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So you’re entering the dehumanising world of robotic voices…
Attempting to find the right sound for you amongst the sharp, emotionless and downright alien sounding tones you can get from digitally processed vocals can be a veritable nightmare – so here are 5 different paths you can take to start your computer communicating with you!
1. Ring Modulation
Ring modulators multiply two waveforms together and output the sum and difference of the frequencies present in each waveform. This creates a signal with lots of harmonic overtones from both signals, making some mental metallic sounds.
While ring modulation has an uncanny habit of destroying melodic sounds, it works wonders on speech. I fact, chances are you’ve already hear the effects of ring modulation on vocals exclaiming “Exterminate!” at you – the Daleks in Doctor Who are great examples of the robotic tones that can be achieved.
2. Speech Synthesis
If you just don’t want the bother of recording, then speech synthesis is for you! This method entails the computer generating the vocals from scratch.
Great if you’re going for that entirely artificial “A computer is talking to you” or “This is what they thought robots sounded like in the 1950s” effect with your Robovocals.
3. Pitch Correction
Automatically correcting pitch can have more uses than just on singing vocals – Crank up the speed and auto-tune amount to full and get that Cher – Believe vocal effect. Then, simply run your speech through it to give it a very synthetic tone!
4. Comb Filter
For a cheap and quick metallic voice that gives an unmistakeable air of robosity (I just invented that word, hope you don’t mind), a comb filter is the way to go – it’s essentially a really quick delay (under 10ms) with a really high feedback. The sharpness of the metallic tone is ideal for Decepticon-like vocals.
Speaking of Decepticons, “Soundwave” from the original transformers series was brought to life (kinda) by running the voice actor through a vocoder! This device removed all the original tone and changed the pitch to whatever the synth plugged into the vocoder’s carrier signal played. This allowed the Decepticonic tones to come through when the sound engineers played his voice through a minor second chord. Pure evil.
And a bonus suggestion:
Vocaloids – computer programs that generate singing vocals from just lyrics and melody without a microphone in sight! These are programs that are getting better by the year and soon we’ll no doubt see them hit the charts. Another example of robots coming over here and taking our jobs…