Revoice Pro by Synchro Arts
Review by Gareth Ebbs
Synchro Arts Revoice Pro is a product I had heard other producers talking about in glowing terms. Working with projects featuring vocals, I felt it was time to look into some software to tighten up my vocals in the mix and hopefully speed up the time it takes to stack vocals and align pitching and timing across doubled vocal tracks, harmonies and the likes. With Logic as my main DAW these days, it has to be said the on-board Flex pitch and time parameters do serve a great purpose given the amazing value of Logic Pro X, but they have their limitations.
There are many famed products out there when one is looking at bringing audio into time and tune, but Revoice sounded interesting given its ability to analyse pitch and timing settings from track to track and also provide some of what they claimed were the most transparent automated doubles in the business. I was excited to review the product and test it out.
Its capabilities for ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) will also be an area some folks will be very interested in, but I didn’t use it for this purpose. Though its easy see now, how effective Revoice would be in that domain too.
Revoice is quite a layered plugin and takes a little bit of time to get your head around before you can jump on to processing - but it’s worth the effort. Synchro Arts has a pretty easy to follow manual in their help section and of course our favourite teacher of choice - the good old YouTube videos put together by Synchro Arts, which cover all relevant areas and the new features as a result of recent updates.
Processing of your audio is done outside your DAW in the standalone Revoice plugin. The methodology in getting your audio tracks in there will differ from DAW to DAW and you will have to have a look at the manual to see which applies to you, but it doesn’t take long to figure out. Once your audio tracks are in there then the fun can begin.
I chose a simple guitar / vocal demo Pop tune for this review. My intention was to tighten up the pitch and timings of the main vocal, the harmony line and to fatten out the sound with doubles of all the above created with the Revoice algorithms. Unfortunately I am neither a concert singer nor a concert guitar player - so please excuse the singing and playing, after all this is a product exhibition and not a performance one. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
You start by bringing in the tracks you wish to work on into the Revoice plugin which stacks the tracks like a mini DAW.
Prepping the Guide Track
The key to moving forward for a vocal project like this, which may be quite similar to the kind of general usage expected for the plugin, is importing your main vocal track (or whatever monophonic audio track you wish to work with as your guide for the rest) and making pitch and timing adjustments to this in order to establish it as your ‘Guide’ for the other tracks to follow. In version 3.0 onwards, audio warping and such editing is possible within the Revoice plugin environment itself, whereas I believe in previous versions it was not and you would have had to do it first in your DAW. An excellent development by Synchro Arts.
I started by going through the main vocal track and trying to iron out some pitch problems and timing problems in what was admittedly a shaky enough vocal performance. Those familiar with audio warping and flex audio in other DAWs will probably already be OK with the warp audio tool, with which you can manually apply warp points (right clicking is your friend in this environment and will lead you to most tools).
For those used to manipulating audio inside the various DAWs, there are some familiar looking visuals and tool options I recognised from the likes of Logic, Cubase and Protools when manually editing audio (see pic below of Edit Tools). There is extremely seamless control of the usual suspects like manual dragging, warping and smoothing of vibrato etc. Worth mention here are the ‘Join Tool’ and ‘Smooth Join Tool’, which can be very effective when gluing together notes which need a more legato feel and a general smoothing to connected notes.
There is also the option of highlighting the whole audio region and applying an automated pitch correction to all notes to the nearest semitone, which can be very helpful if you are in a pinch or dealing with performances that are very tight. It can be a good starting point.
In pitch-correcting the vocals, it’s very impressive how little artifacts are in the resulting audio - even at high levels of pitching up to an octave. I found I made seem pretty harsh edits, especially to the harmony tracks where I decided on a different melody altogether, with pitching up 6/7 semitones and the transparency is very impressive. In most situations I would have recorded these again but it’s good to know that Revoice can come to the rescue when you’re in jam and tight for time, which most of us always are.
After I had gone manually through the main lead vocal and harmony and ironed out any very obvious pitching and timing issues (this took some time, but manually adjusting this stuff is usually the best way to approach things), it was time to run my first Revoice Pro process.
This first process I used was the Revoice Pro unique Audio Performance Transfer (APT) process - which would be bringing the harmony I had just pitch-corrected, into time with the lead vocal, by using the lead vocal as a guide. Implementing the process is simple and the actual processing only takes seconds, though like anything, it will take a little prep time and perhaps watching a couple of the very helpful Youtube tutorials they have online, to get your head around what you’re doing. The PDF manual is also easy to follow. By using the lead as a guide for alignment, Revoice makes a new version (let’s call this Harmony Output 1) of the manually pitch-corrected harmony, which is now aligned with the main lead vocal. The Preset I chose for this was ‘Tight Timing Only’ because I was only aligning with the main vocal and not taking pitch direction from it.
