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Best Gear of 2015: Synths, Drums, Studio & DJ

Published: Wed December 23, 2015  News Feed
In 2015 we've seen some great new gear being released. After our Best Guitar Gear of 2015 round-up, it's now time to take a look at all the other fantastic music gear that landed here in the past 12 months.

Best Music gear 2015

1) Roland JD-XA Hybrid Analogue Polysynth
Roland JD-XA Hybrid Analogue Polysynth

Roland took their time to join the new analogue synth revival, but it was worth the wait! In keeping with their innovative synths heritage, Roland's new releases caught the imagination of musicians worldwide. From amateurs in their bedrooms to signed artists such as Massive Attack, a lot of people were using new Roland gear in 2015. The hype started early, at NAMM in January, when they launched the JD-Xi synth, which proved to be one of our most popular products, and is now also available in limited-edition colours. But what really excited the pros (such as Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran) was the powerful JD-XA Analogue Polysynth.

The JD-XA is capable of those warm, vintage analogue tones, but comes also armed with an array of digital effects. Roland never fancied nostalgia... the JD-XA can sound like their old synths, but is very much an instrument for the modern musician! View more details
No other new piece of gear was so versatile, surprising or value-for-money as this compact Novation Circuit - it really packs in a lot: Circuit is an unique mix of 2-part synthesizer, 4-part drum-machine and grid-controlled sequencer, this is a standalone unit that allows you to make music anywhere, on the fly! The limited-edition Giorgio Moroder MoroderNova was perhaps Novation's hottest synth in 2015 - it really flew off our shelves! - but the Circuit was the release anyone could afford and which we'll be hearing more of in the future. View more details

3) Akai MPC Touch

Akai MPC Touch

The MPC Touch was the new addition to the popular MPC range, and managed to provide an innovative way to work on your tracks - it allows the user to grab and pinch waveforms, draw midi events, adjust envelopes, chop samples, add effects and precisely set the controls using their fingertips. View more
4) Korg ARP Odyssey Synthesizer
Korg ARP Odyssey
First announced in 2014, the incredible return of the ARP Odyssey finally became true in 2015! Like the MS-20 Mini, the new ARP Odyssey was a smaller version of the original, but with the same look and analogue sounds of the original, with a few subtle new features such as USB-MIDI port. Synth heads loved it, and rightly so! View more

5) Akai Tom Cat Analogue Drum-Machine
Akai Tom Cat

An affordable, fully featured analogue drum-machine... what's not to like! In fact, there aren't that many great analogue drum-machines on the market today, and if you liked the Volca Beats then you'll positively LOVE the Tom Cat! This is ideal for retro, old-skool beats and, if not as versatile as the AIRA TR8, it's certainly much cheaper and very easy to use, and a great addition to any setup! View more

A big shout out goes for the Akai Timbre Wolf too, which is a really cool synthesizer, and definitely worth a look!

6) Yamaha Reface synths

Yamaha Reface

Some people were disappointed that Yamaha didn't bring back the popular DX7 or CS-80, coveted items for any vintage synth collector. But, let's be honest, that was never the intention. Yamaha is concerned about the young musician on the go, with not a lot of money to spend, space to spare or time for complicated gear. And make no mistake - the Reface keyboards do sound amazing, and indeed bring back some vintage sounds found on old DX and CS models, plus much more! The Reface YC is the most affordable keyboard that comes with vintage drawbar organ / rotary sounds - think Hammond, Vox Continental, Farfisa...Likewise, the Reface CP has great Wurlitzer and Fender Rhodes sounds, not found in any keyboard of the same price range. All four Reface keyboards are very distintive, and offer a lot for their size and price. View more

Traktor Kontrol D2
The D2 takes its cue from (1/3 of) last year's Traktor Kontrol S8, which, as fine as it is, may not be as convenient for DJ's who already own a preferred mixer, or who want something more compact and easier to carry. All the same, the D2 is a cutting edge controller that can also be used for STEMS mixing. Native Instruments are really serious about bringing the "future of DJ-ing" to you, and the D2 could be described as "the DJ deck of the future". Or, of the present if you are one of the forward-thinking DJs who bought it! View more details.

9) Alesis Nitro 8-Piece Electronic Drum Kit

Alesis Nitro Electronic Drum Kit

There are some formidable Electronic Drum Kits on the market today, but the new Alesis Nitro is something else! By far the best-value and most powerful drum-kit for beginners under £300! The Nitro is an 8-piece kit with realistic sounds and feel, and the best drum kit released in 2015! View more

10) Ableton Push 2

Ableton Push 2

The new Ableton Push 2 arrived in 2015, bringing some welcome improvements on the popular pad controller, and offering more integration with Live, and more playability. The multicolor display adapts to show you exactly what you need to keep you in the creative flow without adding distraction. Push’s new pads have been carefully redesigned to feel softer, smoother and more responsive – perfect for creating expressive beats and melodies, at home or in the studio. View more
11) Korg Electribe 2 Sampler

Korg Electribe 2 Music Production Sampler

The Korg Electribe 2 was actually announced in 2014 but only hit the shops in 2015, and was an instant hit. This eagerly awaited sampler didn't disappoint, and was a more sophisticated alternative to the popular Volca Sample. The Electribe 2 Sampler features Ableton integration for computer setups, MIDI/analogue sync for your hardware (such as MS20 and other analogue synths), Kaoss pad style touch effects for performance control FX, and new functions for live performance such as Master effects and Pattern sets. View more
12) AIRA Modular

Roland AIRA Modular

We end our list with more Roland synths! Roland going modular was an exciting development, bringing back synths to how they started... except at smaller and more affordable prices! The AIRA System-1M and FX modules were  welcome additions to the AIRA range. These modules are great with whatever modular or semi-modular synths you may have, and a valuable tool in the studio! View more

What's In Store for 2016?

How can 2016 top 2015? Well, the first clues should appear next month at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California! But, as our #12 choice points out, 2016 will be a big year for modular synths. Moog released the Mother-32 Analogue Synth couple of months ago, and there's no doubt this semi-modular synth will be very much in demand in 2016! Earlier in the year, Roland also announced the 100% analog System-500 modulars, a more compact and affordable update on their legendary System-100 and System-700 modular synths from the Seventies, that will hit the shops in 2016.

We're all hoping Korg and Yamaha will also release new synths, and of course brands such as Native Instruments are bound to once again push the boundaries of DJ-ing!

But we're not here to speculate! In January we'll be at NAMM Show 2016 and we'll bring you all the news about the latest gear you'll love in 2016, so keep checking our website!
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