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.
Over the next seven slides we’ll be on a 'next gen' tip, counting down to what you've voted as the best innovation of 2016. We’ll start with Zoom's ARQ, an electronic instrument like no other.
We said: “The launch of the Zoom ARQ Aero RhythmTrak certainly took us by surprise. This is a drum machine, sequencer, synth, looper and MIDI controller with built-in accelerometer, and comprises a Base Station and removable Bluetooth Ring Controller.
“Sounds are stored in the Base Station (you can also record your own phrases) and can be triggered by the controller using its 96 velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads.”
Yamaha Bluetooth MIDI adapters
We said: “Designed to add wireless capability to pretty much any MIDI instrument/controller, Yamaha has released are the UD-BT01, which connects via a USB port, and the MD-BT01, which plugs into standard MIDI ports.”
“Once hooked up, these enable you to send and receive MIDI data over Bluetooth - the adapters are compatible with iOS or later and Mac OS X. Just select them as MIDI devices in your applications and you should be good to go.”
We said: “Blocks is a modular iOS music making platform that looks set to cement ROLI's reputation as a next-gen developer, while also bringing its products to a much wider audience.
“Blocks are small, Bluetooth controller devices that clip together magnetically. The idea is that you buy more as you need them, extending the capabilities of your setup as required. The music making process is driven by the Noise software, which features over 100 sounds and can be set up to record loops so that you can create a track.”
We said: “A Doepfer A-100 Mini System will set you back nearly £900, while Softube's new baby costs about the same as one module. It may be digital, but it sounds great, and the Aux outputs enable you to interface directly with hardware for an interesting hybrid system. Highly recommended, wherever you stand on the digital vs analogue debate.”
iOS Audio Units
We said: “While Inter-App Audio and AudioBus are both solid options for the iOS musician looking to plumb instrument and effect apps into their DAW, what we’ve really been waiting for since the earliest days of iOS-based music production is a proper plugin format, just like we’ve long had on our Macs and PCs.
“Well, we now have one in the shape of Apple’s own Audio Units extension framework. Fire up an Audio Units extension in an enabled host and the synth or effect appears and operates directly within it, just like a regular desktop plugin. It’s awesome.”
Behringer DeepMind 12 Augmented Reality interface
We said: “Utilising Microsoft's new HoloLens technology, Behringer has designed an interface that enables you to reach out and fully immerse yourself into the DeepMind synth's inner workings.
“Similar in concept to Google Glass, HoloLens is a wearable visor, but it takes AR a step further by enabling the projection of holographic images onto the surrounding environment. In this case, it enables the user to explore parts of the synth that the knob- and fader-encrusted interface just can't touch.”
Winner: Ableton Link
We said: “Launched as a component of Live 9.6, Ableton’s effortlessly straightforward new collaboration technology enables multiple instances of Live and supported desktop, iOS and Android applications to synchronise playback over WiFi.
“To use it, you simply turn it on in the preferences of Live or other software. A rolling one-bar progress marker appears in every ‘client’, showing the global launch quantisation position by which they’re all governed. Playback of any app, once initiated, either doesn’t start until the progress marker cycle restarts - ie, the beginning of the next bar - or starts immediately at the current global playback position, ensuring that they all stay perfectly in sync.
“And that’s really all there is to it! Any Linked app can change the global tempo, start and stop its own playback without affecting the others, and even disconnect and reconnect from the session without so much as a hiccup. Any number of instances of apps can be hooked up, and you can even use it to sync multiple apps running on the same iPhone or iPad.”