The Best Gear Of The Decade: 2018

It’s not as easy to feel the impact of products from 2018 given that they’ve only had a year or so to get into the hands of creative artists. But some of the gear that came out has a very deserving place in a Gear Of The Decade list, and no doubt will continue to shape the sound of tomorrow.

Novation SL MkIII

What we said: “Once you get your head around that this is essentially an eight-track multi-channel controller that can take on eight different pieces of hardware and software, sequence each one and then offer your unheard of control over each of their innards, you realise that this, quite simply, is the best product of 2018. SL MkIII is genuinely the most exciting piece of tech I’ve reviewed in 2018. Incredible”

Were we right? Dare we question such a comment? The short answer is: we were right. It’s an impressive piece of gear and its functions really are a testament to Novation’s expertise – not that it was ever under scrutiny.

Conclusion: Novation have a knack for creating innovative controllers that set the benchmark for others to follow – Launchpad is enough of an argument for that. SL MKIII might just be the next ‘best-of-its-kind’ piece of kit that will inspire other manufacturers to create something just as effective.

RATING

  • Innovation – 10
  • Impact – 8
  • Price Then – £540 – £630
  • Price Now – £540 – £630

Read our full review here.

Soundtheory Gullfoss

What we said: “it’s hard to know what voodoo is going on under the hood with Gullfoss, but ultimately, the results speak for themselves. It gives recordings and mixes a smooth and airy quality that would be impossible to achieve with a traditional EQ… we will be very interested to see what Soundtheory come up with next.”

Were we right? In Gullfoss, Soundtheory created a piece of software that shouldn’t exist. Its ability to add definition to individual elements in a stereo mix is truly exceptional and has left us scratching our heads about what kind of black magic (or advanced processing) is at its heart. Considering it’s based on an AI designed by a theoretical physicist, there’s no wonder it’s as advanced as it is. And, as a mixing and mastering tool, it’s a must-have.

Conclusion: Between Gullfoss, Oeksound Soothe and the various new developments from iZotope, we’re beginning to see what the next generation of music production tools can do, and we like what we’re hearing.

RATING

  • Innovation – 10
  • Impact – 9
  • Price Then – £139
  • Price Now – £139

Read our full review here.

ADAM Audio T5V

Adam Audio T5V

What we said: “They are among the best four-figure mini-monitors on the market, yet – incredibly – cost under £300. The T5V offer superb sound for astonishing little outlay. It’s accurate, wideband delivery betters some designs at many times the price. It’s a brilliant product.”

Were we right? Finding a pair of monitors under £300 can still be quite a challenge – or at least, finding a good pair for that price. The ADAM T5V’s have pleased music producers across all levels, shocking them with a surprisingly big sound despite its small form factor.

Conclusion: It’s often advised to splash out as much as you can on monitors to ensure the most accurate response possible. With ADAM T5V, this isn’t quite the case. Featuring newly designed Accelerated Ribbon Tweeters and other technology trickled down from ADAM’s top models, you might find that £300 will get you further than ever before.

RATING

  • Innovation – 8
  • Impact – 8
  • Price then – £299 (pair)
  • Price Now – ~£289 (pair)

Read our full review here.

Toontrack Superior Drummer 3

How to create a rock sound, Toontrack Superior Drummer 3

What we said: “Some producers just can’t get enough drums, and if you need that level of detailed control over every aspect of your drum sound, you’ll be all over Superior Drummer 3. It offers unrivalled creative control, customisation, loads of content with incredible detail, and will take care of drum production, from start to finish”.

Were we right? Albeit a potentially long learning curve, SD3 is probably the most comprehensive drum editing and performance software on the market. Toontrack also releases new kits to buy and download, recently collaborating with Al Schmitt to offer sounds straight from Capitol Studios. This is great to further experiment with different tones for your projects, and is a far more interesting approach than using pre-recorded loops.

Conclusion: There’s not much to compare against SD3, except maybe EZDrummer, which is also a Toontrack product. When one thinks of a drum machine, the mind darts to Roland TR-909 or Linndrum, but with such an intricate piece of drum software available, it could be worth considering SD3 when deciding on which ‘drum machine’ to splash out on.

RATING

  • Innovation – 9
  • Impact – 9
  • Price then – £305
  • Price now – £280

Read our full review here.

Spitfire Audio Hans Zimmer Strings

Spitfire Audio Hans Zimmer strings recording

What we said: “Where HZ Strings scores really highly is in the sheer scale and breadth of some of the sampling, but the forte of this seems to be far more in the area of subtlety, making it excellent for interesting string colours at the quieter end of the texture spectrum. There’s plenty of scope within the realms of creative soundtrack composition”.

Were we right? Spitfire Audio has continued to impress the music world with orchestral virtual instruments such as BBC Symphony Orchestra and LCO Textures. There’s no reason to forget Hans Zimmer’s library just yet though. If you’re a cinematic soundtracker, chances are you’re also a fan of Hans Zimmer, and who wouldn’t want to sound like one of the best?

Conclusion: It’s unlikely we’ll ever see the end of virtual instruments in the orchestral realm, especially as they seem to only get more nuanced as time goes on. Hans Zimmer Strings is a great benchmark for other developers to work towards, although to be frank, not many other companies will come close to what Spitfire Audio is capable of achieving.

RATING

  • Innovation – 9
  • Impact – 8
  • Price then – £699
  • Price now – £419

Read our full review here.

Universal Audio Arrow

Universal Audio Arrow

What we said: “Vocalists get real-time, latency-free recordings with effects that will transform their singing, while guitarists can thrash away with an interface that effectively doubles as a stompbox. Arrow has hit the bullseye”

Were we right? As stated before in our mention of UA Apollo, the plug-ins available from UAD are utilised by some of the most successful producers we’ve spoken to over the years. Even more producers are welcomed into this world with Arrow, with realtime processing available for musicians in an affordable and mobile package.

Conclusion: Universal Audio seldom do wrong in its interface production, and the UAD platform has so much on offer that you’d be crazy not to at least consider Arrow as an interface. That is unless, of course, your budget lets you go all in on one of UA’s higher end products.

RATING

  • Innovation – 9
  • Impact – 9
  • Price Then: £440
  • Price now: £449

Read our full review here.

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

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