Best Vocoder VST Plugins – 2020 Guide

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You have probably heard about vocoder.

It’s probably one of those effects that everybody thinks they know what it is, but when you ask them about an example, they will give you the wrong one. 

So, to help you out - if someone asks you this - say “Intergalactic” from Beastie Boys.

Our Top Picks for Vocoder VST Plugins

  • Most creative vocal tool
  • Vocoder and Talkbox
  • Works on other instruments
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  • EMS 5000 emulator
  • 20 or 22 band vocoder
  • Versatile Matrix Patch
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  • Up to 5 vocoders at once
  • Dual microphone input
  • No MIDI keyboard required
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Comparison Chart of the Best Vocoder VST Plugins

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • The most creative vocal tool
  • 5 modules including Vocoder and Talkbox
  • Works well with other instruments
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  • True emulation of EMS 5000 vocoder.
  • 20 and 22 band vocoding filter
  • Versatile Matrix patch
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  • Process input signal through up to 5 vocoders
  • 2 microphone inputs with dedicated spectral mixing
  • Autokey let you play without a MIDI keyboard
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  • VST emulator of legendary Roland VP-330
  • 49-voice of polyphony and vintage 10-band vocoder
  • Additional Strings, male and female vocals presets
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  • 5 to 100 fully-scopable bands
  • Sytrus synthesizer carrier
  • Unison band feature
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  • 100 band vocoder
  • 16-voice synth with 2 oscillators as a Carrier
  • 6-stage Chorus FX
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What is a Vocoder VST and What Does it Do?

Vocoder stands short for the Voice Encoder 

The vocoder is made from the two elements - Modulator and Carrier. Carrier is an initial sound that is further shaped by the harmonic content of the Modulator signal using a filter bank that splits the modulator signal into frequency bands and applies a filter to each band individually. 

It can work with any kind of sound source for both the Modulator and Carrier part but, in music, the most usual concept is that analog synthesizer acts like a Carrier, and voice is used for the Modulator part. The result is that a famous robotic voice everyone recognizes.

History of Vocoder

The first vocoder was designed in 1928 but it had to wait for a public show until 1939-1940. It was designed as a part of secure radio communication used during World War II. By applying a vocoder message receiver had to apply exact filter settings to listen to the message.

It became a part of the music world in 1968 when Robert Moog developed the first solid-state vocoder and popularized it for music purposes. From that moment, vocoder began to rise and some of the most famous vocoders were on the verge of the 1980s. Those vocoders were popularized by many famous music artists such as Kraftwerk, Stevie Wonder, and Phil Collins.

Aspects to Consider Before Buying

Vocoders can look the same. That’s why we’re going to give you a couple of tips to check out before deciding which one works the best for you:

Do Some Research

You will probably have some reference regarding the sound you want to achieve, so why don’t you google about it and see how it’s done? Most of the time it will be some vintage machine that has its corresponding VST emulator. All you have to do then is to find what software did the emulation of the unit you’re looking for

Unvoiced Features

Due to the nature of the vocoder’s filter, sibilants are usually severely damaged. That’s why unvoiced features will drastically improve the clarity of the output. Unvoiced is a high pass filter that adds a certain boost in high-end that will make consonant more audible. If the voice processing is your first idea of using a vocoder, this feature should be checked on your list.

Extra Equipment

Yes, it might be obvious that you would need a microphone, but people tend to expect that due to its synthetic nature MIDI keyboard controller will be enough. Having said that, you may need to buy another audio interface that has a preamp for the mic, too.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best Vocoder VST Plugins

Here are our picks for the best vocoders on the market:

Best Overall:
 Izotope Vocal Synth 2

PROS

  • 7 stompboxes including unique Shred
  • 5 modules including Vocoder and Talkbox
  • Works pretty well with other instruments, too
  • All-in-one creative tool for vocal modifications
  • Very modern design with a lot of interactive visualizations

CONS

  • Reverb would be a nice add-on to the stompbox collection
  • The modern interface may not look appealing to seasoned producers

Features and Specifications

Besides the Vocoder module, it provides you with the module for both robotic and organic voice, a useful harmonizer, and rare to find Talkbox. You have also 7 Stompboxes to add such as Distort, Filter, Chorus, Delay, or very unique step-sequencer Shred that comes with eight different patterns to pick from with a dedicated knob for several patterns that will allow you almost unlimited possibilities.

It’s all packed in a very modern design with a lot of interactive visualizations and it has a lot of different high-quality factory presets to start from.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This unit is much more than just a vocoder. It’s probably the best vocal processing unit on the market and it’s the most versatile. Honestly, it’s just incredible to see this all coming at this price.

