This year we’ve seen the release of some truly groundbreaking new releases that mean creating great tracks has never been easier, or more enjoyable! We thought we’d the celebrate the past twelve months by asking some of the Time+Space team to name their top plugins of 2017.
After much deliberation and debate, here’s what they chose…
Jack Hale, Product Specialist & Tech Support
Toontrack – Superior Drummer 3: The ability to create custom drum kits in Superior Drummer 3 is my personal highlight, it’s like you are creating the ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’ of drum kits! Along with a total of 6 drum kits and over 350 electronic drum sounds, as a base package, what’s not to love? This really opens up pathways to really get the ‘sound’ you are looking for – whatever that may be, SD3 can provide it.
iZotope – Ozone 8: The master assist, the all-powerful button. Having that sort of power a click away is just amazing, it is well worth the money! Mastering has always been one of those trades in the music industry I have never got to grips with, always outsourcing for my mastering, but Ozone 8 has made it easy and opened ‘that door’ so I am able to do it myself.
Gothic Instruments – Dronar Vintage Synth: If you have not checked out any of the DRONAR line of instruments, I highly recommend it! And when it comes to Vintage, I am all in – this instrument perfectly combines the old analogue vibe with the new computer age, creating a synthy-soundscape-atmosphere of which I cannot put into words, it’s a must in my collection if you ask me.
Synthogy – Studio Grands: One of the best piano sounds in my opinion, there are subtle touches included in this software which really add to a live performance, for instance as minor as it is – the foot pedal noise. As we all know, you cannot really take a piano to a gig… but when using virtual pianos live, it never really sounds quite right, if you get what I mean? But Synthogy has hit the nail on the head with Studio Grands, little touches such as the foot pedal noise really help bring a performance to life! Also, as this can run as standalone, so setting up for a gig is super easy!
Zero-G – Ethera Soundscapes 2.0: A great line of products from Zero-G, the first Soundscapes was a great success but 2.0 took it to a new level. If you are a sound designer or composer this library is a great one for your catalogue. It not only includes the iconic vocals of Clara, but also packs in an atmospheric library, and synth instruments on top of that. This product is a 3 in 1 type of deal, and really worth the money.
Harry Peak, Marketing Assistant
Audiomodern – Paths 2: I just the love the sounds that you can get from it. The loops provide plenty of inspiration, but the fact that you can strip them down and play with a singular part of that loop is what gets this a top 5 spot for me.
Big Fish Audio – Sequence: As much as I love putting beats together, I don’t have much love for how unnecessarily time-consuming it can be. For me, Sequence deserves a spot on my list just for how easy it makes the process of beat making. There are also 4000+ drum sounds to choose from, and the well-designed interface means you don’t get lost in them all!
FabFilter – Pro-L2: To be honest there are a few FabFilter plugins that could have made it onto this list, but I’m going to go with Pro-L2. As much as I’d love to be able to get all of my tracks mastered professionally, it just isn’t cost effective. So for me finding a true peak limiter was a priority to make sure I could get my tracks to sound the way I wanted them too. And they honestly don’t come much better than Pro-L2. It’s packed full of really awesome tools, but that doesn’t come at the cost of high CPU usage. Even when oversampling at 32x the project rate my computer didn’t slow down.
Toontrack – Superior Drummer 3: The first time I heard Superior Drummer 3 I was blown away by how authentic it sounded. SD2 was pretty good, but this just takes it to a whole new level. When we were at the Sound Gallery Studios in Exeter I got to hear it played through a Roland TD50-KV and the sound was incredible. If you closed your eyes you could just picture a real drum kit right in front of you. The control that you get over the kits as well is amazing, and the fact that you can edit the MIDI directly within SD3 puts it on a whole new level. I can’t see it being dethroned as the king of drum software anytime soon.
iZotope – O8N2 Bundle: Admittedly I’ve sort of cheated here and gone for a bundle, but it would be unfair to make me choose between Neutron 2 and Ozone 8. Plus the fact that they can now communicate with each other through Tonal Balance Control means I’m classing it as just one. When I first saw the trailer for O8N2 I was curious – how would iZotope be able to build on their success and revolutionise two existing industry standard plugins? It’s safe to say that they delivered, O8N2 has made it easier than ever for me to mix and master my own tracks and for that reason, it’s earned its place on my list.
Jed Hutchison, Technical Sales
iZotope – Neutron 2 Advanced: The Visual Mixer displays the entire sound image and gives access to each track’s gain, width and pan parameters in one window. This quick access allows you to hone your tracks stereo image create a wide, full sounding mix.
Gothic Instruments – Dronar Vintage Synth: The guys at Gothic Instruments return with another outstanding Kontakt instrument. This time focusing on retro synth tones and warm analogue vibes. As always the Dronar engine has heaps of controls allowing you to create complex and evolving patches perfect for a plethora of genres and styles!
Toontrack – Superior Drummer 3: Since its release earlier this year Superior Drummer 3 has blown the competition out of the water. With a huge array of new features including custom macro controls, 230 GB of raw data, new scalable window to fit any size screen and the superb ‘Tracker’ function. The standout for me is the Tracker feature making drum replacement a breeze!
Rob Papen – SubBoomBass 2: I love how easily I can just sketch out ideas for basslines on the Key entry sequencer, and with 1900 presets there is plenty to mess around with! The fact you can also record movements on the XY pad as paths means it’s effectively a programmable two-dimension LFO.
iZotope Ozone 8 Advanced: The standout feature for me is the all-new master assist function. Master assist will analyse your track and, using industry standard tools, apply custom process’s giving your track an impressive master. Drilling deeper into the presets to customise the parameters will give your track the coherence and shine you would expect from a professional mastering engineer.
