What was your favourite gear or software of 2018?

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What was your favourite gear or software of 2018?

Unread post by Saul » Mon Dec 31, 2018 11:54 pm

I know many of us have invested, one way or another in new hardware/software over the past 12 months and It would be interesting to know what people have bought, why you bought it and did it live up to expectations?

I would like to kick it of with a shout out for two soft synths which I think are just fantastic.

First up is Pigments from Arturia which if you have not yet heard about it I suggest you go and download the trial version now. It's a really exciting soft synth...for me anyway and I have been playing around with it most days which is unusual for me as I am pretty much an "acoustic piano and done" sort of guy.

The second bit of software which I have had for a while but was not able to run is Ethera EVI by Zero-G . Produced by Award-Winning Sound Designer & Composer Stefano Maccarelli and featuring the critically acclaimed vocalist Clara Sorace, ETHERA EVI takes you into an amazing world of stunning vocals, synths, arps, textures, bass, horns, drums, acoustic instruments and ambient sounds for all your cinematic and electronic music productions.

I was not able to run this NKI plugin because my version of KONTAKT needed updating. I have now done that and have to say the quality of Ethera just blew me away! Only problem is you do need a pretty hefty cpu to run it. I can run most of it but I do hit 100% cpu usage fairly often so have to trim things back a little. But then again I am running below the recommended spec (2010 iMac 27 i3). Still, it is an incredible bit of software and those vocals are to die for. At $76 this is a steal for anyone interested in cinematic soundtrack production.

I have bought other things of course but I think these are a good start. If anyone has suggestions for other soft synths etc please do let me know?
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Re: What was your favourite gear or software of 2018?

Unread post by Rara » Tue Jan 01, 2019 5:44 am

My best bit of gear for 2018 was my violin. It was second hand when I bought it, new to me though.
Later on this year I'll upgrade it to a brand new gliga vasile. I love it because after a little tuning, just pick up and play.
no holding your breath as you turn it on, hoping its going to work or boot up. the ultimate analogue strings. :D
Funny thing is I find it easier learning this than I did piano, even though technically it's more difficult, or perhaps
that's because i had music background before violin....?

I did buy some soft synths, I was curious. I bought vacuum pro and expansions and vacuum classic by air music technology.
Plus something else called hybrid.
I haven't had a chance to really explore them fully, they do sound good, I imagine they'll sound a lot better
once there is a dedicated sound card, as the integrated sound doesn't do them much justice.

playing around with these plugins kind of reminds me a little of rebirth rb-338 way way back (which i still have) ...
only a lot more advanced.

Rara 0-)
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Re: What was your favourite gear or software of 2018?

Unread post by Derek » Tue Jan 01, 2019 10:39 am

Hi, Saul

Well you have already mentioned two key ones for me! EVI is simply stunning, and am currently working on a song using it (and many other things) that I will share soon. And Pigments is a fine soft synth.

Montage doesn't count for me, as I purchased mine in 2017, but the hardware product list of 2018 would probably have MODX at the top.

So the list for me would be:

Eastern Percussion Module

Zero G (providers of EVI) Eastern Percussion Module. I have an interest in experimenting in different flavours of music, including how you can make "Eastern sounding tracks" (big hint: the Phrygian scale mode is one of the answers!).

Sometimes you want something in your tracks that gives you a rhythm, but conventional drums are too much. So I am investigating percussion options, and this one ticked all the boxes (and it was on sale at a good price!). It's a good combination, as not only does it have all the sampled instruments, but it has an extensive set of programmed MIDI percussion grooves, that you can audition in the player, and then drag into a track in your DAW to build up the percussion track you need very quickly (and of course you can do your own editing of the grooves once in the DAW). The GUI is a little small and fiddly in places - to my eyes what looked like a stop button was actually a file folder icon for accessing the grooves, but once you know your way about it, it is a great product.

GSI VB3II Hammond Emulation

I've mentioned several times, that if you want a realistic organ sound, then modelling is the way to go, and GSI VB3 II is the current bees knees of Hammond organ emulation modelling all the nuances of the organ sound production chain that a ROMPLER based organ can never do.

(great rendition of Highway Star in this video!).

Some aficionados think that in this new release, Guido (author) has taken a step backwards with the Leslie emulation, which is perceived to be not as good as previous versions (still good though)

IKMULTIMEDIA Leslie Cabinet Emulation

However, the beauty of going into the VST world is that you can mix and match. Disable the VB3II Leslie and coupled it with the IK Multimedia Leslie (endorsed by Hammond Suzuki), then it gets even better.

Audiority Echoes T7E - Binson Echorec Emulation

And on the subject of Organs, coupling the Arturia V collection Farfisa (which I already had) with the Audiority Echoes T7E Binson Echorec emulation, gave me a darn near perfect emulation of the classic early Pink Floyd sound. The video demo below is a little strange, but you can clearly hear the echo effect on the spoken speech and the fact that it gives you a very vintage sound, which is what you need if you are seeking vintage realism as I was for getting the early Floyd sound! I have a demo MP3 I can share if people are interested where I have taken the Pink Floyd Echoes track recorded live in Gilmour's 2007 concert (last live recording of Rick Wright before he sadly passed away), panned it hard one side with my Farfisa/Echorec sound on the other side. I was certainly impressed with the results!

The Echorec was a much better engineered echo unit than tape loop based units of the day such as the WEM Copycat, with the Echorec using a drum/platter that avoids a lot of the problems associated with tape loops (wow and flutter, glitches due to poor loop splicing, poor tensioning of the loop, tape wear and breakage, tape oxide on heads......)

