Back during the longest running iteration of this blog I was big champion of the KvR Developer Challenge
. (I'll assume if you're reading this you have at least a passing familiarity with KvRAudio; if you don't, it's a message board community for audio software enthusiasts.) For the first few years that I was discovering software based audio production, I wasted a fair degree of time on KvR. I wasn't "top poster" or even a visible presence really, but being rather obsessed with software instruments and production it was a honeypot. As my taste and interests developed I rather quickly burned out on the site. These days I only go back when someone links to something of interest or it contains information I can't find anywhere.
Regardless of KvR's actual usefulness, the developer challenge is a worthy endeavor. You can read about it there, but in a nutshell, software developers submit freeware software and VST plugins, users donate money to a pot, companies donate prizes, everyone votes. The first year happened when I was at my most when I was at my most active on the site, and I tried all the entries (I started a track that was nothing to be composed using nothing but the competition software, save my host), and discussing them, and promoting the competition on digitallofi.com. The next round I didn't have as much time or inclination, so I only downloaded the plugins that were of interest to me -- I think about 6. Both years I gave a short rundown of what I thought were the top plugins, and I have to say I had a respectable batting average in picking what ended up winning.
One of the main things to keep in mind, that while the majority of entrants are Windows-only software, I would say that Windows users are probably a lower percentage of audio production enthusiasts, especially since Logic is Mac exclusive. So anything that is available cross-platform is going to garner more votes. Personally, though my DAW is a Windows machine, I don't pay much attention to anything that isn't cross-platform. For the same reason the competition is always heavily weighted to Windows software: there are a couple of development "kits" (SynthEdit and SynthMaker) that are Windows exclusive. By and large all the software that comes has a certain sameness
. Not everything, mind you, just an awful lot of it. Both packages allow you to import your own raw code; but I get the feeling that an awful lot of the released software is strung together stock modules with a clever GUI.
Software that is cross-platform speaks to an understanding of base-level coding and DSP that gets me interested in software. It's a great democratization of development exists and some people do some pretty crazy, inspiring and slick stuff. I'm sure most of these developers put a lot of work into it It's just not that interesting to me.
A couple of things have changed since I last checked in. They opened up the competition to Reaktor
ensembles, Kontakt sound libraries, loop libraries, and even synth patch collections. Which is cool, as the rest of the collection is still mostly Windows (and, guestimating, largely SynthEdit/SynthMaker) based.
So all that said, the following are the plugins/soundware that I downloaded and will be checking out over the next few weeks. This is not a prediction of what I think will or should win; it is merely the few things that caught my eye - I've yet to put anything through its paces. If I'm overlooking some gem I'm all ears. I encourage you to check out a few, kick in a few bucks to pot. I truly think this is a great thing that advances the technology and art of computer music.
Honorable mention for sheer weirdness has to be Inspiration by Musical Entropy
: a expansion of the Oblique Strategies method of generating ideas and breaking out of creative ruts.
If you don't have the same ironic prejudice about Windows only software that I do, I would recommend checking out: ThrillseekerXTC by Variety Of Sound
(people seem to love his analog modeled mixing tools tho' they've never really clicked with me); Sifft by xoxos
(a SynthEdit developers who really uses the platform to do something unique and unexpected); Flame
by Martin Eastwood Audio
(Martin has previously developed a few custom coded Windows plugins that had a deserved reputation for quality.)
Voting closes in a couple of weeks, so get on it. I'll report back what I'm voting on.