The Most Influential Music Gear of the 2010s

The decade we lovingly refer to as the 2010s is coming to an end and what a time it has been for the music gear industry and market. The last 10 years have seen entire new genres of music-making technology hit the scene, along with continued evolutions and maturations of concepts and formats initiated in earlier eras.

Today, we'd thought we'd join the throngs of best-of-decade lists and retrospectives cropping up across your screens with a look back at the gear that's made the biggest impact since 2010. While certainly many of the topics on this list aren't restricted to the 2010s and have examples going back further, these are all categories and concepts that came into their own in this time span and helped define how people make music now.

Key themes include continued miniaturization and accessibility: More and more, music technology that was previously only available to studio pros and the like can now fit comfortably in most messenger bags. Other major storylines include the flourishing of the effects pedals, analog synths, and home-recording equipment, which—in cyclical relationships with adventurous music makers—have made sound design as central a part of the music-making process as, say, songwriting or performance.

The past decade also contains the entire lifespan of Reverb, as well as my personal time working in this industry. My observations and experiences are doubtlessly colored by my perspective at Reverb and the used and vintage market, but if there are major trends or storylines I missed, please let us know in the comments.

Check out the most popular gear of 2019 with our best-selling pedals, amps, synths, and microphones lists behind these links.

Powerhouse Stompboxes

Notable Example: Strymon Timeline

For those of us that frequent the used gear pages of Reverb, clearly one of the dominant themes of the past decade has been the explosion of different types of effects pedals out there. It seems like every year there are dozens of new brands, and while the origins of the "boutique" pedal scene go back further than just this decade, there's no doubt that the rate of new pedal companies and designs has grown exponentially over the past 10 years.

Yet while many of the participants in the pedal revolution have stuck to classic pedal phenotypes like bucket-brigade delay and '60s-style fuzz, one subplot of the pedal story that's taken an especially visible place of late is the growth in more versatile and capable pedals—those that can variably do-it-all or simply do something entirely new. It's a pedal arms race that has seen them go from boxes capable of one key effect to ambitious, encompassing workstations.

Perhaps the best example of this is the catalog of Strymon exemplified by the best-selling Timeline Delay. Initially released in 2011, the Timeline set off a wave of similar do-it-all delay pedals, all of which were made possible by a general lowering of the barrier to entry of DSP-based design. While there are earlier examples of digitally powered multi-effects and even delay-specific boxes like the now-iconic Line 6 DL4, the past 10 years has seen a major expansion of the high-quality, single effect-type category, with several Strymon designs as well as Source Audio pedals like the Nemesis and Ventris lingering among the all-time best-sellers on Reverb. Boss even got in on the action, releasing the DD-500 delay in 2015 and several followups in different effect categories.

Reverb's Source Audio Ventris demo

Another strain of the powerhouse pedal idea is less about leveraging DSP to do everything within a category à la Strymon and more about using the latest tech to offer effects that have never existed in any form. There are a lot of great examples here, but two key players in the space would be Chase Bliss and Meris, both of whom have earned accolades as some of the more inventive and trendsetting builders in the business.

From bedroom soundscapists and worship guitarists to bonafide rockstars, it's increasingly rare to find a pedalboard that doesn't include one of these varieties of powerhouse pedals as part of the chain.

Cheap Analog Synths

Notable Example: Korg Minilogue

If you look at the most popular synths of the past several years, the list is dominated by affordable analog models from the likes of Korg, Arturia, and others. While these sorts of synths build on the original analog synth wave of the 1970s and early '80s, the new class has effectively been able to take the core sonic flavors of vintage Minimoogs and '80s classics like the Juno series, and repackage them in drastically more affordable ways.

Korg has been a major player in this space with budget-friendly synths like the Minilogue and Monologue as well as a growing suite of tiny Volca units ranking as some of the most popular releases of the decade. While synths of this sort are often digital-analog hybrids, they do offer the general analog flavor and layouts of the past, but with a modern form factor and production style that enables their low cost.

