Best Audio and MIDI Software - 2022 KVR Readers' Choice Awards Winners Announced
We're excited to announce the winners of the KVR Readers' Choice Awards 2022. The KVR community has spoken and rewarded their favorite developers for work well done.
There were several 'three-peats' and a couple of 'four-peats'. KVR voters continue to be impressed with some of the same excellent products as they have been for the last few years, and have rewarded their sustained excellence, but there are also a bunch of new faces.
Not surprising to anyone that spends time on KVR is that for the fourth year in a row readers have chosen u-he as Favorite Developer. u-he continues to maintain their older standards like Zebra and Diva at a high level while delivering new products that are creative and fun to use. Every month there is something to look forward to from the talented team at u-he. A great example is MFM2, an update to their interesting take on delays, or Kling Klong, the brand new preset library for Hive, developed by prominent sound designer Howard Scarr.
u-he was followed this year by Arturia, who have been steadily increasing their huge line of hardware emulations, while developing new and innovative software products. And, they continue to develop their own hardware products as well.
Favorite Audio Software
A breakthrough in the Favorite Audio Software category is Bitwig Studio, which as the title suggests, is a full featured music creation environment. It's not easy to develop a DAW with this much functionality, especially with entrenched competition. The project can take as much engineering resource as developing MS Excel, but there aren't 100s of millions of people that must have it for their businesses. Congratulations to Bitwig for hanging in there, innovating, and differentiating themselves again and again over the last 13 years.
Again, and not surprisingly, Steinberg's Cubase has won the Favorite DAW category for the fourth time. Cubase is in its 12th version having been first released for the Atari in 1989. Supporting both Mac and PC with an application this deep is challenging under any circumstance and over the last 33 years Steinberg has managed Cubase through three platforms, if you include the Atari. From the most basic versions of Cubase to the high-end post-production application Nuendo they cover every possible musician and producer on (and off) the spectrum with a brilliant mix of linear (hit record until the end) to loop based (combining subsequences into a larger song structure). Maybe that's why their customers include both songwriters and film composers.
This year Steinberg has taken a big step with a new licensing scheme that doesn't require a dongle and that will make a lot of people happy.
Even less of a surprise was the choice for Favorite Software for Performance, which was Ableton Live for the fourth year in a row. It wasn't close and Live is still a strong finisher in the Favorite DAW for Production category. What's truly impressive is the ecosystem has been built around Live by an assortment of third party developers who have built hardware controllers, Ableton racks, and Max for Live patches for the core Ableton product. WOW!
We changed the name of this category to 2022 to Favorite Software for Performance because the category is growing quickly as musicians head to the clubs again. It now includes plugin players like PluginGuru's Unify and Rack managers like Deskew's Gig Performer.
The winner for Favorite Software for Notation / Scoring is Dorico from Steinberg. Dorico is rapidly becoming a 'go to' product for music educators, composers, orchestrators, etc. Steinberg has built it from their experience with notation software that goes all the way back to the Atari platform. There is no substitute for institutional knowledge. Dorico uses the same new licensing scheme as Cubase, making it more portable.
Overall Favorite Virtual Instrument
Another especially deserving third year winner for Favorite Virtual Instrument is the many layered and feature-rich Spectrasonics Omnisphere. It incorporates multiple types of synthesis, the ability to import, process and playback samples, an extensive and cutting-edge arpeggiator, and even has a database of mapping for many popular hardware keyboards and controllers. That may be why so many preset developers continue to release new libraries for it. Not sure what more there is to say about this great product except that we all look forward to the next product/upgrade from Spectrasonics.
iZotope Audio editing
iZotope had their usual strong showing in the virtual effects categories winning Favorite Audio Editor category with iZotope RX, the go-to audio repair and polishing suite for producers of film, television, music, podcasts, video games, sample libraries, and more. With the recent release of RX 10 iZotope has created new tools and improved modules to help speed workflow. Yes, the Advanced version is expensive, but there are less expensive versions that will meet the needs of musicians that just need to fix some stuff. The new version even has an AI enabled way to remove squeaking noises from acoustic guitars, even nylon strings.
And, iZotope's Ozone was again the winner in the Favorite Mastering Virtual Effect Processor category, building on their 17-year legacy in audio mastering. This category was another runaway. KVR members obviously appreciate iZotope's cutting edge and time-saving applications for these parts of the workflow.
Both iZotope wins were for the third year in a row.
The winner for Favorite World/Ethnic Virtual Instrument is aptly named. UVI has won this year's RCA with their UVI World Suite 2. 65,000 samples cover instruments from all 5 continents and a few island groups in between.
Speaking of Physical modeling and four-time winners, Modartt Pianoteq was again voted Favorite Keyboard Virtual Instrument. As far as we know their Steinways are still the only physically modeled pianos approved by Steinway & Sons themselves. 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 with their powerful feature of the same name. Because it's physically modeled it takes up very little space on a hard drive and loads immediately.
