The year in music tech
Many of us have been asked to vote on some pretty big issues this year, but if you don’t mind, we’d like you to do it just one more time before the weird old year that is 2016 draws to a close.
Before you run for the hills, we’re not asking you to decide on membership of a politico-economic union or to elect a president, but we do want to hear what you’ve got to say about the best in music technology this year.
In the hope that you haven’t ‘had enough of experts’, we’ve drawn up shortlists of the best new software and hardware products we’ve reviewed in 2016 - everything from software and hardware synths to controllers, effects, audio interfaces, monitors and a whole lot more besides. We also want to reward innovation, and to recognise the artists and producers who’ve shaped the sound of the past 12 months.
Click through the gallery to browse the categories and to place your votes. We’ll be counting down the winners in due course.
What is the best new hardware synth of 2016?
As we approach the end of 2016, it feels wrong to still be talking about a hardware synth ‘revival’. There was a time, just a few years ago, when new physical electronic instruments had all but given way to software ones, but these days, more seem to arrive every month.
We’ve seen some fine new synths over the past 12 months. Some are analogue and others digital; some will fit in your pocket and are available for little more than the cost of a night out, while others will set you back a month’s wages or more.
Which of them, though, deserves to be crowned the best of 2016?
What is the best new hardware drum machine/sampler of 2016?
You can make a great-sounding beat on your phone, tablet or computer, but nothing quite compares to the experience of doing it using a dedicated piece of hardware.
A drum machine can inspire you to reach greater rhythmic heights, and few pieces of gear are as much fun to have around in the studio.
The drum machine/sampler class of 2016 contains both compact and colossal models, but which of them really floats your beatmaking boat?
What is the best new controller/sequencer of 2016?
If you’ve got a computer and some music software, you’ll almost certainly want some kind of controller as well, but do you go for the traditional keyboard, a pad-based surface or something a bit next gen?
We’ve seen examples of all of these options in 2016 - as well as some fine hardware sequencers and DJ controllers - but which do you think is the best of them?
What is the best new hardware effect/outboard of 2016?
If you want to add some character to your sounds, there are few better ways of doing it than running them through some decent outboard hardware.
Even in this plugin-centric age, we’re seeing plenty of high-quality external processing devices, and we want you to place your vote for the best one of 2016.
What is the best new iOS music-making app of 2016
Whether you want to make musical doodles on the bus, create complete productions or simply give yourself another sound source in the studio, an iOS device is a great option.
The choice of music-making apps on the platform is now so wide and varied that it almost seems unfair to pick just one ‘best’ new release of 2016, but choose you must.
What is the best new audio interface of 2016?
Your audio interface is pretty unassuming part of your studio, but an essential one nonetheless.
This being the case, it’s only right that we celebrate the best of the world of I/O boxes. Vote now for the one that you think deserves to go down in history as the finest new model of 2016.
What are the best new monitors of 2016?
Many of us have a favourite set of monitors - a set that we’re familiar with and we can trust when we’re mixing.
Technology moves on, however, and new speakers are being launched all the time. We’ve drawn up a shortlist of the best monitors we tested in 2016; all you have to do is tell us which pair stands apart from the others.
What are the best new headphones of 2016?
There’s been a lot of talk about headphones jacks in 2016, but we’re more interested in what’s going on on the other end of the cable.
We’ve collated a list of the best new cans to have graced our ears this year, and now we want you to vote for the pair that you’d most enjoy having sitting on yours.
What is the best new microphone of 2016?
The music production process has changed massively over the past 20 years, but some things remain the same. If you want to record vocals, instruments or anything else, a decent microphone is a must.
Happily, manufacturers are more than happy to cater to this need and, as in previous years, 2016 has seen the release of some fine new mics. Now we want you to choose the one that you’d love to have sitting on your stand.
What is the best new Eurorack module of 2016?
The world of Eurorack modular is growing fast and showing no signs of peaking any time soon, which is a good thing.
Whether it’s analogue or digital sound generation, mangling, or just control, there has been something for everyone over the past 12 months.
This year we have seen so many great new modules released that we’ve not been able to check them all out. However, many of the ones that have landed on our test bench have rated very highly in our reviews.
What is the best new synth plugin of 2016?
Soft synths are perhaps the most high profile of all plugins - a playground for sound designers to show off the latest that technology has to offer.
Sure, they aren’t analogue, but there are things you can in software that hardware synths just can’t touch, and that’s what gets so many people going.
We’ve seen some class acts this year from the likes of Wolfgang Palm, and the modulation possibilities in Sugar Bytes’ Factory are insane. Let’s not try and sway you, though: it’s up to you to decide which one will come out on top.
What is the best new drum plugin of 2016?
The bedrock of nearly all modern productions is the beat, and the drum machine the cornerstone of many people’s studio. But let’s not let the hardware drum machines take all the credit, as there are some fine tools in the virtual realm.
Whether you want to serve up a complete beat or just craft the perfect kick drum, this year’s selection of drum plugins has been very impressive indeed.
Whatever your workflow, you’ll probably have a favourite.
What is the best new mixing/mastering plugin of 2016?
Not many of us have the room or even the money to justify expensive, space-consuming outboard gear, but why worry when there are so many in-the-box sound processors at our disposal?
Whether you're in pursuance of that ultimate emulation of an oft sought-after classic, or you want to have all your processing tools in one place, this year’s picks have you covered.
Check out the vast list of mixing/mastering plugins we’ve reviewed over the last 12-months and tell us which one is your favorite.
What is the best new creative effect plugin of 2016?
Mixing/mastering plugins are the bread and butter of the virtual effects world, but if you want to get creative or crazy with your sounds, then you might need to look elsewhere.
This is what really gets the juices flowing in many producers, and 2016 has produced some creative stunners.
What is the best new soundware of 2016?
The soundware development community is huge, and in 2016 we have seen a fair few sampler instruments make their way onto our test bench.
This year’s crop features everything from traditional orchestral elements to esoteric and dramatic instruments. However, there can be only one, so get voting now in the box below...
What is the best music tech innovation of 2016?
We may be right in the middle of an analogue revival, but that doesn't mean to say that the boffins can’t keep looking to the future of music technology and ways to make it better
Let us know which product or technology deserves to be considered the most innovative of 2016. Some of them may already have changed your music-making life forever, whilst others have opened your mind up to new possibilities. Either way, you need to vote now.
Who is the best electronic artist of 2016?
The number of artists creating good electronic music is always on the rise, and possibly goes some way to explaining why our list is rather long.
Whether it’s brand new talent, fresh off the production line, a popular mainstay of electronic music, or a battle-hardened veteran, you can vote for your favourite electronic artist of 2016 in the box below.
Who is the best record producer of 2016?
There have been some huge releases over the last 12 months, and we’re here to celebrate the producers behind the hits.
We’ve shortlisted some of the finest producers and co-producers of the biggest albums and singles to have dominated the charts over the past year, but in the end there can be only one.