The dispute shines a light on normally private negotiations between a major manufacturer and small business.
First developed by Robin Whittle in 1993, the Devil Fish modification is the most prized third-party development of Roland's original acid box, adding functions that greatly expand the expressivity of the synth. Earlier this week, Behringer posted a mock-up image of its own take on the Devil Fish, the latest in an ever-expanding catalogue of proposed clones of classic instruments. Dubbed the TD-3-DF "Murdered Out" Analog Bass Synthesizer, the design reproduces the key features of the Devil Fish, including advanced controls over slide, accent and filter cutoff.
Following the post, Whittle took to his blog to disclose private emails from Uli Behringer sent in November 2019, proposing an official collaboration on a Devil Fish version of Behringer's recently launched TB-303 clone, the TD-3. Whittle goes on to allege that Behringer rejected his terms for a deal, who countered with "a one-off payment of USD$15K." In a since-deleted post on the Gearslutz forum, Behringer characterised Whittle's proposals—allegedly $303,000 a year or a 10-15 percent royalty—as financially unviable. But as Whittle points out, no aspects of his Devil Fish modification are patented, leaving Behringer open to reproduce the design without his consent. It remains unclear whether Behringer will proceed with its Devil Fish clone.
Behringer continues to divide opinion with its budget remakes of expensive instruments, even threatening legal action against critics in 2018.