Now that we've had chance to digest all the announcements from the 2016 Winter NAMM Show, we've also been thinking about some overarching trends that we'd like to see this year.
So, in gear terms, here are five things that we'd like 2016 to end up being remembered for...
1. Multi-voice madness
Not that we're complaining, but there's really no shortage of affordable hardware monosynths on the market right now. If you're on the lookout for a single-voiced instrument for under £500, there's a ton of excellent options out there, from the MS-20 to the MicroBrute, Waldorf's Rocket to the MeeBlip anode, and a whole load more.
In 2016, we'd like to see the same sort of competitiveness come to the budget end of the polysynth market. Sure, we've already got some excellent duo/paraphonic options (Pulse 2, Volca Bass), and Korg's Volca Keys is an esoteric little three-voice bargain, but we're hungry for more. Here's hoping that Korg's Minilogue (below) is a sign of things to come for the rest of the year...
2. Stick to the point
On the DAW front, 2015 was the year of the 'point' update, with Ableton, Apple and Bitwig all rolling out significant new features as free downloads for existing users.
Let's hope this is a trend that's set to continue. Nothing promotes brand loyalty like giving your users a little something extra for free (or cheap, as in the case of Steinberg), and in the fast-paced sphere of digital production, the months or years spent waiting for a full DAW update can prove critical for some users.
3. Time to disconnect
We have telescopes that can peer deep into far distant galaxies and particle colliders that can smash matter into its most minuscule fundamental elements, and yet your studio is still full of tangled cables and extension leads. Surely it's about time we finally made wireless technology work in a music making context?
Wireless MIDI has gradually been becoming more reliable over the past few years, and the likes of Ableton's Link technology is making 'unplugged' jam sessions more viable. Let's not stop there, though - we want wireless power, high-quality wireless audio, brainwave to MIDI conversion… Come on boffins, get it sorted.
4. Modular middle ground
The surge in popularity of Eurorack systems over recent years has been great, giving hardware loving producers endless flexibility and a ton of great tools to play with. Modular systems still require a fairly hefty investment, however, both financially and in terms of their steep learning curve.
That's why we'd love to see more 'gateway' synths - semi-modular hardware instruments that allow producers to experiment with patching and re-routing. Moog's Mother-32 and Analogue Solutions' range of semis have already whet our appetite, so here's hoping for more patch-friendly instruments in 2016.
For that matter, now that Korg has successfully revived the ARP Odyssey, surely it's about time we talked about a full reissue of the semi-modular 2600?
5. Future classics
The Roland JD-XA (above) and Sequential Prophet-6 were our two favourite synthesizers of 2015. Why? Because both took their notable heritage and built upon it to create something completely new.
We're not scoffing at the trend for reissuing classic instruments - it's great that we can now have reliable, MIDI-equipped Odysseys, MS-20s, Junos and Jupiters in our studios, and we've a list as long as your arm of further instruments we'd love to see reissued. What really excites us, however, is when brands play on their heritage to create instruments with new, exciting sonic possibilities.