Global Parts Shortage Kills Another Synth Company – WMD Announces Plan To Close

The global electronic parts shortage has claimed another victim.

After 17 years, Eurorack synth manufacturer William Mathewson Devices (WMD) – a Denver-based manufacturer of modular synthesizers, effects pedals and musical instruments – has announced that it will be closing at the end of 2022, because they can’t get the parts that they need to make synth modules.

“Our company is reliant on the development of new innovative products in the hardware realm,” they explain, “and we have watched our lead times for parts get pushed back from months to years, and there is no telling if some will actually come.”

WMD joins a growing list of synth makers that are being forced to delay products or shut down, because they can’t get parts. Other recent victims include the Bastl Instruments Thyme, boutique analog synth maker Future Retro and MU synth maker Synthesizers.com.

While WMD plans to close at the end of the year, they’ve released three new products that were already in the works: Legion, an analog oscillator; Orion, an analog phaser; and Subway, an 8-way cross-fading scanner. The modules are available now to pre-order. WMD says that they’ve secured enough parts to build limited runs of 600 modules of each product. Once these are sold, they will not be made again.

As the company winds down, it has also put all of its in-stock items on sale for 30% off.

While the closing of an important Eurorack manufacturer is a huge loss to synthesists, WMD’s influence has extended far beyond their own line of gear. They’ve acted as a catalyst and partner for many other Eurorack manufacturers; they’ve organized shared space for Eurorack manufacturers at NAMM to make it more affordable for small companies to attend; they’ve been active supporters of synth events around the country; and they’ve maintained an active WMD Youtube channel, where they’ve shared product info, tutorials and videos from a monthly live modular event that they host, Freq Boutique.

Here’s the full text of their announcement:

The WMD Monolith Eurorack system

“Hey fam,

We at WMD are so thankful for the support you have given us over the past 17 years. We’ve been making gear that has pushed the boundaries of electronic music, that’s made its way into the rigs of incredible people we respect, that has allowed them to make music that we cherish, that inspires us to make more gear. A beautiful circle of inspiration and gratitude. So, we thank you for helping us manifest our vision.

Times are tough for everyone. The state of the world has destroyed our sales numbers while operating costs continue to rise. We have many new designs in the pipe that unfortunately cannot be made due to the global parts shortage. Our company is reliant on the development of new innovative products in the hardware realm, and we have watched our lead times for parts get pushed back from months to years, and there is no telling if some will actually come. This makes planning for the future impossible, and new product development unfulfilling.

With the risk of going further in debt with no “end” in sight, we have concluded that the only option is to wind down our production facility, with the plan to close by the end of 2022. We wish that we could keep things going, that we could see another path, but the stress alone has been harmful to our mental health, and our lack of incoming cash is only making it worse.

We have three new products that we’re announcing as available for preorder today. They are all on our site now and can be purchased. Lead times for these new modules are 3-10 weeks. They are all currently in production with parts secured. Each module will be a limited run of 600. Once they are gone, they are gone. We are extremely proud of these modules and feel that each one is a valuable and useful tool for the eurorack ecosystem.

To keep cash flow moving and make this transition as smooth as possible for our employees, we are going to be liquidating all in-stock items starting today (excluding Performance Mixer, Metron, and our three newest products) at WMDevices.com at 30% until they are gone. If you have been waiting for a sale to buy a module, now is the time. Purchases made today will have a huge positive impact on our ability to keep our employees for the end of these production runs, helping in their transition on to what is next for them.

As for WMD, I don’t want to call this “goodbye”. Hopefully, it’s a “see ya later”. We’ll just have to see what the world has to offer down the road.

Thank you again. We value every relationship we’ve made through this journey more than you could ever know. We’ll be at Velocity and Knobcon showing off the new modules and hanging with old and new friends. Come say hey, and have a drink with us.

I know there will be questions, so I’ve tried to answer a few preemptively below. If I don’t answer yours, or if you’d like to send some positive vibes (we could use it), please reach out to us at [email protected]

Much love, WMD”

WMD says that they plan to continue to offer support for their products as long as they can, including offering repair/replacement service for all products covered under warranty.

In addition to the 30% off sale on in-stock products, they say that they will be selling miscellaneous items as they wind down, which they will be announcing via @wmdevices on instagram.

