Archive for the ‘Vocoders’ Category

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TC-Helicon announce VoiceTone Synth – radical vocal processing in a pedal

April 7, 2009

Incredible new vocal processing pedal from TC-Helicon…

TC Helicon VoiceTone Synth

The new TC Helicon VoiceTone Synth brings together a collection of extreme exotic and contemporary sonic effects, including jagged HardTuneTM effects, classic Vocoder effects, a voice-controlled synthesizer and vocal distortion and megaphone effects. Now vocalists or anyone looking to add a modern edge to their live performances and studio productions can dial-in these effects instantly with the press of a footswitch.

HardTune
The jagged, stair-stepped vocal sound of key-based hard tuning is everywhere in contemporary R&B, Hip Hop and Electronica. This feature has eluded the majority of performing musicians until VoiceTone Synth came along. Now musicians can produce this effect live by simply recalling a preset and hitting the ‘On’ button. Easy key input methods include auto-instrument sensing or pushbuttons with a clear display of the current key. Other features of the HardTune effect include dry voice mixing, octave shift and character modification.

Vocoder
The vocoder in VoiceTone Synth is called ‘Massive-Band’ for a reason. It effectively scales resolution from ultra-clearly-enunciated Robot voices to the sound of the classic, analog low-band-count vocoders we all know and love. The benefit is that, while typical vocoders require a lot of pre-processing like distortion and EQ to hear the effect properly, with the VoiceTone Synth vocoder effect you can input signals such as clean acoustic guitar and vocode perfectly for sounds that until now have been impossible to achieve.

Voice-controlled Synth
The Vocoder also features a voice-controlled synth mode – considered by many as the Holy Grail for vocoding. Prior to VoiceTone Synth, vocoding required your voice (the exciter), and an instrument input (the carrier) to make cool vocoded sounds. Of course VoiceTone Synth supports the dual input method, but for artists who don’t have another instrument or don’t play one, VoiceTone Synth can generate a synth part directly from your vocal and vocode that. The result? Generated vocoder parts with one input: your voice.

VoiceTone Synth – key features
• HardTune effect with user-selectable key or instrument-sensing
• Vocoder carrier can be driven by internal voice-controlled synth or instrument input (such as guitar)
• Transducer effects, such as megaphones, distortion and radio voices
• All effects can run simultaneously
• Includes Tone feature for adaptive live engineer sound processing
• Presets that can be edited and stored
• Instrument Thru allows normal instrument amplification and vocoding

Links:

TC-Helicon VoiceTone Synth Guitar Effects Pedal

Check the TC-Helicon VoiceTone range of FX pedals!

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Vocoder Round-up: Depeche mode

February 6, 2009

Sure, the vocoder may now be something of an electronic music cliché now, but it got its beginnings as a mechanism of encoding speech. It was one of the first electronic instruments. It helped inspire the conceptual model for all digital communication. And, those lofty goals aside, it can still sound terrific when used creatively. (Hint: you don’t have to use your voice as a source.)

These are heady times for the vocoder. Hosts are getting better at accomplishing the routings necessary to produce vocoding effects. Software and hardware vocoders are appearing everywhere. And of course, the great moment has been Ableton releasing a Vocoder in its upcoming Live 8, not so much because of Live or that Vocoder, but because company co-founder Robert Henke was immortalized in a remix (video above) talking about how you wouldn’t need it. I expect one of the first unofficial Live 8 tutorials may use this clip. (Apologies to Robert – especially as that’s exactly the sort of thing I might say speaking to students, and I actually agree. You don’t need a vocoder. For one thing, if you know what you’re doing, you can patch your own. But I digress.)

History and Vocoding without Autopilot

For a different take on the vocoder, let’s first take a trip back in time.

The device in the video is the 1939 “Voder” (Voice Operating Demonstrator). To me, this really demonstrates how much potential is left in the process. The original Voder was played more as an instrument.

Via the always wonderful Digital Tools.

Wendy Carlos, whose use of the vocoder in Clockwork Orange may be as significant to the vocoder as Carlos’ “Switched on Bach” was to the Moog, explains how the Voder functioned:

Homer Dudley also invented the VODER (Voice Operating DEmonstratoR), an electronic speaking instrument, which was unveiled (and demonstrated hourly) at the New York World’s Fair 1939-40. Inside the tall rack of sturdy electronic gear was a pitch controlled reedy oscillator, a white-noise source, and ten bandpass resonant filters. For a Voder to “speak” a talented, diligently trained operator “performed” at a special console connected to the rack, using touch-sensitive keys and a foot-pedal. These controlled the electronic generating components. The results, while far from perfect (it was damn difficult to operate!), were still entertaining and instructive of the principles involved.

