Quick Pick: Antares Audio Technologies Avox 2 (Mac/Win) - EMusician

Quick Pick: Antares Audio Technologies Avox 2 (Mac/Win)

Read EM January 2009 Review on Antares Audio Technologies Avox 2 Plug-In Bundle for Professional Audio Production
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Articulator lets you apply Antares voice–modeling technology with vocoder-like results.

With the release of Avox 2 ($499), Antares delivers the full force of its voice-modeling technology for the same price as the original Avox bundle. The package combines the five Avox plug-ins (Throat, Duo, Choir, Punch, and Sybil) with four new voice manglers (Articulator, Mutator, Warm, and Aspire) and throws in the vocal-modeling harmony generator Harmony Engine for good measure. This product is a bargain.

EM reviewed Avox and Harmony Engine in the May 2006 and April 2008 issues, respectively. Both reviews are available online at emusician.com. I'll begin with a brief description of the original plug-ins, then concentrate on the new ones.

BY THE THROAT

The physical-modeled Throat is at the heart of Avox 2, and it is what most distinguishes these applications from others that do a similar job. Throat lets you change the character of a solo singing or speaking voice by modeling changes to the shape of the vocal tract at five different locations, from the vocal cords to the lips. It also lets you modify the waveform produced by the vocal cords and the breathiness of the sound. Some part of this physical-modeled process makes its way into most of the other Avox 2 plug-ins. Throat modeling is intended for clean, solo vocal parts, which you might interpret as a challenge to see what it will do to pads, sound effects, and solo instruments (see Web Clip 1).

Of the other Avox plug-ins, Duo is a vocal-doubling plug-in with throat-grabbing options; Choir multiplies vocal parts with random pitch, time, and vibrato manipulations; Punch combines fattening, distortion, compression, and limiting; and Sybil is a de-esser. Harmony Engine creates up to four harmony parts from a clean, solo vocal and gives you some control over throat modeling for each voice. It is the most complex of the Avox 2 plug-ins and is best suited to solo vocals.

ARTICULATION

Articulator is a vocal-formant and amplitude modeler. It sounds a lot like a vocoder, but it uses formant analysis and throat modeling rather than the classic band-mapped filtering technique. That gives you a great deal of influence over the vocal characteristics of the output; you're not restricted to the characteristics of the control signal (typically speech or singing).

Like a vocoder, Articulator requires two audio inputs — one for a mono control signal and one for a stereo carrier signal, which should be harmonically rich and fairly continuous (gaps in the carrier translate to gaps in the output). A built-in noise generator can substitute for the carrier, and it also serves to accentuate sibilants. Because it requires two audio inputs, the routing differs by both host and plug-in format. But the manual details most of the problems you might encounter, and the process is fairly straightforward in most DAWs.

Because you're not dealing with band mapping or the separation of voiced and unvoiced parts of the control signal, Articulator's setup is simpler than a vocoder's. You tweak level, throat, formant-analysis, envelope-follower, and output-mix settings to taste, and you're done. A 1-band parametric EQ at the output is very helpful for enhancing intelligibility. The results are not quite as intelligible as a high-quality vocoder's, but the creative potential is much greater (see Web Clip 2).

WARM AND ASPIRING MUTATIONS

Mutator is the other new creative tool in Avox 2. It offers four processes: pitch-shifting, throat modeling, ring modulation (called Mutation), and chop and reverse (called Alienize). The ring modulator is unusual in that the pitch of the modulating signal tracks the pitch of the incoming audio, which keeps the effect uniform for clean, monophonic sources.

You can use Mutator's effects separately or together, and you can change the wet/dry mix of all effects except Alienize with the Mutant Mix knob. Automating changes in the various controls lets you mangle and mutate speech, singing, and instrumental material in real time (see Web Clip 3).

The other new effects, Warm and Aspire, add tube saturation and control aspiration (breathiness). As their names imply, Warm's Velvet tube model produces a smooth and subtle effect, whereas the Crunch model emulates an overdriven tube amp (which is either subtle or in your face, depending on the input level and amount of drive). Aspire is surprisingly effective at adding or removing breathiness from a vocal.

The four new effects are a welcome addition to the Avox bundle. With Throat, Articulator, and Mutator you can manage or mismanage your vocals to taste. Duo, Choir, and Harmony Engine all have a place in creating background vocals. Sybil and Aspire are handy when you need them, and Punch and Warm do an excellent job of beefing up any kind of material.

Value (1 through 5): 4
Antares Audio Technologies
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