39 thoughts on “Global Parts Shortage Kills Another Synth Company – WMD Announces Plan To Close

    1. “ We manufacture all Eurorack and Pedals in-house, right here in Denver, Colorado, USA. Real hands, real people”

    1. This isn’t related to where companies like WMD do their manufacturing. They aren’t making chips, resistors, pots, etc. – those components are *usually* made in china (or Taiwan, some are made in Mexico), but WMD doesn’t have much say in where they’re made anymore than you have a choice of where your cell phone is made. The manufacturing a company like WMD has control over is where their panels are made, where their circuit boards are made, and where their circuit boards are assembled. None of those things, the manufacturing WMD had control over, contributed to them going out of business. I agree that companies should do more manufacturing in house, not outsourced, but we need to be honest with ourselves about what that’s going to prevent and what it isn’t going to prevent.

      1. I speak in general, not specifically about this company. Producing almost all things in China is a suicide for Western countries in the long term.

        1. It’s a common misconception that Western companies “produce in China”. Chinese companies produce in China. Western companies buy the parts and products from them because by now they lack the knowledge, experience, facilities and workforce to produce things themselves. Western companies can’t simply start producing domestically because there is nobody left who knows how to do it. It would take decades to reverse this trend, and it is not yet clear whether there is the will to do so.

          1. yup, modern hi-tech manufacturing is an incredibly diverse activity requiring special skills, materials, and process development. wafer fab is even harder. nobody has the skills and resources to go it alone anymore – without globalism we would still be dialing telephones and watching CRT’s in B&W. nationalism was a fantasy of the 20th century; you can’t go backwards.

            besides, CC will kill us all anyway in the next 50 years. that can’t go backward either. cheers!

            sadly, there will be more closings.

            1. Globalism, my ass! Corporate greed is more like it. When you can purchase products that are produced by slave labor at fractions of what they would cost if you produced them in a fair and equitable market, then what do you expect? “Nationalism” has nothing to do with it.

          2. There actually are plenty of people and companies that have the know how and the skills to produce in the west. But of course it usually costs more sometimes much more…

            1. “There actually are plenty of people and companies that have the know how and the skills to produce in the west. ”

              Who’s going to build these billion dollar manufacturing plants to make electrical components that are currently only made in China? And how are they going to be profitable?

          3. There are pros and cons.

            Globalization means that the economies of the US and China are intimately connected. From my perspective, that dependency is a defense problem for the US.

            Some would argue that that dependency is a positive thing, because our countries aren’t going to go to war anytime soon, since our economies are so co-dependent.

            The idea that companies should build stuff in the US is completely ignorant. That ship sailed 40 years ago. It would cost trillions to bring that manufacturing back to the US, and it’s not economically viable.

            The only solution that makes sense to me would be if the US government could mandate that any products that they buy should require parts made by a single country. Something like this would probably be expensive, but it would have economic weight behind it to ensure that there’s more competition from parts manufacturers.

        2. Texas Instruments makes parts in Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. Microchip makes parts in Thailand. Companies tend to manufacture where costs are low. That’s not going to change. Manufacturing and assembling circuit boards costs 5-10X as much in the USA as it does in mainland China, it would be financial suicide to attempt North American production on a large scale.

          1. That’s funny, because as someone else pointed out – WMD manufactured in Denver. There are plenty of synth companies doing their PCB assembly in house for not much more cost than a $3k-$10k pick and place machine. Of all the elements of building something, circuit board assembly is hardly the one that can’t be brought back from china. Robots cost about the same to run in any country.

            1. “Manufactured in Denver” does not mean that PCBs were fabbed in the USA. Many companies get their boards made offshore with either full or partial assembly done before they reach them for final assembly and testing. The components came from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and other manufacturing hubs.

  1. This is sad, really sad. So much talent is being silenced, shut down. Mainstream synth manufacturers, small, boutique manufacturers, synth makers, module makers, large companies, small companies are all dying, withering on the vine due to this drying up of the streams and rivers of parts that they all depend on. I am personally especially sad about Synthesizers.com, they sparked the revitalization of modular synthesizers. Then Doepfer invented the Eurorack format (I do believe) which really set the modular ball rolling with their smaller and less expensive modules. Now, this may all be collapsing. Very, very sad.

  2. this is sad, i liked their approach and the quality of the products, hope they find a way to revive the company at some point in the future.