The harmony was OK to begin with but I wanted to tighten up the timing a little and I also even changed the melody line which you may notice too . This worked well and you can immediately hear the tighter harmony line in the sound examples (Audio Clip 2). That was one of those cool “wow” moments you have, for me. It sounds very transparent too. If you have real double(s) of your harmony track, at this point you could now apply the timing AND the pitch of Harmony Output 1, to other harmony tracks, and bring them in line with the processed harmony. There are various presets for this available - a good suggestions might be to use the ‘Slightly Loose Time and Pitch’ setting for this, to keep it sounding quite organic. As I was a little short on time, I chose to use to Doubler function to create a double of Harmony Output 1, with the Doubler preset ‘Vocal Moderate’. You could stack these harmonies until the cows come up if you wish. Endless possibilities.
This feature, for some reason, is the feature that excited me most to test out. The market is full of products and Youtube full of videos telling you how to get a real-sounding double of audio, when you don’t have a real double to work with. I have had decent results with other methods by manually adjusting pitch and time etc but I was hoping for better results with Revoice. I wasn’t disappointed. If I had one criticism of the plugin, it is that the user interface looks a been dated...but the reality is, it is behind the scenes in the Synchro Arts algorithms where the magic happens.
By choosing your guide track, you can then select the ‘Doubler’ option in the New Process menu. In the Doubler preset menu there are a range of excellent presets. I chose ‘Vocal Moderate’ which applies a 25 millisecond Average Delay, as well a range of other customisable parameters like Modulation, Formant, Vibrato and Pitch Detection.
I processed two main vocal doubles using similar methods and then I also used the Doubler to double up the processed Harmony Output 1. A very, very cool feature of the Double parameters is the ability to treat the delay times in stereo, which means the left and right channels can be slightly varied in terms of delay, adding to that sense of randomness. Importantly, in previous versions, negative delay numbers were not possible - but this has been rectified by Synchro Arts since version 3.0. So now you can have your doubles coming in before and after your main lead vocal or instrument just like what would happen in the real world. Sweet! I had two double tracks of the lead vocal and I set the pre and post delay times to 4 different values for those 4 channels. I really liked the results. With more time I might have honed them even more but I hope you get the idea from the sound examples (Clips 4 & 5) how cool this plugin is.
Within the Revoice environment it is possible to control your tracks much like you would in your DAW, with mute, volume, pan and solo controls allowing you to audition how your final mix might sound after you export your processed tracks back to your DAW.
Exporting the audio was very simple. Depending on your DAW of choice, options are varied and many DAWs will support a simple drag and drop approach. To play it safe I used the export audio to file method, and then dragged the tracks back into Logic. The interface supports multitrack bouncing, with tickboxes facilitating a choice of tracks and you can also export your whole project as one mixed stereo file.
Other cool features that I brushed upon were:
- The ability to A/B different process performances. This is great for auditioning the results of different parameter settings before you decide which is best
- The ‘Normal flexibility and Pitch’ algorithm - a new algorithm which helps align audio material which may not have pronounced transients. This will also focus on things like changes in pitch to identify where sections and changes are.
- Grouping of tracks with the Revoice environment - handy when tracks are stacking up and you may need to group tracks, hide them from view and free up some screen space
- For those upgrading / updating there is a new bars n beats / divisions view and also a scales function where notes can be automatically pitched according to your musical scale of choice
- You can also fully automate the parameters of any processed tracks - for example easing up on doubling intensity in verses or choruses, volume automation, or loosening the alignment timing in certain sections of the song you might want to feel a little grungier. These changes are then rendered before you export back to your DAW.
The only thing I wondered while working in the Revoice environment was how nice it might be in future versions, to include a metronome as there doesn’t seem to be one (I could be wrong, as I feel I have only scratched the surface on Revoice). This isn’t a huge problem as it’s easy (and more musical probably) to import an instrumental guide track from your DAW and work with that as a timing guide, but perhaps this might add to the wealth of features it already has.
I think you can probably imagine how much you might be able to push this by stacking and stacking audio tracks and playing around with the various parameters to get some truly gigantic and wild mixes going on with grouped and harmonised vocals and instruments. Or else to just achieve a super slamming, thick and dynamic solo pop vocal for instance.
It also needs to be said - that with better source material, you will get better results. I’m not the greatest singer, but with my limited talent, we got some decent results in the end. Also with more time to play around with all the features, I’m sure I could unlock bigger and better ways to take advantage of the Revoice Plugin.
For vocal processing it certainly the best plugin I have come across for this type of work. Nothing has come close in creating that holy grail of vocal processing - a quick and human-sounding double. And the alignment features, once you get the hang of the processes, are quick and extremely impressive.
The price tag may put off some of the more casual music creators. It might be too expensive for a hobbyist but I suspect that is not Synchro Arts’ target market. For anyone in the more serious or commercial realms of music production, regularly dealing with content that requires a reasonable degree of monophonic audio processing and stacking, this will easily pay for itself in the time saving and audio quality. An incredible and quite unique product.
Synchro Arts are quick to tell you that this is a plugin used by many of the top producers around the world. That is very easy to believe.
Highly, highly recommended for serious music producers.
Review by Gareth Ebbs
Gareth Ebbs is a Songwriter, Composer, Producer and Noisemaker from Dublin, Ireland.