Winner - software: Bitwig Studio 2
NAMM 2017: While we can fully understand why many developers choose to launch their music software online at a time of their choosing, it’s good to see that new desktop and mobile products are still being showcased on the NAMM Show floor.
This year’s show witnessed updates to several DAWs, and an iOS favourite found its way on to the Mac. And, of course, there were new plugins to talk about, too.
Here, then, are our top music software picks - the products that generated the most buzz in Anaheim and we’re keenest to install. Let’s start with our best in show winner: Bitwig Studio 2...
Bitwig is aiming to take its DAW out of its Ableton Live-shaped shadow with the launch of version 2, which promises a reworked and more powerful modulation system, enhanced hardware integration, new devices and more.
Running on a Microsoft Surface Studio at the show and hooked up to modular gear to demonstrate its new potential, Bitwig Studio 2 feels like a genuine alternative to many of its more established rivals. Expect it to land on 28 February.
Korg Gadget for Mac
We’ve seen plenty of music production apps making the jump from desktop platforms to iOS, but not so many taking the opposite journey.
Korg’s Gadget is Mac OS-bound, though, and also comes with the Gadget Plug-In Collection, which means that its devices can be used within your AU-, VST- or AAX-compatible DAW. There's support for the NKS standard, as well as Ableton Link, Bluetooth MIDI and Allihoopa.
Everything takes place on one screen, though you can split this into four windows to give you a better overview of what's going on. Mac users will get all of the 30-plus Gadgets that are currently available, as well two new ones that enable audio recording and an additional 16-pad drum gadget.
Naturally, there’s compatibility with the mobile version, and we think Gadget could represent an interesting option for Mac users who are looking for a different kind of music-making experience.
Tracktion Corporation Waveform
Tracktion is dead - long live Waveform. This new DAW inherits the key elements of Tracktion - single-screen operation and a speedy workflow, for example - but adds a dedicated mixer page and a new suite of plugins. In addition, "all aspects" of the software are said to have been updated and streamlined.
What’s more, Waveform will run on the latest generation of single-board computers, such as the Raspberry Pi, opening the DAW (sorry) to super low-cost music production. We’re keen to find out more.
Acoustica Mixcraft 8
Acoustica's affordable and surprisingly powerful PC DAW has made the jump to version 8, bringing with it a raft of tempting new features and "extensive user interface improvements".
There’s a new audio engine, which has enabled internal sidechaining, global automation recording and an improved browser. As is customary with a big DAW update, you also get additional instruments and effects.
Steinberg HALion 6
HALion has always been one of the most comprehensive software samplers on the market, and now wavetable synthesis has been brought to the party.
There’s also a new Sample Editor, and a Macro Page Designer to ease the process of creating your own custom instruments. Speaking of which, there are also six new instrument libraries, comprising two grand pianos, brass and string sections, and a couple of synths.
Steinberg has also announced HALion Sonic 3, a playback-only version, but it’s the big daddy that we’re most looking forward to getting our hands on.
Media Overkill Waverazor
The interface might have a bit of an '80s thing going on, but Media Overkill's Waverazor is billed as a futuristic synth that can "splice waveforms into aggressive new sounds".
We’re told that a new form of synthesis is at work here, while parameters can be tweaked using a central oscilloscope. There are also plenty of performance controllers.
Look out for this one on 1 March.
Line 6 Helix Native
We lavished praise on Line 6's Helix amp and effect modelling pedalboard last year, so our hopes are high for Helix Native, a native plugin version. This is based on the same technology, so it's actually possible to transfer tones from the software to the hardware.
Helix Native promises to emulate the sound and feel of vintage tube amps, cabs, mics and effects, and is powered by Line 6's HX modelling engine. The clean-looking UI has been designed with a fast tone editing workflow in mind, and works seamlessly with the Helix hardware editor. Third-party impulse responses are also supported.
Of course, Helix will now have to stand comparison with not just hardware, but other software modellers, too. We’ll let you know how it stacks up when it’s released in the spring.