The Best Gear Of The Decade: 2015

Here are six of the best studio products that we reviewed in 2015.

As we reached the decade’s mid-point, we noticed a continuing trend of music-makers abandoning their screens and returning to the physical world, coupled with a retrospective, nostalgia-tinged desire to build their own Abbey Roads!

Novation Circuit

What we said: “Circuit excitingly blends groovebox features with a modern grid composition approach, all within a solid box with bags of future potential. Great real-time sound mangling, great fun and you will be making music in less than three minutes with it. If you don’t, we’ll come ‘round and do it for you!”

Were we right? In many ways, the all-in-one music production instrument/hub Circuit has sat at the centre of Novation’s universe this decade, being released as it was right at the heart of the 2010s. The Circuit represented an interesting move away from screen-reliance that many music makers were being fatigued by as computer-based music became de rigueur. Further updates have added exceptional leaps forward from the original’s featureset, including a way to merge both the hard and soft worlds with Components/My Circuit software and sample upload ability.

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Conclusion: We all need a screen break from time to time, particularly when we’re trying to generate ideas for new music. To that end, the Novation Circuit reigns supreme as the ultimate all-in-one composition tool that is still heaps of fun to use.

RATING

  • Innovation – 9
  • Impact – 9
  • Price Then – £299
  • Price Now – £299

Read our full review here.

Teenage Engineering PO Series

GOTD Teenage Engineering PO Series

What we said: “Great fun, smashing sound v size and incredible value. You’ll want all three and there are probably more on the way. Can’t wait…”

Were we right? And then some! Teenage Engineering built on the success of its inaugural releases in the beloved calculator-sized Pocket Operator sequencers, samplers and synths with the PO-20 series and the PO-30 series, across which a whole host of new functions were brought to this dangerously collectable range. From vocal and arcade synths to noisy drum machines and micro samplers. Despite their quirky half-finished appearance and ‘trendy’ credentials, the Pocket Operators are remarkably deep and (here’s that word again) just so much fun to create with.

Conclusion: Teenage Engineering created one of the products of the decade here, reinventing the music making process and establishing a unique character for itself in the industry. Like Novation’s Circuit, the PO’s further the trend of taking the producer away from the DAW-universe and reconnect us with the sheer joy and childish glee of music making.

RATING

  • Innovation – 8
  • Impact – 8
  • Price Then – £49 each
  • Price Now – £49 – £85
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Read our full review here.

Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2

GOTd Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2

What we said: “A superb upgrade on one of the finest virtual instruments money can buy. Omnisphere 2 oozes class and sophistication and should be an essential purchase for all.”

Were we right? Omnisphere is still a byword for excellence and is many a sound designer’s secret weapon. This second version was seven years in the making and added 20GB of new content to the (already whopping) original, as well as – pivotally – the ability to export your own content into the software. Omnisphere has subsequently been updated to include hardware synth integration, expanding the already considerable scope of this important tool.

Conclusion: Through the 2010s, this software solidified itself as the gold standard for sound designers, creative musicians and sonic explorers alike. And while we can’t wait to see what the 2020s hold for Omnisphere, it’s already, essentially, a whole universe of aural potential in a box. We’re still delving deep into its fruits.

RATING

  • Innovation – 9
  • Impact – 9
  • Price Then – £285
  • Price Now – £337

Read our full review here.

Chandler REDD.47

GOTD Chandler REDD.47

What we said: “The REDD.47 has the authentic EMI sound that has been unavailable for almost half a century, which is altogether more ballsy than the myriad Neve clones.”

Were we right? As fans of all things vintage, and that distinctive warmth of our classic records, one of our favourite trends this decade has seen high quality (and officially licensed) reproductions of some of that bespoke gear that, in the 60s and 70s, were used to record music by the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd. Chandler Limited led the charge, with products such as the exemplary REDD .47 preamp allowing buyers to effectively build their own versions of Abbey Road in their bedrooms. With added, modern, tweaks.

Conclusion: Up until relatively recently, the thought of accessing that sort of mythical, bespoke technology that recorded those era-defining records was perceived to be out of the question for ‘ordinary people’. Now, thanks to companies like Chandler, we can essentially create the same environment in our home studios.

RATING

  • Innovation – 9
  • Impact – 8
  • Price Then – £2199
  • Price Now – £1999

Read our full review here.

Focal Alpha

GOTD Focal Alpha

What we said: “Critical listening is where the Alpha 50 really wins out. The clarity, accuracy and sheer audio quality this monitor provides is rare indeed at this price point.”

Were we right? Focal’s Alpha series (and the Alpha 50’s in particular) represent yet another trend this decade that has allowed many a smaller-budgeted producer to not lose out when it comes to brilliant monitoring for critical listening. Affordable monitoring has come into its own this decade, with equally as notable examples as Adam Audio’s T-series and Kali Audio’s LP-6, but the Alpha’s have remained consistently excellent, balanced monitors that have served us well for a variety of purposes.

Conclusion: Monitoring is a core aspect of music production that previously would require a hefty amount of saving to get yourself some accurate, balanced ones. As we near the end of the 2010s, high quality monitoring is affordable and available to all, with the Focal Alpha 50s specifically being ones we’d heartily recommend.

RATING

  • Innovation – 7
  • Impact – 8
  • Price Then – £259 (pair)
  • Price Now – £378 (pair)

Read our full review here.

Yamaha Reface

GOTD Yamaha Reface

What we said: “These are personal keyboards, not just in the physical and sonic sense but in the emotional one too. You can carry them, play them and hear them without connecting to the mains or dragging in your entire studio to get the best from them.”

Were we right? These diminutive little keyboards brought some of Yamaha’s most iconic synths and pianos to the modern world, with their DX, CS, CP and YC representing the four pillars of digital synth, analogue synth, piano and organ respectively. This pint-sized re-introduction kickstarted a bit of a portable movement, with Roland’s Boutique series following suit and resurrecting hardware versions of the Jupiter 8, Juno 106 and JX-3P. Finally these titanic tools of the electronic music production world were available in portable, carry-able form.

Conclusion: The Reface series boasts great sound for the size, and enables much more affordable access to these legendary products. The ultra-portable nature of them makes them highly desirable to travelling producers and music-makers, while the ability to play each Reface as a module via your own controller is a great bonus.

RATING

  • Innovation – 8
  • Impact – 8
  • Price Then – £289 each
  • Price Now – £255 each

Read our full review here.

Check out the full Gear Of The Decade: 2010-2019 list here.

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