Favorite Sampled Instruments
Although composers and orchestrators are quite familiar with Spitfire Audio, making a thunderous entry into the hearts and minds of KVR readers this year was Spitfire's BBC Symphony Orchestra winning both the Favorite Sampled Virtual Instrument and Favorite Orchestral Virtual Instrument awards.
This deeply sampled library was developed in partnership with the legendary BBC Studios and the world-famous BBC Symphony Orchestra and sampled at London's famous Maida Vale Studios, home of the BBCSO, and host to The Beatles, Hendrix and Bowie. It is the stuff of composing dreams; strings, brass, woodwind and percussion, all housed inside their award-winning plugin.
There are three editions (Discover, Core and Professional) that are interchangeable through their groundbreaking mode-switching technology.
Many voters were sure they wanted Spitfire, but just needed to choose which of the company's products was their favorite. At the end of the day BBC was the clear winner.
Favorite Virtual Instruments
Arturia's Pigments was again the winner in both the Favorite Soft Synth and Favorite MPE Virtual Instrument categories.
Pigments is great example of the forward-looking vision that Arturia has shown from their earliest days as a pioneer in the audio plugin market. Pigment's color-coded and animated GUI makes it fun to use while doing in-depth processing.
Pigments 3 oscillators are wavetable, sample based, additive or analog. And it has a huge preset library of great sounds for people that just like to browse and watch trippy graphics.
IK Multimedia MODO Bass 2 is 2021's Favorite Guitar Virtual Instrument for the third year. It's another physically modeled instrument developed in collaboration with one of Europe's oldest universities.
Marching to the beat of a superior drummer
Toontrack Superior Drummer was the winner in the Favorite Drum Virtual Instrument category for the fourth year in a row. The win could have to do with KVR readers acknowledgement that Toontrack has released several updates and new libraries for Superior over the last year, including the just released Hitmaker that features the work of Grammy winning producer Hugh Padgham.
Favorite Sample Platform
At the top end of the vote counting curve was Native Instruments Kontakt, which won the Favorite Sample Platform by the largest margin in any category. Kontakt feeds itself by offering a powerful development environment for themselves as well as independent sound designers. The effort required to keep Kontakt current on both the Mac and Windows OS, and support all the most important plugin formats is not trivial. Because NI does the low level plumbing, a lot of software developers don't have to. This year has seen a major upgrade that addresses many user and developer feature requests. Nuff said...
Though Kontakt continues to dominate the category an honorable mention should go to UVI for their Falcon platform (See Ethnic World Suite above).
KVR readers have once again rewarded FabFilter for Pro-Q in the Favorite Virtual Effect Processor category. Pro-Q is designed to help the user do things quickly and easily. Via the large animated EQ display, EQ bands can easily be created, selected, and edited. Unique features like Spectrum Grab, Full Screen mode and EQ Match are designed to speed up workflow.
Proving that good things come to those who wait, PSPaudioware's VintageWarmer 2 has won in the Favorite Dynamics Virtual Effect Processor category. VintageWarmer is not a new product, having been first launched in 2002 as an analog-inspired multi-band compressor and saturation processor. What makes it great is the sound, flexibility, and good old fashioned GUI and its presets are great for any instrument or voice.
Native is back on top in the Favorite Guitar Virtual Effect Processor category with Guitar Rig Pro. One of the primary reasons for this win could be that this modular multi-effect plugin is at home with any instrument. Its timed-delays and filters can be inspiring for any instrumentalist.
Favorite Reverb Virtual Effect Processor goes to ValhallaVintageVerb, which dominated the voting for the fourth year in a row. It's designed to emulate the history of reverb processors, from the 70s, to tomorrow, and, judging by its popularity, it's used by many of the musicians of today.
Moving up the list is Blackhole from Eventide from their H9 series, especially if you like wide-open spaces.
A big surprise in the Favorite Multi FX Virtual Effect Processor is CableGuys' ShaperBox, which is actually nine Cableguys Shaper effects together in one interface including VolumeShaper, TimeShaper, NoiseShaper, LiquidShaper, DriveShaper, CrushShaper, FilterShaper Core, PanShaper and WidthShaper. Each of the shapers is displayed over a timeline that adds additional editing capability. The latest version adds audio triggers and sidechain support.
Getting more than what you paid for...
The winner for Favorite Free Virtual Instrument is Surge XT from the Surge Synth Team. Surge XT features a very large number of synthesis methods, allowing it to produce a wide variety of rich and complex timbres. It's especially useful with expressive MPE controllers like Linnstrument.
What's also really cool about it is that it is open-source, meaning it's built by a community of contributors, who enjoy being involved. Proof that great software can in fact be developed by a herd of cats.
And the winner for Favorite Free Virtual Effect is our old friend Valhalla, this time with their ValhallaSupermassive, which has been designed to produce massive combinations of delays and reverbs and "blow your mind and your music to new levels of consciousness and experience."
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 www.kvraudio.com/readers-choice-awards/2022
See you next year!