It’s one of the trickiest musical instruments to emulate with samples, but the human voice is well represented among high-end KONTAKT libraries. Spend a bit of money, and you’ll have access to a diversity of expressive virtual singers, mix-filling cinematic choirs, and elaborately manipulated extrapolations. But you don’t have to splash out to get started with quality laryngeal-based NKIs. To prove the point, we’ve curated a selection of five of the best free vocal KONTAKT libraries around.
From powerful BVs and smooth legato sustains, to quirky voice-based sound design and an emulation of one of the greatest vocal productions of all time, every member of our thrift-conscious quintet brings something different to your desktop studio – and all are well worth downloading. Four of them require the full version of KONTAKT, but the Soniccouture Tape Choir is good to go with just the free KONTAKT PLAYER, which you can grab here.
Decent Samples Dave Choir
To create this highly focused vocal ensemble library, developer Dave Hilowitz recorded himself singing ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ 16 times, over a total of 352 notes, then turned the resulting multisample bank into a playable choir. 22 separately sampled notes range down into the baritone register, and you can elect to play either sound on its own, or both together – either layered or crossfaded with the mod wheel. An ADSR envelope is on board for dynamic contouring, convolution reverb provides ambience, and despite the lack of round robins, this is a handy option for quick and easy male vocal pads.
Rastsound Vocal Morphs II
Built for deployment in the more cerebral styles of electronic music – IDM, cinematic, ambient, etc. – Vocal Morphs II compiles a variety of vocal loops and one-shots (90 samples in total – pads, cut-ups, glitches, formant shifts, pure recordings and more) into a colourful and versatile instrument. There’s an impressive amount of processing on offer, including LFO-modulated filtering and repitching, an ASR envelope, stereo widening, and Reverb, Delay, Chorus and Distortion effects; and optional portamento adds performance fluidity. More of a sound-design tool than a source of conventional vocal lines, Vocal Morphs II makes truly awesome noises.
Soniccouture Tape Choir
KONTAKT libraries don’t get any more niche than Soniccouture’s reverential freebie, which is geared up to do one thing and one thing only: recreating the legendary multi-layered ‘infinite’ vocal pad from 10cc’s ’70s hit ‘I’m Not In Love’. Tracking, tape-looping and mixing the groundbreaking original was a famously epic endeavour, but Tape Choir boils the process down to a an intuitive engine in which each key across a two-octave range plays an individually recorded stacked vocal note, with randomised start times and adjustable detune delivering that huge ensemble sound. Tape emulation, a multimode filter, an ADSR envelope and an extensive selection of convolution reverb types enable shaping of the ‘choir’, and the library is for KONTAKT PLAYER, too, so you don’t even need the full KONTAKT to use it.
Online session agency SoundBetter puts five of its superb for-hire backing singers at your fingertips via its straightforward bespoke KONTAKT engine. Two knobs facilitate singer selection – Mickey, Thomas, Jessica, Scott or Jordiii – and one of six vowel articulations – ’Ah’, ’Oh’ or ‘Ooh’, each in Soft and Loud versions – and every note in the range (which varies between singers) has been individually sampled as a stack of four unison layers. Glossy and up-front, Singers is the perfect backing vocal library for pop, RnB and other commercial styles.
Ivy Audio Clare Solo
This one’s all about expressive playability and the sheer quality of the vocal recordings at its core. Acclaimed American singer Clare Demer has been captured belting out a series of non-verbal sustains, including separate release samples and full-length legato transitions, using handmade Cloud JRS-34 ribbon mics, a Millennia preamp and an Aurora converter. The results are simply beautiful, even before your dial in the convolution reverb; and with the offset and envelope timings of the legato and release samples being adjustable in the Settings panel, there’s more customisation on the cards than appearances first suggest.
Sound design: Konstantin Grismann