Do you need both Vocal Bender and OVox? What about Waves Tune Real-Time? Let’s compare the sonic differences between these unique vocal plugins, all included in the Waves Vocal Production bundle.
By Charles Hoffman, Black Ghost Audio
Waves has a variety of vocal manipulation and vocal effect plugins, each a specialist in its own task and each possessing its own sound. But how do they differ from one another? Do you need all of them to achieve a modern and exciting vocal sound?
Here we’ll compare the unique sounds and features of Vocal Bender, OVox Vocal ReSynthesis and Waves Tune Real-Time. Each of these plugins is a unique beast and must-have vocal effect, capturing a different angle of popular music history and current trends.
Vocal Bender is a simple two-knob vocal pitch-shift effect that’s everywhere in modern pop, hip hop, R&B and electronic music – from Billie Eilish to Travis Scott, Frank Ocean to James Blake. It is Waves’ go-to pitch and formant shifting plugin that lets you make a vocalist sound like a child, man/woman, monster, robot, or even a chipmunk.
OVox Vocal ReSynthesis is a voice-controlled synth and vocal effects plugin that you can use to synthesize basslines, melodies, and harmonies from scratch. It gives you a modern twist on Daft Punk and Kanye West-style vocoder FX.
Waves Tune Real-Time provides classic vocal pitch correction effects like those found in modern pop and hip-hop songs. It can be used as a simple utility to get your vocal sounding naturally in tune without artifacts, or it can be pushed harder as an “effect” into the hard-tuned T-Pain-style vocal effect.
Using these 3 plugins together, you can choose your favorite elements of each effect to create complex and creative vocal processing chains.
1. Vocal Bender
“That Vocal Sound”
Vocal Bender is a real-time pitch and formant shifter that lets you create the popular glitchy vocal effects found in today's hip-hop, pop, EDM, and R&B. If you’re a producer, creator, or performing artist, this plugin is going to be right up your alley. When you manipulate the formants of a vocal using Vocal Bender's Formant knob, you can drastically alter the character of your voice.
A critical aspect of Vocal Bender is its zero latency and real-time functionality. This makes the plugin an incredibly useful tool on stage and in the studio when composing song ideas. You can very easily riff vocals through the plugin over your session and hear how the effect will sound immediately. Check out Barrows & Sun demoing 10 Hip Hop FX in real-time using Vocal Bender:
In the song “RICKY” by Denzel Curry, there’s a really deep voice in the intro, leading up to 0:20 that you can re-create using Vocal Bender, even if you have a light and airy voice. If you turn the Formant knob down on Vocal Bender, you’ll end up with a deep male voice, regardless of what your natural voice sounds like—this doesn’t modify the pitch of the note being sung.
“Dandelion” by Galantis and JVKE makes use of a unique robotic lead vocal effect that still sounds natural, which is something that Vocal Bender is capable of producing if you turn up the Formant knob. This effect is abundantly clear at 0:32. In any situation where a female vocal would fit a pop song like this, you could easily swap in a male vocal with Vocal Bender applied.
In addition to Vocal Bender’s obvious Pitch and Formant knobs, there are four modulators. You're able to toggle two of these modulators between an LFO and sequencer mode, while the other two modulators are ORS Modulators unique to Waves—one acts as an amplitude follower, while the other acts as a pitch follower. The following audio example demonstrates a modulation effect you can achieve using just one of Vocal Bender’s LFOs.
- Example 2 - Vocal Bender Modulation
The amplitude follower is really cool because you can control the Formant knob using the level of your voice to swap between a deep voice like the one from the first video and a female/robotic voice like the one from the second video. This feature lets you manipulate Vocal Bender with your voice when performing live without the need to manually adjust plugin parameters.
To set up this effect, apply the AM modulator to the Formant knob and then increase the modulation amount to taste. Adjust the Offset knob to strike a balance between a deep vocal effect when singing quietly and a female/robotic effect when singing loud.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to tweak the Smooth knob to prevent Vocal Bender from sounding “warbly” when you jump from quiet to loud. I’ve found that a Smooth amount in the range of 200 tends to work quite well when using Vocal Bender in this way.
- Example 3 - Vocal Bender AM Madness
You can also use Vocal Bender to create single-line vocal harmonies in real-time, adding depth to your vocal performances. Apply Vocal Bender to the track you’re singing through, and then tweak the Pitch and Formant knobs. Then, reduce the Mix knob to around 40% so that the harmony isn’t overpowering the dry vocal. If you’re a solo performer, this is a great way to beef up the sound of your vocals while on stage without a backup vocalist.
- Example 4 - Vocal Bender Single Harmony
You also have the option to flatten the pitch of vocals, quantizing the pitch of the performance to a single note and giving you the robot sound. Vocal Bender detects the pitch of the original sound and adjusts the pitch as necessary to meet the target pitch. With this feature, you could create a few instances of harmonies or chords made up of single notes. Or, you could use it for ad-libs or vocal chops. The possibilities here are endless.
Learn how to get started using Vocal Bender here!
2. OVox Vocal ReSynthesis
OVox is a voice-controlled synth and vocal effects plugin. Picture a synth like Element 2.0, but instead of oscillators acting as the foundation of the device, OVox is powered by your voice. It provides a unique way of synthesizing sounds, regardless of your singing ability.
A vocal run through Vocal Bender will sound like a vocal with exciting pitch and formant manipulation applied. In contrast, the sound coming out of OVox could sound like an arp, bass, guitar, keyboard, buzzy lead synth or even a drumbeat. The following audio example demonstrates some of the sounds you can achieve using OVox.