Behringer has taken an even more direct and at times controversial route to honoring the past with a recent wave of clones of legacy favorites that have proven extremely popular with synthists eager to add the mystique of, say, a Roland TR-808 to their rigs while avoiding the insane prices and maintenance agony of an original.

Lisa Bella Donna demonstrates Moog's analog and semi-modular synth lineup.

Also overlapping with this trend is a renewed rise of semi-modular synths like the Moog Mother-32 and Grandmother, which, while not quite as affordable as Behringers or Korgs, fit in with the growth of the Eurorack format and modular synths more generally. (More on that later.)

Across the board, the key takeaway here is that this past decade has seen a major expansion in the availability of analog synths—to the point that it's safe to say that more so than at any other point in history, these instruments are readily available to anyone. Of course, there's also a feedback loop at play here in relation to the types of synth-driven music that have come to dominate pop music, which has only bolstered demand for this vast category of synthesizer.

Small Format Recording Interfaces

Notable Example: Focusrite Scarlett series

In the world of recording, the big theme of the modern era is the proliferation and expanded accessibility of capable gear. There are a lot of different manifestations of this, but the most impactful is the basic audio interface, a category of device that allows anyone with a computer to record their music in a convincing and economic way.

The impact that the availability of home recording technology has made on recorded music more generally is difficult to overstate. In many ways, we're living in the era of bedroom producer, and while it's easy and valid to lament the impact this has made on the recording studio industry, it's clear that more people are recording music than ever before—and doing it thanks to things like basic recording interfaces.

Now, of course, as some of you are already thinking, this is not a phenomenon that's restricted to the 2010s by any means. The '90s and 2000s saw the rise of ADAT and ProTools and all manner of other home recording gear that started to change the game years ahead of our timeframe.

That said, the past 10 years has only seen an intensification of these trends with lower prices, enhanced quality, and more home recording gear getting into the hands of more musicians and producers. Computers capable of utilizing this gear have also come down in price, while connector technologies like USB and Thunderbolt have only gotten quicker, making high-quality home recording attainable to more musicians in the 2010s than in any previous decade.

The available range of gear has always gotten more diverse as well. Take, for example, the wave of iOS-based interfaces that started to come out mid-decade. Now you don't even need a computer to get in on the digital, multitrack recording revolution.

High-End Amp Modeling Tech

Notable Example: Fractal Axe-FX series

When guitarists refer to modeling what they're talking about is technology that allows for the replication of other, usually analog gear through heady algorithms and the power of modern-day computer processors. More specifically, they're talking about a strain of gear that offers players the ability to dial-in and play through any number of classic amp and effects tones by way of a digital menu and set of switches.

Though this concept of digital replication of analog guitar gear isn't totally new, it's convincingness and reputation have come a long way in the past 10 years. The Fractal Axe-FX line, for example, has racked up a legions of adherents, including many of the world's foremost touring acts, and similar accolades can be given to Kemper Profiler. Digital guitar gear fixture Line 6 has also done quite well in this space with the Helix series, while plenty of smaller brands have released other amp and cab modeling pedals.

Houndmouth's Matt Myers on switching to Kemper Amps.

But of course, the claim that a box of processors can satisfactorily stand in for a blaring Triple Rectifier or vintage Twin Reverb isn't going to fly without some controversy, and naturally, there are thousands of pages of forum threads debating the topic in yet another battlefield of the unending digital vs. analog war. At the end of the day, it's hard to argue with the growing list of artists—from Metallica to The Edge—who have opted for modelers over touring amps and large racks of effects in recent years.

Eurorack Modules of Every Kind

Notable Example: Make Noise Maths

The growth of the Eurorack community and market in recent years is clearly one of the major headlines of the recent synth world, and while Eurorack itself goes back further than 2010, it's an area that's seen so much expansion in this decade that not including some mention would be a major omission.

