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Waves OVox Review

Patrice Devincentis

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Vocoding and vocal-synthesis effects are a snap with this innovative processing software.

Waves OVox is a voice-controlled processor and resynthesis plug-in that also runs as a standalone application. Its focus is on vocoding, talkbox effects, automatic harmonization, automatic chord building, and vocal arpeggiation. Its effects can add richness, character, and life to your recordings or live performances. Waves’ Organic ReSynthesis technology combines sound analysis and manipulation techniques that break any audio signal into malleable core elements.

Truly Plug and Play

OVox’s Main view is simple, uncluttered, and kind of retro-looking. To get a feel for what it can do, I applied several vocoding presets to a few spoken words using the default settings. Vocoding is just one of the preset categories and, oh boy, is it chock full of choices! The depth and quality of its many sounds were immediately evident.

Whenever I processed a melody or rhythm pattern, each preset added something unique to the mix, even if I never changed the settings. For some of the more sensitive presets, I could make their sounds more usable with just a little tweak of the Formant function to control the frequency shift of the vocal formants. 

Expanded Playroom

Many of the incredibly diverse factory presets are just insane but still usable. If you want more, Waves offers additional free preset packs on their website in a variety of categories. With such an assortment of processing capabilities, OVox could help content creators quickly generate jingles, radio station logos, podcast themes, or even DJ drops.

The presets are fun to explore, but I soon wanted to journey further and navigated to the Expanded view. The Expanded view accesses parameters for two integrated, identical eight-voice synthesizers. Typically, they operate as effective carrier signals best suited to vocal processing. Particularly useful is the oscillator’s Character drop-down menu. It offers a dozen selections with names like Hollow, Toy Speaker, and Talk Vox—each changing the frequency spectrum in a different way.

OVox’s power lies in the Formant Filter section and in Waves’ Organic ReSynthesis technology, facilitating impressive reproductions of human vocal characteristics. When working with a singer’s melodic line, for example, you often need to adapt presets to the source material’s pitch range and key. Fortunately, you can easily adjust more specific parameters such as key center, formant filter parameters, or the synth-to-voice mix.

This audio example of vocoding demonstrates how just some minor adjustments yield smooth and harmonically consonant vocoding.

Organic ReSynthesis 

Revving up the OVox engines with more transformative and morphing power are nine independent drag-and-drop modulators (M1, M2, etc.). You can route each modulator to affect any available control, which could be almost any knob. This approach is intuitive enough that I immediately grasped the signal flow.

You specify either LFO or Sequencer as the source for each of the four modulators. You can determine their rate and shape and decide how these parameters will be triggered. Incoming notes trigger two traditional ADSR modulators.

The Organic ReSynthesis engine is defined by four core characteristics: Pitch, Formant, Carrier, and Envelope. You can independently manipulate each characteristic and use them as modulators. With just a few tweaks and the drag-and-drop modulator function, I could change a simple vocal line into a vocal driven FX element.

Sing, Play, Create

Working with the presets in Waves OVox made me want to design my own sounds. You can achieve creative effects by straying away from the default internal synth carrier signal. Setting up a sidechain allows an assigned track to modulate any external synth or sampled sound (like the carrier signal). You can also drive the synth by Voice (bypassing MIDI), by MIDI (bypassing voice pitch-tracking), or with the Auto setting, which detects whether a voice or MIDI source is present. One advantage of MIDI mode is the arpeggiator, which has a four-octave range and a choice of six directions. It also syncs to note divisions ranging from 64th-note triplets to four beats. 

One of OVox’s most innovative aspects is its ability to transform vocals into an instrument. Built-in pitch-to-MIDI conversion makes that possible. You can route the MIDI Out signal to drive another MIDI-capable plug-in inserted in the chain. I inserted OVox into a vocal track and then created an instrument track with a virtual analog synth inserted. Once I’d activated OVox’s synth and the MIDI Out, I just routed OVox to its internal synthesizer’s MIDI input. (Read more about OVox’s MIDI Out and other recent features here.)

In OVox, Waves gives you with essential tools for harmonizing and chord control, especially suitable for anyone producing electronic music. The Note Mapper lets you map an incoming pitch to a specific note or chord, invaluable for automatic harmonization. The software supplies presets encompassing a broad range of chords, scales, and harmonies as a starting point. With the Note Map Editor, I could quantize as many as eight pitches to a chosen scale or assign chords or harmonies to sound from one key. A feature I found particularly useful was the Mapper Lock, which let me retain the choices I made while browsing presets.

Voicing My Opinion

Waves OVox gives me the ability to experiment with new ways of envisioning vocals and transforming timbral character. The inclusion of seven chainable effects—autopan, chorus, delay, distortion, reverb, and compression—gives me even more ways to shape and sculpt sounds. Each effects type has a stock library of presets and three basic parameters. With five grab-and-slide positioning slots per preset, you won’t have to slow down your DAW by using track inserts for additional processing.

With its user-friendly interface, OVox specifically targets vocal tracks. However, the vast menu of vocoding, unique effects, vocal synthesis, and vocal morphing could unleash “out-of-the-box” creativity in musicians, producers, and engineers. Its standalone version opens up a world of possibilities for performers, performers, singers, DJs, and live beat-boxers, as well. 

As soon as I got OVox installed into my system, it was a snap to get started and begin experimenting by inserting it onto an instrumental track for a new composition. The results were spectacular and sonically unique, serving to transform and solidify my work. In very short order, Waves OVox has become a standard device in my sound-design toolbox.

Website:  waves.com

Supported Formats: Mac/Windows; standalone, AAX, AU, VST2, VST3

Price: $149

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