DIGIDESIGN TURBOSYNTH (1988)
The brainchild of the same developers who would later create Pro Tools, Turbosynth was a modular construction kit that invited users to cobble together custom synthesis, sample and effects patches by stringing together various modules with virtual patch cables and offloading the results to a hardware sampler. It was far ahead of its time, with niceties like multi-segment envelopes and custom waveform generation.
ANTARES AUTO-TUNE (1997)
Like it or loathe it, Auto-Tune changed not only how we make music, but the very sound of modern music itself. Used subtly, it’s a useful engineering tool that can save precious studio hours. Pushed to the extreme, it’s an instantly recognisable effect that has managed to transcend its original novelty status to become a modern production staple.
NEMESYS GIGASAMPLER (1998)
Once an obligatory inclusion in any serious studio rack, the hardware multi-sampler was doomed from the moment Nemesys turned their sights on the market.
GigaSampler was the first virtual sampler to offer the ability to stream samples from the hard drive, promising more and larger file sizes and therefore higher quality samples as a result. Though itself obsoleted by plugin samplers, GigaSampler’s file format became something of a standard.
SONIC FOUNDRY ACID (1998)
Acid provided Windows users with a fun and intuitive multitrack audio sequencer into which they could drag specially-prepared ‘Acidized’ audio loops. These loops would automatically adhere to the project’s tempo and key. Other developers would run with the idea and now we have variations of Acid’s approach to loop handling in most DAWs.
RHIZOMATIC ABSYNTH (2000)
Conceived by Brian Clevinger, NI’s classic soft synth was originally a Mac-only affair, albeit with many of the features that we’ve come to know and love in its modern incarnation. Absynth was one of the first software synthesisers to be taken seriously by pro sound designers – and for good reason!
IMAGE-LINE FRUITYLOOPS (1998)
FruityLoops is a true success story. Conceived two decades ago by Didier Dambrin, it started life as a simple four-track MIDI drum machine for Windows. An instant success, it rapidly expanded, with added features like built-in sample-based sound generation giving way to built-in instruments and effects that rival those of any other DAW on the market.
These days, it’s called FL Studio, but its maverick spirit is still evident in every pixel.
JEFF MCCLINTOCK SYNTHEDIT (1999)
Graphical modular programming environments that facilitate building custom effects and instruments had been around for decades when SynthEdit was released. Yet Jeff McClintock’s Windows modular had an ace up its sleeve: it allowed anything built with it to be exported as an independent VST plugin. That meant would-be developers could build and release plugins without writing a single line of code. The results were nothing short of seismic, with countless SynthEdit-made plugins populating VST plugins folders worldwide.
IK MULTIMEDIA SAMPLETANK (2001)
IK Multimedia brought the ‘ROMpler’ fixed sample playback instrument concept to the desktop in 2001 with SampleTank, offering a large assortment of bread and butter sounds in a powerful, multitimbral plugin. Other developers followed, but SampleTank is still going strong.
APPLE GARAGEBAND (2004)
By the time Apple acquired Emagic in 2002, the latter’s Logic had become a much-loved cross-platform DAW. Under the Cupertino giant, it continued to grow – but only for users of OS X. Along the way, Apple tasked the former Emagic developers with creating a self-contained, entry-level DAW to include in its iLife software suite, eventually included with every Apple computer. As a result, GarageBand has introduced countless casual users to the world of music production.
Developer’s recognised Apple’s iPad as a powerful music-making platform even before it was launched. When the fruity fondleslab did come out, the App Store was quickly crowded with interesting and inspiring tools from the likes of Korg, VirSyn, Steinberg and Image-Line. The only trouble was that none of them could be interconnected. Enter AudioBus, giving users a means by which instruments, effects, sequencers and recorders could be patched in, out and through one another. Developers quickly adopted it as something of a standard, much to the relief of iOS users everywhere.
It might seem old hat now, but Turbosynth’s graphical patching environment was cutting-edge stuff in 1988!
It’s hard to believe that the comprehensive DAW known as FL Studio grew from a humble drum sequencer!
Eventually, GigaSampler gave way to GigaStudio, before being swallowed up and abandoned by Tascam