First Take: And the Winner Is...

Read Gino Robair January 2009 EM Editors Note, Where He Writes About the Process in Selecting Pro Audio Gear for the 2009 Editors Choice Awards
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

It's that time of year again, when EM's editors and authors sift through 12 months of reviews, roundups, and “What's New” items to find the products that we think stand out from the crowd. Some, like this year's winner in the Microphone category (the Cascade Microphones Gomez Michael Joly Edition), give you maximum bang for the buck, while others, like the winner for Most Innovative Product (the Moog Music Moog Guitar Paul Vo Collector Edition), are chosen because they offer something unique and price isn't a consideration.

The Editors' Choice Awards are not meant to imply that these are the only products released in the past year that are worthy of your attention. In fact, in some categories we had a difficult time choosing a winner because there were so many strong contenders. For example, the competition in the Field Recorder category was fierce, with the Olympus LS-10 coming in as the runner-up. (Check out Senior Editor Geary Yelton's roundup “Studio in Your Pocket” in the June 2008 issue at to read about the major players.) In the Monitor Speaker category, the ADAM A5 and KRK Rokit 5 came in a close second and third, respectively. As usual, the toughest battle was in the Digital Audio Sequencer category, which saw Ableton Live 7 narrowly edge out the other top dogs — Cakewalk Sonar 8, Digidesign Pro Tools 7.4 LE, and MOTU Digital Performer 6.

But beyond the myriad products we did examine are the hundreds that we didn't because we lacked the space in print. To cover more products in 2009, we are launching video reviews on our Web site, beginning with two reviews this month. This new format will allow you to see and hear what products sound like — both the pros and the cons — so you can make better-informed buying decisions. Executive Editor/Senior Media Producer Mike Levine starts the series off by covering this year's winner of the Signal-Processing Software (Individual) award, iZotope RX.

Overall, 2008 was a great year for both software and hardware products, and despite economic woes, all indications point to a stronger year in 2009. In the former class, there continues to be an embarrassment of riches in the world of freeware, shareware, and low-cost apps and plug-ins. Associate Editor Len Sasso keeps a close eye on this field for his “Download of the Month” column, and he constantly surprises us with the intriguing items he finds.

For hardware, the action remains in the world of analog gear, where so many boutique companies keep the focus on sound and build-quality rather than low price points and mass-market appeal. The categories showing the most exciting development trends are synthesizer modules (check out Plan B, Livewire, and the Harvestman); dynamics processors, preamps, and EQ (particularly the companies supporting the 500-series modular format); and stompboxes and effects (such as Diamond, Metasonix, and Devi Ever USA, among dozens of other interesting companies). And with analog hardware products, you don't have to futz with dongles or worry about obsolescence due to system upgrades. Your purchase may very well last you a lifetime.

But EM is not here to sell you gear. Our reviews are only one part of our overall education strategy. Our main objective is to help you grow as an artist or producer by offering practical, how-to articles on every aspect of music production. And with major changes in the way recordings are marketed and sold, we will continue to keep you abreast of the trends on the business side of music with our “Industry Insider” column, as well as with feature articles such as Michael Cooper's “Self-Control” (available in the April 2008 issue at, which explains how to set up and manage your own music-publishing company. There will be many surprises coming in the new year, so stay tuned.

May you have a fun and creative 2009!