Best Audio and MIDI Software - 2023 KVR Readers' Choice Awards Winners Announced
By KVR Audio on
We're excited to announce the winners of the KVR Readers' Choice Awards 2023. Once again KVR community has spoken and rewarded their favorite developers for work well done. The KVR Music Software Readers' Choice Awards recognize the top music software and plugins in the industry as voted on by the KVR community. These awards represent the preferences and opinions of musicians, producers, and enthusiasts who use and appreciate various software tools for music production and sound design.
Based on community input we moved things around a bit this year, but of course some things never change. That being said, there were still several "five-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.
On that note, following the announcement of this years' winners, we will be introducing the KVR Readers' Choice Awards Hall of Fame. This new initiative is our way of recognizing the software and developers that have consistently won the hearts of our KVR community. To be inducted into the Hall of Fame, a product needs to have won the KVR RCA awards at least three times. It's our nod to those game-changing tools in music production that have stood the test of time, although, this Hall of Fame is not just about celebrating past successes; it's also about passing the baton and shining a spotlight on the diverse range of other fantastic products and developers loved by the KVR community. Stay tuned for more info soon.
The 2023 awards highlight the products that have made a significant impact on the music production landscape, reflecting the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of the music software industry. Whether you're a seasoned professional or a budding musician, the KVR Readers' Choice Awards offer valuable insights into the most beloved and trusted tools that can help you achieve your musical goals.
And the envelopes please...
For the fifth year in a row readers have chosen u-he as Favorite Developer. As KVR readers know u-he is a very positive force in the KVR community and has been since our inception. As u-he fans know, buying one of their products is like a mini-investment in the company that provides an excellent return. You can count on your product being improved, and upgraded, as well as maintained through changes to computer hardware and operating systems. This year saw more of that commitment with the aggregated release, Zebra Legacy. They are also (along with Bitwig) trying to offer more options for the developer community with the advancement of the new CLAP audio plugin format.
u-he was followed this year by PSPaudioware, who in 2022 and 2023 have demonstrated an important worldview that goes beyond their great software products.
This year we decided to add a new category called Most Innovative and the clear winner is Bitwig Studio 5. Bitwig Studio has always been known for its innovative approach to music production, and with the release of Bitwig Studio 5, the platform continues to push boundaries and deliver a compelling experience for both beginners and seasoned producers. Version 5 includes 10 new modules — four filters and six waveshapers — with 10 new sonic personalities. And the recently announced version 5.1 will feature a new oscillator with teeth! Finally, along with u-he, Bitwig is pushing the envelope with the innovative CLAP format (See above).
Following up was Transit, a brand new product from BABY Audio that has taken off very quickly. Perhaps it's the broad range of influence exercised by online guru and Transit co-designer, Andrew Huang.
Again, and not surprisingly, Steinberg's Cubase has won the Favorite DAW category for the fifth time. Cubase has just reached its 13th version having been first released for the Atari in 1989. 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. Steinberg has just released Cubase 13 with many new features including Dolby Atmos support and control room monitoring.
Cubase was closely followed by perennial KVR community favorite, Cockos REAPER, which is available for macOS, Windows, and Linux.
Even less of a surprise was the choice for Favorite Software for Performance, which was Ableton Live for the fifth year in a row. As in the past it wasn't close and Live is still a strong finisher in the Favorite DAW for Production category. This year Ableton introduced the dramatically improved Push 3, a well-designed hardware controller for Live that now ships with or without a CPU inside. If you happen to see someone playing a club with no computer, fear not, there actually is one under the hood of that Push.
A special shout out to Deskew's Gig Performer for snagging second place. It's a great solution for people who just want to play the instruments, and because it's cross-platform...
The winner for Favorite Software for Notation / Scoring for the second year is Dorico from Steinberg. Dorico is a state-of-the-art music notation software designed for composers, arrangers, musicians, and educators. Developed by Steinberg, a company renowned for its audio software expertise, Dorico sets itself apart with its intelligent design and seamless workflow that boasts a highly intuitive user interface, facilitating efficient composition and arrangement of music. One of its standout features is its superior engraving capabilities, which produce beautifully laid-out scores that rival hand-engraved quality. The software supports a wide range of notations, from classical to contemporary, making it a versatile tool for various musical genres.
