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It’s around that time of the year again where the best achievements of audio professionals and tech creatives alike are announced-the Technical Excellence and Creativity awards! 
 
The TEC Awards is an annual program presented by the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Foundation. The awards honor the ingenious individuals, companies, and technical novelties that have made strides in audio sound for film, television, concerts, and music production. 
 
While gearheads are always excited to find out this year’s winner, unfortunately, the TEC Awards at NAMM 2021 won’t be the same. As if Covid hasn’t dismantled everything enough, this year NAMM canceled their in-person event. Instead, they hosted a virtual expo from January 18th to the 22nd as their Believe in Music Week. 
 
If you’ve been expecting which audio gear has topped each category for the TEC awards 2021, continue reading for the full list. 
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The Winner: Universal Audio's Apollo x4

This innovative sound technology makes mixing, overdubbing, and tracking seamless with an elite-class A/D and D/A conversion. Not to mention the QUAD Core real-time UAD plugin processing and Built-in Talkback mic. Apollo x4 undoubtedly raises the bar for audio hardware with the LUNA Recording System, and a bundle of UAD analog emulation plugins all included! 

Runner up: Antelope Audio's Zen Tour Synergy Core

The aim of the Zen Tour Synergy Core interface is to convert creative workflow into album-ready recordings seamlessly. This interface is conveniently compact but extremely powerful, delivering sonic mastery. With the Zen Tour Synergy Core, you can enjoy flexible mixing and routing choices, an integrated talkback microphone, and Phantom power. Audio equipment like this would be ideal for highly professional studios.

Runner up: Apogee's Symphony Desktop

This elegant Symphony I/O MkII Series Desktop Audio Interface flaunts AD/DA conversion, with two of Apogee’s Microphone Preamps installed, which are controlled digitally. The Symphony Desktop only gets better with its brand new features such as the Symphony ECS Channel Strip, mic preamp emulation, and Clearmountain’s Spaces presets. To top this audio interface off, it hosts hardware DSP processing and an immersive touch screen interface to make mixing, dubbing and recording more refined. 
 

The Winner: Solid State Logic's ORIGIN

Origin comes very close to perfecting digital audio systems with the Solid State Logic audio console. The design for this audio console is simple and powerful to make the workflow of hybrid setups effortless. The Solid State Logic audio console features 32 input channels, with spanking new PureDrive preamps and the familiar SSL in-line channel strip design. Clear sound, plus the combination of inventive extra features and all the audio excellence components and modern circuits can provide, are what you can expect from this masterpiece. 

Runner up: Neve's 8424

Neve has worked hard to deliver a savory combination of the best analog and digital technology. The Neve 8424 mixing console is designed uniquely for hybrid studios, with the added benefit of being versatile and highly straightforward. This small-format console features analog synths, outbound gear, session recall, dual-channel inputs for 24 switchable channel inserts, 16 input channels on the left side, and 8 extra channels on the right.

Runner up: Avid's VENUE | S6L-48D

Mixing and recording live productions has never been easier than the robust Avid VENUE | S6L. Flaunting powerful processing power, over 300 processing channels, and an E6L-192 engine, the Avid VENUE | S6L offers everything you need for the perfect show with a guarantee of transparent sound. This mixing system also includes 128 tracks of Pro Tools recording to inspire your workflow and a virtual soundcheck feature. 

The Winner: Neve's 1073OPX

The Neve 1073OPX is a remotely controllable, eight-channel preamplifier that boasts Marinair Transformers, Dante digital, and USB connectivity. In this renowned audio system, there is also Smart Phantom Power Control. Advanced stereo monitoring features and the latency-free monitoring cue mix signal path add to this preamplifier’s superiority.

Runner up: Focusrite's ISA 828 MkII

This eight-channel preamplifier features Lundahl LL1538 transformers on every input. Each channel has the choice of mic or line inputs. Included in the MkII is a six-step metering on each channel, front-panel instrument inputs for channels 1-4, and offers various sonic options through the microphone, such as an ‘ISA 110’ setting. The MkII is the perfect long-term fixture in a rack, thanks to its dedicated mic and line-level input connectors. 

Runner up: Soyuz's The Launcher

The Soyuz The Launcher might have an ordinary interface, but it delivers rich old school sounds with its dynamic mic and simple functions. This preamplifier focuses on impressive analog tone and fantastic build quality. The launcher works well with any interface or preamp to optimize the sound and quality of your audio. Finally, the Launder also carries an enhanced treble that sounds harmonically rich.

The Winner: AKG's Lyra

Intensifying your audio for podcasts, videos or music is made quick and easy through the AKG Lyra. To improve audio performance and quality, Lyra automatically reduces background noise and improves audio signal levels. Included in Lyra is also a built-in sound diffuser, an integrated shockmount, and AKG’s favored Internal Element Overload Prevention. The sleek microphone is straightforward to use and offers high-resolution 24-bit/192kHz converters too. 

