Review: Vocoder 5000 VST AU Plugin by XILS-Lab
The guys at Xils-lab have just released this amazing vocoder, very much in the spirit of the classic EMS-5000 from the late seventies, and when you fire it up, it really has that EMS familiar look. It sounds great and very musical and we’re gonna get a little deep in here, lets check it out!
The plugin is divided in two modules, a simple synth module (carrier) on the left, and the vocoder itself on the right. The carrier itself, features 2 oscillators with FM and PWM, a noise oscillator, two LFOs and an ADSR EG for the amp. Below is the three octaves keyboard with controls for legato, glissando, portamento and glide amount. If you just wanna use your own natural singing pitch, there’s a pitch tracker at the very top of the carrier section.
The vocoder module, features 22 bands, a filter bank patch matrix (very much in the EMS pin matrix fashion), a slew rate module and a frequency shifter.
Finally, the output mixer has controls for speech, synth, and vocoder volumes as well as a side chain option, in case you want to use another synth as carrier.
Every vocoder needs a carrier source and a modulator source, typically, a synth works as carrier and a human vocal or drums, as modulator. The Xils-lab 5000, has an integrated 2 OSC synth patched as carrier. This has several options. It all starts with a pitch tracker with option for voice or unvoice (lets say, drums). Then, we find 2 oscillators outputting pulse waves (it can also be set to SAW, TRI, or SINE in the advanced options). Both oscillators feature a pitch tracker amount knob, FM amount and PWM amount. There’s a noise oscillator with variable colour which is great for “s”, “f”, “v”, and other fricative consonants.
Two LFOs which can modulate FM or PWM with SQUARE, RAMP, SAW, SINE and TRIANGLE wave output (this is again set in the advanced settings), Both LFOs can have delay applied, be tempo synced and triggered from key. Next is a really simple, but snappy, very analog-ish ADSR envelope generator, and last the keyboard control and keyboard itself, which indeed has velocity. A footswitch can be used to sustain notes, and the mod wheel has several destinations. The Keyboard has a maximum of 16 voices polyphony (which may seem little, but, it’s actually a lot for vocoder uses).
Things get really exciting in here! This vocoder sounds very warm and organic, very much alike the more well known Roland SVC 350, at least to my ears.
You get 22 bands, which is pretty much for analog vocoders, but, not as near as the 256 bands of digital vocoders, so, it won’t sound like the microkorg or the mininova. There’s also a filter bank patching matrix, very much in the EMS pins fashion. Here, you can get a lot of combinations patching pins from analysis filters to synthesis filters. There are some nice thought presets for this area in case you don’t wanna mess with this.
After this, there’s a slew rate module, where you can, for example freeze at any given point what’s happening with the vocoder bands. This is very useful when using the vocoder on drums.
Finally, there’s a module for pitch shifting, and of course you can use this without using the vocoder itself, for pitch shifting any incoming material, which provides an absolutely wonderful effect, and I can see a lot of EDM producers using this with vocal material. This module, also features a stereo with knob that ranges from 0% to 100% and finally a knob for parallel processing, so you can have your wet material mixed in parallel with the dry stuff you are feeding in.
One great thing about this plugin is that every module has some extra hidden functionality, so you can set some advanced functions like changing oscillator waveform, set minimum and maximum pitches for pitch tracking, changing bands number and filter order on the filter matrix, tuning both the low pass and the high pass filter, change both the analysis and the synthesis from mono to stereo and viceversa, etc, etc.
Other awesome feature I’ve mentioned before is the side chaining possibilities, this is great for using some other synth as carrier.
There are lot of visual options as well, like changing the width of the GUI window, display the low frequency as BPM, etc, etc.
The included presets cover a wide range of options, and they are great as a starting point. This is true for patches presets, but, you will also find presets for the filter bank matrix. Also, the carrier itself covers some options for voicing like two polyphonic modes (circular and reset), monophonic, and three unison possibilities, also, you can set the number of voices from 1 to 16.
This is an amazing vocoder! It has a very rich and organic sound, very analog. I can see this being used a lot in electro funk productions, and its flexibility is remarkable. Also, the pitch shifter is a great effect and it will surely be used a lot in EDM and hip hop for vocal effects. The freeze function is awesome for drums and percussion material and the filter bank pin matrix open lots of possibilities for sound design, so, if you are looking for a vocoder plugin, this should be your choice for its sound, flexibility, warmness and possibilities.