Vocoder works perfectly on the vocals, but the true magic begins when you apply it to the other instruments such as drums. What makes this software even better is the quality of the other components and that you can blend vocoder with Compuvox and put them altogether through a distortion stompbox and add a pinch of delay on it, for example.

PROS

  • Versatile Frequency Shifter effect
  • Powerful and versatile Matrix patch
  • True emulation of EMS 5000 vocoder
  • Bands are displayed by LED Vu-Meters in the Bands mixer
  • Dual filter vocoder option with fully adjustable level of the bands

CONS

  • No stand-alone version
  • We would be much grateful if there was some tutorial in the manuals

Features and Specifications

This is the most detailed emulation of the most complex analog vocoder from 1976, EMS 5000. That’s why it provides you with two different vocoders that are made from 20-band and 22-band filters. It also comes with a decent number of factory presets to start with.

Everything is built in a single panel and the part you can’t miss is the Matrix Patch Area in the top right corner that allows you to connect any band of the modulator to any band of the carrier providing you enormous flexibility.

Why it Stands Out to Us

While being a true emulation of the original vocoder, it also offers many features that its ancestor simply could not. You’re going to love additional Oscillator waveforms, Filter Emphasis, and dual LFOs.

The vocoding clarity is the best we found on software vocoders out there because you can adjust the ponderation curve to the various bands so that the vocoder can sound both clear on top and warm in the bass register. However, the thing that makes this Vocoder different from the others is the Frequency Shifter feature which allows you to shift a complete signal by a certain frequency and create some drastic changes.

Best for the Money:
DBI Multiplex Vocoder 2

PROS

  • Apply different vocoder to every input
  • Use any audio file from your computer as a Carrier
  • 2 microphone inputs with independent spectral mixing
  • Autokey allows you to use vocoder without a MIDI keyboard
  • Process input signal through up to 5 vocoders simultaneously

CONS

  • No panning feature for either input, vocoders or output
  • May require third–party output router to work as a VST plugin

Features and Specifications

Multiple Vocoder 2 allows you to use two microphone inputs and determine which frequencies will feed the vocoders from both inputs. It also allows you to use different vocoders for every input, up to five vocoders to be precise, and even re-adjust the balance between the wet and dry signal.

Every vocoder can have a different threshold so it can be activated or deactivated only at the certain input levels and the Autokey feature will allow you to use a vocoder even if you don’t have a MIDI keyboard controller.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This software has some really handy tools that make using a vocoder even more interesting. For the start, it’s the only one that allows 2 microphone inputs which can create some unique outcomes. Rec Me feature will be fun for any user as it allows you to quickly record your voice and process it. You can even play any .wav, .aiff, or .mp3 file directly from the computer and even re-adjust playback speed, pitch, and loop range. And we need to emphasize that it feels almost like a robbery to get all those features at this price tag.

Best Vintage Vocoder VST:
XILS V+

PROS

  • Spot-on visual interface
  • Arpeggio and glide included
  • VST emulator of legendary Roland VP-330
  • Additional Strings, male and female vocals preset
  • 49-voice of polyphony and vintage 10-band vocoder

CONS

  • No standalone version
  • Feels expensive with the given options

Features and Specifications

This unit is an emulation of the Roland VP-330 upgraded to 49-voice polyphony. VP-330 was made from several patches - 10-band vocoder, human voice, and strings. Every preset has an ensemble switch that combines all the patches from the category played together where voices and strings have a dedicated attack and release slides. Strings also have a tone slider extra.

The FX section is made from the vintage phaser, basic reverb, Stereo Space spatial sim, and a very useful ensemble chorus effect while Modulation Matrix provides you with 6 slots for 11 sources and 24 destinations.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The trick about the original hardware is that it was more than just a vocoder and XILS V+ got this right. Strings are very thick, while the vocal presets are unique thanks to the very original oscillator waveform.

Arp has an interesting option to perform a broken arp. This way the first note of the sequence will keep on changing so you can generate interesting random note sequences.

It may feel a little bit short on features for a modern-day software, but, we see this as a good thing because many things may go wrong with vocoder if you leave more options than necessary.

Best Vocoder VST for FL Studio:
Image Line Vocodex

PROS

  • Unison band feature
  • Voice doubling and reverb
  • Sytrus synthesizer carrier included
  • From 5 to 100 fully-scoopable bands
  • Modern vocoder with modulator noise reduction

CONS

  • Basic FX modules
  • Available only with FL Studio DAW on MacOS

Features and Specifications

This vocoder is equipped with modulator noise reduction. This feature reduces ambient noise bleeding through the carrier and improves overall sound clarity. Speaking of vocoder, it can use from 5 up to 100 bands which can be stacked anywhere on the spectrum. The fewer bands you use the more robotic the result will be.

