By: Barry Rudolph
The Sonnox’ VoxDoubler plug-ins are the first two new processors in their Toolbox Series coded exactly for vocals. Music mixers can now easily fatten up vocals dimensionally in stereo with the VoxD Widen plug-in or more conventionally, double-track it with the VoxD Thicken plug.
VoxD Widen creates two new mono voices panned left and right, while VoxD Thicken generates a new stereo voice on top of the original vocal track. Both these plug-ins will work as inserts using their onboard Wet/Dry Mix control or as send/return processors using the Aux mode.
I would add that usually for plug-ins like VoxD Widen and Thicken that must be adjusted very specifically to a particular source, I insert them right on the track. Good sounding vocal doubling depends entirely on how you set the controls (duh!) and understanding the parameters’ individual functionality is easy to hear when you first start out.
There are four controls common to both Widen and Thicken. At the bottom of the GUI are Timing, Pitch, Depth and Tone. Timing and Pitch are “humanize” settings to set how the plug-in mimics both the timing and pitch irregularities of singing humans. These two controls are not static but randomly change (within a small range) how close in time and pitch the generated double is.
The Depth control uses a filter and a static delay time to simulate a physical distance from the original vocal. This changes presence; as if the new vocal double was a little off-mic—awesome and I tend to use a lot of it! The Tone control knob is a tilt equalizer and by rotating it towards the left (-) you’ll darken the double-track audio. Turn it towards right (+) to brighten. Tone helps to “blend” the vocal into the track. Both plugs also have a “Too Loud” alert warning light that comes up in the middle of the GUI if the incoming level gets too hot and may distort.
VoxD Widen is only available as a stereo plug-in. In Pro Tools, I used Widen on a lead vocal as a mono-to-stereo insert. I wanted to enhance a female singer’s vocal track so that when she sang in her upper registers, it would still sound big and not thin out. The chain: EQ (DMG Equality DSP), Compression (Klanghelm DC1A) followed by Sonnox VoxD Widen did it!
VoxD Widen has a Width control that I liked setting to mono for verses and then “opening” it up to full stereo in choruses to blend better with the real, sung harmony/double track I already had. Of course all the controls are automatable including the Mix Wet/Dry control that I would set lower in the verses and a little higher in the choruses.
If you’re looking for a utility stereo-izer effect to use for various elements in your mix, VoxD Widen works great as a send/return effect and it’s worth the money alone for that.
I found VoxD Thicken great to “bulk up” mono vocals and guitars. Mono instances of Thicken come up with the Stereo Spread greyed out (thoughtful). In stereo instances, Stereo Spread takes on the same role as the Width control knob in a stereo instance of VoxD Widen. I found VoxD Thicken to work better as an insert plug-in than a send/return effect.
I liked using Thicken for changing the nature of each of a pair of double-track guitars so they didn’t sound like the same guitar and player. You can set the two instances of Thicken slightly different on each track. I used very little Pitch and Timing amounts—minimal pitch and time change so as to make them fatter and more distinctive within the mix.
So I am in agreement with Warren on these; we both love “big” on the new Sonnox Toolbox VoxDoubler plug-ins! But know that compared to EQ or compressor plug-ins, they both use quite a bit of CPU and time processing (latency) due to analyzing and creating real-time and realistic pitch and timing changes. You may have to increase your buffer size or freeze tracks, but a little of this effect goes a long way. Also know that the stereo effect collapses well down into mono and you’ll have a wide range of colors possible using them in a chain with an EQ and/or compressor plugs.
The VoxDoubler plug-in suite is available Native in AAX, AU, VST formats and sells for: $99MSRP.