What is a Vocoder? The 5 Best Plugins For Synth Voice Effects

What is a Vocoder?

Unlocking the potential of a vocoder is essential for enthusiasts of vintage synth techniques. It’s a unique synthesis method that harnesses the qualities of the human voice to shape sound. However, vocoders offer more than just the iconic robot voice effect; they serve as remarkable sound design tools.

If you’re new to vocoders, the setup process might seem daunting. In this article, we will delve into the world of vocoders, covering their definition, practical usage, and recommend the top five plugins to integrate into your digital audio workstation (DAW).

Get ready to embark on a journey of sonic exploration. Let’s dive in!

What is a vocoder?

Experience the captivating magic of a vocoder, the voice encoder that merges the distinct qualities of a human voice with the spectral content of a synthesizer. This unique audio processing device gives rise to a blended sound that resonates with a robotic or futuristic vocal effect.

If you’ve encountered synthesized voices reminiscent of retro sci-fi robots in music tracks, you’ve already delved into the world of vocoders.

If you’ve encountered a track featuring a synthesized voice reminiscent of a retro sci-fi robot, then you’re likely acquainted with the distinctive vocoder effect.

A vocoder operates by overlaying a modulator signal, captured by a microphone, onto a carrier signal generated by a synthesizer.

In the modulator section, the microphone output is divided into multiple frequency bands, each with a corresponding bandpass filter that aims to replicate its characteristics. To achieve a lifelike sound, advanced vocoders employ numerous individual bandpass filters in their signal processing. As the carrier signal traverses the filter bank, the vocal qualities present in the modulator signal are encoded onto the carrier.

How to use a vocoder in music

A vocoder necessitates an input source to encode vocal characteristics onto the synthesized signal.

Harness the vocoder’s power by singing into a microphone and playing synthesizer parts on a MIDI controller. Unleash captivating vocal effects and infuse your music with unique allure.

Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Set up your tracks: Create an audio track for your voice and a MIDI track for your synthesizer or instrument plugin. Assign the microphone input to the audio track and set the MIDI input to your MIDI controller.
  2. Insert the vocoder plugin: Add a vocoder plugin to a new track or an existing instrument track in your digital audio workstation.
  3. Configure the inputs: To make the vocoder work, you need to set up the inputs correctly. Assign the modulator input to receive the signal from your vocal track and the carrier input to receive the signal from your MIDI-controlled instrument.
  4. Record your performance: Arm the audio and MIDI tracks for recording. As you sing or speak into the microphone and play notes on your MIDI controller, the vocoder will blend the two signals in real-time, creating the desired robotic or synthesized vocal effect.
  5. Fine-tune the settings: Explore the various parameters offered by your vocoder plugin. Adjust the number of frequency bands, experiment with formant shifting, or tweak envelope settings to shape your vocoder sound and achieve the perfect effect for your production.

Top 5 Vocoder Plugins for Creating Synthetic Vocal Effects

Now that we have covered the fundamentals, you’re likely eager to explore the best plugin options to kickstart your vocoder journey.

Here are our top picks:

1. Softube Vocoder


Experience the simplicity and power of the Softube Vocoder, an exceptional embodiment of the finest vocoding capabilities.

This plugin offers a user-friendly interface and a specially designed 6-voice carrier synth, complete with intuitive controls and convenient chord transposition features.

The standout attribute lies in its remarkable 20-band filter bank, ensuring exceptional precision in voice resynthesis and delivering unparalleled detail.

2. TAL-Vocoder


For budget-conscious producers, the TAL-Vocoder is an outstanding free vocoder plugin that doesn’t compromise on quality.

Emulating a renowned analog vocoder style, it features a built-in synthesizer with pulse and saw waveform selections.

TAL-Vocoder is beginner-friendly and budget-friendly, making it an ideal choice for vocoding newcomers.

3. Arturia Vocoder V



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