Marc Marc Amsterdam 2002
Natural M2 VOC
Analog Natural Vocoder

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The first Natural sounding Vocoder is yet to come...
Vocoders always have been in demand for their ability to transform the human voice into all sorts of alien sounding voices. The original idea behind the musical application of Vocoders is to give the articulation and emotion of the human voice to a musical instrument, while maintaining its instrumental quality. In short: make the instrument sing!
Because of imperfections in the original design of Analogue Vocoders and some fundamental misunderstandings of electronic engineers in this field, who were basically re-designing the original lab-equipment, used for vocal analysis research, the limitations and imperfections of the early machines were copied into each so called next generation of Vocoder equipment. As a result, the practical use of the Vocoder still is mostly limited to the creation of robotics, alien, or otherwise distorted voices. Nothing natural at all.
With the application of digital techniques (in hardware as well as software) one would expect an improvement of the original idea. This however seems not to be achieved. The complete ranges of digital and software Vocoders mainly show improvement in the available range of weird effects, with no positive effect on the intelligibility. Techniques to create a more natural sound were never developed. This now, will change with the release of the Natural M2 VOC, a Full-Analogue 24-channel Vocoder with unusually tight specifications and most of all, with some new inventions that solve problems caused by principles that others did not recognize or understood before.

___Block diagram
Brief explanation of basic model and possible options...
The simplified block diagram below shows you the essence of the basic version (green) and options (lighted). Some relevant explanation will follow.


First of all: notice that for the options not all controls and possibilities are indicated in detail. They will be mentioned specifically later on.

Basic version
The basic Plug and Play version has all the technical tools to create a natural Vocoder sound. It is built around a 20- channel frequency band design with very tight specifications. Two inventions are incorporated in this classical analogue design which turned out to be highly effective in producing a natural sound not achieved before with neither analogue nor digital/software Vocoders.

On the Input side, the basic version has VOICE and CARRIER inputs (as usual). The Carrier Input is divided into a so called Voiced and Unvoiced section, which both can be addressed separately. Normally the Voiced Carrier is fed by an instrumental source, such as a keyboard; the Unvoiced Carrier by either a Noise Generator or the Voiced Carrier signal (switch able). A Balance Control is provided to balance the Unvoiced Input between Noise and External Input. This External Input might be the Voiced Carrier or another signal.

On the Output side you can mix the 7 Frequency Range sections to influence the final sound. A Single output delivers the Vocoder effect. Of course the setup of both Input and Output can be discussed as part of a Custom Design application. There are several ideas developed on possible solutions to fit your personal demand.

The basic version is also equipped with a Preset Slot. Alternative patches can be made through this slot, either by connecting it to an external patch bay matrix or by plugging in a Preset Plug. Some will be supplied for common Vocoder effects, but you can easily create more by yourself.

brief explanation on options beyond the basic model...

If you do not have a high quality Microphone Pre-Amplifier available you might choose to have one included into the VOC design. The Pre-Amp module basically amplifies up to 60 dB with a S/N ration over 80 dB. Amplification can be set with the GAIN control between 2 and 1000x (6....60dB) in combination with a Amp-Range switch (2...100x and 2---1000x) to let you apply any input signal.
If you want this option you may think about what kind of input plugs you need, Phantom power for Mic's and/or Input configuration.

Compressor / Expander
Using a Compressor / Expander improves the overall quality of the Vocoder effect on a dynamic level. You might need it to improve non stable voice dynamics and/or to improve Signal to Noise ratio. If you already have a Compressor / Expander module you do have an advantage above this option. This is because the mass produced Compressor / Expander modules nowadays have great possibilities in treating both input and output signal. nevertheless, you might want a dedicated and specifically designed unit included into your Vocoder design. In this case both Compressor and Expander do have a bypass switch to generate certain 'effects'. You even might have them available externally by way of added in and outputs.

Depth Control
Although balancing the output sections to a final mixture, an Evelope Depth Control on each channel opens a new horizon. 24 control pots are add and as a secondary option you might like to have a LED indication for each channel.

Patch bay
Besides the 'normal' Vocoder effect and the plug-in presets, you can create different patches with a patch bay to generate alternative Vocoder effect. This means that you change the control order of the 24 channels with patch cables. This all to alter the normal control setup to modify specific sounds. The patch (sound) that you find by experimenting with the Patch Bay can be fixated with a plug-in preset card. They are easy to make yourself with standard available components which you can buy at your local electronics store. Simply change the plug-in card to generate a complete different effect.

Patch Preset bank
As you can understand, using plug-in cards to change the patch presets also can be inconvenient in a studio situation wherein guests have to experiment with the Vocoder standard effects. Therefore you may choose to also have a turn switch included to easily switch between the standard Vocoder effects. This option you would take together with the Patch Card option. You then can switch between normal / external patch bay, patch card, 6 fixated standard effects and 4 variations on these standard effect.

Response speed control
The response time of the base version is fast. This means that the VOICE input dynamics are transferred to the CARRIER (through the envelope followers and VCA's) without smoothing. This to have the dynamic details in the VOICE also represented in the Vocoder output effect.
An option is to have control over this so called response speed to be able to smooth these detailed dynamic changes in the VOICE signal. It makes the Vocoder effect less natural (when related to the human voice) but opens a horizon for certain effects.
This response speed control can be of a 'single' type: to control all the 24 channels at once. But, you also could wish to have such a speed control for each section (5x) or even for each channel - depending on the refinement you desire.

Multiple Voice & Carrier inputs
Instead of having a single Voice input and two Carrier inputs, you also may choose to have a Voice and Carrier input on each section (2x5). This would allows you to patch for each section a different input and thus extend your range of effects and even to split-up the Vocoder into independent Vocoder effect machines (with respect to the frequencies band range for each section).

Multiple section outputs
Having an individual output for each section would allow you to send sections to other effect modules and also to independently mix them out on your mixing table. It is interesting to think about having an Vocoder effect with a certain effect for example only on the middle section, another effect on the low section(s) and again another effect on the high section(s).

Stereo end mix output
Instead of a MONO mixed output (6 section joined in a single mix) you also may choose for a stereo mixed output.
There are several configurations to mix the 6 sections to stereo. For example: The Low section fully to the left, the LowMid section fully to the right, the MID section in the middle, The MidHigh at 75% to the right and at last the High section at 75% to the left.


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