EM Editor's Note: Blast From the Past?

It's the Editors' Choice issue again, and I thought it would be fun to dig back into the EM archives and see what the awards were like back in the early

Photo: Marla Cohen

It's the Editors' Choice issue again, and I thought it would be fun to dig back into the EM archives and see what the awards were like back in the early days. Until doing some research for this column, I didn't know when we started giving them out. When I was hired at the magazine in 1999, Editors' Choice was already an established tradition.

I was also kind of curious to see what kinds of products were winning awards in those days, and whether they were mostly older versions of the products we know today or gear and software that now resides in the proverbial dustbin of music-technology history (wherever that is). Not surprisingly, the answer was that it was a mixture of both.

Anyway, I discovered that the first Editors' Choice awards were in the December 1992 issue. Back then, instead of having all the editors and key contributors vote in every category (as we do here in the “modern” EM era), each editor was assigned to come up with five winning products. “This year we decided to compile a list of these favorites, with each of EM's four editors contributing five products,” wrote EM's editor at the time, Bob O'Donnell. “This is not the definitive list of the most important or best products of the year; it's just four guys' opinions on what was cool.”

So what was cool that year? As it turns out, some of the winners were indeed from the dustbin category, such as the Ensoniq DP/4 effects processor, the Turtle Beach Multisound sound card and a $1,595 pitch-to-MIDI converter called the SynchroVoice MidiVox. However, there were some very familiar names in there, too. The first version of Digidesign Pro Tools won in '92, as did Steinberg Cubase Audio 1.1. Then there was this product called Microsoft Windows 3.1. I have to admit to being surprised by that. I never knew an operating system had won an Editors' Choice.

In 1995, the number of products receiving awards had ballooned up to 43. Wow, when you consider that each winning product had to have a short summary written about it for the article, I'm surmising that it must have been a busier-than-usual month for the editorial staff. Winners that year included Apple's HyperCard 2.2, Adobe Premiere 4, Dr. T's QuickScore Professional (remember Dr. T?), the Genelec 1030A monitors, the Tech 21 SansAmp PSA-1 and Emagic Logic Audio 2.

Jumping to 1997, the number of winners had dropped back to a more manageable 24 products. The introduction to the awards article offered solace for the non-winners that is still relevant today: “The products that didn't win are not necessarily losers. If it were that simple, we wouldn't bother to publish approximately 100 reviews plus assorted face-offs each year!”

Winners that year included BIAS Peak 1, the Kurzweil K2500 and the Yamaha 02R digital mixer. Also winning were the Akai S2000, a rackmount sampler; the Alesis NanoVerb, an outboard reverb; the E-mu Darwin, an early hard-disk multitrack; and the Tascam DA-38, a tape-based digital multitrack. Those winners are indicative of the fact that at that time, although computers had already become important in the studio, they hadn't yet subsumed everything into the box.

I hope you liked that little stroll down Editors' Choice memory lane, and that you'll enjoy reading about this year's winners. I also want to wish you a Happy New Year from everyone here at EM.