For those unfamiliar with Eurorack it is, in short, a modular synthesizer format that allows users to build a system containing whatever individual synth components or modules they want. Like pedalboards, a Eurorack synth can contain modules from a variety of different companies, and as more and more makers have started using the format as the default, it's created a situation where synthists can build an infinite number of systems capable of creating virtually any imaginable sound.

This decade has seen a galaxy of new makers enter this space and a vast array of musicians and experimental creatives build unique modular synths. In this, the Eurorack bonanza is a key example of a more general theme that also sees some similarity to pedalboards as a fixture in guitar rigs. For many musicians, sound design—that is actually crafting the texture and timbre of a sound—is the new ends. It's not just about songwriting or recording, it's about finding interesting sounds and putting them into the world. It could be that as more people are recording music, sound design has become a more important differentiator. It could be that the internet has just given more people the ability to learn about things like synthesis and access more interesting gear. Whatever the case, sound design has been increasingly democratized, and the popularity of Eurorack is just one example in which this has played out.

Small Amps That Sound Good

Notable Example: Yamaha THR10

It's often said in guitar circles that the age of needing 100-watt stack has long been at an end. Live sound reinforcement has gotten to the point where even pros playing big arenas are going to be mic'ing their amps anyway, while most gigging or hobbyist guitarists can comfortably get away with something much more modestly sized than that JCM 800. Whether this practical reality is the direct explanation or not, the past decade has seen a noticeable increase in the number of available, small-format guitar amps that do actually sound quite good, even at low volumes.

Within this contemporary buffet of small-sized guitar tech, there are basically two types of fare. First, there's an ever-growing pool of practice amps, many of which include basic versions of the features found on the higher-end modeling amps mentioned above. Some sound better than others but they've found favor with a large number of players, with amps like the Boss Katana or KTN series and the Yamaha THR line selling especially well on Reverb in recent years. These sorts of amps include built-in effects and models, and are an outstanding solution for practice, demo'ing, and general on-the-couch noodling.

The other subplot here would be low-wattage tube amps, often taking the form of what's referred to as a "lunchbox amp." This genus is generally traced to the wildly successful original Orange Tiny Terror model, the TT15, which has since spawned a whole series of variants in the Orange catalog. Though that amp goes back a bit further to 2007, it defined a template that would be followed by Hughes & Kettner, Mesa Boogie, Peavey, Vox, and others, to say nothing of the scores of smaller-scale boutique amp builders offering options in the five to 15-watt range.

The soaring popularity of this format of amp also likely has a direct synergism with the popularity of pedals. If you're a guitarist who's mostly interested in toying with a pedalboard and just need a basic clean tone, a 15-watter with a classic tube topography will serve you quite well.

Extended Range, Multi-Scale, and High-End Shredders

Notable Example: Strandberg Boden

The rise of the internet brought an explosion in the number of smaller, independent brands to the gear industry, as new companies have the ability to reach new customers and as more people have the ability to seek out gear that suits their specific tastes. It's true of synths, it's true of pedals, and it's absolutely true of guitars, where hundreds of independent builders and small firms have been able to launch businesses and sell guitars that cover every conceivable niche and style.

This wave has seen plenty of throwback Fender homages and classic rock reimaginings, but perhaps even more inspiring (and certainly more inventive) are the brands catering to metal, prog, and other heavy and experimental playing styles. Builders like Strandberg, Ormsby, Kiesel, and others have reinvented the metal guitar, bringing features like multiscale fingerboards and extended range strings to the forefront of the genre.

Tosin Abasi demonstrates his extended range playing techniques.

These types of guitars have surged in popularity in lockstep with the influence of various heavy subgenres like djent and prog metal. Poke around Instagram and YouTube and you'll find a whole generation of mind-bogglingly gifted musicians who adhere to these styles—chances are you won't need to watch long before seeing something with a 7th or 8th string or a multiscale neck front-and-center.

High-Quality Travel Acoustics

Notable Example: Taylor GS Mini

The Taylor GS Mini came out in 2010 and since then—through 10 years and a bunch of variations on that basic design—it's consistently ranked as one of if not the most popular acoustic guitar models on Reverb. Travel-sized acoustics go back much further than 2010, of course, but the GS Mini set the mark for playability and quality in this category and price bracket, and helped set in motion a new-found respect for this class of instrument in the popular guitar consciousness.