U-HE Colour Copy - Bucket Brigade Delay Emulation

Whilst on the subject of delays then U-HE (who do great soft synths) produced an emulation of the old Bucket Brigade delays, called Colour Copy, which is very, very handy in a song where your tempo is changing, as the beauty of bucket brigade delays (and emulations of) is that you can modulate the delay (or change tempo) without getting those glitch artefacts that most delay plugins suffer from. Try it in your DAW. Set up a basic delay which is tempo synced, feed audio through it and put some tempo changes in your tracks and hear the warbly glitching you get. Colour Copy avoids all of that!

And if you have never checked them out, then you owe it to yourself to check out their soft synths like DIVA, Zebra and Repro soft synths! :D These are amongst the best soft synths I have ever heard.

Viper VST Soft Synth (

Adam Szabo's Viper is an emulation of the Access Virus (I had long wondered if anybody would ever emulate this iconic synth), which sounds awesome. The following video is quite dance oriented, but it is capable of doing much more than that.

Top Ten Software Cantabile

Finally whilst I have had it for years, I must give a shout out to Top Ten Software's Cantabile. If you want to run any of the above live then you need software like this, which are tuned for live performance, not full on DAW recording. Cantabile's author, Brad is constantly adding new features which take it from strength to strength, and he has introduced great features this year, such as: performance monitoring (so you can carefully check load in detail, down to individual plugins), plugin tagging, remote web based GUIs, improved MIDI monitoring. An OSX port is in the works. A lot of those features are about taking what is already a solid core product and making it even more flexible.

The video below is a little lengthy, but worth sitting through if you have an interest in such software, as it takes you through setting everything up from scratch. Or check out the features at the Cantabile Website.

A lot of people are now solely using Cantabile and VSTis for their live sounds. I have a hybrid system, explained here for the hardware and here for my Cantabile setup. I use Cantabile for VST hosting, all of my MIDI routing and processing is done by it synths are connected to PC in a "hub and spoke" arrangement, playback of audio, playback of MIDI, running of my DMX light show.....

So that's the highlights for me! Quite a few. I hope people find them interesting, after the time spent writing them up! :)
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Re: What was your favourite gear or software of 2018?

Unread post by EB5AGV » Tue Jan 01, 2019 12:25 pm

Hi all!

Thanks for this pretty interesting thread. Even if I am a newcomer to this world of music (as a player), I will comment on my 2018 additions. Well, in my case, most things I have are 2018 additions :lol: !

I began the year with a SY77 which needed some serious work to get it back to operating condition. But, even if it has some marks of being used and abused, responded to the work nicely and now it the heart of my Synth room. So, for me, that was the start of an enjoyable trip and it will keep a place forever on my particular Hall of Fame. Later I added a SPX990 to the SY77 setup, which is also a good unit.

Then, in order to practice piano I got a DGX660, which is the center of my Piano room. I am very happy with it and how it works, but the star of 2018 for me has been the Genos. It is expensive, is not perfect, needs some software updates and so on. But having this kind of gear as the first arranger on my life is just amazing. So it is the center of my Arranger room. One thing I commented on another thread was that the piano sounds were not too convincing even on an untrained ear like mine. So I was very glad to find The Grand 3 from Steinberg at a heavily discounted price (sub-50 EUR) and that has completely transformed the way I enjoy playing the piano on the Genos. Of course, it is not an universal solution, as it needs a PC attached to the unit. But for me, which have the Genos fix on its location, is just great!

I got also Cubase Elemens 9.5 (to find that, just a month after installing it, Cubase 10 was out :? , so I paid a bit more and updated it). It suits both my Arranger room and Synth room and, using the convenient USB key, I can enjoy it at both places. I have added some Steinberg VSTs to the Cubase setup but have not yet worked seriously on them.

Summing up, 2018 has been my first year into playing music and, as such, will be remembered by me as The Great First Year :mrgreen:

Happy 2019 to all!

Jose Gavila

Yamaha DX7, TX81Z, DX11, 4x SY77, TG77, SPX990, SY85, A3000, EX5R, EX7, MOTIF RACK XS, DGX660, PSR-EW410, Genos

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Re: What was your favourite gear or software of 2018?

Unread post by silverlight » Sat Jan 26, 2019 7:29 am

I have to add the Linnstrument to this topic. It is older than 2018 but i bought late last year and imo it is an ingenious midi controller. For me it was a toss-up between this and the seaboard. In the end, after much research (but not able to physically play either one) i went for the Linnstrument. Now my favourite piece of gear and it has so much potential as i learn more how to play/use it. Actually being able to find one's way around the notes is so different from a traditional keyboard layout that it is literally like learning a new instrument in that regard. That is an ongoing and endless project, just as mastering any instrument is. But regardless of how well one knows one's way around the notes, it is just an inspiring controller which for me opens vast new potentials beyond what a keyboard is capable of. The build quality, design and playability is just top class. Add in a 2 track 32step polyphonic step sequencer with tons of real-time interactivity, an arpegiator and many other well-thought out features and for me it is a revolutionary new instrument and a joy to play. I recommend you to check out Roger Linn's yt videos explaining the Linnstrument as he does so very well. Of course not everyone's cup of tea, there is a learning curve involved if you want to learn how to play it/get the most out of it. So you need to have the time and inclination.
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