.

      NXP (maker of popular LPC and i.MX processors) has wafer fabs in the Netherlands, Texas, Singapore and Arizona. Supply problems.

      And so on.

    2. Communist china has higher life expectancy, home ownership rate and government satisfaction than the USA. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two about how to run a country from them.

      1. Incorrect. The USA has higher life expectancy than China and citizens of an authoritarian unitary state are not going to add themselves to a secret service watch list by publicly declaring dissatisfaction with the government.

        1. Your information is out of date. Chinese life expectancy has now surpassed the US. 77.93 vs 76.5. They were trending to surpass the US in 2027, but the pandemic sped that up. I am citing a Vice article from July 8 if you would like to read it for yourself.

        1. ….and so it’s not a Communist country. I mean, were the national socialists really socialist? Try not getting hung up on the names of things but focus on the actual political and economic structures. There are many introductory Youtube videos if you need help.

        2. By “is still ruled by communist party” you mean that Chinese state intervention in the economy is more extensive than is the case in most capitalist countries?
          Please do elaborate. I think it is becoming a cliché.

  10. Oh well, there were too many stupid products and VST’s anyway. time to wack the market back into sensible shape again and get back to real music.

    1. This. Everyone here’s painting such a dismal picture as though Sweetwater, GC, Musician’s Friend, Alto, AMS, Perfect Circuit, Kraft Music and all the other retailers aren’t overflowing with plastic junk no one wants.

      This story doesn’t get interesting until retailers start going belly up. I am already actively rooting for half of the manufacturers in this article to fail. Unfortunately, not the 2 that actually failed.

      1. I don’t know about this one but the idea of a dedicated controller for specific VST is very practical, my Sound force controllers getting more use than my stand alone hardware.

      2. Gold plated PCBs are actually fairly common. Gold is an excellent conductor and can be applied as an extremely thin layer. It’s often used to gold plate connector contacts and isn’t an expensive process. It just sounds fancy.

        1. But this product uses it for fancy looking interface and nothing.
          It is a very good example for capitalist decadence.

  11. Know one thing. None of this is by accident, or chance, or a “natural cycle”. It takes a lotta $ and intent to do this, and of course corruption.

  12. End of an Era. The future is already here. Running subscription based software in the Cloud.
    $20/ a month, all you can play. pick your favorite: Roland, UVI, Reason, etc.
    own nothing – be happy

    PS. NoiseEngineering were smart to start porting their modules to VST

  13. I verrry slowly got tired of the upkeep and blowouts of my beloved hardware. I’ve ended up a lot happier by going all softsynth, but I have no doubt that even as stable as I’ve made my near-frozen system, politics and the lack-of-supply chain will eventually threaten those, too. We are all more interconnected than many people realize.

    Its rather late to prevent many kinds of damage, but I still look forward to seeing that brutal $#@! Putin get his @$$ handed to him in a high hat. Ukraine was supplying a lot to the world economy, including grain and vital metals. What has been done to those innocent people is beyond sufficient punishment.

      1. WTF lol??? Synthhead has been very clear about personal attacks, name calling, blah blah ever since I started posting here and yet you can call someone a “moron”

        Personally I dislike moderated forums, smacks of subjective morality, I say let us go at each other lol, but ok I’ll play by the rules, but you can call someone a “moron” and that’s ok? How is “moron” any different from fucktard or asswipe or dipshit lol? Oh what a world.

        1. alacazam

          Thanks for the feedback.

          We encourage sharing of all types of opinions, including criticism as long as it is about THINGS (a gear design, a synth’s build quality, a company’s support, etc).

          If we see personal attacks, though, we will delete them.

          We do not moderate and pre-approve every single comment, only a person’s first comment. This keeps the comments spam free and keeps most personal attacks and hate speech off the site. Trust us on this one – there’s a lot of toxic garbage that never sees the light of day.

          Sometimes established commenters will go off the rails and call people names, make a personal attack or say racist or sexist shit. This is not a matter of subjective morality, it’s people leaving hateful comments that cross the line into creating liability for Synthtopia. We will delete these comments when we see them and deal with the commenter appropriately.