Vocal Modulation & Automation
When you open up OVox's advanced GUI by clicking on the layered rectangles in the top-right corner, it becomes clear that there are many features powering this vocal-controlled synth. There are nine automation options that include four LFOs/sequencers, two amplitude envelopes, as well as an amplitude follower, pitch follower, and formant follower. You can assign any of these modulators to the knobs above.
To avoid creating a sound that comes across as messy, start by mapping a single automation control to multiple different parameters. This will result in a cohesive form of automation that has a significant overall impact on your sound, making OVox feel alive. Once you've pushed a single automation control to its limits, try your hand at integrating a second automation control.
OVox also has a built-in four-band parametric EQ, and nine effect plugins that you can choose from that include an auto-pan, chorus, compressor, delay, distortion, limiter, and reverb. It truly provides all the bells and whistles that you'd come to expect from a modern synth, but what separates it from the rest is that it's powered by either live or recorded vocals.
There are plenty of ways that you can use and abuse OVox. In the following video, Andrew Huang demonstrates some of the creative things to do with it.
Vocal Bender is a powerful vocal effect plugin, while OVox is a synth that's powered by vocals. If you want to alter the character of vocals, reach for Vocal Bender, and if you want to sculpt new sounds from the ground up, reach for OVox.
Learn how to get started using OVox here!
3. Waves Tune Real-Time
Vocal Bender and OVox affect vocals in unconventional ways, while Waves Tune Real-Time aims to correct the pitch of unruly vocals. It's also capable of re-creating the hard-tuned robotic vocal effect made popular by T-Pain.
This audio example begins dry, then uses Waves Tune RT on a natural-sounding pitch correction setting, and then on the third phrase uses a hard-tuned setting.
- Example 6 – Waves Tune Real-Time
Natural Vocal Tuning
Start by dropping Waves Tune Real-Time onto a vocal track that you plan to run a vocal performance through, and then select the scale appropriate to the key of your song. For example, if the song is in Ab major, you would select A as the root note, engage the flat modifier (b), and then choose "Major" from the Scale drop-down menu.
For natural-sounding results, adjust the Note Transition control to the lowest value that you can while avoiding quantization between notes. Once you've done this, dial in the Speed control while avoiding quantization. To preserve the natural characteristics of a vocal, you generally want to ensure that the Formant mode is set to "Corrected."
If you want to create a robotic hard-tuned vocal effect, set the Note Transition and Speed knobs to their minimum values (0.1). For an even more unnatural effect, toggle the Formant mode to "Not Corrected."
Post Malone is an artist that uses hard pitch correction in a way that I think comes across as very tasteful and artistic. For example, in his song "Psycho (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)," it appears as though there's moderate pitch correction applied throughout the entire song, while there's heavy pitch correction applied during certain sections for dramatic effect.
Learn how to get started using Waves Tune Real-Time here!
4. Combining all 3 Vocal FX
Vocal Bender, OVox and Waves Tune Real-Time can work hand-in-hand with one another to create complex vocal processing chains.
It often makes sense to first apply Waves Tune Real-Time to a vocal track to deal with pitch errors. Pitch correction is something that you usually apply early on in most vocal processing chains. Pursuing a natural sound versus a robotic sound is a matter of preference. Personally, if I know that I'm going to be applying additional creative effects down the line, I typically like to start with a clean and natural-sounding pitch-perfect vocal.
With Waves Tune Real-Time applied, you now have plenty of creative options. If you plan on using OVox to synthesize the majority of the elements in your song, now is the time to start humming, singing, and beatboxing those performances into your DAW.
When working with OVox, I’ve had the most luck using it to synthesize basslines, melodies, and harmonies—all of which you can simply hum and then drastically modify the sound of using OVox presets.
- Example 7a – Beat (unprocessed)
You can insert an instance of Vocal Bender between Waves Tune Real-Time and OVox to alter the pitch and formants of the sound driving OVox’s synthesis engine. For example, you could add some drastic step sequenced formant effects to your voice to make it sound choppy, which would cause OVox’s presets to behave in new and unfamiliar ways. Let’s see how things sound with OVox applied to each vocal track. Some drums have been added in the second section of the example to fill out the arrangement – the rest is all OVox.
- Example 7b – Beat (processed)
Applying an instance of Vocal Bender after OVox is another possibility. Rather than adding a run-of-the-mill pitch drop to a melody at the end of a phrase, you could add a pitch/formant drop with modulators affecting these parameters as well. In the following audio example, I added this effect directly to the stereo bus and automated Vocal Bender so that it would engage on the last bar.
- Example 7c – Beat (processed w/ pitch drop)
As it's now clear, Vocal Bender, OVox, and Waves Tune Real-Time are completely different vocal FX plugins, all of which are excellent additions to your creative toolkit and must-haves if you’re working a lot with vocals as a composer, producer, sound-designer or mixer.
If you want to restructure the foundational characteristics of a vocal or apply modulating pitch and formant flourishes, reach for Vocal bender. If you’re bored with using run-of-the-mill synths and want to try something unique, apply OVox to your vocals and search through the mountain of available presets to synthesize sounds from the ground up. Finally, Waves Tune Real-Time is the perfect pitch-correction solution, allowing you to tighten up loose vocal performances or perform drastic pitch quantization. Combined, these three plugins form a powerful vocal processing trio.
Charles Hoffman is the owner of Black Ghost Audio—a website that provides free music production tips, tutorials, gear roundups, and premium online video courses. Visit Black Ghost Audio to learn how to produce music online.
Want more on making music with vocal plugins? Watch Roomie Official produce a hit song with just one plugin – Vocal Bender!.
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