Although synths tend to dominate the virtual instrument headlines, it’s worth remembering that plugins can be used to generate pretty much any kind of sound you want - whether ‘real’ or electronic.
You’ll realise this as you browse through our list of the year’s best new software instruments, which covers everything from classic keyboards to drums and electric bass. And, of course, there are some next-gen synths in there, too.
There can be only one winner, though: we asked you to vote, and now you can find out how your favourite fared.
The MusicRadar Best in music tech awards 2017 are brought to you in association with Softube - Tools for the Audio Professional. (opens in new tab)
Audio Damage Phosphor 2
We said: "More than the sum of its parts, Phosphor 2 provides old-school tones, textures and FX with a keenly modern edge."
XILS-lab PolyKB III
We said: "There’s really nothing PolyKB can’t turn its hand to, from thumping basses, writhing leads and delicate bells to elaborate polyphonic sequences, dense arps, textures, soundscapes and anything else where motion and dynamics are key. And despite the age of the hardware being modelled, PolyKB III has a surprisingly modern sound, presumably thanks to the many modifications made by XILS to the original blueprint."
IK Multimedia Modo Bass
We said: "Even the most cynical of music production traditionalists would be hard pressed to find fault with Modo Bass’ superb electric bass modelling, which, when programmed and manipulated properly, is every bit as sonically effective as its multisampled equivalents, and far more versatile. IK may just have changed the low-end game."
Spitfire Audio BT Phobos
We said: Having made its name creating sample libraries and Kontakt instruments, in 2017 Spitfire Audio released its first standalone plugin synth in the shape of BT Phobos. Created, as the prefix suggests, with the help of electronic music luminary BT, this is designed to produce epic, cinematic sounds and rich textures."
Synthogy Ivory II Studio Grands
We said: "Both pianos sound absolutely magnificent, and contrast well with each other - the raw Bosendorfer being the weightier of the two, the Steinway having the brighter sound."
IK Multimedia Syntronik
We said: "A quick, easy and convincingly analogue-sounding synthesizer compendium that delivers a voluminous and versatile library of highly customisable preset sounds."
We said: "There’s a lot missing from Sample, but its basic flow is so enjoyable and productive that you can’t help but fall for it."
Synapse Audio The Legend
We said: "A Minimoog with bells on, The Legend is a stunning emulation of the most important synth ever made, with a totally legit sound and numerous handy extras."
Steinberg HALion 6
We said: "With its wavetable synthesis engine, real-time sampling functionality and easy script editing, HALion 6 is dizzying in its versatility, customisation and open-endedness. Whether you just want to exploit the countless sounds in its preset library or design epic instruments from the ground up using its multifaceted sampling and synthesis building blocks, it’s a true powerhouse."
Rob Papen Predator 2
We said: "Predator 2 is a thoroughly worthy successor to the original and we find ourselves even more in its thrall than we were in 2007. It's far more versatile and interesting, the GUI retains that instant, hands-on feel as much as it can without getting totally crazy, and - thanks to the new features, overhauled audio engine, awesome wave mixing and, er, wavetabling, and an effects rack that still qualifies as one of the best in the business - it sounds simply phenomenal."
Vengeance-Sound VPS Avenger
We said: "Totally inspiring, utterly absorbing, ridiculously versatile and sounding phenomenal, VPS Avenger is quite unlike any other synth out there."
Toontrack Superior Drummer 3
We said: "As well as taking the dazzling acoustic kit realism for which Superior Drummer has always been known to new heights, creative features like Pitch FX, sample import and Stacks give SD3 serious potential in the electronic music arena, too. Superior indeed, Toontrack’s masterpiece is one of the highlights of our software year."
We said: "A far more straightforward and lightweight proposition than its stablemate Diva, Repro-1 is a delicious slice of synth history in perfectly realised plugin form."
Winner: KV331 Audio SynthMaster One
We said: "With dual wavetable oscillators, stunning filters and fast-paced interface, SynthMaster One sounds fantastic and stays out of your way while you work!"