MusicTech Awards 2022: Best Value
A year of affordable, powerful plugin emulations, stylish studio gear and magnificent microphones.
Arturia’s bulging bundle of pro-grade effects and processors is a one-stop shop for producers that comes at a welcome price.
“Is this the last effects plugin collection you will ever buy?” That’s what we asked in our 10/10 July review of Arturia’s FX Collection 3 in July. Why? Because the third edition of the bundle, now 26-effects strong, boasts emulations of all the legendary processors a producer might need, along with a range of creative processors to lend your tracks some distinctive bite and nuance.
At $399 (£335), FX Collection gives your DAW a valuable makeover that will keep it feeling fresh for years to come. Considering that you get 26 plugins, with high-quality emulations of vintage gear worth a hell of a lot more, this one’s a no-brainer.
In FX Collection 3, you’ll find distortions, spatial and reverb effects, preamps and EQs, delays, modulation, filters and compressors. Included in this suite are four new additions to the Arturia stable: the Tube-Culture distortion plugin, based on Thermionic’s 1998 classic Culture Vulture; OPAMP-21, based on the Tech-21 NYC SansAmp; the modern EFX Fragments experimental grain effect; and Tape Mello-fi, a lo-fi preamp inspired by the classic Mellotron keyboard. We can find few faults with these effects. We even reviewed EFX Fragments and DIST Coldfire separately and barely had any complaints.
In our review of the collection, we said: “The new additions to the Arturia FX Collection are well judged, and fill the small gaps in the bundle’s past functionality. As such, they enhance what was already an impressive and wide-ranging suite of plugins, and add that much more value to an exceptionally attractive asking price.
“Best of all, the FX Collection covers so many bases and eras that it could provide all the plugins you’ll ever need.”
Whether you’ve nabbed a savvy Black Friday deal or bought a cent-saving bundle, a solid bargain is sure to keep you happy. Thankfully, this year there were plenty of brands that released studio assets that didn’t break the bank and provided some serious value.
Arturia helped producers avoid spending their savings on expensive effects plugins with its FX Collection 3. We gave the bulging bundle, full of excellent modelling of contemporary and vintage hardware, a 10/10 in our review, proposing it to be the “last effects plug-in you will ever buy”. A revelation, Townsend Labs’ Sphere L22 microphone gave vocalists a wide selection of recording solutions, offering a plethora of mic emulations in a single package. Elsewhere, we saw Audient continue to offer affordable, slick audio products, coming through with its easy-to-use, pro-grade EVO 16-channel interface coming in at under $500.
Audient EVO 16
EVO by Audient has become an expert at creating intuitive and affordable audio interfaces for producers. With the Smart Gain feature across the EVO line, getting an audio recording off the ground is a breeze. With the EVO 16, Audient brings a ton of functions across 16 channels that you’d never expect to get at its price point. Whether you’re recording a band in your garage or creating a podcast with multiple guests and hosts, the EVO 16 is impressive bang for your buck.
In our review, we said: “Working with the EVO 16 is a pleasure. It’s intuitive and easy to use, with pro features such as advanced routing, alternate monitor switching, monitor dimming and talkback, all of which are usually reserved for higher-end hardware. The overall impression, then, is of an audio interface that is bringing an awful lot more to the table than you’re paying for, and that allows you to concentrate on making music without being distracted by the technicalities.”
Townsend Labs Sphere L22
Finding the right mic for your recording session isn’t always straightforward – especially if you’re limited by a thin selection. The genius of Townsend Labs’ Sphere L22 could easily be your new best friend in the mic department. Rather than going out and spending thousands on a new mic cupboard, grabbing hold of the Sphere L22 and the companion software gives you access to 34 of the world’s most-coveted mics, from large-diaphragm condensers to trusty ‘hybrid’ models. With more set to join the lineup, this mic is proving to be the ultimate steal.
In our review, we said: “Sphere L22 is astonishingly effective, with all of its adjustments – whether the choice of mic, pickup pattern or details of positioning – giving utterly convincing results…There’s nothing quite like the real thing, of course. But a mic locker stuffed with all of the classic and iconic mics available to Sphere L22 would cost a small fortune. In this context, the £1,300-ish asking price is a steal for what is a truly game-changing microphone.”
Get the latest news, reviews and tutorials to your inbox.Subscribe