What the PVOC?

by protman | 20210223

UPDATE: (to be updated with audio examples soon)

UPDATE: (I'm not sure if these are legal to use for IronChefOfMusic remixes, since they may be completely resynthesizing the source ingredients without actually using the ingredients in the resulting output.)


Using my vastly limited knowledge and half-assed-internet-research, here’s some information about PHASE VOCODERING (PVOC), and a list of my favorite VST plugins that use it.

First (a long time ago) I wanted to know how some of the odd sounds were created for use in Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker and surrounding singles/albums. They had elements with a corrupt low-bitrate MP3 squishy sound, applied in a deliberate way.

I performed a bit of searching for audio plugins based on terms like “window”-licker, spectral, FFT, and vst. Being a long time Cooledit user, I assumed there was some form of FFT based filtering going on, and it was the “spectral” view of the other track on the Windowlicker single that exposed the encoded scary face. Also, at the time, I was often coming across anecdotes of how the CDP (Composers Desktop Project) was something amazing, but reserved for idiot-savant-csound people with pony-tails and math degrees.




This led me to a page with free (32bit) PVOC vsts that demonstrate the fundamentals of what phase-vocoding can do.

I’m surprised the page is still online, so here:

The gist is:

  • PVACCU:  spectral accumulation. The most extreme effect of the three! Applies feedback echo to each analysis channel, with the possibility also to apply a pitch glissando up or down. Echo is amplitude dependent, so this effect is most apparent when applied to percussive sounds, or any sound with distinct changes.
  • PVEXAG: exaggerates the spectrum. Positive exaggeration will emphasize spectral peaks, eventually becoming distinct pitches. Negative exaggeration flattens peaks, and larger values will effectively generate  a granular noise. This can sometimes be effective for some percussive sounds, such as drum loops.
  • PVTRANSP: an unsophisticated pitch shifter, offering a range of one octave up and down. Really little more than a demo of the fact it can be done at all!


Some additional free and not free plugins to try:

Fragmental (free)

Fragmental is a multi-effect, but about half of them use the three aforementioned PVOC expressions. 


DtBlkFx (free)

I think this is the most familiar one to most people. It’s also a multi-effect, and takes a bit of effort to wrangle all the parameters to use with intent.


Soundhack pvoc kit

I actually haven’t tried these yet since they aren’t free, and are a little pricey, but I'll give them a shot soon.

soundhack pvoc kit


One issue to note about all PVOC plugins I have tried is that if your DAW supports automatic plugin delay compensation, you may notice quite a delay by the time audio reaches your master output.




Some of My Favorite Best FREE VST Plugins of Any Year but 2020: Round 2

by protman | 20210104

Round one listed some packs of free VST plugins with the added purpose of ease of availability and installation so you don't have to worry as much about missing plugins when loading old tracks into your DAW. Today's list includes a few individual oddball plugins that have a similar purpose, but aren't quite the RSTLNE of DSP.


Xfer Records OTT

Basically, you can take any channel of harsh sounds or an individual sample/instrument, drop OTT into the chain, and not worry about how it fits into the mix, because it will simply always be OTT of the mix. After meddling with with the downward and upward compression or not, you can then use it like a DJ boost or kill EQ to cut the high, low and/or mid. Secretly, I'll even use it on the master channel at 1% depth or so to use the upward compression and pull a little bit of the more subliminal noise out of a mix.

Xfer Records OTT

OTT on Xfer Records


Arguru's Stardust

Stardust had almost an identical purpose for me as OTT before I found OTT. It provides a way to take a channel of overly dynamic harsh or soft sounds, usually created after slicing up IronChefOfMusic ingredients, and gets everything into the same space. It doesn't have upward compression, but the multiband compression only really works well with an attack of at least five milliseconds, so the result is you will get highly boosted transients, but the rest will be will be smoothed out, which can create some uncannily weird sounds depending on what you put through it.

Arguru Stardust

Stardust on KVR Audio


Granaliser by Morfiki? 👎

I used to really like the Granaliser plugin, the "morphing" options are extra neat, but it tended to be a bit crashy, it's only available as 32bit, and even though there's a "kids" version, I don't really want to talk about it.


👍 Argotlunar.

Get Argotlunar instead. It is a great go-to, no-frills, granulator, also a great tool for learning the science behind granular synthesis.




Previous: Some of My Favorite Best FREE VST Plugins of Any Year but 2020: Round 1

Some of My Favorite Best FREE VST Plugins of Any Year but 2020: Round 1

by protman | 20201230

Here are some free VSTs I use all the time.


They're also now available in 64bit!

This is one of the few free swiss-army sets of plugins that I'll always install as soon as I reinstall an OS. There's no installer, they're GUI-less, and among the basics, like delay and limiting, there are some uniquely useful and creative plugins like Tracker, which has four types of envelope following and re-synthesis, and DubDelay, which is nice to use subtly with a LFO on the delay time.

What's great sticking with plugins that are in free packs like this, with no installers or other dependencies, is that you can be up and running with your old tracks and projects after reinstalling your OS and/or favorite DAW on a new system, without worrying about managing your usernames, passwords, 2FA, portals, suites, plugin managers, etc from services like some I don't really want to mention. It also makes them more future-proof, because who knows what will happen when Native Instruments HQ gets nuked and you want to install Fruity Loops on a used netbook you found in a dumpster.

mda DubDelay in Renoise



Also available in 64bit. 
(why do I still have the 32bit versions installed here?)

For the same reasons as above; no installer, swiss-army, both standard and fun effects, get up and running fast so you don't have to find and install granalizer just to correctly render a track you made seven years ago.

Some of my favorite from this collection are GGrain, a granulator, GSnap, a quite functional (possibly T-Painful) pitch corrector that also supports MIDI input, and GGate, which I quickly can toss on any external mic or instrument input.




Requires using the installer, and some are free to not pay for.

MeldaProduction's free vs pay options within the installer creates a vague experience compared to the 100% free mda-vst and GVST plugins, but the free options that come with the installer provide a decent set of useful necessities, though the free plugins in free mode have a little nag at the bottom that my brain is now fine with ignoring. The one I use the most is the MRecorder since I'm perpetually routing all of my system's audio through my DAW, and often want to sample a movie or recording I'm playing in another app.

MRecorder has a nice feature that appends the time to the end of the filename so you can record to multiple separate files consecutively. 

MeldaProduction MRecorder


Listen to some random remixes