Today, it's not uncommon to see guitars like the GS Mini used on stage around the world. More and more, these diminutive acoustics come stocked with quality pickup systems that make up for their lower acoustic volumes, and perhaps more importantly than that, a lot of guitarists are discovering that they're just comfortable to play. This is the case of pros that tour with these sorts of instruments (Ed Sheeran is a famous example), as well as the new generation of novices who elect to choose a wieldy travel-sized acoustic as their first instrument.

Simple Loop Pedals

Notable Example: The TC Electronic Ditto Looper

Loop pedals are another category of music tech that goes back further than 2010 but has proven more popular, available, and ultimately more significant in this decade. These devices, most commonly packaged as guitar pedals, offer the seemingly simple function of recording a bit of playing and then replying it on loop while the guitarist or other instrumentalist records more layers to add to the mix or solos over top.

Loop pedals have been nothing short of revolutionary for coffeehouse singer-songwriters, while also providing a often-used tool for various experimental musicians and noisemakers. Have a pedalboard? Toss a basic looper to the end of the chain and you've effectively multiplied the available sonic real estate, allowing yourself to add layer after layer of effected guitar parts to the session.

As these devices have become more standard, pedal makers have introduced more variations, and the loop pedal family tree grows dense with brands offering their own takes, with varying specs, controls, and special features. The Boss RC line remains a formidable mainstay, but probably more influential over the past decade is the Ditto series from TC Electronic.

In fact, the original single-knob Ditto that came out in 2013 has since ranked in the top five most-popular pedals across the whole history of sales on Reverb. Most recently, a new wave of hugely inventive loopers that do more than just record and repeat are starting to hit the scene, including the much-hyped and sure-to-be-sensational Chase Bliss Blooper.

Pad Controllers and Integrated Production Systems

Notable Example: Ableton Push 2 Controller

The Native Instruments Maschine came out in 2009 and set off a new wave of beat production systems picking up the mantle of the earlier generation epitomized by the Akai MPC series. The big difference was the hybridized approach of hardware controller used in conjunction with a computer running a dedicated DAW suite that allows real-time, dynamic control over a vast array of different sampling, sequencing, effects, and other production tools.

A few years later, in 2012, Ableton announced the first version of Push, a controller designed for Live, the company's massively influential DAW. This was followed by the improved Ableton Push 2, which quickly earned a place as one of the most in-demand hardware-software combinations. Through this whole period, more and more companies expanded their pad-based controller offerings, growing the format into a large category, with the likes of the Novation Launchpad and Arturia Beatstep series to name just two.

This whole arena of production and performance gear has effectively been able to give a generation of DAW-based musicians the ability to both perform and produce more seamlessly than ever before. Pad controllers have become the central pillar of many setups, and the hybrid systems like Ableton Push have become complete instruments unto themselves.

Learn how to use an Ableton Push controller as a keyboard.

There's also been a bit of a backswing in this arena more recently as more producers and beatmakers are opting to focus on DAW-less setups, relying instead on standalone devices and workstations (like the Akai Force), while eschewing systems that rely on a MacBook to make sound.

Portable, Class D-Powered Bass Heads

Notable Example: Darkglass Microtubes 900

Following the miniaturization theme of some other categories on this page comes the defining bass amps of the past 10 years: small, lightweight heads that can push a serious bass cab and fit comfortably into a briefcase. Thanks to Class D technology, the latest wave of bass heads can effectively pump out plenty of power and headroom in an extremely efficient way—without generating a ton of heat. The circuits are compact and unhindered by bulky heatsinks, which means amp designers can fit these things into delightfully portable enclosures.

Exemplified by the likes of Quilter, Darkglass, Aguilar and others, it seems like most major amp brands have started offering some variation on this premise, many of which are offered at quite reasonable prices. Considering the decades worth of hernia-inducing bass amps that preceded this age, it's easy to understand why so many bassists have opted for this style of head in recent years.

