We review the top 5 best vocoders available
Looking to add a new element to your music creation? Really like the sound of robot voices? Well, you’ve come to the right place as today we’re looking at the vocoder – a nifty little tool that changes your voice, making it a musical instrument that can be manipulated the same way you would a keyboard or guitar. In our view, these are the top 5 best vocoders , including a selection of synths and pedals. Today we’re reviewing:
- Korg MicroKorg Synthesizer and Vocoder
- Roland JD-Xi Interactive Analog-Digital Crossover Synthesizer
- Boss VO-1 Compact Vocoder Effects Pedal
- Roland VP-03 Vocoder Synthesizer
- BOSS VE-8 Acoustic Singer Vocal and Guitar Effects Processor
Since the early 70s, the vocoder has been used to craft interesting sounds and hooks appearing in some of the coolest music ever created – a far cry from its original purpose which was to improve telecommunications. Years later, even when it was eventually used to mask communications between officials in the time of World War II, no one could have known just how important the vocoder was going to be to something such as music. The vocoder is a tool that is very much still around in today’s music production suites and physically installed into keyboards, synths and a few handy guitar pedals – chances are you’ve heard an artist using one on the radio – thank you LCD Soundsystem, Daft Punk and of course 2Pac & Dr. Dre! So today, we’re going to look at 5 of the best Vocoders around.
Korg MicroKorg Synthesizer and Vocoder
The microKORG was an instant hit with synth lovers all over the world since it first appeared in 2002, and since then has gone on to become one of the most sought-after instruments in the musical world. Fortunately, Korg are very keen on supplying musicians with affordable options that won’t cost the earth, hence the Korg MicroKorg Synthesizer and Vocoder can still be yours for less than you’d expect. In case you missed the clue in the name, this is a vocoder, and a brilliant one at that! It’s packed with an on-board speaker system, so you can make music anywhere, anytime.
When used as a standalone unit to modify your voice, you’ll be surprised at the quality of output from diminuitive unit. If you want to connect to an audio or MIDI source, you have all the connectivity you need to make that happen.
The Korg MicroKorg Synthesizer and Vocoder has been crafted to enable musicians to create music straight out of the box. This is why the synth comes with an AC adapter and the all-important gooseneck-design condenser microphone, so you can start using the vocoder straight away.
Roland JD-Xi Interactive Analog-Digital Crossover Synthesizer
The Roland JD-Xi Interactive Analog-Digital Crossover Synthesizer is a versatile instrument that makes our best vocoders list thanks to its ease of use and of course, fantastic voice manipulation capabilities. The gooseneck mic, which is included in the box plugs in directly to the perfectly designed top panel. Just plug in and start singing, whilst you control the tone and pitch through playing 37 Mini-Size Keys.
The really cool AutoPitch feature allows you to achieve that coveted robotic vocal sound that you’ve heard the likes of Daft Punk bust out on ‘Around The World’. In addition, the 128-note polyphony gives you more than enough to work with and the entire suite of effects such as Bit Crusher, Slicer, Ring Mod, delay and reverb will keep your music sounding fresh. The 4-track sequencer is an especially cool feature as you can capture 2 digital tracks, an analogue synth track as well as a drum part – perfect for use in conjunction with the TR-REC mode that allows for programming in the style of the classic TR-series beatboxes.
Boss VO-1 Compact Vocoder Effects Pedal
We’re moving away from synths here, and on to a more compact style of vocoder. You may be familiar with the likes of a talkbox, where you plug in a tube to the pedal and stick it in your mouth (Sambora, we’re looking at you) but this is a less “messy” style of voice manipulation – no need for unhygienic tubes in your mouth here! The Boss VO-1 Compact Vocoder Effects Pedal is jam packed full of amazing synthesizer voices that can be used to enhance your voice or change it completely, offering a world of options for the musician of all styles.
Just plug your guitar/bass and your microphone in to the pedal and you’re free to talk, sing, and even cry using the VO-1 Vocoder pedal. You have 4 very cool modes to choose from including Choir, Vintage Advanced and Talk Box to add some great dynamics to your big lead breaks, hooks or to beef up those chorus lines. It’s a whole world of quintessential vocoder classics that are easily manipulated at your feet.
Roland VP-03 Vocoder Synthesizer
If you’ve struggled to get hold of those coveted (and extremely expensive) vintage VP-330 Vocoder Plus models, you’ll be pleased to know that Roland have recreated this classic machine and updated it for the modern musician. The result is the Roland VP-03 Vocoder Synthesizer – a faithful recreation with a variety of new features. It’s everything you loved about the VP-330 Vocoder Plus, but with a host of added extras such as Voice Step Sequencer and Chord Memory function to enable one-finger performance.
The dual ribbon controllers are great, providing seriously accurate pitch bend, modulation and a really nifty one-touch sound preview. It’s also compatible with the awesome K-25m Keyboard Unit & DK-01 Docking Case (sold separately). The gooseneck microphone, which is included in the box is great for crafting your own vocoder sounds and will allow you to shape everything from the human voice to string sounds. It features a 16 Chord Memory setup as well as a Voice Step Sequencer too – adding entirely new elements to your sound. A great option and by far one of the best vocoders around today.
BOSS VE-8 Acoustic Singer Vocal and Guitar Effects Processor
Always a brand trying to push the envelope, BOSS have gone and created an all-in-one preamp and effects unit for acoustic guitarists and singers who want a variety of useful features to improve their performance. In a sturdy little box, you have ambience effects and chromatic pitch correction as well as the great vocoder capabilities. All you have to do is plug a microphone into the VE-8 via the XLR input, dial in your perfect ambience and you’re ready to go. You can even add a whole host of electronic sounds to your performance, distortion and the really interesting radio-voiced tones to add a great element to your performance.
The VE-8 detects what you’re singing as well as the key and generates harmonies to accompany your vocals . It also features a dedicated guitar channel with a huge amount of effects including Reverb, Chorus, Octave, Mod Delay, and more. If that’s not enough, the looper with 80 seconds of recording time should definitely keep you busy. A great vocoder, with so much more to offer, the BOSS VE-8 Acoustic Singer Vocal and Guitar Effects Processor is a must have.
Lee Glynn is a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who lives in Liverpool, England. After moving to the UK from Perth, Australia, Lee enjoyed a successful career as guitarist in Liverpool based rock band Sound of Guns.
After releasing two albums, a myriad of EPs / singles and touring extensively around the world for 6 years including stops at Glastonbury, Latitude Festival, as well as the coveted Reading & Leeds Festivals, Lee decided it was a time for a change of scenery.
Utilising his experience in music journalism, Lee now works within the web team at Dawsons Music, where he can still relay his passion for music by producing great content for the Dawsons blog and social media. Lee is still an avid guitar player and writer.