          This is the Internet and no moderation policy will protect you from the possibility that somebody might go off. We do not pre-screen every comment, which means that established commenters with good track records can express themselves without moderation. But we’re not babysitting or ‘censoring’ all comments, and, as you see on any open site, social media platform or forum, ‘haters gonna hate’.

          We have addressed the ‘moron’ comment and also the commenter:

  14. I blame Covid lockdowns and deciding who had a job and who didn’t. People who told their barber to just close shop for six months. So many jobs, so many industries killed. And people cheered it on!

    1. “I blame Covid lockdowns and deciding who had a job and who didn’t.“

      I blame an admitted misogynist, twice divorced adulterer, fake billionaire grifter conman who turned mask wearing into a divisive issue because he basically “didn’t look good in a mask” lol.

      “People who told their barber to just close shop for six months.”

      People who tell other people to just carry the rapist’s or family members incestuous child for nine months.

      Pandemic, stock market crash um Black Death, yeah “service jobs” are usually the first to become non-essential. Here’s a thought… what if everyone just decided “hey why am I paying for haircuts, I’ll just grow my hair long or let my wife cut it,” what then, who do we blame. Service jobs are the purest example of consumer freedom, what if everyone decided hey fuck overpriced restaurants it’s cheaper and healthier to eat at home, boo “who are you going to blame then,” whaaaaaaa but I need another piece of over priced gear to make shitty music no one will ever hear, whaaaaaa because um hardware is the best and VSTs suck lol.

      “So many jobs, so many industries killed.”

      You seem to be forgetting the actual people ACTUALLY “killed” by COVID. Geezus poor Herman Cain, blind hubris can be such a final buzzkill!

      “And people cheered it on!”

      The same “people” that “cheered” the fall of the WTC right?
      How about the people that cheered false election lies, conspiracy theories and an actual attack on the US capitol? What a fucking world lol.

  15. I guess this is also why Roland is rather calm this year on the new gear front and why they push so hard for their Cloud platform,

    1. I do wonder if you could make a repurpose digital synth – something like the system 1 but modular where you can swap panels, keybed, etc – you can reduce the processors needed if you just repurpose the same processors for different synths

  16. Fred from Fred’s Lab : I can confirm that the battle for advanced parts is real and developing new machines has become, let’s say, tedious and frustrating over the last 3 years. A long term vision and great planning skills helps but do not solve all supply chain issues.

  17. Whatever. The junk that’s been coming out for a decade exists to help people fire off some pleasure chemicals when they purchase it, not to be practical devices for making music in the 21st century. People will have to start looking around for second hand deals on gear that they can arrange for Instagram.

  18. I waited one full year+ to get my minikorg700FS… for a friends birthday in november last year I bought a MOTU Ultralite MK5 – he’s still waiting for it.. so yes – the situation is depressing. On the lighter side I could walk into a store here in Oslo and pick up a Hydrasynth Deluxe..

  19. Paula of Dove Audio here, the parts shortage is nothing short of devastating. I have two products ready to go into production, but lack of parts means I can’t manufacture them. I don’t make much money on my products and if I can’t get something out before the end of this year, my money will have run out and I’ll be forced to close the business. It’s not just CPUs, I’m seeing connectors with 12+ month lead times, power regulators, etc.
    There are a lot of factors in the shortages, COVID, Russia invasion of Ukraine, hoarders (I know of a few people who just go around buying up any microchips they can find, “just in case”), there was a fire at one of the fabrication plants and so on.
    My big concern right now is that a lot of the chip companies will use this as an excuse to “end of life” a lot of the parts we depend on. The push for smaller, faster and cheaper is great for the PC market with CPUs now being done on 7nm processes, but this means things on older processes (greater than 45nm) are likely to get axed, this includes things like op-amps, DACs, ADCs and a whole bunch of other ICs.
    Basically there is no “single” reason, but there is a “perfect storm” for electronics parts shortages.
    Sadly I suspect there will be a lot more synth companies gone before 2022 reaches it’s end, and possibly a few more in 2023.

  20. My local retail chain in Canada – Long & McQuade – has told me that they’ve had to try other manufacturers because they can’t get enough keyboards from the traditional manufacturers like Roland, Korg, and Yamaha. I’m seeing a lot of Casio and Williams in the digital piano section. I feel very lucky to have gotten my SP-404MKII earlier this year.

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