Runner up: AEA's R88A Blumlein Stereo Microphone

This active stereo ribbon microphone, enhanced with toroid transformers, captures sound precisely how it sounds. Any preamp and input impedance is compatible with the Blumlein Stereo Microphone, and it functions on 48V phantom power. The toroid transformers offer an additional 12dB of gain, allowing the R88A to record intricate sound like low guitar acoustics. 

Runner up: Townsend Labs' Sphere L22 v1.4

This microphone is a large-diaphragm condenser mic with a Sphere DSP plugin that allows you to change your mic options and polar patterns after recording. You can change other characteristics of the mic after recording, too. The Off-Axis Correction enables you to reduce undesirable room coloration and other similar issues for the perfect audio.

The Winner: Moog's Matriarch

This is a four-note analog synthesizer that offers a built-in sequencer, stereo analog delay, and stereo ladder filters. The paraphonic playability allows you to perform and sequence in duo, mono, and four-note paraphonic modes. Proving its power, the Matriach also includes two output channels, four oscillators, and twin 24dB/oct filters. For synthesizers, the Matriarch is the top choice for its impressively refined functions and futuristic features.

Runner up: Cre8audio's NiftyBUNDLE

The retro-styled Niftybundle includes a dual VCO, Chipz, and LFO module. Also included in it is Cellz, which is a generator and sequencer used to take sonic performance to the next level. At the back of the Niftybundle, you will also find inputs for DIN MIDI and USB MIDI. Its built-in converter accepts MIDI or USB input to convert to clock, CV, gate, and mod signals used for patching. 

Runner up: Sequential's Pro3 / Pro3 SE

Featured in the Pro 3 SE are three vintage filters, three oscillators, four loopable envelopes, and three LFOs. Additionally, the Pro 3 SE includes an enormous 32-slot mod matrix and a 16 x 16 x 4 sequencer. A white noise generator, Oscillator Slop, and Hard Sync are also available through the Pro 3 SE. They design this synthesizer for hybrid studios. 

The Winner: Celemony's Melodyne 5

Credited to Melodyne’s significantly improved melodic algorithm, advanced vocal editing is now possible. The editing dynamics available are invaluable, allowing creatives to make natural corrections to the audio through dynamic editing tools like the fade tool. All the algorithms have been improved, and the melodic algorithm is not the only one available. Melodyne offers an additional algorithm- Percussive Pitched amongst many others for the perfect vocals. 
 

Runner up: Universal Audio's Moog Minimoog LUNA Instrument

Universal Audio created this software as an emulation of Bob Moog’s pioneering synthesizer, the Minimoog Model D. Included in the Moog Minimoog Luna are custom mood mods, which set a high standard for virtual instruments. Moog’s signature ladder filters, oscillators, and pitch tracking anomalies all feature in this virtual instrument. We know the Minimoog Model D for its marvelously “fat” sonic sound. This is credited to its unstable tuning system, many nonlinearities, and ladder filter. 

Runner up: Spitfire Audio's BBC Symphony Orchestra

Spitfire Audio’s BBC Symphony Orchestra is suitable for both Windows and MAC PC’s. It includes a comprehensive walkthrough video explaining the software, and is a world-class plugin that hosts 20 different signals, 57 different instruments, 99 different players, and 468 different techniques. Brass, guitar, piano, strings, percussion, and many more unique sounds make this software an ideal choice.

The Winner: API's 2500+ Stereo Bus Compressor

Designed to be versatile and dynamic, the API 2500 delivers an original sound to API’s general compression. The Compressor allows you to punch and tone mixers, and an extensive range of musical parameters are included that make this hardware so desirable. The dual-channel design enables users to configure the compressor for stereo compression or use it as two separate mono channels via a compression setting. 
 

Runner up: McDSP's APB-16 Analog Processing Box

This extraordinary 1U device offers you premium analog signal processing, and you can control each APB-16’s channel. There are many processing options available in the Analog processing box, such as multi-band functionality, multichannel, mastering limiters, compression, and a lot more. APB-ready software plugin bundle is included too, and the Analog processing box is compatible with both Thunderbolt 2 and 3. 

Runner up: WesAudio's ngBusComp

This stereo, mono bus compressor, allows you full digital control and runs on both MAC and Windows. You can link or unlink the left and right channels of the ngBusComp, and you can still manage the different settings for each channel. You can process the left and right channels independently, and you can work on a mid-side mix for each channel. The ngBusComp allows you an abundance of creative freedom while providing high-end functionality.

The Winner: AMS Neve's RMX16

For adding rich, vintage, 80s sounds to any audio, the RMX16 is the perfect signal processor. Formatted in 500 series and inclusive of all 18 authentic reverb programs, the RMX16 offers control over every parameter and boasts two new “Save” and “Recall” buttons. Navigation could never be easier. And when recording audio, the RMX16 provides visual feedback. The RMX16 is all you need in a sophisticated signal processor. 

Runner up: API's 312

Built back in the 70s and still considered a hit today, the 321 has a maximum gain of 69dB and a 20 dB pad switch. The preamp includes a traditional API circuit design topped with a 2520 Op Amp. The 312 operates on switchable 48V phantom power and hosts a timeless vintage-style analog VU meter. 

