The vocoder is one of the most sought after effects used in the recording studio when searching for new sounds and timbres. Over the last forty years, artists like Coldplay, Bruno Mars, Imogen Heap, and Phil Collins have all used the vocoder on recordings.
The vocoder used to be a hardware-only (analog) instrument, integrated into a synthesizer. Like most analog gear these days, we now have “digital hardware” that we can use right in our computer’s music software — VST Plugins (Virtual Studio Technology).
I’ve used several vocoder VST plugins over the years. Today I will share with you my favorites and a little about each one.
1) Izotope VocalSynth 2
VocalSynth 2 is an incredible VST from Izotope. It’s the most plug-and-play vocoder plugin I’ve ever used.
If you’ve ever used a vocoder plugin before, you’ll know that the routing to make it function can be rather tedious. You have to send MIDI information to the vocoder on a separate track and make sure the vocoder understands it before you’ll hear any sound.
Izotope VocalSynth 2 works a little different, as you can manipulate existing audio with or without MIDI input. The plugin is excellent for auditioning effects quickly when working with an artist — they can get impatient.
The presets sounds remarkable, and the interface is clean and slick. Izotope’s VocalSynth 2 is by far my favorite vocoder VST to date because how ease of use and how perfect it works when getting creative with a mix.
2) XILS V+ Vocoder VST
The V+ has been around for several years but remains to be one of my favorite picks. While not a vocoder VST exclusively, the XILS V+ fuses a ten band vocoder with strings or human voice synthesis.
The synthesizer is a somewhat accurate emulation of the original model (Roland VP-330 Vocoder) but does require a more advanced user to understand the knowledge of routing on a hardware-based instrument.
I’m not the biggest fan — while I do like learning a lot of technical aspects when it comes to recording, it comes at the expense of creativity. There is enough to learn regarding production. Adding complex synthesis to the list is something I’d instead not do.
For those who like tinkering and learning about synthesizers and hardware emulation, check out the V+ synth and vocoder VST.
3) Morphoder Vocoder VST by Waves
I’m a huge fan of plugins from Waves. There’s not a single session I’ve worked on in the past five years that hasn’t utilized something from Waves (most notably, the SSL Channel).
Waves follows Apple’s logic when it comes to plugins — there’s one for everything, including a vocoder.
The Morphoder was the first vocoder VST I tried. I had a tough time figuring it out. For a new producer, it will take practice to wrap your head around how the routing works, once again.
Aside from that, the vocoder sounds excellent, though you are limited to only ten factory-provided synth sounds.
4) Vocalizer Pro by SONiVOX
Looking for an affordable vocoder VST? Look no further.
Vocalizer Pro by SONiVOX is on sale (at the time of publishing) for USD 14.99 from Plugin Boutique.
Vocalizer Pro is comparable to VocalSynth 2, as it operates similarly. The plugin re-synthesizes audio from any given source — you’re not limited to only vocals.
Some of the most unique and exciting sounds I’ve heard from the VST are not vocals. Plugging a drum loop through Vocalizer yields fresh sounding results.
The VST is also light enough to be used in real-time in a live situation.
Free Vocoder VST Plugins
For all the young and budding producers out there who need to save a little case, I’ve got you covered. There are a bunch of free vocoder plugins available online.
Though I haven’t tested any of these VSTs personally, they’re still worth a mention.
- PiF Vocoder
- Voyager by Arguru
- Vocovee by g200kg
- Syncoder 32
- Talkbox by mda
- Vintage Vocoder
- Stempel Spectral Vocoder
Stay Away From Cracked VSTs
This section of the article is a disclaimer more than anything. No surprise to most, I am entirely against the use of cracked plugins. They’re dangerous and immoral.
Don’t even search for illegal or cracked plugins. Not only are you ripping off the plugin developers, but malicious code is also often included with these cracked plugins. Malware and ransomware are still a real threat.
As a rule of thumb, always be careful when looking for free downloads online. Make sure the download comes from a trusted and reputable source. Ensure the website uses SSL encryption (see the little lock at the top address bar?).
Things to Consider When Looking for a Vocoder VST
Some DAWs include a stock vocoder — While this isn’t the case with my DAW of choice Cubase, some digital audio workstations may come with a vocoder. Check your DAW’s manual to see before buying an additional VST plugin.
Be aware of the complexity — Lots of vocoder plugins are often just synthesizers that contain a vocoder. Your skill level with synthesis determines how easy these types of plugins will be for you.
As stated before, my favorite vocoder VST is Vocal Synth2 by Izotope. It’s super simple to use and produces excellent results with ease.