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Studio One: Vocoder

PreSonus Studio One Tips & Techniques By Robin Vincent
Published February 2023

Screen 1: The default Vocoder preset uses an internal Carrier signal at a frequency of 110Hz.Screen 1: The default Vocoder preset uses an internal Carrier signal at a frequency of 110Hz.

We don our shiniest Daft Punk helmets and get funky with Studio One’s Vocoder.

The Vocoder is an exciting new addition to Studio One’s list of native effects plug‑ins. It’s not your usual everyday plug‑in that earns its place in your channel strip; this is something a bit different, and you could even call it snazzy. We all know the vocoding effect when we hear it, but do we know how to make it work?

The Basics

A vocoder attempts to impress the harmonic ‘shape’ of one sound upon another. This works by extracting the dynamic profile of a number of frequency bands within one source, called the Modulator, and applying that profile to another source, called the Carrier. The Modulator, more often than not, is the human voice, and the Carrier tends to be a sustained synth sound or strings. A bank of filters splits the Modulator signal into however many frequency bands the vocoder has. Envelope followers track the level within each band, which is then applied to a corresponding filter bank through which the synth (Carrier) is played. So, the Carrier has its own frequency spectrum modulated by the bank representing that of the Modulator. The result is that you can hear the strings you were playing shaped by the voice that’s modulating the filters, to the point that the speech is (almost) intelligible. It’s surprisingly difficult to explain, yet you can hear it perfectly in your head, right?

To use the Vocoder plug‑in, you drag it onto the track that will be the Modulator. So, drag it onto a track of vocals, assuming we’re going for that classic vocoder sound. You don’t need pre‑recorded vocals, though, because you’re sitting there with the ability to generate them in real time. So, instead, try plugging in a microphone, add an empty audio track, drag in the Vocoder and hit the Monitor button.

When you speak into the microphone, you’ll be treated to a solid robot‑style vocoder voice with a fundamental frequency of 110Hz. This is the default Vocoder preset, and I think you’ll agree it’s already feeling pretty groovy. Open the Vocoder GUI (Screen 1) and grab the Frequency knob down at the bottom left. Speak the words “Intergalactic planetary, planetary intergalactic” into your mic while moving the knob and I guarantee you’ll be having a good time. One tip is to drop a compressor into the effects chain on the mic before the Vocoder. It helps give it a much more even and consistent response.

So, when does the synth get involved?

Classic...

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