Following in second place was Presonus Notion.
iZotope Masters Audio
iZotope continued its impressive track record, clinching the top spot in the Favorite Audio Editor category with its flagship product, iZotope RX. Now in its tenth iteration, RX 10 has become the essential audio repair and enhancement toolkit for professionals across various industries, including film, television, music, podcasts, video games, and sample library production. The latest version, RX 10, introduces innovative tools and enhanced modules, further streamlining the workflow for its users. While the Advanced version comes with a higher price tag, iZotope also offers more affordable versions of RX, catering to musicians who require basic audio fixing capabilities. If you participated in the KVR Giveaway a few months ago you know exactly what we're talking about.
A runner-up in this category was Steinberg's SpectralLayers Pro, which is certainly worth checking out.
And, it was certainly no shock that iZotope's Ozone 11 once again emerged victorious in the Favorite Mastering category, continuing its 18-year legacy of excellence. This category witnessed a clear dominance by Ozone 11. The readers of KVR have shown a strong preference for iZotope's innovative machine-learning solutions, particularly valuing how they enhance and streamline the mastering as well as other workflow segments.
A runner up, again from our friends at Steinberg, was WaveLab Pro...
Both iZotope wins were for the fourth 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. Housed in their free UVI Workstation instrument, or their flagship sampler, Falcon, it contains 65,000 samples covering instruments from all 5 continents and a few island groups in between.
A runner up was a new entry Handy Drums- Flamenco Percussion from Goran Grooves.
Modartt does pianos
Five-time winner, Modartt Pianoteq was again voted Favorite Keyboard Virtual Instrument. Pianoteq's unique physical modeling engine enables a level of expressiveness and responsiveness that is second to none. From the delicate resonance of soft pianissimos to the thunderous power of fortissimos, Pianoteq excels in reproducing the subtleties of a live piano performance. 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.
Runner-up was Native Instruments' Noire, which, like most other piano products, is sampled.
Favorite Guitar/Fretted Virtual Instrument
IK Multimedia MODO Bass 2 is Favorite Guitar / Fretted Virtual Instrument for the fourth year. MODO Bass offers a high-fidelity emulation of bass guitar sounds. Utilizing advanced physical modeling technology, it provides a wide range of customizable bass tones suitable for any music genre. MODO Bass stands out for its dynamic response and realistic playing experience, appealing to both studio producers and live performers seeking authentic bass guitar sounds without the need for a lot of hard drive space.
And this year there was an excellent showing by Ample Sounds AGM III.
Favorite Orchestral/Cinematic Virtual Instrument
We changed the name of the category to Favorite Orchestral / Cinematic Virtual Instrument, but the winner is the same as the last two years. Spitfire's BBC Symphony Orchestra.
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 Spitfire's 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.
An honorable mention goes to EastWest's Hollywood Orchestra Opus Edition Diamond.
The Instruments Forum is KVR's most popular, KVR readers know their subject, and Arturia's Pigments has again snapped up the Favorite Synth award for the third year in a row. Pigments seamlessly merges wavetable and virtual analog synthesis, opening up a vast sonic playground. The extensive library of wavetables and analog-style oscillators provides a rich palette for sound design, from classic analog warmth to futuristic digital textures. The ability to seamlessly blend these synthesis methods sets Pigments apart in a crowded market.
Not so far behind this year was Kiloheart's Phase Plant.
Marching to the beat of a Superior Drummer
Toontrack Superior Drummer was the winner in the Favorite Drum / Percussion Virtual Instrument category for the fifth year in a row - KVR readers' acknowledgement of Toontrack's prolific development of new SDX libraries. This year has seen the release of Stockholm, which was recorded at the Riksmixningsverket (Say that 5 times fast) Studio and Area 33 - Origin, the update of their original Fredrik Thordendal's personal studio 33 in Stockholm, Sweden, and the Stories SDX by the legendary engineer Frank Filipetti. Perhaps it's the weather that keeps the Toontrack folks indoors creating excellent products. Over the years they've expanded their universe to cover piano and bass. These are incredibly powerful and diverse tools for creating music in any genre.
A runner-up was fellow Swedes with XLN Audio's Addictive Drums.
Favorite Sample Platform
At the top end of the vote counting curve was Native Instruments Kontakt, which won the Favorite Sampler (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 macOS and Windows, 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). It's the same team that did Mach V for MOTU way back when.
Favorite Creative Sampled Virtual Instrument
This year we added Favorite Creative Sampled Virtual Instrument as a new category, but it was won by an old favorite, the many layered and feature-rich Spectrasonics Omnisphere. There are so many impressive presets that it's easy to miss just how many samples are incorporated into the sounds. Power Users certainly know it of course, which is why there is so much 3rd party preset library support. 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. Not a lot features have been added in the last few years. Probably because it's already so complete.
