We seemed locked in a constant dance in music technology between an overbearing reverence for the past and a desire to forge onwards. In this category we invite you decide which of the following products deserves the honour of Best Innovation.
Scroll to the bottom of this article to cast your vote on which should be crowned the winner.
1Steinberg SpectraLayers Pro 6
Steinberg’s new audio editor may look like an image editor, but it promises to unleash a whole host of corrective and creative possibilities. Like other spectral editors, its ability to edit audio in the frequency domain opens up many possibilities, making light work of removing unwanted noises, pops, clicks, hum and broadband noise. This is ideal for fixing problems in live recordings.
What really sets SpectraLayers Pro 6 apart from the competition is the non-destructive, Photoshop-style principle of using layers. What’s more, ARA support means you can also use SpectraLayers within your DAW. Is it deserving of your vote?
2Nugen Audio SigMod
It can be difficult to get super excited about utility plug-ins, but Nugen’s affordable SigMod is so useful, once you start using it, you may wonder how you ever did anything without it. Comprising 12 single process modules, the no-frills auto-sizing GUI is clear and functional. The package offers basic functions such as phase flip, mono, LR flip, DC offset detection and more.
Among the most interesting modules are Mid-Side and Crossover modules, which let you add M/S or split-band functionality to any processor or effect you can think of. There’s also a useful Tap module, that sends a signal to a separate Receive plug-in you can place anywhere in your DAW for flexible routing.
Perhaps the most exciting feature is its ability to host VST2, VST3 and AU plug-ins, meaning you’re no longer going to find yourself unable to use a favourite old plug-in when you change DAW or system.
3iZotope Neutron 3 Advanced
There is perhaps no other company in the world of pro audio that is quite as dedicated harnessing the power of machine learning as iZotope. With Neutron 3, the company is determined to help you get your mix off to a good start with Mix Balance tool which automatically sets track levels to create an initial mix.
Highlights of this version include a new Sculptor module that’s great for reducing harshness – a bit like Oeksound Soothe – and an improved Masking Meter to help you keep your mixes uncluttered.
We found the results of the much-lauded AI mixing assistant to be hit-and-miss, performing much better on a traditional rock mix than on electronic music. However, the suite of tools that are included – such as Dynamic EQ, Exciter, Transient Shaper, Gate and Tonal Balance Control – really are impressive, especially for the asking price.
4VSL Vienna Ensemble Pro 7
Vienna Ensemble Pro 7 is a host package for VST/AU plug-ins but that doesn’t really explain its full power. Load up your entire sampled orchestra template on your host machine alongside your DAW and you no longer have to wait for all your samples to load every time you open a new project. Or, if you’re running insanely huge sample instruments, you can run VSL’s software on a second machine so you never max out your host computer’s RAM or CPU.
On top of that, Vienna Ensemble Pro 7 also comes bundled with a great library of orchestral samples including strings, woodwind, brass and percussion.
One of the cleverest features of the software is its ability to load templates without booting samples into RAM immediately, while also offering the option to offload samples, to reclaim RAM if you’re not using a whole template.
5Spitfire Audio Orbis
Orbis captures unique instrumentation from around the world, taken from the recording archive of late, great composer David Fanshawe, and repackages it into a highly usable and versatile form that offers everything from basic sample playback to complete resynthesis.
If you want to build even more intriguing textures, Orbis gives you the tools to blend two ‘partials’ and automate the way that these are blended and control their ADSR envelopes independently. You are also given a plethora of effects options to help you shape exactly the out-there tone you’re looking for.
There is plenty of worldly diversity, editing options are extensive and a joy to use, and you can expect results that are both unique and cinematic.
6Olympia Noise Co Patterning 2
The Patterning 2 app concept encourages you to produce drums in a circular view. If you own an iOS device in any shape or form and want to inject a huge dose of fun and creativity into your drum programming, Patterning 2 is a no brainer. It looks beautiful, is incredibly easy to work with and yet offers a level of depth and tweakability not seen in many top-end drum programming packages, let alone iOS apps. Add into the mix a huge library of high-quality drum kits and hits and the power to export your creations as entire songs or patterns ready to be imported into your DAW, and you have a killer weapon that no producer should be without.
7Loopmasters Loopcloud 5
Loopcloud is becoming a more creative app with every upgrade. Version 5 is the biggest overhaul yet and reaches inspiring new heights for song creation. Loopcloud 5 is a massive step up from 4 and almost unrecognisable from the sample-management app that was version 1.
With the Loopcloud multi-track feature and new effects rack, it’s now capable of creating complete productions without the DAW. And, while Loopmasters are not claiming that they are edging into DAW territory, you can produce a good tune or two with it easily. It’s ideal if you’re stuck for ideas or need some slick injections of audio drama. Can it also win your vote in the Best Innovation category?
Cast your vote here:
Check out all the Gear Of The Year 2019 categories here.