Gear Of The Year: Best innovations of 2019
Concluding a decade of intense innovation across the music production universe, the final year of the decade had more than a few surprises left in store.
WINNER: Spitfire Audio Orbis
Orbis is an innovative departure for Spitfire Audio, a company so well regarded for its orchestral instruments. This collection has more of a world-class feel because its core is a set of sounds recorded and collected by composer David Fanshawe over many years of traveling across the globe. It was a collection that was unearthed by Spitfire co-founder Paul Thomson and made central to Orbis, which is an instrument that manages to add a huge creative layer to the collection, taking the sounds up a few notches by allowing you to play and interact with them in different ways.
Reviewer Dave Gale was particularly struck by it: “Orbis is a multi-faceted instrument of great intrigue. Like any good instrument, you dig a little deeper and find out what’s under the hood. The playback here is profoundly good. The freshness of the new Spitfire interface is worth noting in this setting, as it feels brilliantly thought-through. What really had me hooked in was the comprehensive but easy to use editing features, which are simplicity itself to use, but unbelievably effective when it comes to the final output. Orbis is capable of loops, effected loops, crossfaded loops and all manner of pad-like ethereality. This is a very classy venture from Spitfire, which is slightly left-field, making it all the better in terms of unique and inspiring sounds.”
Highly commended: Loopmasters Loopcloud 5
We’re handing another award over to Loopmasters for the mighty Loopcloud 5, this time it’s for the sheer innovation behind the whole Loopcloud concept, and its game-changing sample curation that reached a peak with version 5. The speed of development too has also been remarkable. It seems barely a few months go by without us being aware of another new version of the software being in development.
In our review we said: “The last time we looked at it, the software was taking huge strides to become a more creative tool, moving away from its ‘sample management’ roots into more inspiring and compositional areas and I’m pleased to say that version 5 continues down that route. In fact, version 5 is the biggest update so far – more a complete rebuild, actually. It’s not more creative as it is managerial. If you’re stuck for ideas of need some slick injections of audio drama, it’s time to loop!”
Steinberg SpectraLayers Pro 6
Steinberg’s new audio editor may look like an image editor, but it promises to unleash a whole host of corrective and creative possibilities. Like other spectral editors, its ability to edit audio in the frequency domain opens up many possibilities, making light work of removing unwanted noises, pops, clicks, hum and broadband noise. This is ideal for fixing problems in live recordings.
What really sets SpectraLayers Pro 6 apart from the competition is the non-destructive, Photoshop-style principle of using layers. What’s more, ARA support means you can also use SpectraLayers within your DAW. Is it deserving of your vote?
Nugen Audio SigMod
It can be difficult to get super excited about utility plug-ins, but Nugen’s affordable SigMod is so useful, once you start using it, you may wonder how you ever did anything without it. Comprising 12 single process modules, the no-frills auto-sizing GUI is clear and functional. The package offers basic functions such as phase flip, mono, LR flip, DC offset detection and more.
Among the most interesting modules are Mid-Side and Crossover modules, which let you add M/S or split-band functionality to any processor or effect you can think of. There’s also a useful Tap module, that sends a signal to a separate Receive plug-in you can place anywhere in your DAW for flexible routing.
Perhaps the most exciting feature is its ability to host VST2, VST3 and AU plug-ins, meaning you’re no longer going to find yourself unable to use a favourite old plug-in when you change DAW or system.
iZotope Neutron 3 Advanced
There is perhaps no other company in the world of pro audio that is quite as dedicated harnessing the power of machine learning as iZotope. With Neutron 3, the company is determined to help you get your mix off to a good start with Mix Balance tool which automatically sets track levels to create an initial mix.
Highlights of this version include a new Sculptor module that’s great for reducing harshness – a bit like Oeksound Soothe – and an improved Masking Meter to help you keep your mixes uncluttered.
We found the results of the much-lauded AI mixing assistant to be hit-and-miss, performing much better on a traditional rock mix than on electronic music. However, the suite of tools that are included – such as Dynamic EQ, Exciter, Transient Shaper, Gate and Tonal Balance Control – really are impressive, especially for the asking price.
VSL Vienna Ensemble Pro 7
Vienna Ensemble Pro 7 is a host package for VST/AU plug-ins but that doesn’t really explain its full power. Load up your entire sampled orchestra template on your host machine alongside your DAW and you no longer have to wait for all your samples to load every time you open a new project. Or, if you’re running insanely huge sample instruments, you can run VSL’s software on a second machine so you never max out your host computer’s RAM or CPU.
On top of that, Vienna Ensemble Pro 7 also comes bundled with a great library of orchestral samples including strings, woodwind, brass and percussion.
One of the cleverest features of the software is its ability to load templates without booting samples into RAM immediately, while also offering the option to offload samples, to reclaim RAM if you’re not using a whole template.
Olympia Noise Co Patterning 2
The Patterning 2 app concept encourages you to produce drums in a circular view. If you own an iOS device in any shape or form and want to inject a huge dose of fun and creativity into your drum programming, Patterning 2 is a no brainer. It looks beautiful, is incredibly easy to work with and yet offers a level of depth and tweakability not seen in many top-end drum programming packages, let alone iOS apps. Add into the mix a huge library of high-quality drum kits and hits and the power to export your creations as entire songs or patterns ready to be imported into your DAW, and you have a killer weapon that no producer should be without.
Check out all the Gear Of The Year 2019 categories here.
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