Gear of the Year 2016 – The Best Hardware Effect/Outboard

Our next Gear of the Year category is the best hardware effect and/or outboard. Again this category was hotly contested however we’re pretty confident that our audience chose the correct recipients of our Gear of the Year awards….

Highly Commended Hardware Effect/Outboard – Thermionic Culture The Swift

hardware effect the swift

Price £2,292 plus tax
Contact Thermionic Culture 01279 414770, email –


We absolutely love Thermionic Culture and its larger-than-life gear and it seems you do, too, as it’s the second year running that this company has gained an award. This time around, it’s for The Swift, a replacement for the Freebird three-channel EQ.

John Pickford was a huge fan when he reviewed it and bestowed the ultimate 10/10 on The Swift. “With the addition of more comprehensive midrange controls and the sublime Air control,” he said, “The Swift ranks as the finest program equaliser I have ever heard. Sure, there are other units (parametric EQs, for instance) that are better suited to forensic tone-rescuing duties. However, for the musical enhancement of sounds that are not broken, The Swift is a first among equalisers.”

And his conclusion? “The Swift is the finest stereo valve equaliser we have ever used, bar none.” So it’s good, then.

Winner – Rupert Neve Designs 551

hardware effect rnd

Price £759
Contact Sonic Distribution 0845 500 2 500

As we said in our intro, this was another hotly contested Gear Of The Year category as outboard hardware, like all hardware, is back in vogue. Okay, it actually never went away, but like all things analogue, everyone and his dog is realising that having a quality piece of gear in your signal chain, if not your entire signal chain, is the preferred option.


In this category, we had some fantastic products shortlisted and it would be wrong of us not to mention it.

In particular, MusicTech can’t praise enough the following: Kush Audio’s Tweaker; the Chandler RS124 Compressor; the Golden Age Project Comp-3A; and the Warm Audio WA-2A. Even Roland got in with the outboard action (albeit in Eurorack form) and we were particularly struck by the DEMORA delay.

There can be only one winner, though, and the Rupert Neve Designs 551 EQ is so good that Mike Hillier heaped praise on it to the absolute roof, awarding it the MT 10/10 Excellence Award.

“The colouration from the 551 is subtle,” he said, “but there is definitely something in the sheen of this module that gives us the polish we were looking for.

“There are plenty of great-sounding digital EQs, but sometimes, being able to grab something physical and dial in a sound quickly is worth its weight in gold. The 551 is one of the best-sounding EQs we’ve ever heard.”

Mike then concluded: “We love this EQ – it truly is one of Rupert Neve’s best designs.” Which is pretty conclusive, don’t you think?

Check back tomorrow for our winners of the next category – the best innovation of 2016!