XILS-lab has announced the availability of the XILS Vocoder 5000, a vocoder plug-in for Mac (32- and 64-bit, AU, AAX, RTAS, VST 2.4, and VST 3 for Mac OS X 10.6 or higher) and PC (32- and 64-bit, AAX, RTAS, and VST for Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8). The new plug-in is inspired by the legendary EMS Vocoder 5000 hardware.
By dictionary definition, a vocoder is an analysis and synthesis system used to reproduce human speech. Homer Dudley, a research physicist at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, developed the Voice Operated reCOrDER (VOCODER) way back in 1939 as a research device to test compression schemes for the secure transmission of voice signals over copper telephone lines.
Later, Werner Meyer-Eppler, the director of phonetics at Bonn University in Germany, recognized the relevance of these marvels to electronic music following a visit by Dudley in 1948, subsequently using the vocoder as a basis for future writings which would inspire, in turn, the German Elektronische Musik movement. Musically speaking, the vocoder is indebted to German synth pop pioneers Kraftwerk for bringing its distinctive robotic-sounding voice into commercial consciousness.
It was Peter Zinovieff’s London-based company EMS (Electronic Music Studios) — best known for the 1969 introduction of the VCS3, the first commercially available portable synthesiser — that released the world’s first commercially available vocoder, the EMS Studio Vocoder, in 1976.
Soon renamed the EMS Vocoder 5000, it ended up in talented hands, including Kraftwerk, Stevie Wonder, U.S. seventies-vintage sci-fi TV series classic Battlestar Galactica (“Cylon” centurion voices), and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. With its 22-band analysis and synthesis sections, the EMS Vocoder 5000 might be he most highly-specified such unit ever produced.
The fact that it can still be bought new today is testament to its design, though there is only one (not so small) problem: it comes at a 5-figure sum, and delivery time is long.
XILS-lab has responded by creating the Vocoder 5000 plug-in. It emulates the filtering techniques and complex circuitry of its analog predecessor to achieve the same organic sound, precision, and clarity. Like the EMS Vocoder 5000, the XILS Vocoder 5000 can be made to “speak” clearly in English and German, and in any other language for that matter/
Resurrecting the still-sought-after sounds of the EMS VCS3 synthesiser and Roland VP-330 Vocoder Plus keyboard in popular plug-in form as XILS 3 and XILS V+ stood the company in good stead when it came to modeling the EMS Vocoder 5000’s feature set of 22 band-pass filters and envelope followers, as well as oscillators (modeled from the EMS VCS3), noise generator, frequency shifter, and spectrum analyser — including its distinctive 22 x 22 pin matrix patchboard, allowing any band of the modulator signal to be connected to any band of the carrier signal.
While analog vocoders like the EMS Vocoder 5000 typically analyze an incoming signal by splitting it into a number of tuned frequency bands with modulator and carrier signals being sent through a series of tuned bandpass filters — in the case of Kraftwerk robotic voices, for example, the modulator is a microphone and the carrier is a noise or sawtooth waveform — with XILS Vocoder 5000, it’s just the same.
Additional features XILS Vocoder 5000 include additional filter types, more slew rate modulations, two LFOs — the original Vocoder 5000 had only one, in-depth frequency modulation amount and pulse width modulation amount controls, additional oscillator waveforms, improved speech (sibilance) input detector, gate input, and also a keyboard for playing melodies or chords.
And unlike the restrictive nature of the original Vocoder 5000’s pin matrix patchboard, XILS Vocoder 5000 users can quickly populate its onscreen matrix by freely drawing lines, and it also has its own presets.
As well as feeding the human voice into XILS Vocoder 5000 to alter its pitch, tone, vibrato, and other characteristics to synthesize a choir from a single voice or create musical melodies from ordinary speech, the plug-in can also be used to process drums, percussive elements, guitars, or any kind of synthesiser to breath new life into them.
XILS Vocoder 5000 is available to purchase and download directly from XILS-lab as an eLicenser or iLok copy-protected virtual instrument and effects plug-in for an introductory discounted price of €99.00 EUR (including VAT within the EU) until January 17, 2015 — thereafter rising to €149.00 EUR (including VAT within the EU). Download it here.