Sophisticated Grooveboxes and Sequencers

Notable Example: Elektron Digitakt

Dating back to the release of the Roland MC-303, the term "Groovebox" has been used to describe any number of musical products that sit somewhere at the intersection of sequencer, drum machine, and complete production unit. From the first generation of MPC and the landmark work of E-Mu Systems in the '80s, this larger category of gear has helped shape the sound of hip-hop along with decades worth of rhythm- and sample-based electronic music.

Today, the legacy of these earlier sampling drum machines are carried on by a generation of integrated grooveboxes that can take basically any sound source and sequence and alter it in virtually any way you can imagine.

Perhaps the best example of this in recent years can be found in the catalog of Elektron. Boxes like the Elektron Digitakt offer a distinct workflow that have become the focal point of many producers and performers whole rigs. In contrast to DAW-driven systems exemplified by Ableton Push, Elektron and similar gear are frequently used as the brain of a larger setup free of a laptop.

Check out Haz Mat Live's hardware-based Detroit techno setup.

While not an entirely beat-based or groovebox style unit, another hugely popular model in recent years has been the Teenage Engineering OP-1. There's a common thread here in both the OP-1 and something like the Digitakt offering complete, portable systems that can, quite simply, accomplish a whole lot in the confines of one box. Look to the Novation Circuit and just-released Roland MC-101 as two more examples of all-in-one, standalone ethos.

App-Based DAWs, Synths, and More

Notable Example: Cubasis 2

Taking a step out of what some would normally think of as gear comes a category of music tech that may be one of the most significant in terms of how people make music: apps.

Released in December 2010, The Fall by the Gorillaz gets the distinction of being the first major release recorded entirely with an iPad, but Madlib still surprised fans when he revealed 2019's Freddie Gibbs collaboration, Bandana, was made on his iPad.

In lockstep with the app-i-tization of everything, really, you can now find apps that can do just about anything physical instruments or hardware devices can do: synth apps from Korg and Roland, beatmaking programs like FL Studio Mobile and Native Instruments' iMaschine, and DAWs like GarageBand, BandLab, or Steinberg's Cubasis 2.

Speaking to Reverb earlier this year, R&B artist and professional songwriter Gwen Bunn told us how these apps, along with a simple controller like the IK Multimedia iRig Keys or a Korg microKEY, have become a part of her process: "[Cubasis is] just another DAW. All your plugin apps will pull up. So, basically, I'm downloading plugin apps versus a plugin. And then, it's just pretty much all run through Cubasis—whatever you need really, from amps to drum machines to synthesizers to all of that."

Whether artists are trying to make a whole album or just catch a moment of inspiration as quickly as possible, apps are sure to become an even more invaluable part of the next decade's music-making routines.

Sample Packs

Notable Example: Reverb Drum Machines

As music-making apps have found their way onto our devices, so too have other people's self-made sample packs. In a long interview with NPR's Planet Money, hip-hop producer !llmind talks about how he was hesitant to sell his first Blap Kit, a collection of drum samples he had recorded himself in order to have unique sounds for his own beats. He wondered, would he still have a personal style if others had easy access to his snares and kicks? And would anyone even want to buy them?

Today, he's making six figures through his sample packs and hearing his one-shots on other producers' hit songs, all while producing tracks for some of the biggest names in music. And he is far, far from alone in being a sample pack entrepreneur. As our article from earlier in 2019 will tell you, selling samples is a large and growing business.

Reverb has even gotten in on it ourselves. Recording more than 50 vintage and rare drum machines, we put compiled them into the Reverb Drum Machines Complete Collection. This year, we decided to give it away for free. Download it here if you haven't already.

From do-it-all delays to homemade one-shots, these are the trends in music-making from this decade that made the biggest impressions on us at Reverb. What trends did you see in the 2010s? What do you think we'll see in the 2020s? Let us know.

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