Garrick Wareham, Content Marketing Specialist
Gothic Instruments – DRONAR Cinematic Atmospheres: All of the DRONAR titles have great atmospheric qualities to them, bringing shades of light and dark to the harmonic content they create, but Cinematic Atmospheres is the first one that I feel has its pedigree rooted in sound design. Working on the video and the soundtrack was a huge amount of fun due to the sheer range and depth of sound I was able to create with it – giving me licence to layer and blend a myriad of timbres into a dark horror-esque soundtrack.
Overloud – Sculptube: Sculptube is one of my two favourite little FX gems to come out this year. Its a cool emulation of a bit of cult analogue gear that adds cool shades of saturation and distortion to individual instruments and busses. Not only that, with its high- and low-pass filters and the wet/dry control you can easily sculpt your highs and lows whilst adding some harmonics or grit to your sound. Equipped with three extremely unique tube emulations, and an overdrive switch, there’s a huge host of tones you can coax from this plugin.
Softube – Tape: Bring back the days of recording to tape! But don’t really because I like digital editing… Either way, adding vintage tape vibe is always great, and there’s finally a good tape machine modeller that doesn’t take up bucket loads of CPU power. It’s efficient and it’s authentic, which is all I can ask for from a tape emulator, and it now sits on every audio track in my DAW as standard.
iZotope – Tonal Balance Control: The Tonal Balance Control is a lifesaver when it comes to finalising your mixes. Pop Neutron 2 onto all of your tracks, and tweak your EQs remotely whilst watching the effect on the main output. It’s a great guideline for where you should have the loudest portions of your mix (on average) over the frequency spectrum, and with the remote workflow, it saves time when making minor tweaks.
Toontrack – Superior Drummer 3: When it comes down to it, Superior Drummer 3 is just unrivalled in quality and features. That’s the long and short of it. Inbuilt mixing desk, it’s own set of plugins, output routing options, multi-layer drum sets, a huge host of articulations and controls and loads of deeply multisampled, amazing drums, YET it still manages to be accessible and intuitive for everyone from beginner to professional.
Joel Heatley, Head of Sales and Marketing
2017 has been another great year for both instrument/effects plug-ins and sample libraries. The bar has been raised yet further in terms of quality and innovation, the result has been a slew of highly creative and inspirational products being unleashed which is great news for music producers!
Toontrack – Superior Drummer 3: Perhaps the biggest software release of 2017 was Toontrack’s Superior Drummer 3 which is next instalment of the hugely successfully Superior Line of products which has become industry standard the world over. There’s a long list of ground-breaking features in Superior Drummer 3 which is testament to the ambition and vision which Toontrack have always shown in their products since day one. It’s easy to get very excited about the technical developments – 11.1 surround sound, the Tracker, the new Mixer features etc but the thing that impresses me the most is the unbelievable quality of the recordings. The drums have been carefully and lovingly captured in one of the best studios in the world – Galaxy and in my opinion, the result is truly breath-taking.
Gothic Instruments DRONAR Live Strings: Since the release of Hybrid Edition in February 2016, the DRONAR range of Kontakt-powered sample libraries from Gothic Instruments has gone from strength to strength. However, my favourite addition so far is DRONAR Live Strings which came out back in March. I’m always amazed by the depth and expression that DRONAR libraries are capable of but in the case of Live Strings, the range of feeling and emotion which is literally at your fingertips is astounding and you really can lose yourself in a world of endless possibilities.
Rob Papen – SubBoomBass 2: Being a predominantly electronic music producer, bass is something that comes up very high on my list of priorities. Since it’s release in 2009, Rob Papen SubBoomBass has found itself on the majority of tracks I’ve found the time to finish, so I was very excited to hear that a new version would be released in 2017. SubBoomBass 2 brings some very cool improvements to what was already a very powerful bass synth plug-in – the new GUI speeds up workflow, physical string modelling introduces new sonic possibilities and the X/Y pad adds a very useful sound design tool. Perhaps most importantly, it’s stays true to the original concept of doing the one job of providing your bottom end extremely well.
iZotope Ozone 8 Advanced: I’ve been an avid iZotope Ozone user ever since version 3 and whenever there is a major update, everything else on my to-do list gets bumped down and installing the new Ozone jumps to the top. More generally, I’m very excited about the possibilities which artificial intelligence and machine learning bring to audio software and iZotope are very much at the forefront of these developments. A great example of this is the Master Assistant Ozone 8 which utilises new technology to deliver a preset tailored to your track, so you can get the mastering process started more quickly. I’m also a keen Neutron 2 user and now Ozone and Neutron can talk to each other via iZotope’s new inter-plug-in communication standard which brings the mixing and mastering process together. Ozone 8 is the best Christmas present you can give your studio!
Synthogy Ivory II Studio Grands: I’m completely in awe of anyone that can sample an instrument with the level of detail that Synthogy achieve with their virtual pianos. The level of authenticity is almost unbelievably high and while I’m no piano player, my hat is well and truly off. Synthogy’s latest collection, Ivory II Studio Grands came out in May and it really is a thing of beauty. The combination of the wonderfully balanced Steinway B and the unique sonic presence of the Bösendorfer 225 make this a versatile combination plus with 24 velocity levels, the realism rating is off the scale. Another bonus is the new Ivory 2.5 engine does not require an iLok key which frees up a USB port too. I’m not sure how sampled pianos can get any better than this but I have a feeling Synthogy will be the ones to show me!
What were your top 5 plugins of 2017? To make sure you don’t miss out on all of our new releases in 2018, click here to subscribe to our newsletter.