Eventide''s Octavox plug-in brings notation-based pitch shifting to Pro Tools TDM for Macintosh.
Eventide has released Octavox ($595), a TDM plug-in that brings the diatonic pitch-shifting algorithms of their hardware processors to the world of Pro Tools. Octavox is a processor-hungry, high-end plug-in that will run under OS X with Pro Tools HD or HD Accel or under OS 9 with Pro Tools HD (a Windows version is due in November 2004). The maximum-supported sampling rate under Pro Tools HD is 48 kHz, and 96 kHz is supported under HD Accel.
Octavox is an 8-voice harmonizer/delay with intelligent pitch analysis. The plug-in allows you to specify a diatonic key and mode that it will try to follow in creating a musical harmony for the input signal. Though Octavox is useful for creating traditional harmonies, it excels at creating subtle, strange, or wild delay and pitch-based effects as well. Its interface is a paragon of simplicity and elegance — without cracking the manual, I was creating weird and twisted sounds right away.
Find Your Voice
Each of the eight voices has an identical set of parameters, which include level, mute, pan, delay time, delay feedback, and pitch. Pitch can be specified by interval (which then follows the diatonic key and selected scale) or in cents, which results in a fixed pitch offset from the input material. Delay time tops out at 2.4 seconds.
Octavox's Notation window lets you adjust pitch and delay in musical terms. Instead of typing in numbers, you can adjust a voice's pitch up and down on a grand staff. Delays can be specified in terms of beats by moving the horizontal position of the voice across the bar. You can specify a tempo and meter or simply slave to Pro Tools' current session tempo. The Notation window also lets you set the master tuning, key, and scale for the diatonic pitch shifter. Scales include all the standard modes used in Western harmony, plus a few interesting additions like the Neapolitan, Hungarian, and Enigmatic scales.
Like Eventide Reverb, Octavox sports a snapshot pane. This handy 16-button area allows you to store 32 frequently referenced patches that can be called up in one or two button clicks. Input and output sliders with meters, a wet/dry mix slider, and a global-pitch setup area complete the plug-in's controls.
Now Hear This
If you approach Octavox with the thought that it will turn your solo vocal into a sound worthy of the Everly Brothers, The Beatles, or Crosby, Stills and Nash, you are in for some disappointment. Vocal formants are fixed frequency elements of the human voice and are a primary component of a voice's particular timbre. Most real-time pitch shifters vary the pitch of the vocal formants along with the rest of the voice's harmonics. That results in an unnatural, artificial voice sound, resembling chipmunks when pitched up and monsters when pitched down. Listen to Web Clip 1 on the EM Web site for an example. Eventide's Orville hardware processor has enough DSP to preserve vocal formants through its Ultrashifter algorithm, resulting in a more-realistic voice pitch shifter. Ultrashifter is not included in the Octavox plug-in, though.
Nonetheless, the heart of Eventide pitch shifting is alive and well in Octavox. I've always loved their micro-pitch shifting, which is perfect for creating a wide, lush guitar or backing vocal sound. Octave and fifth pitch shifts are also effective elements to add to a guitar sound, bringing a 12-string- or sitar-type vibe to the instrument. Check Web Clip 2 at the EM Web site for an example of both effects.
Octavox also excels at creating delay-based special effects. I started with a snare drum playing a New Orleansesque shuffle, then applied a couple of voices delayed in quarter-note increments pitched above and below the original snare drum. The resulting symphony of snare drums is a wild and weird percussion odyssey. See Web Clip 3 at the EM Web site.
Octavox is one more in a series of useful and interesting plug-ins from Eventide. The user interface is first rate, particularly the Notation window, and the sound is 100 percent Eventide. Using Octavox to create vocal harmonies didn't do it for me — the munchkinization effect of most real-time pitch shifters rings false to this human ear. But Octavox's shifting sounded great on guitar and other instruments, and its notation-based delay effects are truly wonderful. When looking for a tool to spice up a musical track, Octavox would be on my short list.