That whole article is a must-read, whether you’re a fan of Kubrick, Carlos, vocoders, or (most likely) all three:
“Vocoder Questions” by Kurt B. Reighley, Editor, CMJ New Music Monthly (interviewing Wendy Carlos) [wendycarlos.com]

People who love playable effects of any time ought to gain plenty of inspiration from that video. (And some of the basic ideas need not be limited to vocoders, either. By the way, anyone who doesn’t like keyboards — musical or qwerty — as input devices ought to have a good, long look at the dangly things attached to your palms. There are certain designs that make a lot of sense for biological reasons.)

2008: Depeche Mode in the Studio

I’m about to hear the new album shortly (and hopefully get to talk to the band), but it seems Depeche Mode are enjoying vocoders in the year 2008 — not bad for 1939 technology. Musical instruments may last that long, but electricity-powered inventions are often more short-lived. And it’s also comforting to know that playing with vocoders makes Depeche Mode get as goofy as the rest of us.

Via Depeche Mode News.

The release of the new album isn’t due until April 2009, but I should get to hear it this week (via legal means, don’t worry).

Vocoders in Your FL Studio

“A vocoder? Big news,” say the loyal fans of FL Studio (”fruity loops”) to these Ableton Live newcomers. FL Studio has a lovely vocoder integrated in the host. Musician and Webizen Mark Mosher is happy to get you up and running in this tutorial:

Using Sytrus as the synth carrier is fantastic, as that’s a really, really gorgeous synth (and one you Abletonites can use, too).

Found via Mark’s Twitter account, because the ongoing popularity of this tutorial means people are still watching and asking questions, even though this has been up for some time.

Of course, there are many, many other software solutions to vocoding, all a bit different — and it’s well worth exploring some of your options.

Vocoders at 2009 NAMM

Vocoders still make appearances in new product lines, making this arguably the most popular of the pre-synth vintage electronic instruments, beating out the Theremin.

GearWire got an up-close demo of the cute little Voice Box from Electro-Harmonic we saw last month. I still love this little box, and if this particular application doesn’t turn you on, it still seems like there’s interesting potential for synths and the like.

Also a big crowd-pleaser at NAMM is the Roland VP-770. Now, when Roland debuted their first “vocal ensemble synth,” it got a pretty resounding “meh” from everyone who saw it — pricey, limited, and even the Roland rep at the time had a tough time wrapping her head around it. But the new VP has a new engine, phantom power input, and a USB key, and in the hands of the right person doing the demo can be a big hit. It’s not all really vocoder stuff, but it does all fit into the voice-controller or “vocoderesque” category.

You’d need to be pretty committed to these effects to go buy a VP-770 — I’m sure Roland is expecting they can leverage their huge prowess in the “worship” market. But I bring up this video for another reason: whether you’re a VP fan or not, you can’t argue with the power that someone using their voice to control a synth can command. I think we may discover new ways of doing that with unique effects and synths that are only loosely related to the original vocoder. As real-time effects processing on computers gets better (thanks to lower latency and more processing power), I think we could see new, never-before-heard effects.

And speaking of new products, don’t forget that Korg’s revised microKORG, the XL has a new 16-band vocoder (Synthtopia write-up). Synthtopia notes that it’s a bit steep at US$750 — though, in fairness, that’s partly because of how cheap the original microKORG is. But for live performance, even as a huge computer advocate, I have to concede that you may prefer a hardware keyboard for vocoder effects, convenience, and reliability, and this is still cheaper than a lot of less-fun “workstations.” The only problem: you can get the similar Korg R3 with a full-sized keyboard and additional controls and features in the same price ballpark, or the simple-but-fun original microKORG for half the price. Updated: scratch that, because the XL has a $500 street, which is pretty damned good even in this economy. (Especially in this economy, I’d wager. That’s getting close to USB controller cheap.)

Synthtopia took this gorgeous shot that I have to reproduce here:

Korg has a strong pedigree in keyboards with built-in vocoders and talkbox settings. Dont mix the two up though.


And you…

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Source: createdigitalmusic.com

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Talkbox. What is it?

January 23, 2009

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A talk box is an effects device that allows a musician to modify the sound of a musical instrument. The musician controls the modification by lip syncing, or by changing the shape of their mouth.