Carrier synth role is handled to the Image Line Sytrus also bundled in this offer. It comes with 25 different waveforms ranging from typical Saw and Pulses up to Car horn and Robot Saw.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We like the user interface. It’s very modern-looking with symbols used instead of words wherever it’s possible. The big graphical editor is a great add-on and options seem to be much more newbie-friendly.

This vocoder also doesn’t emulate vintage gear and we see this as a good thing. The market is full of such products so having a more modern approach seems ideal for current music genres use.

We were really impressed with the unison band mode, a feature you would expect from a synth, not a vocoder but it worked the same way - the result was a very pleasing fat & warm sound.

Editor's Pick:
Waldorf Lector

PROS

  • 16-voice polyphonic 100 band vocoder 
  • Available as a side-chain input or carrier plugin
  • Polyphonic synthesizer with 2 oscillators provided as a carrier
  • Individual Compressors and Level knobs for Speech and Carrier signal
  • 3-band EQ, Chorus, Flanger, Delay, Reverb and Overdrive effect modules

CONS

  • Lack some decent factory presets
  • Might be complicated to set it up for the first time

Features and Specifications

Lector is a versatile vocoder VST with up to 100 analysis bands. It allows independent compression of both modulators (named as a Speech here) and carrier source.

Effect panel is made from a 3-band EQ, six-voice Chorus and Flanger, Stereo Delay, Reverb, and Overdrive modules

Carrier is provided within the package and it’s a 16-voice synth with 2 oscillators. You can pick several waveforms such as sine, triangle, sawtooth, pulse, PWM, sample & hold, noise, and even single and multi-sample playback. If you set the working mode to Normal, you can even use it as a synth plugin.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This vocoder comes from a company that excels in modern synth sounds. Waldorf is famous for delivering cold, sterile, and aggressive sound architecture in general so you should expect the same from the vocoder result.

That’s why we can recommend it as a side-chain effect not just for creating robotic vocal tracks but also on bass or drum track to transform transients into something weird and unique and overcome the usual expectations of the vocoder unit. We suppose Waldorf had the same opinion because, unlike the other vocoders, you can blend Modulator and Carrier sound to your taste.

Vocoder VST Tips, Tricks, and Hacks for Success

You shouldn’t be afraid of recording vocoders. It’s not that hard and we believe you’re going to have a lot of one once you find out how easy it can be:

Speak, Don’t Sing

The good thing about vocoding is that your singing skills are not required. The notes are formed on the Carrier side so no matter how bad you are with your singing it won’t be audible. Of course, if you want to put on some vibrato, you could sing a little bit, but you can also apply a mod wheel and get the same and maybe even better results.

Exaggerate, Please

Don’t think how funny it may look. The whole thing about vocoders is that Modulator signals should modify the Carrier signare, so, please, open your jaws wide and emphasize every part of the world, especially consonants. It won’t harm if you try and mimic the desired output signal

Robot Voice

You don’t need a high number of frequency bands for this type of effect. Using twelve or less will be enough. Remember that these voices were performed on vintage units, so there is no need to go hi-tech about it. Actually, it’s all about being lo-fi.

Comparison Overview

It’s not so rare that people mix up these effects. They all were made to be used with vocals, or at least that was their main purpose, but they are quite different so let's see how we can tell a difference.

Vocoder vs. Talkbox

As we said before, the vocoder uses the sounds of your voice as an envelope, while the sound is created on actual synth. 

Talkbox is a speaker in which sound output is sent through the tube and ends with the microphone. From that point, the sound is modulated by the shape of the mouth you’re creating. This type of effect is most often linked with electric guitar and the best example for talkbox could be Bon Jovi’s “Livin on a Prayer” or Daft Punk’s “Around the World”.

Autotune vs Vocoder

Auto-tune is a completely different kind of effect. Sure, at the extreme settings it can sound synthetic, but its main purpose was to keep the note “in scale” and help singers to keep their singing in perfect tune. Eventually, some producers found out this artificial effect when auto-tune needs to “fix” notes to extreme ranges and turned it into a trademark sound for modern music production.

Top 10 Vocoder Songs

Here’s a quick showcase of most iconic vocoder songs:

  1. Phil Collins - In the Air Tonight
  2. Stevie Wonder - I Just Called to Say I Love You
  3. Beastie Boys - Intergalactic
  4. Earth Wind & Fire - Let’s Groove Tonight
  5. John Legend - All of Me
  6. Michael Jackson - P.Y.T.
  7. Kraftwerk - The Robots
  8. Taylor Swift - Delicate
  9. Kavinsky - Nightcall
  10. Rockets - On the Road Again

Conclusion

The vocoder is a very specific effect that you may not use on a daily basis, but also a very distinctive one. If you get it right and create your own unique sound along it may become a trademark for your act easily, just like for many famous artists out there.