Vocoders have been popping up in music production since the early 1970s, and every now and then they make a comeback (hands up, Daft Punk fans).
But for every over-indulgent, funktastic outing (Herbie Hancock’s late 70s offerings are a particular guilty pleasure of the crew), there are hundreds of users out there sneaking snatches of vocoded vocals (and more) into their tracks. Like Auto-Tune, the effect has become a mainstay of music production.
But before we go hunting, what are we actually talking about here? In essence, a vocoder is a device that uses multiband filtering to take the ‘response’ of one sound (the modulator) and give it the character of another (the carrier).
The modulator is typically a voice or percussive instrument and, although the carrier signal can be anything you like, a synthesiser gives the classic vocoded ‘talking synth’ or robot voice sound. Plug-ins tend to have built-in sound generation (ie, a basic synth) but often can process external carriers too.
All of the vocoders in our round-up are dual-platform, except Vocodex (PC-only) and OrangeVocoder (Mac-only). Let’s find out a little bit more about them.