The effect can be used to shape the frequency content of the sound and to apply speech sounds (in the same way as singing) onto a musical instrument, typically a guitar (its non-guitar use is often confused with the vocoder) and keyboards.

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A talk box is usually an effects pedal that sits on the floor and contains a speaker attached with an air tight connection to a plastic tube, however, it can come in other forms, such as the ‘Ghetto Talkbox’ (a homemade version which is usually crude) or higher quality custom made versions. The speaker is generally in the form of a horn driver, the sound generating part of a horn speaker with the horn replaced by the tube connection.

The performer can vary the shape of the mouth and position of the tongue, changing the sound of the instrument being reproduced by the talkbox speaker. The performer can mouth words, with the resulting effect sounding as though the instrument is speaking. This “shaped” sound exits the performer’s mouth, and when it enters a microphone, an instrument/voice hybrid is heard.

There is controversy over who invented the talk box. Bob Heil has claimed he invented the talk box but there is clearly prior art in the form of the Kustom Electronics device, “The Bag”, which is the same concept housed in a decorative bag slung over the shoulder like a wine bottle and sold in 1969, two years before Heil’s Talk Box. The Bag is claimed to have been designed by Doug Forbes, who states that the exact same concept (horn driver attached to a plastic tube and inserted into the mouth) had previously been patented as an artificial larynx.

bob_yellow_studio_pr30

In 1973, Heil gave his talk box to Peter Frampton as a Christmas present. Frampton first heard the talk box when Stevie Wonder was using it for his upcoming album Music of My Mind. Then when he was playing guitar on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, he saw Pete Drake using it with a pedal steel guitar. Frampton used it on his album Frampton Comes Alive! Due to the success of the album, and particularly the hit singles “Do You Feel Like We Do” and “Show Me the Way”, Frampton has become somewhat synonymous with the talk box.

In a interview with Nuno Betencourt, Brian May was questioned about whether the song “Delilah” was recorded using a talk box on Queen´s “Innuendo” record. May answered: “Yes, i finally succumbed and used one … I suppose there´s no other way to make the meow sounds, meouw, meouw, meouw”.

In 1988, Heil sold the manufacturing rights to Dunlop Manufacturing, Inc. who currently builds the Heil Talk Box to the exact standards that Bob Heil designed in 1973. Peter Frampton also now sells his own line of custom designed “Framptone” products, including a talk box.

It can also be created rather well using a synth. a Microkorg for instance.

Watch

And of course ….

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Dolphin Music’s Top 10 Xmas Gadgets

December 7, 2007

 

Christmas time is here again, and Dolphin Music has decided to highlight 10 very desirable products that we think will  be a success this year.

1) Tenori-On
Tenori-On
Unique. Original. Stylish. Yamaha’s  Tenori-On is quite possibly the most revolutionary musical instrument to be created since the electric guitar.  There’s nothing like it, and it’s user-friendly  “visible music” interface makes it not only a very useful and versatile tool for professional musicians and producers, but also a fantastic instrument for those who never thought they could play anything. Available  exclusively to the UK. £599 view product

2) Robot Guitar

click to enlarge

Is it possible!? This year’s other  big instrument launch is also something  that promises to change the face of music. The Limited-Edition Gibson Robot Guitar is set to revolutionize guitar-playing forever: a self-tuning guitar that also offers alternate tunings at the push of a button, this is the first guitar ever to feature robot technology, and Dolphin Music is amongst the selected dealers selling it. £1499 view product

3) Stylophone
Stylophone
Brand New Version of the old classic – Now with MP3 input.  The retro, cheap, small and quirky Stylophone is already a big sensation this Xmas. Find out what it’ll all about, and get the instrument that proved to be not just a great kids’ toy, but also fascinated artists such as David Bowie, Pulp, Kraftwerk and others…only £14 view product


4) Pocket POD Pocket POD® exhibits all the celebrated features and pro tone that makes POD a standard in recording studios everywhere. Don’t be fooled by the smaller package, Pocket POD is packed with over 300 custom presets dialed in by some of today’s hottest rock stars like Maroon 5, P.O.D., 311, Hoobastank and many more. Line 6 Pocket Pod

Battery-powered and about the size of a tuner, Pocket POD is completely portable. Use it for effects in front of your amp, or just plug in headphones and practice anywhere, anytime. Guitarists are sure to love it!  £64.99 view product

