- Gforce SEM.
- Gforce Minimonsta 2.
- Universal Audio Watefall Organ and Leslie.
- VSL Fazioli F308.
- Production Voices 300 Grand.
- Behringer Poly D.
Xvive T9 earphones
Eventide Split EQ
Cantabile license updates through 2025
Handful of virtual instruments on sale from Cherry Audio and GForce
Gibraltar keyboard stand with attachments for everything in my rig
BEST OF 2023
Host: Cantabile license renewal thru 2025!
VSTi: Gforce OB-X, Cherry Harmonium. The former sounds authentic, the latter has so much wonderful movement
VST: UAD Signature bundle (everything they offer in native) in what was apparently a “glitch sale” for $150 - everything in it is top shelf though a couple are not best in class imo
Free Stuff: Waves Silk, Arturia Refract (Silk no longer free, Refract won’t be free after Jan 4) both crazy good imo and already getting lots of use
HONORABLE MENTION 2023:
VSTi: IK Modo Bass, Cherry GX-80 (I think that one was this year)
VST: Liquid Sonics Tai Chi Reverb, Soundtoys Super Plate, TDR Kotelnikov GE and Slick EQ Mastering Edition (TDR is great imo when you DON’T want analog colored and just want pristine)
Free Stuff: Klanghelm TENS jr. - best spring reverb ever imo, will buy its big brother soon
STILL LIKING IT 2023:
VSTi: BBCSO Pro, Unify
VST: everything PA
Free stuff: Loudmax, Sixth Sample Deelay, Pecheneg Tremolo,  Overloud Rematrix Player and freebie room IRs (use this all the time)
WORST OF 2023:
Vendor Portals: Native Instruments (better reliability lately), Waves (the license enforcement mechanism only, screen is fine), UAD (extremely invasive, otherwise nice)
BEST HARDWARE 2023:
A very simple mod I did to my PJ bass to make it sound a whole lot like a vintage Rickenbacker at the flip of a switch, amazing and under $5.
NI Session Bassist Icon Bass - absolutely stunning. As well as the standard “session Musician” style rhythm patterns, there is also a “Melody” option where you can play live, and it is stunning.
Fracture Sounds Spotlight Piano. a Steinway Concert Model D, played/recorded towards the softer end, with 3 atmosphere sounds mixable behind the piano, and gives some gorgeous sounds.
Friedlander Violin. Very expressive and really playable, and not only allows solo violin, but also quartet/string section, up to 6 violins. A bit processor hungry, but worth it. On hold at the moment, I’ve just had to upgrade my laptop and am struggling to get the licence transferred.
NI Stradivari Violin. A recording of the real thing, really good to play, but is solo only, but replacing the Friedlander because of licence transfer issues.
Royal Albert Hall Organ. This has to be the best organ vst I have come across. The organ has 999 pipes, loads and loads of stops, so the vst gives a range of presets from absolutely mega to really tiny, including fan and stop noise.
NI Session Guitarist Sunburst Electric Deluxe. A replacement for Soundiron’s Guitar pack, again due to licence transfer problems because of the upgrade. Why are licences such a pain in the backside? This also has the “Melody” option for live playing, with a good legato setting.
Hemisphere Guitars. Similar to Spotlight Piano with the atmosphere voices in the background. Again some beautiful cinematic sounds available.
The licence transfer problems is why I postponed the laptop upgrade for so long, but eventually ran out of hard drive space, but I’ve been and gone and done it now!
My new hip !!!
Universal Audio Watefall Organ and Leslie.
Cherry GX-80 …really most of the Cherry plugs
STL ToneHub and their other products
AIR Vocal FX Collection
Audio Modeling SWAM Solo Brass
Genuine Soundware VB3-II v1.0.0 …The New One
Getgood Drums The Nolly Bass Library
Kuassa Efektor Whammo
Martinic Elka Panther 300
ML Sound Lab Amped VX30
Nomad Factory 80s Spaces
Pulsar Modular P440 Sweet Spot
W.A Production Trivox
Just to mention a few…
I got that one too, sort of limited without midi input to tell it notes, but it does sound great with the slider set to the right to “organic”. I think I paid $9 for it, a really nice pickup for that price!
Yeah…I got it stupid cheap, but if you screw around with it enough, you can get some reasonable sounding harmonies.
VST: Cherry Audio Pro Soloist, G-force Minimonsta 2 and Oddity 3, Fabfilter Pro R2
Sound libraries: Neo Soul Keys 2, Rhodes V8
Hardware: Hydrasynth Deluxe
Probably way too many to mention as I am a gear slut , but a notable shout out to Cherry Audio, who seem to be on a role this year and have delivered some amazing emulations, especially answering my prayers (as a Genesis nut) with the pro-soloist. GForce for a new Minimonsta version that I can finally see the GUI of on modern displays (!) and their new Obie.
Hardware wise, Yamaha have given Santa a new Montage M7 to deliver to me in a few days. My sole reason for upgrading my current Montage 7 is that Yamaha have finally listened and delivered a modern AN1x within it. I am really looking to trying that one out and getting some of my signature AN1x/EX5 AN sounds into a keyboard I can take out.
