Gear of the Year 2016 – Best Software Instrument/Sample Library

As seems to be the case every year, this was by far the most crowded category of our Gear Of The Year awards. That’s pretty much because it covers every instrument you can get in software, so that includes orchestral instruments, guitar instruments and, this year, some very unusual instruments.

Credit in this latter category goes to Gothic Instruments for its incredible Dronar modular system and also to Toontrack’s rather great EZX Post-Rock. If we were to have our way, we’d also have opted for Orchestral Tools’ Metropolis Ark – but this is a reader vote, so it’s a synth that takes the prize – and what a synth…

Highly Commended Software Instrument/Sample Library – Spitfire Audio Albion 1

highly commended software instrument


Price £383
Contact via website

Spitfire has been spoiling us with some great collections over the last few years and Albion is one of its best. We’ll simply leave it up to the late, great Keith Gemmell who said of Albion One in his review: “When it comes to all-round cinematic orchestral libraries, few can match Spitfire Audio’s Albion One, which provides lush strings, powerful brass, thunderous percussion, along with a huge variety of organically derived loops and synth pads.”

Winner – KV331 Audio SynthMaster

best software instrument SynthMaster

Price Standard: $129 (1,250 presets); Everything: $379 (2,850 presets)
Contact+90 312 265 0558 –

SynthMaster claims to be the synth over all synths in that is has several engines to turn it into whatever synth you want – FM, AM, Vector and more – and to also be used as an effect itself. Where it gets good – and we mean really good – is that it uses a modular approach, so while you can set up and create complex routing, the heart of the synth makes this pretty easy to accomplish.

So while it may not be the prettiest of synths, it can certainly sound like the best. “The sheer scope will be too much for some,” said reviewer Andy Jones, “but I love the options to use it on a more basic level.


Sonically, it should be all you need, but I could say that about many soft synths – BLUE II, Omnisphere and so on do what you want and a lot more, if you get to know them. And it’s testament to KV331 that I’m putting SynthMaster on the same level as those. It really does an incredible amount and in a no-nonsense, almost calm way. So sit back, don’t panic and enjoy the ride.”

Check back tomorrow for our next, and brand new, category!