The runner up came from Arturia. Their Augmented Voices is part of a new series worth checking out.
KVR readers have once again rewarded FabFilter for Pro-Q in the Favorite EQ / Filter category. Pro-Q is a professional-grade equalizer plugin known for its exceptional sound quality and user-friendly interface. Like other FabFilter products it features a highly intuitive and flexible design, allowing for precise frequency sculpting with up to 24 bands and a variety of filter shapes. Renowned for its transparent sound and advanced features like spectrum analyzer and zero-latency mode, Pro-Q is a favorite among audio engineers and producers for mixing and mastering tasks. In fact anyone who watches the new PBS Beatles short film Now and Then will see Pro-Q3 prominently displayed on the audio restoration computer screen (5:58).
We also added Favorite Vocal Effect, which was won by Celemony's Melodyne, an advanced audio processing tool renowned for its pitch-correction and time-manipulation capabilities. When Melodyne first came out it changed the way that musicians and recording engineers approached their work. Like it's predecessor Opcode's monophonic Audio‑to‑MIDI and MIDI‑to‑Audio feature, Melodyne stands out for its ability to edit notes within polyphonic recordings with a piano-roll like GUI. Melodyne is also celebrated for its artifact-free results it delivers, making it an essential tool in modern music production for both corrective and creative applications.
A close second was iZotope's brand new Nektar 4 Advanced suite of effects which utilizes AI to assist with getting the most out of your vocals.
And Fabfilter is back on top in the Favorite Dynamics category with Pro-C, which, utilizing multiple compression models coupled with Fabfilter signature UI and streamlined workflow, makes for an incredibly versatile mixing tool. Like Pro-Q (see above), it features a user-friendly interface with clear visual feedback, making it easy for both beginners and professionals to achieve the desired dynamic control. With its various compression styles, advanced side-chain options, and superb sound quality, Pro-C is a go-to tool for mixing and mastering engineers seeking precise and musical dynamic processing
Honorable mention goes to Tokyo Dawn Labs Kotelnikov GE for snapping up second place.
Native Instruments is back on top in the Favorite Guitar Virtual Effect Processor category with Guitar Rig Pro. Since its initial release in 2004, Guitar Rig has been a go-to solution for guitar and bass players, offering a comprehensive range of emulated amps, cabinets, mics, and effects. It provides an intuitive and flexible platform for crafting custom tones, suitable for studio recording and live performance. With its vast library of presets accrued over the last 19 years and the ability to tweak every aspect of the guitar signal chain, Guitar Rig is a favorite among musicians, recording engineers and of course, KVR Readers.
IK Multimedia were next up in second place with AmpliTube 5 MAX.
It's no surprise that Favorite Reverb / Delay goes to ValhallaVintageVerb once again. Now a studio staple in many a producer's arsenal, it takes inspiration from some of the most beloved reverb hardware from the 1970s and 1980s. Recently, the number of included algorithms has been expanded to a total of 20, including the new Palace verb in 3.0. The user interface is intuitive and user-friendly, allowing both beginners and professionals to easily shape their desired reverb effects for music production or sound design
Favorite Multi FX Virtual Effect Processor is CableGuys' ShaperBox this year again. It is no surprise either considering the wealth of new features added over the last year, the latest being their new ReverbShaper module which joins the ranks of 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 along with audio triggers and sidechain support.
Kilohearts 'snapped' up second place with Snap Heap. Cheesy pun intended.
A final new category for 2023 is Favorite Utility and this category is anything including metering, MIDI plugins, step sequencers, chord generators, etc. The winner is Plugin Boutique's Scaler, a music theory workstation that gives you access to a world of new ideas, expressions and melodies. With powerful detection of MIDI and audio, Scaler 2 can determine what key and scale you're in and suggest chords that match your music. The plugin helps you discover the perfect melody with performance expressions, and can even suggest ways to change from one key to another.
Not too far behind were Plugin Alliance and ADPTR Audio's Metric AB.
Getting more than what you paid for...
The tug of war between Matt Tytel's Vital and Surge XT over Favorite Free Instrument continues with Vital, a wavetable synthesizer with impressive modulation capabilities, snatching the win this year. Vital allows users to create complex and evolving sounds with ease and offers an intuitive user interface and a range of built-in effects, making it a favorite among music producers and sound designers alike.
Surge XT remains a popular choice, landing the second place position.
And the winner for Favorite Free Effect is our old friend Valhalla DSP, 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."
Kilohearts grabbed yet another second place position with their excellent Kilohearts Essentials bundle.
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/2023
Introducing the KVR Readers' Choice Hall of Fame