As the focal element in any track, the vocal always needs to stand out, and one of the most effective ways to make that happen – particularly in electronic music – is through imaginative and adventurous effects processing. The success of such endeavours, however, depends in no small part on the nature and quality of the effects in question, so it’s imperative to look beyond generic reverbs, delays and other devices when tailoring your virtual rack to the quintessentially organic nuances of the human voice.
Enter, then, the REAKTOR User Library, wherein you’ll discover a bottomless treasure trove of spectacular REAKTOR Ensembles to help you take your vocal recordings and samples to new heights. Here are five of our favourites, all of them available to download for free (provided you own the full version of REAKTOR).
Prolific Ensemble builder Barry Galloway’s software spring reverb independently models the spring ‘compression’ and ‘shear’ propagation waves using a shedload of all-pass filters, as well as the reverb itself. This – plus the employment of a convolution module in the ‘shear’ component – results in a pretty hefty CPU hit, but the fabulously dark, sproingy sounds you get in return are well worth the expense.
Originally developed as part of Barry’s Syntrix SYNTRX emulation, but greatly improved in the transition to self-containment, Spring Lab makes for a characterful vocal spatialising option, capable of everything from realistic tanks to wild, spaced-out delays.
Deep Channel One
The retro vibes keep on flowing with Der Schimi’s RE-201 Space Echo-inspired effect. Naturally, you get the 12 dial-selected modes of said classic hardware, each one configuring the routing of three tape heads and/or a spring reverb; but Deep Channel One adds plenty of extra features to the mix too, including tape aging, wow and flutter, three reverb algorithms, two filter sections, additional routing options, and modulated noise.
There are quite a few Space Echo plugins on the market these days, but Deep Channel One genuinely holds it own, despite being completely free for REAKTOR users. It’s just the thing for dub-style vocal treatments and high-feedback delay spins.
Whether you just want to add a touch of subtly enhancing grit and movement to a vocal, or make it sound like it’s coming off a decades-old cassette that’s been left out in the sun for a week, Jörg Holzamer’s iconoclastic Ensemble delivers the electromagnetic goods.
Bandsalat is essentially a tape sim, but one specifically geared up for degradation. Adjustable tape and deck properties comprise Wow, Flutter and Noise, natch, as well as Azimuth calibration and Drift, and low- and high-pass filters; and there’s also stereo widening, a manipulable feedback delay circuit, and even a Pause button for tape stop effects. An unmissable download for synthwave and lo-fi producers.
The Howler V2
Described as a “spectral harmonic distortion reverb”, Tim Richter’s lupine signal processor draws beautiful harmonics, textures and tails out of vocals of all kinds, for blending in as frequency-rich spatial effects or deployment on their own as eerie soundscapes. The A view contains just five reverb and distortion controls for quick and intuitive tweaking, but when you want to get into the details, the B view provides access to envelope follower timings, and the full array of filter parameters.
The Howler V2 might not be the most versatile of Ensembles, but there’s nothing else quite like it when it comes to conjuring up instant atmosphere of the kind that conventional reverb just can’t match.
Quite simply one of the finest reverbs in the User Library, Vitaverb2 eschews extraneous technological bells and whistles, instead prioritising ease of use and sheer quality of output. Rather than the usual ‘time’ and ‘size’ parameters, Vitaverb2’s control panel describes reverb tail shaping in terms of Attack, Decay and Release, the first of which positions a useful ‘fade-in’ stage immediately after the pre-delay. The Damping section, meanwhile, operates across three frequency bands, the middle one sweepable; and the Width knob ranges from mono to super-wide.
Most importantly, though, Vitaly Zolotarev’s fuss-free ’verb sounds truly incredible on vocals, imbuing them with warmth, colour and a perfectly realised sense of space.