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Q. Can you recommend a realistic vocal synth or sample library?

I’ve been trying to find a keyboard, sample library, plug-in or synth that provides superb vocalisations for ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ in particular, but that might supply other vocalisations that are truly useful in recording. I can’t find or afford to hire outstanding background vocalists, yet the ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ patches on my many synths simply don’t sound real. Is there anything you can recommend? Roger Cloud, via email

Quantum Leap Symphonic Choirs may not be the newest of vocal sample libraries, but it remains one of the best.Quantum Leap Symphonic Choirs may not be the newest of vocal sample libraries, but it remains one of the best.SOS contributor John Walden replies: If any instrument can reveal the artificial nature of synthesis or sampling, then it’s the human voice, but thankfully there are some very good vocal sample libraries. The downside is that the really good ones — those that will get you close enough to the real thing as to be virtually indistinguishable — don’t come cheap. EastWest’s Quantum Leap Symphonic Choirs remains impressive, and the even older Spectrasonics Vocal Planet and Symphony Of Voices libraries also sound great. If you want ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, all the above offer plenty of choice.

An alternative approach might be to see if you can pick up a Vocaloid library (we’ve reviewed a few of these over the years). This software uses a different approach based on voice synthesis rather than samples, and while the concept was ambitious the technology perhaps never really quite lived up to the hype, a little practice should have you generating decent background vocals.

Of course, the other option is to use a mic and record some DIY ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of your own, and then beef them up using one of the many software processes that can turn a single voice into a small ensemble of voices. iZotope’s Nectar vocal production suite and Zplane’s Vielklang are pretty good tools for this.