NAMM 09: the 10 best software releases

The stuff you'll be installing on your computer this year

These days, the Winter NAMM show is as much about what's running inside computers as what's sitting on stands and hanging on walls. Yep, software is big news, and there was plenty of it at the 2009 event.

Here, then, are MusicRadar's ten application and plug-in picks.

1. Ableton Live 8
We suspected it was coming and, true to form, the updated version of Live contains plenty for Ableton fans to get their teeth into. New groove and warping engines, a looper, more effects and several workflow enhancements should keep the faithful happy, while the Live Suite bundle has been expanded to include even more content. If you don't own Live already, 2009 could be the year to try it.


Ableton live 8

2. Steinberg Cubase 5
Cubase has got its groove on for version 5, with new instruments Groove Agent One and LoopMash. Melodyne-style pitch editing and the VST Expression system are other feature highlights, as is the new Reverence convolution reverb. Computer Music blogged live from the software's launch; check out its report for further details.


Steinberg cubase 5

3. MOTU BPM
A few cleverly-rendered pre-show images led some people to suspect that BPM was going to be a piece of hardware, but it's actually a slick-looking software groovebox. First impressions are that it's primarily designed for beats, but should also be suitable for throwing together entire tracks. It ships with a 15GB sound library, and can also host clips of your own.


MOTU bpm

4. FXpansion D-CAM: Synth Squad
We knew that FXpansion was working on something, and it transpires that 'something' was a bundle comprising three plug-in synths and a semi-modular synth layering environment that enables you to bring them all together. Expect the Synth Squad to shoot to the top of many computer musicians' 'most wanted' lists when it's released in the second quarter of 2009.


FXpansion synth squad

5. IK Multimedia AmpliTube Fender
It says something that AmpliTube didn't just get a lot of plug-in users excited in Anaheim last week – it caught the attention of many a 'traditional' guitarist, too. Packing a total of 45 classic Fender amps, cabs, stompboxes and rack effects into its virtual frame, it's considerably more interesting than the launch of Yet Another Stratocaster. MusicRadar shot a video of it being played on the show floor.


IK multimedia amplitube fender

6. Waldorf Largo
The launch of Largo came as a genuine surprise to us, but a very pleasant one. Blending the technology used in Waldorf's Blofeld and Q hardware synths, this plug-in instrument offers three oscillators, sweet-sounding filters and an arpeggiator. We like the look of the interface, too; in fact, we like the look of Largo full stop.


Waldorf largo

7. GForce impOSCar 2
Another one we weren't expecting: as its name suggests, this is the follow-up to the extremely well-received impOSCar synth that was released back in 2003. It's not finished yet, but GForce has already been hard at work adding new features – including a tasty chord mode – and version 2 should be set for launch in a few months.


GForce imposcar

8. Cycling '74 Max/MSP for Live
Ableton announced that it was entering into a partnership with Cycling '74 almost two years ago, so it was about time it bore some fruit. And what a juicy piece of fruit it is: a special version of Max/MSP that enables you to create your own instruments and other devices from within the Live environment. If won't appeal if you're a preset whore, but some people are getting ridiculously excited about this.


Cycling '74 max/msp for live

9. MOTU Volta
Another release that strays towards the geekier side of town, Volta performs the clever trick of turning your audio interface into a Control Voltage device. Why is this important? Because it then means that your computer can start 'talking' to classic analogue synth hardware, which is kind of a big deal for a certain type of musician.


MOTU volta

10. Celemony Software Melodyne editor
The plan's changed as far as Direct Note Access is concerned: we were told throughout 2008 that it would made its debut in Melodyne plugin 2, but it now transpires that a new application has been built to accommodate it. Operating as a plug-in or standalone, we're assured that it'll be ready in the spring, but we'll believe it when we see it…


Celemony melodyne editor

Anything missing? Let us know in the Comments section below…

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