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Review: iZotope VocalSynth 2
Lynda Arnold on Wed, July 18th | 0 comments
VocalSynth 2 is a major update to iZotope's powerful voice processor with the new BioVox Module using a scientific model of the human vocal tract. Lynda Arnold sings its praises...

iZotope has released their anticipated update to VocalSynth with many improvements and additions for greater sound sculpting. Not only is VocalSynth 2 a creative tool for vocalists, but it also offers the opportunity to process all kinds of instruments and audio material through the flexible chaining architecture. A myriad of controls and sonic surprises await you within iZotope’s clean and user-friendly design interface.

VocalSynth 2 Improvements

The BioVox Module uses a scientific model of the human vocal tract, giving you the ability to adjust more realistic voice characteristics like nasality, clarity, vowel shapes and formats. In my initial stages of experimentation, I kept coming back to the BioVox module to add clarity and nasality, which brought out the intelligibility of my words and phrases often compromised by layering too many modules or using a preset or setting with too much low end.

BioVox Module with Advance Controls and Vowel Shaper

BioVox Module with Advance Controls and Vowel Shaper

One of the coolest aspects of the BioVox Module is the vowel shape shifter. You now have the ability to change words by automating the vowel shape on an X/Y grid. I was really impressed by the demo and decided to put this to the test.  I recorded the word, ‘Ordinary’ but with an Ah at the end and then automated the vowel formant grid to change the end of the word to ‘E.’ It worked pretty well with just a move of the main control to the top left corner.  The vowel tended to blend better into a ‘E’ by moving into the ‘I’ quadrant. This was a quick test and I would probably spend even more time refining this. It works pretty well with just a simple sweep into the direction you want to go. You can hear my example below.

Original Recording of ‘Ordinary’ with an ‘Ah’ at the end
Recording of ‘Ordinary’ with Vowel Shaper Automation

Setting up Automation Lanes in ProTools for Vowel Shaping

Setting up Automation Lanes in ProTools for Vowel Shaping

Automated Vowel Shaper Result in ProTools

Automated Vowel Shaper Result in ProTools 

The Anemone Meter and X/Y Module

The Anemone is a visually pleasing graphic interface (pictured in first screenshot above) that allows you to adjust the level of each module you have selected when designing your vocal sound. This is great for adjusting levels quickly and for those who love graphic elements when designing. What’s even more useful and powerful however is the X/Y grid where you can mix and match two parameters from any of the 5 vocal modules, for more effective shifting and blending. I spent a lot of time here mixing parameters, listening and making note of my favorite combinations.

Automating this X/Y feature in productions is a great way to inject more dynamic movement into hooks and phrases. The robotic nature of vocoders can quickly make the delivery sound static. That may be what you want in some cases, but it’s way more interesting to the listener when you change the shaping of the sound over time, even in subtle ways. iZotope provides a lot of power and flexibility for doing that across the board and I would suggest taking advantages of these powerful automating features.

X/Y Switchable Parameter Automation Controls

X/Y Switchable Parameter Automation Controls

Advanced Sound Sculpting Tools

The BioVox, Vocoder, Compuvox and Talkbox Voice Modules all expand to reveal advanced sound sculpting tools, including two oscillators with 5 waveshape options, pitch shifters, multiple modulation knobs, filter, LFO and pan. In order to use multiple voice modules, it’s important to have access to these controls for blending, filtering and matching waveforms if need be. We’ve gone over the Vowel Shaper in the BioVox section, but also worth noting is the ‘Bands’ control in the Vocoder section.  Here you can adjust the Vol and the Pan of the Vocoder Bands to bring out or cut certain frequencies and also spread the frequencies of the Vocoder across the stereo spectrum.

Advanced Vocoder Controls

Advanced Vocoder Controls

New Effects and Drag & Drop Chaining

Drag and Drop Effects Chaining in VocalSynth2

Drag and Drop Effects Chaining in VocalSynth2

iZotope listened to the suggestions from their user base and integrated a few welcome changes into the effects section. All effects in the chain have a ‘drag and drop’ feature and can be ordered at will. This reminds me of the flexibility of chaining effects in Ableton and it’s nice to see something like this integrated in Izotope’s design. The Chorus and Ring Mod effects are welcome additions. I especially appreciate the chorus as another way to fatten up the sound. Each effect has simple global controls, so no detailed effect editing here.  If matching delay and reverb parameters across multiple instruments or voices in important in your track, you may use other effects, but for quick sound sculpting to make a part stand out from the rest of the mix, it’s great to do this all in one place.

Global Gate Feature

A simple and very welcome feature in the Master section is the gate knob.  All the various voices and effects layered together can create some unnecessary and messy sounding release tails that can muddy your mix. The gating cleans this up, making the sound more defined and sit better in the mix. This is especially important in electronic music mixes; to have the voice sit better from a rhythmic standpoint.

The Wrap

Vocal Synth 2 is available as a standalone application and as part of the Creative Suite set of software tools that includes Iris 2, Trash 2 Expanded, BreakTweaker Expanded, Stutter Edit, DDLY and Mobius Filter. The pricing is great on the Suite and also highly recommended if you need to load up on some amazing sound design tools to cover multiple angles of your music production workflow.

Watch these pro tutorials in the Ask.Audio Academy for more in-depth exploration of the new features: https://ask.audio/academy?nleloc=/course/3077/vocalsynth-explained-and-explored 

Price:  VocalSynth 2 ($149), Creative Suite ($349)

Pros:  Great sound quality, easy to use interface, improved advanced sculpting controls.

Cons:  An EQ would help tame unruly frequencies, maybe next update? 

Web: https://www.izotope.com/en/products/create-and-design/vocalsynth.html  /  https://www.izotope.com/en/products/create-and-design/creative-suite.html

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