Best Audio and MIDI Software - 2020 KVR Readers' Choice Awards Winners
We're excited to announce the winners of the KVR Readers' Choice Awards 2020. The community has spoken and rewarded their favorite developers for work well done. Exemplifying the dynamism of software, three of the winners have announced major upgrades in the short period since the voting ended. We'll start with some repeat winners.
For the second year in a row KVR readers chose u-he as Favorite Developer and their extraordinary Diva circuit-emulation synth as Favorite Soft Synth. It's very hard to overstate the importance of commitment to our market and its customers that this developer represents. Founder and "Boss" Urs is a tireless advocate for his imaginative products and the music creation software category in general.
Diva is work of art. Its extremely accurate circuit emulations costs some computing power, but the reward is stunning sound and a joyful editing environment.
Favorite Audio Software
Cockos REAPER, which is short for Rapid Environment for Audio Prototyping and Efficient Recording, was again chosen as Favorite Software, proving once more that an entire DIY programming environment resonates with the KVR community.
These go to 11...
Steinberg Cubase has again won Favorite DAW for Production. Cubase, which was first released in 1987 on the Atari Computer is very popular on both the MacOS and Windows platforms throughout the world, which is one of the key reasons. Steinberg has never relaxed their development efforts and most notably released Cubase 11 today. The new version has a number of new features including synchronized windows, and modernized exporting of stems. They have also added some new homegrown plugins to the mix.
The choice for Favorite DAW for Performance is Ableton Live by a large margin over runner-up Bitwig Studio. As we all know by now, Live allows a user to create in a traditional linear manner with Live's Arrangement View, or improvise without the constraints of a timeline in Live's Session View without stopping the music and without breaking your creative flow. Ableton has also announced Live 11, which adds major new features, including MPE support! Unfortunately we'll have to wait until 2021 to get it.
Reading is fun...
The winner of Favorite Software for Notation / Scoring is again PreSonus Notion. The music of Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Verdi, Dvořák, etc. has survived over the years because documenting them with traditional music notation (a very early standard) allowed the pieces to be performed faithfully. With computers and recording equipment, traditional reading of notation is seen by some as less necessary. For many in Europe, Asia, and many other parts of the globe it is an extremely useful discipline to learn for communication among musicians.
Overall Favorite Virtual Instrument
Also for the second year the winner for Favorite Virtual Instrument is the many layered and feature rich Spectrasonics Omnisphere. It incorporates just about every type of synthesis imaginable, the ability to import, process and playback samples, an extensive arpeggiator, and even has a database of mapping for many popular hardware keyboards and controllers.
iZotope runs it up again
iZotope had another very strong showing with three winners. Favorite Audio Editor iZotope RX 8. RX has long been the go-to audio repair and polishing suite for film, television, music, podcasts, video games, sample libraries, and more. With RX 8 iZotope has created new tools and improved modules to help speed workflow.
The machine learning enhanced iZotope Ozone was again voted Favorite Mastering Virtual Effect Processor. Great sound, great features, and great usefulness. 'Nuf said.
And finally iZotope's Neutron won a victory in the Favorite Dynamics Virtual Effect Processor category. As iZotope says, Neutron is like having a per-band army of compressors and EQs all working together for sweetening, fixing, and creative applications.
We live in a physical (Model) world
Applied Acoustic Systems Chromaphone percussion instrument wins in the Favorite World/Ethnic Virtual Instrument category again. It's marketed as a percussion instrument, but the range of choices is global. Pretty remarkable considering it is physically modeled rather than sampled. If they add a morphing feature like Pianoteq, (see below) the possibilities are kind of frightening.
Speaking of Physical modeling, Modartt Pianoteq was again voted Favorite Keyboard Virtual Instrument, and Pianoteq is another product to be upgraded since voting ended. The new version adds a morphing feature, so one can create their own otherworldly instruments. They also have a huge selection of instrument packs that span just about anything with strings that can be struck, plucked, or hammered, so there are plenty of things to be morphed.
