Predictions for 2021

The New Year is almost upon us. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sick of 2020 and ready for lots of changes! Within audio, I think there’ll be a few big changes across several areas - so here are some predictions for the next 12 months!

A lean towards podcasts

Podcasts have exploded in popularity within the last few years, and it’s not gone unnoticed. Many microphone developers have been entering the game with new USB microphones to try and stay in the mix (no pun intended).

I think we’ll start to see some brands making the leap towards dual or even triple output mics (including USB) and likely to include a type of basic built in preamp with the ability to toneprint some EQ settings via a preset, similar to the method used by some pedal companies for smaller sized guitar and bass pedals – for example TC Electronic’s Harmony Singer pedal.

TC Electronics toneprint software is available on mobile and PC/Mac making it easily accessible. Will we see something like this with microphones in the new year, with an advancement on flat response mic's?

That being said, I think we’ll also see an overwhelming amount of local podcasts start. Whether that's with the addition of gaming, a fully recorded session, or a small radio show - people seem to have finally embraced the internet and 5G has been rolled out with the arrival of the iPhone 12 - it’s never been easier to record, edit and upload on the go.

Here come the machines...

The true dawn of AI is upon us. EQ’s especially have started incorporating machine learning into their designs to analyze and adjust EQ’s based on your existing mix, but I doubt it’ll stop there.

I can’t say for sure what I think the next thing will be as AI opens the door to some incredible new opportunities for many companies, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the new age of guitar tone. With Neural DSP’s Quad cortex around the corner, I foresee the company taking the digital hardware market by storm - perhaps not overtaking the leaders like Kemper, but definitely in time outclassing them in terms of realism and tonal quality, thanks to the machine learning capabilities of their new machine.

ADSR recently released the Smart EQ with AI built in. I would almost bet money on this being the route for many manufacturers in the new year.

They have incorporated machine learning into their profiling capabilities to capture the sound and essance of an amp (it sounds like witch craft, I know). Being already well revered as the current ‘must have’ guitar tone software , I think this will carry over to their hardware as well. Who knows, perhaps we’ll see some new kid on the block with a similar idea as well?

Rise of the 500 series

Lastly, I think we’ll start to see a lot of more studios take the plunge into 500 series setups. With digital recall already available in a lot of analog hardware, and the ability to utilize controllers much more frequently in everyday setups, I think this may carry over into smaller format 500 series, potentially with some clever USB manipulation to pick which slot you want to control and how, rather than having endless streams of USB wires running to each slot..

With this in mind, I see some companies making a more concerted effort to bring their technology to new realms as well and focusing very much on this format. 19 inch racks are rather large and with so many home studio’s flourishing in lockdown environments, space can be a concern. This is just one of many reasons I see the 500 series rising to glory upon its arrival.

Easily carried, most of the features of the 19 inch rack format units we ll love - I could see this becoming more accessible with companies such as dbx already making affordable units and clone and DIY kits becoming far better priced as the years have gone by.

With so many major companies already in this market - and by this, I mean the original designers (think Neve, API, etc.), I think this will open the door to a lot of the smaller/medium companies well known for their faithful recreations and clones, as opposed to the founding fathers of audio circuits we know and love.

A last word

There’s a lot of change happening in the word right now, and there’s going to be some serious developments in every sector, that’s for sure. Silicon processors will soon be accessible in computers opening the door even further for machine learning, and it looks like Nu-metal is making a comeback as strong as vinyl has. What must not change is the enthusiasm of audio engineers to carry on making great records, hungry to increase their knowledge, and push the boundaries of what's possible in audio.

So whatever happens in the New Year, stay creative.


French