Sunday, July 26, 2015

Setting Up Vocoders in Cubase Part 4: TAL-Vocoder

This is part 4 of a multi-part tutorial on setting up vocoder plugins in Cubase. See part 1 if you missed the introduction.

TAL-Vocoder is a free vintage vocoder emulation produced by one of my favorite indie plugin publishers, Togu Audio Line. While I'm not 100% certain, I think TAL-Vocoder might be the only free vocoder plugin that is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavors. This plugin only offers VST 2 format, not VST 3, meaning that configuring it for external carrier use is very different from what you do with Waldorf Lector or XILS V+. We're going to take a look at two different configurations: One using TAL-Vocoder's built-in synth engine as the carrier, and another using an external carrier.

The screenshots below use the Vocoder Tutorial Projects that you can download at the Ultimate Outsider Downloads page.


In this configuration we'll use TAL-Vocoder's built-in synthesizer as the carrier. This means we need an audio track or group channel to serve as the modulator (voice), and a MIDI track to play the carrier signal on the plugin's synth. The Vocoder Internal Carrier demo project in the tutorial projects download is already set up for this.
  1. In the Vocoder Internal Carrier demo project (or your own Cubase project), add TAL-Vocoder as an insert on the audio track or group channel you wish to use as your modulator. (If you are using a group channel in a Cubase project of your own, make sure that your modulator source's output is not routed to Cubase's "Stereo Out," because if it is, then you will always hear the raw modulator audio mixed in with TAL-Vocoder's outputs.)

  2. The default preset, A Voice Robot 1, is a good one to begin with.

  3. On your MIDI track's inspector, route the track's MIDI output to your TAL-Vocoder instance, as shown here:
  4. IMPORTANT: TAL-Vocoder is quite loud at its default settings. Dial back the volume of your Modulator Audio track to around -12db before continuing. If you're using a preset with the CHORUS feature toggled on, dial back a little further, like -15db or so to avoid clipping.

  5. Begin playback on a section of your project that loops your modulator and carrier tracks. You should now hear a vocoded harmony line. There isn't any visual feedback in TAL-Vocoder except for a single clipping LED.

If you followed along using the tutorial project, the result should sound like this:


In this configuration, we'll pass audio signals for both modulator and carrier. The Vocoder External Carrier demo project includes an audio clip to use for the carrier, but the carrier could be a VST instrument as well if you have programmed MIDI that matches your audio material. Instead of using a sidechain input for carrier audio like we're able to do with Waldorf Lector and XILS V+, TAL-Vocoder has to sit on a single stereo track or group that uses the left and right channels to carry the modulator and carrier audio separately.

  1. In the Vocoder External Carrier demo project (or your own Cubase project), select Project > Add Track > Group Channel and create a Stereo group named TAL-Vocoder.
  2. Add TAL-Vocoder as an insert on the newly-created group channel.
  3. I like the preset B Voice Robot Harmonic for this configuration.

  4. Click the Input Mode On button so that the green LED is lit.
  5. Pan your Modulator Audio channel all the way to the right and route the track's audio output to the TAL-Vocoder group.
  6. If you're using an audio track or group channel as your carrier signal, select that track in Cubase. In the Carrier track's inspector, pan it all the way to the left and route its output to the TAL-Vocoder group.

    Otherwise, if you are using a VST plugin as your carrier, open the MixConsole, and on the channel strip where your plugin resides, pan the track to the left and change the output routing to the TAL-Vocoder group channel.
  7. Some of the TAL-Vocoder presets can be pretty loud. Dial back the volume of your TAL-Vocoder group track to at least -6db before continuing.

  8. Begin playback on a section of your project that loops your modulator and carrier tracks.  If you hear distortion, you might have to check the levels of your group channel, the modulator, or the carrier. If you don't hear anything, make sure the green Input Mode On button is pressed (I've noticed it sometimes toggles off when switching presets).
If you followed along using the tutorial project, the result should sound like this:


If you were successful in following the above use cases, you should now be able to jump in and explore TAL-Vocoder's various features.

In the next part of this tutorial, we'll set up Image-Line Vocodex...


Johan said...


Thanks for the tutorial.
I can get the vocoder to work in Cubase (with internal- and external carrier), but it's not clear to me how you record the the vocoder effect. I want to record the vocoder effect on a second audio track but I don't know how route the signal to that track. Could you explain that?

Best regards,


Ultimate Outsider said...

@Johan - I am not at my DAW right now, but can you say what you're trying to achieve? Do you want to render out a separate WAV file that only contains the vocoder signal, or are you trying to render out a whole project with the vocoder track as one part? (Because in the latter if you hear the vocoder it will render out when you mix down to audio. Actually in the mix down window you can choose to render individual tracks- in which case you would choose the "TAL Vocoder" group channel as the track to render.) If you're just trying to create a single sample, you could use Cubase's render in place feature, but I need to get back on the DAW to figure out the routing.

Johan said...

I would like to create a seperate WAV file that only contains the vocoder signal. Unfortunately, the DAW that I'm using, Cubase 10 Elements, doesn't have the Render in Place option. Is there another way to achieve this?

Ultimate Outsider said...

@Johan - I do not know all the limitations of Elements. I have Cubase 9 Pro here, and what I am able to do is make it so the vocoded signal is the only thing I hear when I am playing the track either because it's the only audio channel or other channels are muted. Next, I set the loop region markers to the beginning and end of where I want to record. (But disable looping for export purposes.) Then I go to File > Export > Audio Mixdown. In there I have the Stereo Out selected under Channel Selection and Wave File selected for File Format. Then all I have to do is click Export. This creates a WAV file I can use elsewhere. (Note: You might wanna select 16 or 24 bit depth if you want to use the sample in other tools. The Cubase Pro default of 32-bit isn't widely supported.)