First time winners
And in a huge surprise for KVR Editors, the winner of the Favorite Sampled Virtual Instrument was Luftrum's Bioscape, which outpaced all the other nominations by a pretty large margin. Bioscape contains hundreds of field recordings and found sounds from hydrophonic desert wind to abandoned factory drones. Using the sound material, a team of sound designers crafted presets from pulses to pads, textures, ASMR, drones, playables and effects.
This year the KVR community chose Best Service's The Orchestra as winner for Favorite Orchestral Virtual Instrument. The Orchestra, one of several libraries developed in partnership with SonuScore, combines an 80-piece orchestra with a powerful Ensemble engine designed to make orchestration fast and fun. The other SonusScore cooperations, Horns of Hell and Strings of Winter are included in The Orchestra Complete 2. Possible global warming is not included.
2020's Favorite MPE Virtual Instrument was not as close this year. Arturia's Pigments was a clear winner. Pigment's color-coded GUI makes it fun to use while doing in-depth processing with its dual sample-based and wavetable oscillators. And it has a huge preset library of great sounds. As more MPE compatible controllers come on the market, Pigments is an excellent way to get your feet wet. If you have questions about MPE please check out this KVR Experts forum thread.
We can all stop with the bass player jokes because IK Multimedia MODO Bass is 2020's Favorite Guitar Virtual Instrument. It's a true physically modeled instrument developed in collaboration with one of Europe's oldest universities. MODO Bass represents a positive trend in virtual instruments that delivers the the realism and sound of an instrument being played by a superior musician.
And speaking of "superior", Toontrack Superior Drummer is the choice as Favorite Drum Virtual Instrument. During NAMM 2019 Toontrack announced what seemed to some a very optimistic product roadmap that included many new products and expansion libraries. They have delivered on every promise. It's the most extensive drum platform available.
An honorable mention goes to Damage 2 from Heavyocity. With its huge assortment of big drums and very creative editing possibilities it is a different kind of beast. It can't replace a product like Superior, but it's a nice complement.
As in 2019 the most dominating win was Native Instruments Kontakt as Favorite Sample Platform. In addition to its extensive factory instruments Kontakt feeds itself by offering a powerful development environment for independent sound designers. That's a win for both developers and end users. There have been changes at NI, but the company's passionate commitment to Kontakt remains as strong as ever.
FabFilter has another win with Pro-Q. picking up as Favorite Virtual Effect Processor. KVR Readers rewarded FabFilter for delivering exceptional sound with rich and unique GUIs. These guys do a terrific job for our readers.
Native Instruments Guitar Rig wins again for Favorite Guitar Virtual Effect Processor. One of the earliest releases in this category, Guitar Rig allows creation of truly unusual sounds regardless of what kind of audio is passed through it. The most recent version, Guitar Rig Pro 6, is included in the Komplete 13 package and has some people scratching their heads...
Favorite Reverb Virtual Effect Processor goes to ValhallaVintageVerb, which dominated the voting. It's designed to emulate the history of reverb processors, from the 70s, to tomorrow.
And last among the commercial products, but definitely not least, is SoundToys, who won the Favorite Multi FX Virtual Effect Processor for their SoundToys Effect Rack. Even before SoundToys created the Effect Rack, they had a diverse set of creativity stimulating plug-ins covering a wide spectrum of effects, with outstanding presets.
Getting more than what you paid for...
This year we added two new categories, Favorite Free Virtual Instrument and Favorite Free Virtual Effect.
The winner for Favorite Free Virtual Instrument is the surprisingly deep Surge from the Surge Synth Team. It's an open-source subtractive hybrid synth that must be a labor of love because it's available for Mac, PC, and Linux. Oh yeah, and it has MPE support. Are we seeing a trend here..?
And the winner for Favorite Free Virtual Effect is our old friend Valhalla with their ValhalaFreqEcho, a frequency shifter, combined with an analog-style echo. Simple, but effective.
The entire staff at KVR sends our heartiest congratulations to the companies and developers who have produced these magnificent products. We also congratulate all of the nominees, who were chosen by KVR Readers from thousands of products in the categories.
Check out the winners page at kvraudio.com/readers-choice-awards/2020
See you next year.