I. Am. A. Robot.
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.
NEXT: SoniVox Vocalizer
Delivers both traditional vocoder effects and more creative sounds in an easily playable format.
Eiosis ELS Vocoder
Based on the EMS 5000, this is a feature-rich vocoder with multiple analogue-influenced filter bank configurations. It can also handle two stereo sidechains.
Includes very fast envelope followers for accurate resynthesis and an optional VSM filter module based on Sennheiser’s classic 201 Vocoder.
Sonic Charge Bitspeek
A wildcard entry, this one isn’t a vocoder, strictly speaking. However, if it’s robot voices you’re after, Bitspeek simply has to be considered, hence its inclusion.
Sugar Bytes Robotronic
Crams loads of features into a tiny frame, including formant shift, EQ, compressor, multieffects and even a sample player. A standalone version is included too.
A plug-in that’s been around forever, it seems - this is the 10th Anniversary edition. Easy to use, flexible and great-sounding, it delivers instant gratification.
Offers many options including doubling, band unison and an output limiter. The real gem, though, is the option to use anything from 5 to 100 bands.