The final entry in our annual roundup of the best new Gear of the Year is the catch-all category of 'studio gear': we've tested everything from mics to monitors to audio interfaces this year, and these are the best of the bunch.
While there have been elements of innovation throughout the studio gear realm in the past year, particularly in products like 16Rig and Analog Heat +FX, much of this has been restricted to putting slightly new spins on existing formats. This leaves us wondering when we’ll see the next truly gamechanging tech to upend current studio workflows. Roll on 2024...
1. Teenage Engineering TP-7 Field Recorder - Winner
We’ve had mixed feelings about Teenage Engineering’s Field Kit range. The small size of the TX-6 mixer makes it impractical, despite its design innovations, and the high price points for that and the revamped OP-1 put them out of reach of many.
While a high price is still a factor for the company’s pocket-sized field recorder, the TP-7 does more to warrant it by being both creative and the most all-out useful device in the range. Its tactile control of playback – via a rocker switch and faux tape reel – is inspiring. But the real sell is the ease with which you can capture samples, ideas or voice notes on the go.
2. Elektron Analog Heat +FX
Thanks to its incredibly self-explanatory name, you know exactly what you’re getting with Elektron’s Analog Heat +FX. However, while that name might make it sound like the Swedish brand has simply bolted additional processors onto its desktop analogue distortion, the result is more than the simple sum of its parts.
By letting users reorder and modulate its varied digital and analogue elements, Heat +FX proves to be one of the most versatile and inspiring hardware effect units on the market right now.
3. Arturia AudioFuse 16Rig
It’s rare that an audio interface can make you feel creatively inspired, but that’s the case with Arturia’s new AudioFuse 16Rig. This comes down to the fact that, with its abundance of analogue and digital ins and outs, sync capabilities and smart controls, it offers so many studio setup possibilities you can’t help but imagine new hardware rigs you could build around it.
4. Audient SP8
While 16Rig is probably the boldest new interface we’ve seen this year, there have also been plenty of standout devices that deliver quality without reinventing the wheel. Audient’s SP8 preamp unit offers a great way for producers to add extra I/O to their setup, with stellar audio quality, at a thoroughly reasonable price.
5. Apogee Boom
At the budget end of the market, Apogee Boom boasts some of the best converters we’ve heard and a hugely high-quality headphone preamp, albeit with slightly divisive implementation.
6. Focal ST6 Solo6
Probably the most impressive to cross our test bench have been Focal’s ST6 Solo6. We’re hesitant to use the word ‘value’ when it comes to a set of monitor speakers that will cost over £2,000 for a pair, but you really do get your money’s worth in terms of quality from these hand-built, immaculately spec’d speakers. For small studio setups, we’d be hard pressed to think of a better option, for those who can afford the outlay.
7. Adam Audio A8H
Around a similar price point – although geared towards slightly larger setups – Adam Audio’s 3-way A8H speakers sound fantastic at both low and high volumes, meaning that they can adapt nicely to a variety of studio sizes and use conditions.
8. Røde N51 5th Gen
In the mic realm, Røde’s ever popular NT1 impressed us with a fifth gen update. This new model adds a USB interface into the mic itself, further adding to its credentials as an essential studio workhorse for those after a quality condenser mic at a reasonable price.
9. Lewitt Pure Tube
At a higher price point, albeit appropriately so, Lewitt’s Pure Tube is one of the best condenser mics we’ve tested in some time, particularly so when it comes to its exceptionally low level of noise and robust build quality.