Whether you are a producer, DJ, sound designer, composer, engineer... there are a few things that are of the utmost importance in creating sound for whatever craft in which you choose to reside, it's the connection between you and it.
When constructing any form of audio and its replication into the format of choice, we are all striving for the best quality, be it in the capture, monitoring or just listening. Microphones, mixers, monitors, headphones and much more are all essential and more importantly very personal to those who use them.
We are not only governed by the cost of these items but also how they fit on our heads, in our studio, or in our backpacks. This was no more apparent in the voting for this year's poll to find the best studio gear released in 2021.
You came in your droves to choose the best bits of studio gear that you loved this year. Whether you bought them, covet them, or just thought they deserved to win, here are the results.
1. Winner, AIAIAI TMA-2 Series headphones
It doesn't get more personal than the ability to mix and match your headphones with the features that suit you best, which is where TMA has shone this year. The TMA-2 modular concept is great, and although it’s not possible to get a true sense of which components will best suit you out of the box, the product descriptions for the configurations are pretty accurate. Overall, they are great for recording, DJing and general listening, though there are more suitable studio headphones for more critical listening situations.
Read the full AIAIAI TMA-2 Series headphones review
2. Focal Alpha 65 Evo
Focal’s more affordable Alpha studio monitor range has had an upgrade and been rebadged as Alpha Evo. Currently available with either a 5” or 6.5” woofer, it’s the larger Alpha 65 Evo we are reviewing here. The styling has been overhauled, and you now have smoother corners and a single front-facing slotted bass port. The tweeter waveguide now offers a more graded profile for the 1'’-inverted aluminium dome tweeter. These are classy monitors, though pricier than their predecessors, but are very revealing in use, and you’re getting a monitor that is pretty close to considerably more expensive professional designs.
Read the full Focal Alpha 65 Evo review
3. PreSonus Eris E3.5
Smaller desktop monitors are now attempting to do it all: giving you enough quality for music production, but also handling your music listening and content creation needs. The PreSonus Eris E3.5s tick the boxes for all of these uses and at an exceptional price. In fact, we dug them so much that they made the cut in our guide to the best budget studio monitors. Overall there is detail here – even low down – that you wouldn't expect for speakers of this size and price. The soundstage is wide and the listening sweet spot is pretty good too albeit designed for smaller spaces.
Read the full PreSonus Eris E3.5 review
4. CME WIDI Master
CME released its new MIDI-over-Bluetooth-wireless system, called WIDI Master and also happens to be one of three different wireless MIDI systems the company has been developing. Designed for hooking up devices with traditional 5-pin DIN MIDI connections, WIDI Master can communicate directly with Bluetooth LE-equipped devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops. Significantly, and unlike a number of other options on the market, you can also use two pairs of WIDI Masters to connect two MIDI-socket-equipped devices. Any object that has the sole purpose of cutting down on the number of wires in the studio is a winner in our book and being heavily endorsed by such a keen wizard of the keys as Mr Rudess here is always going to help.
Read the full CME WIDI Master review
5. Aston Element
After extensive user feedback during its development the "people's microphone" was born and its proud parent, Aston Microphones, looks to have hit on a winner. In our review, we instantly stated that the "Element is a total success, that easily outperforms microphones that cost double and even triple the price." That was in the first paragraph! Totally unheard of in our line of work. Talk about giving the reader too much, too soon. Still, it's all about the story, so check it out for yourselves...
Read the full Aston Element review