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While Reason makes the full version leap from 4 to 5, Record is receiving a more modest but no less notable ‘point five’ update. Chief among its new goodies is one particular and outstanding inclusion. Step forward, Neptune!
Those familiar with Propellerhead’s witty naming policy won’t be surprised to learn that this is an Auto-Tune-esque pitch tuner. At its most basic, it’s designed to analyse the incoming audio signal, assess its tuning and make corrections as required. You have control over two carefully calibrated parameters to determine how natural or unnatural this sounds, and you’ll be amazed at how powerful this simple setup turns out to be.
There’s also a Live mode, enabling real-time pitch correction and manipulation. For those Moon-dwellers wondering why you’d ever want an unnatural-sounding vocal, listen to just about every single R&B track released in the last two years, Cher’s biggest hit of the last 15 years or Victoria Beckham’s most famous Number 2 chart placing. Neptune delivers this ubiquitous effect with style and aplomb, and it’ll be something of a revelation to anybody who’s only ever made music using Reason or Record.
Just as Record’s superlative timestretching won over many established remixers with its ease of use and the sheer quality of the results, we can imagine Neptune doing exactly the same for R&B producers, simply because it makes auto-tuning so easy and does it so well. And given the number of Reason users working in other genres, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear a tide of tracks featuring very obvious Neptune-processed vocals in the months after Record’s release.
It’s not just pitch correction on offer, either - creative pitchshifting is also eminently possible. If you want to tweak the tuning of a sound or loop, audition a part in a different key, generate a doubling or harmonising version of a clip, or give a hi-hat or bongo loop a bit more shine and edge by raising its pitch without damaging its length or timing, you can. Neptune makes all this possible via two simple controls for dialling in adjustments in cents and semitones.
Arguably Neptune’s most impressive feature, though, is its voice synthesizer function. With this, you can ‘play’ the incoming vocal (or other sound) using a MIDI keyboard. From just a single vocal track, you can create a harmonised chord vocal, just by pressing the appropriate keys. You then simply set the balance between the voice synth and the processed vocal with a pair of sliders that can, of course, be automated and controlled live.
Even after talking about it as a voice synth, because (in the beta at least) it sits with the effects processors in the device list, rather than the instruments, it’s easy to forget that Neptune is actually a proper instrument, albeit one that requires a carrier signal. As such, it can be wired up to Reason’s excellent RPG-8 Arpeggiator.
Whether you know the actual key of your vocal or not, you can create a musical arpeggio with the RPG-8, then send the signal to Neptune to generate amazing rhythmic vocal parts, playing riffs at high speed in styles that it wouldn’t ever occur to you to program, much less occur to a singer to perform. The possibilities really are mind-boggling.