The Envelope, Please - EMusician

The Envelope, Please

The Editors' Choice Awards issue is one of my favorites of the year. Although getting Electronic Musician's editors and authors to agree on a list of
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The Editors' Choice Awards issue is one of my favorites of the year. Although getting Electronic Musician's editors and authors to agree on a list of winners is not trivial, the results are always exciting: it's fun to see which of the hundreds of products released in a year make the final cut.

Because EM works with a three-month lead time, we begin preparing each year's Editors' Choice issue in early October, which is also our cutoff date for product testing. If a new item begins shipping on the cusp and we don't have time to test it, we'll add it to our list for the next year.

The list of product categories differs from year to year, often because of market trends. If it is a mediocre year for one type of product group, we'll sacrifice it to make way for another group that was on fire. For example, 2005 saw a number of affordable ribbon mics hit the market, so we created a category especially for that type of transducer, as well as gave an award to the best condenser mic of the year. At other times, the mics we examined had such a wide price gap between them that we created an award for models that cost more than $1,000 and one for those that cost less than $1,000. This year the mic category was all over the map in terms of price and type, so we picked which one we thought was the best overall.

But this isn't a beauty pageant, and Editors' Choice Awards are not given to products because particular manufacturers spent the most on advertising. In this competition, all of the products are on equal footing, no matter which companies are behind them. We're just as likely to give an award to an item created by a one-person operation as we are to one made by a major corporation. It's an editorially driven process, and what matters most to us is that we feel that the winner stands out in a big way.

This does not mean that the products that didn't win are inferior. Often a tiny detail edges the winner ahead of two or three other stellar products. The selection process is time-consuming and difficult. If the stack of empty pizza boxes and soda cans reaches my height and we still haven't named a winner, we'll declare a tie, as we did this year in the Software Synthesizer category.

This parade of products should not be construed as a message that you need to continually upgrade your studio and gear accordingly. What we are saying is that if you're looking to upgrade your digital audio sequencer, graduate to an interface with more connectivity, expand your mic cabinet, or invest in a notation program for the first time in a decade, we have some serious recommendations for you. Throughout the rest of the year, we will continue to honestly evaluate the latest gadgets and offer insights into how to maximize your creative time with them.

Here's to a great 2008!