  3. This is sad for wmd, i really liked their stuff and teir whole approach to Eurorack. But it is also alarming. If wmd is closing down i can’t imagine how a lot smaller companies in the field can stay open.

  4. THE REALITY IS trying to cut corners by using overseas slave labor has backfired in the most obvious and most predictable way – simply by considering the location of the slave labor you require to produce your goods at the necessary volume and cost is entirely located within a competing nation

      1. chinese chip factories working conditions are comparable to slavery

        but understanding this requires knowledge of it, as well as knowledge of many other things… which i do not expected from everyone

        for example, the only thing I expect from clowns are LOTS OF FUNNY JOKES!!! and plenty more that aren’t funny at all… plus all the exciting CLOWN ANTICS! they provide in their funny little dances and performances

    1. WTF are you talking about? They make their products in Denver CO:
      “We manufacture all Eurorack and Pedals in-house, right here in Denver, Colorado, USA. Real hands, real people.”

      1. yeh they build modules in Denver with parts made in China

        you dont “hand design” IC chips and PCBs and transistors, kiddo

        1. your comments show lack of basic knowledge and experience in designing and manufacturing modern electronics koalemos

        2. “Kiddo”?! Are you serious? Wow, your condescension here is staggering and completely unwarranted.

          First off, let’s be clear. This is an article about how WMD are shutting down because of supply chain issues that have made producing modules untenable. Your comment was to imply that they are shutting down because their use of slave labor is coming back to bite them in the ass.

          Shall we go through this?

          “yeh they build modules in Denver with parts made in China”

          No doubt some of their components come from China; China manufactures just about every type of product. If you want to purge your house of anything that has anything to do with China you will have a very empty house, and, no doubt, a fair amount of your house will have to go too. But do they _only_ use parts from China, are their Chinese parts critical to their operation?

          “you dont “hand design” IC chips”

          Ignoring the open cores types who _are_ hand designing microprocessors on FPGA chips, yes, you’re correct. Most synth designers aren’t making their own ICs.

          What’s your point?

          Are you seriously suggesting that synth designers should be designing their own chips? Designing an IC is a vastly different skill set from using one in a circuit. Designing a microprocessor is a vastly different skill set from programming one. Moreover, the manufacturing of ICs is a very expensive endeavor requiring millions or billions of capital investment for the fabrication machines and infrastructure.
          Do you expect the plumber you hire to run their own copper mine, smelt their ore, and cast their own pipes? Or do you understand that small companies need to source their materials from others?

          Or perhaps you’re just saying that they shouldn’t be using those chips from China? Let’s look at what WMD are using:
          Searching “WMD PCB ” gets a few image hits where we can read the part codes.

          Here’s the Chimera drum module: https://reverb.com/item/50314917-wmd-chimera-2010s-silver
          And right away we see an ARM processor from the STM32 family. Now I’m sure that you know that STM stands for STMicroelectronics, a French/Italian company with fab plants in France, Italy and Singapore, right? “But”, I hear you say, “STM have an assembly facility in China!” Well, you’ll be happy to know that the STM32F405RGT6 shown is assembled in the Philippines: https://www.st.com/en/microcontrollers-microprocessors/stm32f405rg.html#sample-buy

          We can also see the TI OPA1654 quad op amp. I don’t know with certitude, but I’m 95% sure that TI make their op amps and other analog circuits in the US; that or Japan as these are Brown-Burr designs and B-B had factories in the US and Japan.

          Here’s the Arpitecht: https://www.fromjapan.co.jp/en/auction/yahoo/input/g493468265/lgk-link_seller_auc_search
          And we can see the ATxmega16A4U microcontroller formerly of Atmel, currently Microchip, but still fabbed in Colorado and assembled in Thailand or the Philippines.

          We can also see three of the STP16CPC26 LED drivers. Yes that’s STMicroelectronics again, and yes that TSSOP package used is assembled in the Philippines (https://www.st.com/en/power-management/stp16cpc26.html#sample-buy)

          I could keep going, but you’re probably going to say that there must be some components from China and it’s those items that are causing the the supply chain issues.

          No doubt there are components that come from China, but regardless of whether those items are available, all of the major components I pointed out (none of which have anything to do with Chinese manufacturing) show lead times of about a year: Microchip lists the ATxmega16A4U with an estimated ship date of August 14th 2023. STMicroelectronics and TI don’t list lead times, but checking Newark, Mouser, etc. shows leads of 50, 52 or 55 weeks.

