The Best Gear Of The Decade: 2017

Here are six of the best studio products that we reviewed in 2017.

Whether it was the beginning of Behringer’s synth masterplan, a new way of managing loops and samples or a groundbreaking new plug-in for making your recordings better, we reviewed some intriguing, and influential music production gear in 2017.

Novation Peak

What we said: “Peak has excellent and varied sounds and effects and more than enough options to synthesise, create and modulate your own. It’s years of fun and creativity in one box.”

Were we right? The Peak from Novation introduced us to the excellent, numerically-controlled Oxford Oscillators, which sound fantastically analogue, and form the sound source of this superb polysynth. These, along with an impressive array of modulation options and built-in effects, make for a great instrument. Although it is a compact desktop synth without a keyboard, Novation released a keyboard version in the shape of Summit in 2019.

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Conclusion: The Peak didn’t necessarily start a new trend in the industry, but it did demonstrate that the distinction between true-analogue oscillators and NCO/DCOs isn’t one worth dwelling on, especially given the excellent results the latter can produce. In short, it sounds super.

RATING

  • Innovation – 7
  • Impact – 8
  • Price Then – £1,250
  • Price Now – £1,099

Read our full review here.

Expert Sleepers ES-8

Expert Sleepers ES-8

What we said: “…imagine for one moment running a smaller [Eurorack modular] rig from a laptop, and placing many of those elements under CV control. This ‘could’ spawn a new breed of electronic musician and Eurorack user emerging from behind their Macs.”

Were we right? Expert Sleepers’ DC-coupled audio interface module neatly solved the issue of computer control over CV-based gear. By allowing the exchange of CV and audio with a computer and iOS devices, it opened up new worlds of hybrid control and processing for Eurorack users. Although other companies make DC-coupled audio interfaces that can do similar things, Expert Sleepers have been covering this ground since 2010. Connecting to a computer via USB, the ES-8 remains an important module for Eurorack users today.

Conclusion: Not the first of its kind, but perhaps the most elegant, the ES-8 lets you drive your Eurorack system from Expert Sleepers’ Silent Way software, Max/MSP, Reaktor, Ableton CV Toolkit and more.

RATING

  • Innovation – 8
  • Impact – 8
  • Price Then – £375
  • Price Now – £375

Behringer DeepMind 12

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Behringer DeepMind 12

What we said: “Behringer has set the bar exceptionally high at an exceptionally low price-point for what it is. Ultimately, the people who are going to win are us consumers.” We loved the design, noting that it gave a nod to classics such as the Juno-60, but that it offered a lot more.

Were we right? It’s astonishing that Behringer’s first commercial foray into synth building was only three years ago, given how they’ve become such a huge force in the sector. The DeepMind 12 was an original 12-voice polyphonic design, proving that the company could make high-quality synths. However, it feels like a distant whisper compared to their more recent clones such as the Odyssey, Model D, MS-1, K-2, Wasp, Pro-1 or even the Poly-D.

Conclusion: The DeepMind 12 was a proof of concept for the company’s synth building, but while it was a capable synth, it demonstrated that the public is far more interested in seeing affordable classic synth designs augmented than something entirely new. So that’s exactly where Behringer focused their attention.

RATING

  • Innovation – 8
  • Impact – 10
  • Price Then – £999
  • Price Now – £634

Oeksound Soothe

Oeksound Soothe

What we said: “Currently, there is nothing else available on the market that offers this level of detail and control – and after using Soothe for a couple of weeks, we wondered how we managed without it for so long.”

Were we right? We awarded Soothe a perfect 10/10 in 2017 for its ability to manage unwanted frequencies with its ingenious ‘dynamic resonance suppression’ technology. By having many dynamically applied EQ cuts that adjust themselves many times every second, Soothe transparently dials down the harshness of signals. It’s more powerful than a dynamic EQ and multiband compressor for that task, and the only similar product to appear since is Soundtheory’s excellent Gullfoss. Soothe started the trend, though.

Conclusion: Soothe really is a silver bullet processor for making poor recordings sound better, and it requires remarkably little fiddling to get great results. We still love it today.

RATING

  • Innovation – 10
  • Impact – 9
  • Price Then – €149
  • Price Now – €149

Read our full review here.

MPC Live

 

AKAI MPC Live

 

What we said: “The standalone MPC is back, and Akai has done a great job of combining hardware and software – striking the perfect balance between accessibility, portability, and complexity. [We’re] very excited to see what the company’s forthcoming MPC X brings to the table.”

Were we right? Akai’s MPC Live reinvented the standalone MPC and its portability and level of complexity have made it a mainstay in the studio and on stage. It might not have been the first modern device to embrace the computer-less approach, but it might have nearly perfected it.

Conclusion: A stellar return to form by Akai, giving the people what they really wanted – a proper standalone MPC after years of controllers.

RATING

  • Innovation – 9
  • Impact – 8
  • Price Then – £999
  • Price Now – £825

Read our full review here.

Loopmasters Loopcloud

Loopmasters Loopcloud

What we said:Loopcloud is about nudging your creativity in the right direction and Loopcloud does that with some aplomb. From managing and auditioning samples, to boosting your creativity tenfold, there’s a hell of a lot to love about Loopcloud. A simple, easy and inspiring concept.”

Were we right? We only need to take a quick look at services like Splice, BandLab Assistant and Loopcloud to see that integrating samples into a DAW has been streamlined to spark inspiration in an unprecedented manner. With Loopmasters still being one of the biggest players in the sample pack game, this was a move that made a lot of sense and would have pleased a lot of people.

Conclusion: What’s not to love? It’s easy, expansive and not expensive. While many producers will turn their noses up at the thought of using pre-recorded samples, they can be a great way to get the creative juices flowing and mock up a demo ready to take into the studio. With Loopcloud, searching for a sample, auditioning the sample and then loading it into your DAW is a much more fluid process than endlessly browsing through a web page until you find the right loop. By that point, it’s likely that the idea has gone.

RATING

  • Innovation – 10
  • Impact – 9
  • Price: Free to download, Sample Packs will vary

Read our full review here.

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

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