It’s been an exciting 12 months in the world of music software. We’ve seen major updates to some of the biggest titles, more virtual instrument releases than ever before, and the growth of AI, making previously difficult music production tasks easy for everyone to do.
For this Black Friday wishlist we’ve picked ten highlights across a wide range of applications; indeed our choices pretty much cover every element of a virtual band, plus the DAW to record it and the pro application to master the results!
We’re not saying that all of these will appear in this year’s Black Friday plugin deals (although some of them are being discounted as we write this) but here’s hoping, because these are the best software releases of 2022, and everyone likes a bargain…
If you are in the market for a DAW – the core application in any computer music studio that allows you to put songs together – then they don’t come much more respected than Steinberg’s Cubase. Version 12 sees the software mature to almost perfect ripeness, shaking off its last main annoyance – the old dongle-based licensing system has now thankfully gone. Raiser (a limiter) and FX Modulator (a multi-effect) are the new plugin highlights, and the DAW’s extended ability to confer with external MIDI hardware controllers is another. But really it’s the years of engineering that stand out. This DAW is streamlined, efficient and exudes confidence. But it does cost, so we think there’s room for a Black Friday saving or two across the three tiers available.
Read our full Steinberg Cubase 12 Pro review
EZdrummer is all things to all producers who want to make beats… without a drummer. The core package contains just about everything you could ever wish for in terms of styles and sounds. But EZdrummer is not just about arranging a few beats in a simple sequencer – although you can do that if you want; it’s about creating the most realistic and nuanced drum patterns for entire songs, without lifting a drumstick. You get seven quality kits, tons of MIDI grooves to do the heavy lifting, and around 15GB of drum and percussion sounds. It’s how to put it all together that really counts, and that can be anything from using Tap2Find, to match your ideas with EZD’s suggestions, to the Bandmate feature which completes rhythm tracks from just one of your riffs. No drummer? No problem. Got a drummer? Time to have a word…
Read our full Toontrack EZ Drummer3 review
V-Collection is like the entire history of classic keyboards… on your hard drive, and ready to access and play whenever you want. Now at v9, you get 33 of said instruments as software emulations plus over 9,000 sounds to play with. There are classic analogue synths – Prophets, Korgs, Yamahas and ARPs – alongside famous digital keyboards. You also get pianos, organs and quirky digital samplers that you think might not work in software (they do). V9 even adds completely new (and actually quite good) string and vocal instruments because, well why not? €599 is not much for all of this (the instruments cost around ten times more if bought individually) but we hear you; it’s a lot to splash out in one go these days so fingers crossed for Black Friday. Who knows what could be added to your collection?
Read our full Arturia V-Collection 9 review
If you’d rather not go for ‘quantity’ – Arturia’s V-Collection can be rather overwhelming in its girth – then why not just go ‘quality’ instead? The Moog Minimoog is widely regarded as the best synthesiser ever made – or at the very least, the most influential. And rising star of the software world, Cherry Audio, has created quite possibly the best ever emulation of it. Miniverse copies all of the quirks of the original synth but adds modern sensibilities like presets and MIDI control. We think it’s a classic re-enactment and as cheap as it is, everyone likes a bargain, and everyone deserves a Minimoog.
Read our full Cherry Audio Miniverse review
One of the most enticing software subscription services around is Roland’s Cloud. It gives you just about the best renditions of Roland’s classic instruments in software, plus a whole lot of other add-ons and sound packs. You get vintage models superbly rendered like the TB-303 and Jupiter-8 synths and TR-808 and 909 drum machines, and you can, should you wish, buy them individually to use forever (for around $149 each). So how about a special Black Friday subscription Roland? Or, better still, a Black Friday bundle? We’ll take the Jupiter-8, Juno-106, a couple of SHs, two TRs and an XV please.
Read our full Roland Cloud review
Elsewhere we’ve covered emulations of some of the main core instruments in a band, so how about a complete orchestra? Well, this one isn’t quite so straightforward. With Augmented Orchestra, UVI has wisely tried to do something a little different to make it stand out from a sea of other orchestra titles. You get 18GB of sounds spread over 520 presets, but rather than individual instruments, you get orchestral sections – strings, brass and woodwinds – which are then combined with processing, and other textures, resulting in presets that can veer between natural and highly processed, huge or more subtle and ambient. It’s an orchestra with a difference and one we’d all like to join.
Read our full UVI Augmented Orchestra review
East West is well known for its incredible range of meticulously captured cinematic libraries – particularly the huge Hollywood Opus collection – but this latest offering takes things out of this world. Forbidden Planet, as you might have guessed, has more intergalactic sci-fi scores as its target. There’s a huge amount of content here – some 645 patches – but it’s all about morphing between layers, hitting up arpeggiators and creating evolving textures, fluid synth lines and pulsing, futuristic loops. You can even use a moon as an X-Y pad to morph between layers. Of course you can. At $399 you’re paying big bucks to get off world, but a Black Friday Deal might get you a bargain rocket ship trip.
Read our full East West Forbidden Planet review
Waves has had a busy 2022 with some great plugin releases. The latest is Harmony, not surprisingly a plugin aimed at vocalists wishing to pad out their single voices with some harmonic assistance. Waves has form in the vocal field – its stable includes Tune Real Time (opens in new tab), Vocal Bender (opens in new tab) and Renaissance Vox (opens in new tab) – and that expertise shines through here. You can select harmony types yourself or let the software do the hard work and there are plenty of formant, pitch, delay and filtering options to dig deep into. The results are stunning and there are plenty of presets to kick you off. Waves is no stranger to a sale and we’d be surprised NOT to see this discounted so if you need harmony in your life – and we all do, let’s face it – this could be a Black Friday steal. Check out more of the best Waves plugins here.
We’re trying to recreate every sound a band makes, so here’s a plugin from IK Multimedia to sort your low end out. IK Multimedia’s MODO Bass 2 is your virtual bassist, with 22 bass instruments including a new double bass fretless option. IK’s meticulous modelling of pickup types, string gauges, and playing styles means that these virtual recreations sound excellent and very true to the originals. We’d even go so far as to say that this is the finest virtual electric bass instrument that we’ve used, so is the ideal way to create that essential backbone your music needs. Pricey? Maybe, so here’s hoping for a low-end deal on Black Friday.
Read our full IK Multimedia MODO Bass 2 review
In case you didn’t know, iZotope tends to take some of the more mysterious aspects of music production, add a big dose of AI, and make them accessible to everyone. With Ozone, for example, it’s all about mastering – that is making your final mix sound audience ready – a once dark art that only boffins in white coats at Abbey Road ever understood. Ozone brings it to the masses, with a Mastering Assistant ready to fulfil your mastering ambitions in just a few clicks. Ozone 10 refines everything and adds some extras. The more expensive Advanced Edition, for example, adds a Stabilizer EQ and Impact Module to enhance your beats. Ozone gives you a pro sound and can cost pro bucks, so look out for deals as it could make you the master of your own destiny.