Wolfgang Palm PPG Phonem
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.
Here, we're dealing with the hotly-contested award for the best plugin synth of 2016, counting down to your winner. We’ll start with the always innovative Wolfgang Palm, and his PPG Phonem.
We said: “Coming from the brilliant mind of digital synthesis pioneer Wolfgang Palm, PPG Phonem serves up a combination of vocal and wavetable synthesis, sequencing and modulation.
“The interface is a little confusing in places, but Phonem would make a great-sounding, unusual and thoroughly relevant addition to anyone's synth collection.”
2nd Sense Audio Wiggle
We said: “Wiggle, the debut soft synth from fledgling developer 2nd Sense Audio, uses what it calls "dynamic waveshaping" to quickly and easily achieve highly expressive sounds.
“Although conceptually complicated, Wiggle's architecture and layout are straightforward, with one page housing all synthesis parameters, and two further pages playing host to the Sequencer and Utility sections.
“Wiggle effortlessly finds its niche among the new wave of super-flexible, super-efficient high-end soft synths. For a debut release, it is astonishingly accomplished.”
Sugar Bytes Factory
We said: “Sugar Bytes' new synth is a semi-modular beast that embodies the company's unorthodox approach to plugin design and puts deep modulation at the top of the feature list.
“Highlights are the well thought-out oscillator models, the intuitive modulation matrix, the sequencer and the effects, but everything here comes together brilliantly in an instrument that's surprisingly easy to use - given how complicated it invariably sounds - and a whole lot of fun.
“While we wouldn't recommend it as the first choice for anyone seeking a general purpose workhorse synth to cover all the basics, for enormous, weird, heavily modulated and rhythmic sounds of all kinds, it's a winner, with a character all its own.”
BUY: Sugar Bytes Factory currently available from:
We said: “VocalSynth is a four-part vocal synthesizer and multi-effect processor which combines a range of corrective and creative tools within a single package.
“It's built around a quartet of modules, each offering a different flavour of vocal synthesis effect: Vocoder, Talkbox, Polyvox - a vocal harmoniser and formant shifter - and Compuvox, which creates digitised speech synthesis sounds.
“We're impressed with VocalSynth. It is simple, making classic sounds very easy to achieve, but there's a lot of depth once you start combining its elements, automating parameters and getting creative.”
Arturia Synclavier V
We said: “Arturia's take on the Synclav focuses purely on the synth elements of the original Synclavier, foregoing the more workstation-like features in favour of replicating the full FM and additive engines and expanding on the capabilities of both. NED co-founder Cameron Jones – who wrote the original's OS – has been brought on board to assist with creation of the emulation.
“The resulting plugin is a triumph. While we've not been lucky enough to spend sufficient time with an original Synclavier in order to judge how close the plugin's behaviour is to that of its forebear, there's no doubt that, sonically, the Synclavier V is absolutely on point.”
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.”
Winner: Native Instruments Form
We said: “Loading in Reaktor 6 or the free Reaktor Player, Form's core concept is very straightforward: load a sample, either from the sizeable bundled library or your own collection, then select a range within it to serve as an 'oscillator', and design a path for the constant movement of the playhead through that range. Deep but accessible oscillator and effects processing, and a comprehensive modulation setup, bring the spice.”
“Form is an instrument for those who enjoy sonic exploration, rather than those seeking instant results. Although there are some fine basses and leads presets, its clear speciality is intricate soundscapes, evolving pads, spacey textures and burbling, skittish electronica in general.
“A beautiful thing, Form is something we'd put up there with that other Reaktor-based classic, Razor.”