NAMM 2018: Although there was undoubtedly more hardware than software at the NAMM Show - oh how things have changed - DAW and plugin developers still had a seat at the table.
We had updates, artist-endorsed effects, innovation and, of course, the odd hardware emulation or two. Even Native Instruments returned to the fold, announcing an expansion of its NKS standard for effects.
Here, then, are our NAMM software highlights.
For more of NAMM 2018’s finest, head over to MusicRadar’s best of NAMM awards.
Winner: Audionamix Xtrax Stems
A piece of software that can automatically extract the vocals, drums and other musical components from a completed mix? It sounds like some kind of dark magic, but that's what Xtrax Stems is said to be able to do.
The software has got the attention of DJs, producers and remixers, and we're very keen to put it to the test.
Apple Logic Pro X 10.4
Some might criticise Apple for its high prices, but you really can't argue with the value for money that Logic Pro X users get.
The latest free update adds Smart Tempo features and new algorithmic reverb and vintage EQ plugins, and also brings back a couple of old favourites from the Camel Audio stable. New Drummers and sound content sweeten the deal even more.
Bitwig Studio 2.3
Another DAW developer that's adding plenty of value to its product is Bitwig. Version 2 of its software is getting its third significant update, and includes Phase-4, a 4-oscillator phase distortion and phase modulation synth that takes inspiration from the likes of Yamaha’s DX7 and Casio’s CZ series.
An expanded device view, support for time signature changes and enhanced timestretching are also on the spec sheet, as are a multitude of other improvements.
If you're a Bitwig user, the end of February - the update's release date - can't come soon enough.
Waves Scheps Omni Channel
Waves has worked with mix engineer Andrew Scheps to create a channel strip that, while not exactly groundbreaking, could certainly be very useful.
The Scheps Omni Channel plugin contains Andrew’s go-to combinations of compression, saturation colours and more. The processors are designed to work together seamlessly and cohesively; some are based on classic hardware units and others are modules that have been developed from scratch.
Positive Grid BIAS Amp 2
Central to the latest edition of Positive Grid's popular BIAS software is the inclusion of Celestion speaker IRs and an overhauled speaker cabinet module.
The new cab module eschews the usual laborious loading of individual samples in favour of a speaker UI in which you simply drag and drop a microphone to change the selected IR, or stack up multiple mics and mix them.
Positive Grid has also expanded the amount of tube emulations its offering in BIAS Amp, with the addition of 12BH7, 12AY7 tubes, plus 6550 power tubes and KT88s. Many of these can be found in bass amps, so it makes some sense that the new update also includes a new bass-specific amp pack, alongside the new Blues Pack, which focuses on clean and mid-gain tones.
Antares Auto-Tune Pro
Antares is looking both forward and backwards with Auto-Tune Pro, updating the interface for a streamlined workflow, while also adding a Classic mode that brings back the sound of Auto-Tune 5.
You also get automatic key detection, ARA support for compatible VST3 DAWs, and a new Settings menu that houses commonly-used preferences for session-specific settings.
There's plenty of life in the old automatic tuning dog yet, it would seem...
Roland Cloud TR-808 and TR-909
Roland is far from the first company to emulate the TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines in software, but given it's also the company that made the original hardware, these forthcoming recreations were always bound to get plenty of attention.
They operate as VST and AU plugins on PC and Mac, and are based on detailed circuit analysis and “obsessive attention to the interactions and dynamic behaviour of the analogue circuitry”.
You'll be able to put these claims of authenticity to the test when they're released on the subscription-based Roland Cloud in February or March.
Creating 'doubled' vocal tracks might just have got a little bit easier thanks to Sonnox.
This first release in the new Toolbox series comprises two plugins: Widen and Thicken. Their purposes are pretty self-explanatory and, used together, these are designed to turn a single vocal line into one that sounds multitracked. The processing is said to be transparent and to leave you with a natural, realistic vocal sound.