As 2016 draws to a close, we've been reflecting on the year in hi-tech music-making gear, asking you to vote for the best new hardware and software products to have been released over the past 12 months.
Now it's time to bring you the results of our polls. We drew up the shortlists, but the rankings and overall winners in each category have been decided exclusively by your votes.
We countdown to the winner of the best new monitors tested this year. Kicking off proceedings are Tascam’s cheap and cheerful mini monitors...
We said: “These are some of the smallest 3” monitors we’ve tested, and in many ways they sound it, but this is not a criticism; they are realistic with regard to size and price. The best sounding of the sub-£100 models by far, with good midrange articulation and a well detailed HF/transient response. They roll off significantly below 100Hz, but there’s no compensating low/ low-mid bloat as exhibited by some of the others. There is also plenty of volume for the size.”
Eve Audio SC203
We said: “Do you get what you pay for? Hell yeah! Quality transient response with a nicely balanced mid range that lets you hear what’s going on, which is what you need for tracking and mixing. The bass-end is impressive, reaching down surprisingly low (thanks to the non-ported rear passive radiator design) without booming or sounding boxy. The front mounted rotary switch opens up a good range of functionality that is normally accessed via fiddly rear panel DIP switches, which makes set-up and adjustment easy. There are USB and optical digital inputs, besides the RCA analogue, as well as a Sub out. These are nice to work on, with enough adjustability.”
IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitor
We said: “The Micros are certainly loud enough for small project studio use - almost surprisingly loud, given their diminutive size - and, based on our tests, do a decent job of delivering the uncoloured, flat frequency response that they promise, with plenty of detail across the range and only a slight hint of boominess in the bottom end. We can certainly imagine them being popular with jet-setting producers who want a compact monitoring setup that they can fire up in a hotel room.”
Dynaudio LYD 7
We said: “The LYD 7s perform closest to the Genelec 8340s. The focus is on a meaty mid range that doesn’t turn harsh, making it easy to mix less forward elements, especially reverb tails, quickly and audibly. Despite being more box-like than other models, they produce a solid stereo image with good off-axis response. There is a slight lack of air in the high HF and a slightly over-forward low sibilant range but the low-end is excellent. The bass extension control may sacrifice 5dB of power (there’s still plenty left), but it’s well worth it for low-end mixing without a sub.”
We said: “The soundstaging is excellent, remaining stable off-axis within expected parameters. The phase coherency and frequency response is smooth and crisp from top to bottom, never ringing on or ‘hazing’ quieter elements in a mix. The bass is tight and true and there’s plenty of power for pumping out a heavy low-end track without losing dynamic range. The rear panel control set is comprehensive and I found it easy to tailor to my room.”
Winner: Fluid Audio FPX7
We said: “The FPX7s are the only coaxial design monitors we’ve tested this year to bring ribbon tweeters to the table. This pays dividends in stereo imaging and off axis response, both of which are excellent. There’s some air I’m missing and some over-focus around 10kHz, but otherwise the HF is clear and detailed and the bottom-end is punchy and quite deep. The upper mids (around the crossover point of 3.5kHz) can overwhelm in a dense mix at volume. The Acoustic Space and HF Trim controls settle these into most spaces, though the power may not be enough for a large or heavily absorbent room. A solid pair of monitors.”