And the one specific shout out I will make is for something I purchased a few days back to solve a specific problem in my developing stage show, which is CableGuy’s MIDIShaper. There are plenty of VSTs like this, but this was the first one I found that I could see that I could do what I wanted with it, which is tempo perfect envelopes/LFOs that can generate CCs - in fact you can even combine them.
I wanted this to be able to send CCs to control DMXIS faders. Whereas I do most work with DMXIS Cues, for certain sounds I trigger, I wanted the lights to react with the cues, and this is where being able to have a re-triggerable envelope sending out CCs that DMXIS faders are bound to is a godsend.
An example is a “Waterfall” sound effect triggered on a particular note on my Korg Kronos. The note is also detected by Cantabile and triggers the MIDIShaper envelope, which controls a visual layer on my visual synthesiser and also my DMX controlled Gobo, so I get both a video and light cue in response to the note. It also solves the problem that Visual Synthesizer has its own envelopes, but only two of them shared across eight layers (which can cause some stuck visual problems when multiple layers are using the same envelopes) and the envelope decay is not long enough for me, but a one shot LFO in MIDIShaper has a lot of control and you can set it decay over up to 32 bars! So I am going to stop using Visual Synthesizer envelopes and just do it all via Envelopes from MIDI Shaper sending CCs controlling Visual Synthesizer layer brightness. I’ll write up more on this when I do my Visual Synthesizer Guide, but I thought I would mention this amazing little plugin here!
And of course, last but not least, Cantabile itself and the continued work that @Brad puts into it. Special thanks to Brad for putting in the sending of MIDI clock when transport is stopped. That is a game changer for me especially as I have a rig that is still heavy on hardware as well as VSTs.
I would say these are my best ones 2023:
Universal Audio Watefall Organ and Leslie.
Some Cherry Audio plugs, really realistic
VB3-II v2.0.0 … although I prefer the VB3-II v.1.0.0
Not for live use, but I’m adding recent addition Sonible Smart EQ 4 to my best of 2023 list! Was half expecting snake oil when I first demoed it, but after using it in real projects find it works extremely well to get individual tracks “technically right” and to demask across tracks. Using an “analog” EQ in a channel strip or whatever after it to tweak in a bit of character and pop and makes for an extremely fast workflow to end up with a demasked and de-resonanced mix that hits a specific refence profile without sounding “AI”.
For anyone interested, I was able to get it for $65 at Audio Plugin Deals with code LOYAL24-DK8BRJXB
VSL D274 only purchased full version because it was on sale. May get another next year. This is THE best piano IMHO.
Waterfall B3- just getting familiar with it but I really like the presets.
PC upgrade built around I7-13600
Yamaha FC7 expression pedal; smooth action, built like a tank, auto polarity.
I’ve used the SL keyboards and mixface for a long time, but I use cantabile for all the programming, just have one setup for the hardware and do interpretation in cantabile. What is the advantage of managing these things in the SL configuration? I find it a lot easier to configure cantabile.
@TorstenH I use the MixFace to program VST synth sounds, and I slave an Arturia BeatStep to the MF to get a bunch of extra knobs. When I change MIDI channels on the MF, the BS ‘comes along for the ride,’ so to speak, because the MF remaps the slave device to the active channel. (Very interesting abbreviations for these two! ) I’m sure that I could do the same thing in Cantable, but since I don’t take the MF+BS to gigs, it saves me doing a bunch of repetitive task programmg in racks, etc. (I tend to treat Cantabile as an ‘improved Muse Receptor’ sometimes, so it’s not my first tool to program widgets.)
+1 on the FC7
I’ve been using them since the mid-'80s; I don’t think I’ve owned another brand of volume pedal in the past 30 years. One of my working pedals is c. 1990. At one point, I had four of them connected to my MKB-300.
Same here. My SL88 transmits on channel 1 and everything else is done by Cantabile. Once I programmed Preset #1, I never touched the keyboard menu again.
+1 on the FC7 and its durability, but I’ve been using my Roland FC300 MIDI foot controller since 2008. Built like a tank, fully programmable (although I tend to standardise what it does these days and let Cantabile handle the differences) and still available on the market, which (at at least 16+ years on the market) is an amazing run for any complex product these days. Because I am so reliant on it, I ended up buying a second one as a spare.
Oh boy! Royal Albert Hall Organ. This is an awesome vst if you are looking for a pipe organ. The organ has 999 pipes, and an absolute arsenal of stops, but the vst has decided against giving you all the stops. Instead it offers a range of what are effectively presets, ie pre-configured combinations of stops. There are still loads to choose from and the sounds are really good. It is playable from a single keyboard, and includes the sound of fans starting up or powering down, background room noise, and the percussion section. Excellent.
NI Session Bassist - Icon Bass. This offers a large range or pre-recorded rhythms in loads of different styles, which can be modified, plus the ability to play your own melody lines as well.
It is centred on a Musicman Stingray Bass, nad has loads of amps, cabs and pedals so you can make sound however you like. I have managed to simulate a pretty passable fretless bass sound!
It was so good that I have also invested in the Plucked, strummed Acoustic II and Sunburst Electric guitar libraries as well, and they too are pretty impressive.