          “you dont “hand design” … PCBs”

          SMH. Designing PBCs is, arguably, the biggest job of a synth designer.
          It’s easy enough to mock up an analog circuit using discrete components and even easier to prototype a digital product with software. But turning those prototypes into a sellable product involves working and reworking the PCB layout to accommodate a usable front panel, convert quick-and-dirty mockup into a stable product by avoiding capacitance issues, crosstalk, etc.

          “you dont “hand design” … transistors”

          Well, you got me there. No one hand designs transistors, it’s true. Because the last major advance in discrete transistor technology happened, what, 50 years ago? What currently exists is more than good enough for audio applications. Now, transistors in ICs are a different matter and there are interesting developments in, e.g., condensed matter physics, but you already mentioned ICs, so you must be writing about discrete components.
          You know, I have to think you included transistors because you wanted three things in your list and transistors are a thing you’ve heard of.
          See! I can be condescending too!

          To be clear, I’m not a fan of the Chinese government. They are a brutal authoritarian regime that are committing a crime against Humanity with their treatment of Uyghurs.
          But China’s issues in general, and slave labor in particular, have very little, if anything, to do with the situation that many manufacturers are facing. This is a global issue of material supply, overwhelming demand, logistics and tariffs that has made the landscape incredibly hard for boutique players.
          To imply that these players are hurting because they have been benefitting from slave labor is asinine and defamatory.

    2. Admin: Personal attack deleted. Keep comments on topic and constructive.

      Feel free to be critical of THINGS – a user’s comment, a synth’s build, a piece of music. But personal attacks on people will be deleted.

      Also, you are commenting using multiple identities (Yadda, dude, Dmitry, Ghandi, Mümpu, Piano Renzo, etc) which means that your comments look like spam and will always get queued up for manual moderation, which delays your comments from appearing on the site. Using a consistent identity and contributing constructive comments will minimize the possibility of this happening.

  5. All this “built in china” thing is very odd. The problem is the supply of ICs, most of which come from Taiwan. It’s irrelevant if they’re assembled in China, the USA or the north pole, if you can’t get the raw building blocks for your product, you can’t sell product.
    Some chip supply times have gone from a few weeks to 18+ months, this impacting everyone from synth companies, to car companies and even household appliance companies.

    1. Most people seem to have no clue about the supply chain issues impacting companies.

      Manufacturers in the US just can’t get the parts they need! This is because electronics parts companies around the world shut down for a couple months because of Covid.

      That means that the world lost a couple of months of manufacturing capacity that it can’t get back. Those parts just weren’t ever made – and that’s why everybody’s competing to get a limited supply of parts, and that’s why this situation won’t resolve anytime soon.

      I’m sorry to hear that this situation is putting WMD out of business. I’ve met some of them at Knobcon, and they seem like great guys, making great gear.

  6. This really sucks, they make great modules. I often thought if i started over in modular, i would have bought more WMD modules. The few times i contacted their support, they were very helpful too.

    Sad to see so many companies coming to the end of the road.

  7. “see ya later” …
    (had some, still have some WMD/SSF Modules…great modules. good quality. functional. loved them.)
    good luck and all the best to WMD… hopefully one day something new will follow.

  8. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said of the CHIPS and Science act signed into law on August 9: “We’re going to construct an entire semiconductor ecosystem.” Sounds promising, but in the meanwhile…

    This comes across a bit like Apple, making their new M1 & M2 chips in-house. Its a complex process, so its not as if a sudden market rebuild that saves indy synths will appear next week. It also seems inevitable that the results will cost more, but as opposed to having nothing, its likely that people will roll with it. What else ya gonna do?

    I also predict that you’ll see more solutions built on things like the Pi platform. Its less risky, relies on programming acrobatics rather than new hardware designs and puts more of the weight on offering a creative OS. While I’d like to see them with a little more panel space, Korg’s Wavestate, MoDWave and Opsix all make it clear that Pi has that inviting little something. Small and LOCAL will become more beautiful soon…

  9. If you go to war with China, then you need to understand that China wont be providing you with electronics and cheap labor and all that other shit

    but yeh don’t take my word for it, keep going, see what happens

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