Leapwing Audio UltraVox: What is it?
If there’s one aspect of track-crafting that producers prattle incessantly about (aside from countless other things) it’s vocals. Wildly variable from one track to the next, processing and treating vocals is a distinct art, tangential to the fundamentals of music production.
With auto-tuning and vocoding software now cycling back into vogue, software like Waves OVox and Antares AutoTune Vocodist gift modern producers simple, all-in-one methods of achieving the skewered, robotic vocal edge that so many pop-pickers go giddy for these days. But, when it comes to conventional vocal polishing, the numerous compression, gating and reverb choices may seem perplexing to those ill-at-ease with human voice-shaping.
Enter Leapwing Audio, they of innovative dynamics compressor DynOne, soundstage widener StageOne and the inspiring, Al Schmitt – that incredible, preset bottled-assortment of the sublime tones that the late, great producer and engineer was famed for. Building on this increasingly impressive stable, the new UltraVox plugin boldly makes the claim for being the only vocal processor you’ll ever need for the task, melding four optimised algorithms; Compression, Gate, Harmonics and Air.
Leapwing Audio UltraVox: Performance and verdict
Though the concept of an all-in-one vocal suite, with suitably tailored compressor, gate and gain owes much to Waves’ Renaissance Vox compressor, Leapwing hasmade a few forward strides with its take, simplifying the workload even more, by letting its algorithms do a lot of the heavy-lifting. UltraVox’s UI is immediately striking, resembling a radar screen, with the audio information graphically splaying itself across the circular central web in a fiery orange, with each ring representing around 1dB.
The four algorithms have their place in each corner of the UI, with Compression and Harmonics on the left top and bottom respectively, with Gate and Air levels on the right top and bottom. Input gain and Output gain have their sliders on either side of the plugin (and, conveniently can be linked by holding down the shift key, so any optimisation on input can be compensated for in the output gain). And, that’s largely it in terms of customisability.
Each of the four algorithms can be manually slid to reduce or increase their impact, though it’s clearly the company’s hope that you’ll allow one of the numerous presets to take the slack. We readily oblige to see just how a few of the presets can quickly put our vocal sound on the right path. Applying UltraVox to both a histrionic (with preset Rock Vocal Gentle) and a close-mic’d, breathy vocal take (with preset Gentle Touch of Air) improved both differently, with only minor extra adjustment of the compressor to limit some of the transient-y impact of our rock vocal. Starting with a preset is a recommended route. From there, fine-tuning is very simple. It’s often useful to switch off the plugin to swiftly A/B the original vocal against the improved version you’re now working with.
Need some air?
While the compressor and the gate need little explanation, the application of Air can really enhance event the dullest of vocals, adding a certain difficult-to-define ‘crispness’ to the sound of the vox without introducing any harshness. What’s actually going on here, is an EQ shake-up around the 12kHz region. This works well in tandem with the right application of Harmonics, which add second and third order harmonics that help to round out the vocal’s sound, particularly in a busy mix context. It’s really pretty remarkable how much of a lift Air can give to even a gruff, half-assed vocal take (of which we have a large supply). All of UltraVox’s four algorithms cleverly interact and can scale themselves accordingly, but sometimes your ears are the best judge.
There’s no question that the plugin will be much appreciated by those needing to be agile when vocal mixing. But this attribute of simplicity may be a turn-off for some. So, for those who enjoy getting a little deeper, you may be underwhelmed at the lack of deep frequency control (and the absence of a de-esser). But for everybody else, there’s little to fault with this vocal-massaging wonder-tool.
MusicRadar verdict: Leapwing Audio continues to prove it's ahead of the competition in terms of next level, and highly useful plugin design.
Leapwing Audio UltraVox: The web says
"Leapwing has come up with a really excellent time saving product in UltraVox that takes the faff out of trying to build the perfect vocal mix chain."
Headliner (opens in new tab)