Runner up: Retro Instrument's 500PRE

Frequency response, noise reduction, and distortion are all optimized in the 500PRE, demonstrating Retro’s range of smooth-functioning instruments. You can use the 500PRE as a high-energy limiter while mixing, and the 500PRE tubes limit the signal at around +18 dBu. The 500PRE takes a maximum of a minute to fire up, and the transient is unlimited. 

The Winner: Universal Audio's Neve 1084 Preamp & EQ Plug-in

The Neve 1084 offers class-A mic/line preamp, narrow/wide Q settings, and three switchable EQ bands. The versatile options for EQ allow you more creative room while working on instruments. Since the previous release, Neve now has more tone-shaping functions and a dual-stage mic preamp. Neve 1084 operates on UA audio interfaces and UAD hardware only. 

Runner up: Oeksound Ltd's Soothe2

The Soothe2 is a resonance suppressor that smooths out and balances sound. This saves you time from having to do it manually, and instead, you can rely on this esteemed software. It automatically applies the matching reduction to incorrect resonances, without affecting other frequencies. Using the Soothe2, you can fix uneven tonal balance, tame dominant synth sounds, remove mic harshness, and much more. 

Runner up: Softube's Chandler Limited Germanium Compressor

This machine can replace multiple plugins in a chain and offers you EQ selection, distortion, audio editing, and the list goes on. The FET gain reduction feature allows the Germanium compressor to compress high-quality audio swiftly. This software is ideal for tweaking, tuning, shaping, and sound design while mixing. The Germanium also offers rare sounds that are not common amongst other compressors. 

The Winner: Waves' Abbey Road Saturator

Using Abbey Road Saturator, you can gracefully clip tube preamps or add distortion effects on guitars and synths. Unlike software in its category, the Abbey Road Saturator hosts an extremely rare EMI TG12321 compander. You have flexible control over the compander, allowing you to focus on various ranges of your audio. Included in the Abbey Road Saturator is also a polarity switch that drastically changes the distortion. 

Runner up: iZotope's Stutter Edit 2

For creating transitions, anticipation, or excitement in your audio, Stutter Edit 2 proves to be fantastic software to extort. You have the freedom to slice samples, tracks, and mixes to create something authentic. Also, there is a long list of filters and enhancements for you to add to create the perfect audio. The features in Stutter Edit 2 are easy to use and offer you an abundance of editing options. 

Runner up: FabFilter's Saturn 2

Tube and tape saturation, and full-blown amp effects, are possible through Saturn 2. Many new distortion techniques and styles are available along with linear phase processing for mastering your track. Creating new modulation connections is simple through Saturn’s drag-and-drop editor, and you can view all your modulations in real-time. Saturn includes a lot of extras such as perfectly tuned knobs, support for Avid control surfaces, SSE improvement.

The Winner: Genelec's W371A Adaptive Woofer System

This low-frequency woofer includes two LF drivers that can produce their own bandpasses. The W371A inhibits a core DSP module that operates all levels and phase coherency, filtering, and crossover to match itself to the monitor it is paired to. There are five different calibration modes the W371A offers to accommodate different creative approaches. 

Runner up: Barefoot Sound's Footprint02

These powerful speakers have dual 200-Watt Class D amplifiers and a three-way design to deliver clearer, balanced sound. The Footprint02 functions on MEME technology and also has a dual ring radiator tweeter. The dual radiator tweeter is about 1-inch and provides smooth, dynamic wide bass and a wide sweet up maxed at 45 kHz.

Runner up: Ocean Way Audio's HR5

The HR5 is a 7” woofer with a light cone and aluminum voice coil. A precise 100-degree horizontal dispersion is offered by the HR5 to provide balanced, toned, high-quality sound. Included in the HR5 are a balanced XLR analog, input sensitivity adjustment, and AES3 digital inputs. 

The Winner: Universal Audio's LUNA Recording System

The Luna Recording System allows users to enjoy an unlimited track count, contextual editing, seamless integration, and Luna’s built-in Autosave feature. Editing and navigating the Luna system is straightforward. Unfortunately, the only setback with Luna is that it is not compatible with Windows. 

Runner up: Neve's GenesysControl Plug-In

Featured in the GenesysControl Plugin are channel path fader levels and CUTs, reverb return levels, and much more. The GenesysControl offers a dynamic channel strip with many functions for recording, mixing, and mastering. This plugin successfully makes analog workflows perform smoother because of the meticulous feature and functions available.

Runner up: Steinberg's Cubase Pro 10.5

Chopping up mixes, loops, and samples and creating excellent sounding audio is what Cubase Pro 10.5 is all about. Included is a personal scale assistant to optimize your audio. The scale assistant can also analyze your MIDI recording and provide you with suggestions. Using Cubase Pro 10.5, you can also enhance synchronization, perfect tempo changes, and have access to the new score editor.

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