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In-depth Feature:  Emagic EVOC20
Trevor Curwen writes: .

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The Vocoder

All three EVOC20 plug-ins look similar and have some common features, all for example have a stereo width control at their output, but are quite distinct from each other in their functions. The virtual instrument version of the EVOC 20 is the EVOC20 PS, the PS standing for polysynth as this is a vocoder with a 16 voice polysynth for its synthesis input. Based around a pair of oscillators with 50 waveforms, FM and noise options plus envelope and resonant filter, the synth also has an 'analogue' parameter for emulating bit of that old analog detuning drift. An 'ensemble' chorus effect adds a bit of swirl. Once opened as an audio instrument in Logic the synth can be played via Midi purely as a synth if desired, a bunch of presets covering a range of workable sounds, but the real fun starts when you start vocoding by assigning a sound to the sidechain (analysis) input to be superimposed onto that synth sound. The sidechain input can be taken from any of Logic's audio tracks, live inputs or busses giving plenty of options and there are several parameters available to make sure that the signal has maximum effect, particularly useful are attack and release times of the envelope followers and a voiced/unvoiced detector which can increase the intelligibility of speech for more potent vocoding effects. There is also a freeze function which can instantly capture the characteristics of the analysis signal at a particular point to impose a sustained and static rather than a constantly changing signal on to the synthesis section.

The input is analysed across a total of 20 resonant filter bands that are available in the EVOC20 - although the absolute number can be specified (down to as low as 5) by the user. The greater the number of bands the greater the articulation but a smaller number of bands can create some crustier lo-fi results. Filter bands are graphically represented by a set of vertical lines in a large window, the upper half of which applies to the analysis section, the bottom half to the synthesis section so that the relationship between the two is always immediately apparent. The total range of frequencies allowed to pass by the filters is set by a bandpass filter represented by a blue bar with movable end points positioned above the filter window. The default range runs from 75Hz to 8kHz but a narrower band of frequencies can be selected if more radically altered sounds are needed. The filter bands are distributed evenly across whatever range is set.

The relationship between the analysis filter bank and the synthesis filter bank is altered by formant stretch and shift parameters which work on the synthesis bank to respectively alter the width of the bands or move them up or down in frequency relative to the analysis bank. The timbral changes created by this can be put under the control of a pair of LFOs which can run free or synced to the sequencer's tempo putting a great deal of movement into the sound.

Overall the operation of the PS is intuitive and the results are very smooth. With the array of synth sounds on offer and the clarity of speech produced by the accurate tracking of the incoming analysis signal it can provide a great range of vintage vocoder effects that will be instantly familiar. It can also take things well beyond the standard stuff using the formant stretching and shifting to create both radical and subtle changes of frequency either statically or changing over time.

If you're into sampling or drum machines, Roger Linn is one of those names that is or certainly should be, be familiar to you. His innovations in music technology go back as far as 1979 with the release of the worlds first sampled drum machine - the LM-1 and subsequently the LinnDrumm and Linn 9000, lead to some defining moments in the music of that era - Joy Division's Blue Monday, and many of Prince's finest recordings. In 1988, Roger teamed up with Akai to create another classic instrument of it's time, the MPC 60 followed by the MPC 3000 in 1994. Roger’s flare for design and Akai's marketing and distribution muscle formed a perfect partnership that spawned a whole generation of beats and sampling machines. Even today the MPC 60 is held in high esteem - and the MPC 3000 and it's offspring almost totally ruled the world of Hip Hop and Rn'B for a time - some might say still do.

Roger Linn is still in the business of innovation with his new company, Roger Linn Design – responsible for the award winning beat sync'd filter, amp modeling stomp-box Adrenalinn and this years Adrenalinn II. We talked to Roger about past classics and future plans.

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