Welcome to the museum of the future. Here today, gone tomorrow, our modern simple conveniences and unattainable objects of gear lust are the next laughing stocks and anecdotal victims of the technological curve. Whether the future holds a Utopian dream of free energy and eradicated disease, a nightmare of cannibalistic hordes fighting over water or something in between, the following musical treasures will be remembered as but a small link in the chain of events that got us there. Happily, however, the wisest live in the moment, and we're all naught but enlightened. So breathe in and enjoy the best music gear that 2008 had to offer.
To crown the winners of the RTAs, the Remix staff polls its writers and selected editors from sister publications Electronic Musician and Mix, who vote only on products they know firsthand, based on performance, innovation, results and overall value of the products. When the votes are in, we deliberate, argue a bit, make empty threats, get a little heated and say a few things we don't mean, make up and become even closer than before, and then we have our winners. Of course, every year the real winners are the DJs, musicians and producers who get to enjoy the power, convenience and flat-out fun of the ever-advancing technology.
Native Instruments Kontakt 3
With a more elegant interface, 33 GB sample library packed with more than 1,000 instruments and countless improvements, Kontakt 3 turned in a winning performance. But the new Wave Editor — featuring looping, slicing, tempo-syncing and Zone Envelopes — stole the show.
Universal Audio Moog Multimode Filter
Put some of the biggest brains in hardware synthesis together with some of the craziest crainiums in software emulation, and you predictably get the mind-melting creaminess of this filter plug-in, which combines the classic sound of Bob Moog's most famous filters with features from the Moog Voyager synth.
Go to the Focus on Universal Audio page to see video and learn more about UA products.
Prism Sound Orpheus
It takes more than a few bucks — 4,995 of them, specifically — to own this beauty, an 18 I/O FireWire interface with four high-end mic preamps and onboard dithering and sampling-rate conversion. But the unbelievable sound quality makes the Orpheus worth saving up for.
Few gear series can boast of the maniacal following that the Akai MPC production samplers can, so when the MPK49 dropped, beat freaks, well, freaked over this MIDI controller keyboard's features that were ported over from the MPCs, such as Note Repeat and MPC Swing. Its arpeggiator with Time Division, after-touch on the pads and keys, and a fun overall feel put the MPK49 over the top.
Euphonix MC Control
Hello, landslide. This one was not even close. Euphonix notched up the control surface game with the MC Control. It crawls through supported software to incorporate all controllable commands, and it can command multiple apps across multiple machines via Ethernet. The touch-screen display is also customizable to your liking.
Dynaudio Acoustics Air 12
Another high-end speaker, another case of “you get what you pay for.” The Air 12 combines highly accurate and detailed sonic reproduction with DSP room adaptation, including preset storage and recall, speaker-to-speaker networking and the Air Soft application.
Dave Smith Instruments Prophet ‘08
This 8-voice synthesizer with a 100-percent analog signal path uses the same Curtis filter chips as in Dave Smith's classic SCI Prophet-5, but it's not mired in the ways of the past. Its modern feature set includes a 4-by-16-step gated sequencer and unparalleled modulation abilities.
TL Audio Fat Track Tube Production Suite
With all the tube stank of a Crest factory, the Fat Track drops thick, vintage-console sound in the laps of bedroom and small-studio producers. With 3-band EQ, flexible monitoring options and plenty of analog I/O, it covers you for tracking, analog summing and even mastering.
BEST HARDWARE VALUE
This year should be a huge one for two things: unemployment lines and this killer universal plug-in controller. Novation's Automap technology makes building a library of custom control maps for all of your plug-ins (or other MIDI software and hardware) simple, and at only $149 MSRP, this is a great product that your broke ass can still afford.
MOST INNOVATIVE PRODUCT
Trinity Audio Group Indamixx
Open-source software is about as punk as (legal) computer geekery gets, which makes the Indamixx, a tiny touch-screen music computer preloaded with a full array of open-source programs, the Johnny Rotten of our world. However, Trinity has already topped itself with a more powerful Indamixx model coming in the form of a mini-laptop for only $500.
BIAS Peak Pro 6
In a year fraught with excellent major upgrades to audio editors, Peak Pro 6 wooed voters with its redesigned interface, large pack of bundled plug-ins, and dozens of new features and improvements, including the Vbox sound-design tools.
Sony Creative Software The Electronic Music Manuscript: A Richard Divine Collection
The name itself is a manuscript, but experimental producer/sound-designer extraordinaire Richard Devine wrote the book on 2008 with this 2-CD set of Acidized beats, bass and glitches, processed in a way you only wish you had the time, gear and experience to replicate. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
While keeping the rugged construction, noise-free recording and impeccable sound quality of its big brother, the PCM-D1, Sony dropped the price from two grand for the D1 to five or six bills for the D50, making budget-minded sound scavengers tear up in gratitude.
In a nice bit of metaphysics, Digidesign didn't re-invent the wheel, but it did remix the remixing instrument to create Transfuser, drawing inspiration from other tools and adding its own flare to this sampling/sequencing/effecting/randomizing machine. The result is infinite possibility, but with an interface that is quick to learn.
A bigger DJ status symbol than a Rolls Royce or a Nicole Richie, the expensive, expansive SVM-1000 nonetheless shook the scene. Its four channels of audio and/or video inputs coalesce into an extensive A/V effects section. A set of Beat effects sync audio and video to bpm, while Touch effects let you use the touch-senstive LCD screen to control the visuals, incorporating text and still images along the way.
DIGITAL AUDIO WORKSTATION
Ableton Live 7
Last year, Ableton sneaked into the country club of big-time DAWs, making unglamorous but significant improvements to Live's audio and MIDI engines, as well as countless other areas. Meanwhile, the exceptional new Drum Rack plants an explosion of rhythmic possibilities.
BEST SOFTWARE VALUE
Native Instruments Kore Player and Kore Soundpacks
After spending years developing its Kore technology, NI decided to give away the stripped-down, yet still-powerful Kore Player version for free, along with 300 MB of sounds cherry-picked from its industry-leading collection of instruments. Need more juice? Sixteen Kore Soundpacks with hundreds of sounds each start at just $59.
HYBRID HARDWARE/SOFTWARE PRODUCT
Universal Audio UAD-2
It would take two-and-a-half bowls of UAD-1 cards to equal the plug-in hosting DSP power of one bowl of UAD-2 cards. That stark fact and new software features such as LiveTrack for latency reduction and support for up to eight UAD cards make this last year's star for CPU offloading.
DIGITAL DJ SYSTEM
Vestax VCI-300 With Serato Itch
Vestax built the VCI-300 with the same attention to precision performance and professional, rugged quality as its popular VCI-100. The company also scooped the first partnership with Serato's new Itch software, the MIDI DJing equivalent of Serato Scratch Live for turntablists. All told, this all-in-one laptop DJing system can't be beat.
DJ CONTROL SURFACE
Stanton SCS.3d DaScratch
Da word is out: DaScratch rocks. This multitouch-sensitive MIDI controller has no moving parts, but rather relies on the capacitance of your electric fingers to send messages. With five modes and two “decks” to instantly reconfigure the layout, DaScratch will only get better as Stanton and its users add more application-specific presets.