sustaining trends in audio land, 2021 edition

Now, after spending some time on digging a little bit more deeper into the current offerings and market situation in audio production I just wanted to briefly outline some of my personal summaries regarding sustaining trends but maybe outline also some new things I do see on the horizon.

The mobile audio evolution

To me this indeed looks like an ongoing trend for years now which simply does not stop. On the one hand we can see the whole software and especially the App market continuing and increasing in all areas and platforms: notebooks, tablets, smartphones and their respective eco systems accordingly. Where Ableton once started in providing an almost complete mobile music production approach in literally just a bag, Bitwig and others followed and now Apps are everywhere allowing any kind of recording and music or media production on the go. Apples recent move with the M1 SOC (System on Chip) approach fits perfectly into this trend by increasing the mobility even further in terms of power, size and efficiency. Others will follow this path for sure. Also we can see traditional music gear manufacturers going more and more into compact and battery powered solutions as well, such as the Korg Volca series or the Roland boutique thingies, just to name the two.

The retro cult continues

Companies like Behringer will continue to spit out analog HW clones like there is no tomorrow. Whether thats synthesizer reissues or blatant plain copies of vintage mixing outboard or modeled software – you’ll find everything and in almost all shades of quality and price. And I thing this is a really good thing to have such a variety to choose from and also this will lead to some serious price drops in the overpriced used gear market in that area.

Modular madness

I don’t think this is part of the overall retro trend but a niche on its very own. In any case the modular synthesis thing is still gaining more and more momentum. There is a sheer amount of hardware options to choose from and meanwhile also quite a lot of audio interfaces and controller solutions are offering not only Midi but also CV support. Even in software land one can put his/her virtual hands on something modular. All in all, this looks and sounds like real fun and a great opportunity to spend a lot of time on (and money).

Look mom, no computer

All those neat outboard DAW-less setups shown on YT: Some hardware samplers and grooveboxes here, some fancy retro synths there and fx stomp boxes all over the place. Well, “look mom, no computer” is of course absolutely wrong here because half of that stuff has tiny little digital displays and computers underneath you have to tinker with. Personally, I would prefer some neat “one knob, one job” analog interfaces plus a real full-blown DAW any day. However, definately a sustaining trend and a good thing.

Loudness war, quo vadis?

While it seems that LUFS finally made it and in fact has been successfully settled as a standard in the broadcast domain – in music production in general it has not. Todays audio mastering target levels are still insane and even some “engineers” continue to present converter clipping as the holy loudness grail to their YT followers. That really hurts. At least some of the big streaming sevices restricted target loudness levels to -14 or -16LUFS which gives a little hope.

ITB production finally took over

Now that even the last renowned mixing engineer has finally surrendered to the dark side in the box – at least for the recording and mixing part – the question remains, why this has taken so long. Was it for quality concerns? The time-to-market pressure to finally have total recall in all regards? Simple ignorance or fear? We might not be sure about the final answer but we do know that today almost everybody can run some basic media production tasks in a decent quality on his very own while having a low entrance barrier. And this is what I really would call the “game changer” of the last decade. Your skills are the limit.

Game of DAWs

There is really no trend in particular here other than the fact that we have the very same players on the board as a decade ago. Maybe Bitwig will aim for the crown from Ableton? It’s whole inherent synthesis and modulation integration make this comprehensive sequencer an instrunment on its very own and also it runs natively on Linux. All the other contenders improved step by step here and there but quite comparable. Maybe having build in mixing scenes and more convincing analog style summing is a thing which sticks a little bit out. So, on my own I wasn’t that much impressed about this very last episodes and now I’m looking forward to an upcoming but much more entertaining season, hopefully.

The pandemic impact

As we all know, the Covid impact on everything live performance related was and still is a sheer desaster. How this will evolve in the future is hard to predict but it is clear that there won’t be any back to normal any time soon if ever. That means this area must transform into the digital/virtual domain as well and most of the suppliers in exact this kind of areas are already the winners of the current situation.

Stay healthy!

Comments

  1. Pablo Baico says:

    Good general review. Thank you for providing a summary of what we have all been seeing.
    I think that in general we agree with these lines.
    Greetings!

  2. I fully understand that things will NOT go my way. But as awesome as ableton is i don’t hold it as any kind of standard for other DAWs. All daws have really come to the party these last few years.

    The crampedness of phones will NEVER REPLACE or enable music on the go UNTIL we have voice and AI assisted interfaces for mobile PHONES. I have tried 5 different tools over years and i tell ya its not fun, even on the best interfaces, Okay sometimes it CAN be FUN, but not PRODUCTIVE. it remains CRAMPY. The only tool that seems to work on a phone is a “pad” style MPC type interface for now. But arrangement, and sequencing midi and automation is still only for bigger Tablets and laptops.

    But will phones and online related tools become more and more trend? Sure! Until AI replaces everything and you simply “request” the AI to GENERATE your detailed result. AI will be able to use the software, and rewrite the software, according to your voiced specifications. And that not a trend i know.. its a prediction, but also a logical conclusion.

    • Valid points, indeed! And I’ve missed to mention the AI developments. I have it on my list already because I see that recent AI trend in the photography domain and I totally agree that it is just a logical conclusion and a matter of time when we see similar in audio coming …

  3. great summary of what happened this last time, clearly your departure and current return help to see everything more clearly. Health!

  4. good summary.Best regards

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