Antares Harmony Engine

It's one thing to create a plug-in that generates vocal harmonies, but quite another to make these harmonies sound realistic...

There aren't many plug-ins that have changed the music industry. One that most certainly has, though, is Antares Auto-Tune.

Until its release, sessions with vocalists for whom perfect tuning was more miss than hit were less than fun. Auto-Tune was a revelation, and it's become a studio staple. Antares is now trying to make harmony generation as simple as pitch shifting with its Harmony Engine plug-in.

Harmony Engine (HE) provides you with four independent voices, each of which uses a mono or stereo source file as a 'trigger'. To get up and running, you simply insert HE as a channel strip plug-in over your lead vocal file - you're then free to 'arrange' these voices in a number of ways.

The easiest option is to let HE do the work for you. Enter an offset for each voice, either above or below the original pitch at a fixed interval, and HE will respond by 'singing' the appropriate chord over each note.

Unfortunately, the pitfalls here are obvious, with the likelihood that sooner or later you'll end up with a harmony note that will clash horribly, so while this option is useful for introducing you to HE's approach, it won't suit most applications.

Fortunately, this isn't the end of HE's story.

Advanced use

Harmonies can be generated via MIDI in three separate ways. Firstly, you can enter a series of basic MIDI chords and HE will use these as a means to generate harmonies.

If you want more control, you can use the MIDI Omni mode to directly 'play' the HE, with each voice responding to MIDI input in real time. In fact, you can get close to vocoder-style functionality.

For the ultimate in control, you can prerecord four separate MIDI parts, which can then become independent triggers for each of HE's harmony lines.

Once you've chosen the notes for your arrangement, HE offers a selection of tools that can be used to reduce 'artificial' elements. 'Throat' is modelled on the Human vocal tract and changes the character of each harmony independently. There are also global controls such as 'Humanise' (borrowed from Auto-Tune), which enable slight pitch and timing variations.

Summary

Antares has proved that, when it comes to vocal processing, it's got something special to say. But while there's no doubt that it's on to something with Harmony Generator, it's not ready to set the world alight.

The problem is that Harmony Engine doesn't yet sound sufficiently 'real'. While the technology is fascinating, we wouldn't rely on it to flesh out a vocal arrangement on any project where authenticity was valued above all else.

Will it suit your work? You be the judge: have a listen to our audio examples and make a decision:

MusicRadar Rating

3.5 / 5 stars
Pros

Four independent harmonies. Different methods of operation. Tools for increasing authenticity.

Cons

Can sound artificial.

Verdict

Although Harmony Engine is an interesting release, it's a little more 'virtual' than it is 'reality' at the moment.

Platform

MacOS/Windows

Processor Type Required

Power Mac G4 or higher

Plug-in FX Type

Vocal Processing

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