5) Micro BR
Boss Micro BR
The ultimate palmtop guitar companion and recording studio. Only slightly larger than an iPod, the tiny-yet-powerful Micro BR is a dream for musicians on the go. The Micro BR offers four simultaneous playback tracks (plus 32 Virtual Tracks), MP3 compatibility, onboard multi-effects, built-in rhythm patterns, a tuner, USB, an SD Card slot, and more. No guitar case or gig bag should be without one!  At £130, it’s a bargain.
view product

6) microKorg Black
Now funkier than ever, this limited-edition of the very successful and highly desirable microKORG synthesizer/vocoder  features a reversed keyboard, to play the massive sound of the microKORG. Demand is very high and this is a one-off production run with only a limited number available. This could be your only chance to order this very special product, so call us now before they all disappear!  
£249 view product 

 

7) Mackie Onyx Satellite

This is a fantastic offer – a great product for an unbeatable price, exclusive on Dolphin Music…if you’re looking for a new soundcard this xmas, don’t miss this great  opportunity! As the world’s first two-piece FireWire recording system, Satellite consists of a portable recording Pod with premium Onyx mic preamps, and a desktop Base Station with additional inputs and outputs. You simply undock the Pod when you want to record on location—leaving the Base Station connected to all your desktop studio gear (microphones, instruments, headphones, studio monitors, etc.). Then, once you’ve returned to your studio, simply dock the Satellite Pod back into the Base Station with a reassuring “click.”

There’s no better soundcard deal at the moment! 

Only  £119.95 (save over £200 off RRP) view product

8 ) AudioBlob 2

Audio Blob
Audioblob2 provides superlative audio quality for music/multimedia & gaming and is configured so that you can control the overall audio volume and the sub-bass level separately, thereby providing subtle and discreet volume control, up to an annoy-your-neighbours, floor-shaking level 10 – The choice is yours! 

This system has been developed in partnership with audio engineers from Tannoy, with many years experience in designing the very best home audio systems. Even if you don’t know it yet, you need an AudioBlob2. Buy one, and you won’t believe you could ever live without one! Great buy at only £59 view product

9) Limited-Edition Z-Vex Union Jack pedals
It looks like this is the “limited-edition xmas!” But, unlike the Robot Guitar or microKorg Black, the Z-Vex Union Jack pedals can only be purchased from Dolphin Music – we comissioned those handmade pedals, and they are limited to an exclusive 10 units per model: the Fuzz Factory, the Super Hard-On and the Box Of Rock.

Z-Vex Limited-Edition pedals

These pedals are destined to become collector’s items, and were manufactured with the same high-standards Z-Vex has always been known for.  Find out why so many  top-selling artists such as Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Flaming Lips use Z-Vex! From £169 view product

10) Orange Micro Crush
Orange Crush

Standing at just 5” tall, the Micro Crush’s highly portable design belies the remarkably full bodied tones available from its 4” speaker. The amplifiers Tone and Volume controls allow you to dial in a number of different guitar sounds, and Over Drive distortion is available at the push of a button. One of the most useful features is the inclusion of a fully functional chromatic tuner. A Great little amp! £29 view product

If you want to find more xmas offers, just visit Dolphin Music’s new  Christmas Gifts section, with gift suggestions divided by different categories (Children / DJ / Studio / Stocking Stuffers/ etc…) to make the shopping experience even easier for you.

We wish you all a great Chrismas and a fantastic New Year! 

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The Limited-Edition microKorg Black!

November 28, 2007

Now more funky than ever, this limited edition of the very successful and highly desirable microKORG synthesizer/vocoder  features a reversed keyboard, to play the massive sound of the microKORG.

Demand is said to be very high, and this is a one-off production run with only a limited number available. If you fancy one, you’d better hurry up before they all disappear! (£249 @ Dolphin Music – bargain!)

With its unique, easy-to-use interface and incredibly big sound, this little beast now looks even funkier than ever.

State-of-the-art analog modeling and multi-band vocoding are finally available in a compact, portable instrument. With 37 keys and 128 user-rewritable programs, the microKORG Synthesizer/Vocoder is perfect for the performer, producer, computer musician or beginner looking for an affordable synthesizer.

The microKorg is a very versatile instrument, at home or onstage, for rock bands and electronic acts alike.

Some features:

• High quality DSP analog modeling synthesizer and vocoder.
• 128 Programs, from classic analog to contemporary dance sounds.
• Sounds are grouped by music genres for easy access.
• Quick and easy editing thanks to five “Performance Edit” knobs.
• Light weight, compact and battery driven for use with computers and on stage.
• Includes microphones for immediate fun with the onboard vocoder.