We take a look at 10 of the best vocoders available today, including vocoder synthesizers, standalone units and guitar pedals
We've rounded up 10 of the best vocoders that will completely add a new dimension to your music. These nifty little voice manipulating machines offer some incredibly cool features and can be easily added to your existing set up.
In this list, we'll be including some of the best vocoders that include vocoder synths, vocoder pedals, standalone units and even a keytar! Any of these options will help you create that sound you've got in your head.
First of all, let's answer the biggest question:
What is a vocoder?
In summary, a vocoder is a piece of software or hardware that analyses and synthesizes a voice signal. It takes a human voice signal and uses audio data compression so you can manipulate, add effects and transform the vocal signal.
In simple terms, a vocoder is something that lets you completely transform your voice rather than just put effects on it. Where an effects unit ADDS effects, a Vocoder turns your voice INTO an effect. It's that robot voice you've heard on records from Tupac, Daft Punk and Stevie Wonder.
Ok, let's start with the best Vocoders.
1. Korg microKORG XL+ Synthesizer
We're starting with one of the most sought after vocoders of all time: The Korg microKORG XL+ Synthesizer and Vocoder.
This thing basically set an entirely new standard for analogue modeling synths and vocoders when it was introduced in 2008.
We love it as it includes a hefty amount of useful keyboard and synth sounds, electric pianos and the coveted CX-3 organ. But the main reason that it's made our best vocoders blog comes down to the fact you have a powerful Korg vocoder built-in with a custom-built gooseneck microphone included.
You can use the powerful effect engine and dedicated vocoder presets to create a range of cool sounds. You can even freeze a vowel, play it back and turn it into a completely new sound.
This actually has the same 16 band vocoder as its big brother, the R3 - at a budget-friendly price tag.
2. Roland VP-03 Boutique Vocoder Synth
The Roland VP-03 Boutique Vocoder Synth picks up where the original VP-330 left off and adds far more features that the modern musician will appreciate.
We think it's one of the best vocoders as it includes 16 Chord memory set ups as well as a Voice Step Sequencer that allows input of a single note, chord, or your voice into each of the 16 steps, with each step comprising up to six notes. This then allows you to create distinctive rhythmic effects that you can use to sculpt your music with.
The VP-03 also has a full-size XLR mic input built-in that you can use to hook the included gooseneck mic up with. Alternatively, you can use your own mic to filter your voice or that of another performer or MC. You can also connect the unit to any other devices via the standard MIDI IN/OUT ports or via a Micro-B USB connection, making it a great studio and live partner when you hook it up to the optional K-25m 25-note keyboard.
3. Korg RK100S2-RD Keytar
We've thrown in a little curveball here with the Korg RK100S2-RD Keytar. Yes, it's a keytar. But its also an incredibly powerful synth with two oscillators, noise generator and built-in vocoder designed for serious vocal manipulation.
The Korg RK100S2-RD Keytar includes a monaural mini-input jack which can accommodate a microphone or headset mic. You can then take full control of the vocoder and use it in conjunction with 200 stage-ready preset sounds spanning synths and keyboards.
We also think it's one of the best vocoders as you can use it as a master keyboard and control all your other stuff thanks to MIDI and USB connectivity.
Plus... it's a keytar!!! Also available in Translucent Black.
4. Roland VT-4 Voice Transformer
The Roland VT-4 Voice Transformer is essentially a complete effects processor for your voice. This is an awesome solution for people who want to be able to mix in their own voice with a vocoder and those who don't want to have to program sounds - it just works!
We think it's one of the best vocoders available today as it includes a pitch shifter feature that lets you use your voice as an instrument. You could use the pitch shifter to turn your voice into a bass, loop it and build complete tracks, save it, and use it as a preset for every time you play.
There's also delay, chorus and reverb effects built-in making it a really cool effects unit for your vocals. Plus, you can hook it up to a MIDI keyboard, or just a microphone and transform your vocals in real-time.
5. Yamaha Genos Digital Workstation Keyboard
The Yamaha Genos is easily one of the best workstation keyboards and appears in many of our best-of lists thanks to its incredible functionality and range of sounds built-in.
You have a combi input with 48V phantom power so you can hook up your microphone directly to the Genos and start using the Vocal Harmony & Synth Vocoder functions instantly.
We think this is one of the best vocoders as you have 20 synth Vocoder presets to work with straight out of the box. But it's so much more than just a vocoder - it's a complete studio and live package!
You also have 1,710 instrument sounds, 550 backing patterns, 216 arpeggios and loads of effects to use, making it one of the most powerful workstations around. Ideal for the live and studio musician.
6. Korg Microkorg Synthesizer and Vocoder
Well, obviously we have to include the Korg Microkorg Synthesizer and Vocoder. Since it was introduced in 2002, this has become one of the most popular synthesisers in the world. Its ease of use, a huge range of sounds and really useful arpeggiator has seen it become one of the most widely used instruments in music today - chances are you own a record with one of these on!
This thing is rarely in stock as they fly out as soon as they arrive, and it's easy to see why.
Aside from the full range of effects, easy to use arpeggiator and range of filters, you have an 8-band vocoder that lets you capture and "freeze" sections of your voice. You can then play these sections across the keyboard, shift formant frequencies and make your voice sound completely different.
We also think it's one of the best vocoders as you get a microphone included so you can get started straight away.
Not in stock? Contact us to special order today.
7. Roland JD-Xi Synthesizer
We love the Roland JD-Xi Synthesizer as it is the perfect mix of classic analog synth sounds and modern digital keyboard sounds. This is a budget-friendly piece of kit that players of all levels and styles will find useful whether you're using it in the studio or live scenario.
This excels as a vocoder as it not only comes with a high-quality gooseneck mic so you can get started straight away but also offers a world of easily accessible features.
You have features like AutoPitch that allows you to create exaggerated robotic sounds and a really cool Auto Note function that lets you "sing" all the built-in synth sounds without having to touch the keyboard.
8. Boss VO-1 Vocoder Pedal
Ok, we're changing things up from now on and moving into pedal territory.
Let's say you're a guitarist or keyboard player who doesn't have a vocoder built-in to their keyboard. This is where the Boss VO-1 Vocoder Pedal really comes in handy.
All you have to do is connect a microphone to the pedal and you're ready to start manipulating your vocals in conjunction with your guitar, bass or keyboard.
You can get that classic Daft Punk sound, classic talk box effect and more.
You have 4 distinct settings to choose from. The Vintage mode allows you to activate that classic synthesized vocal sound that you've heard on countless records, Advanced mode transforms your voice into an array of vocoder sounds which work beautifully with your guitar or line-level instrument.
The Talk Box feature lets you activate that classic Bon Jovi and Aerosmith sound whereas the Choir setting lets you create rich vocal textures.
A great pedal vocoder for musicians who want more from their instrument.
9. Electro Harmonix Voicebox Effects Pedal
This is another Vocoder pedal that works with your guitar or bass or keyboard for that matter!
We think the Electro Harmonix Voicebox Effects Pedal is one of the best vocoders out there as it generates 2 to 4 part vocal harmonies in the same key you're playing in. All harmonies move in a smooth, human-like transition so changes are seamless.
We love it because you also have the option to add a range of different voices like whistles, female-to-male, male-to-female sounds and octaves.
You also have complete control over reverb effects, blend mic gain and more. Perfect for guitarists and keyboard players who want to add a new dimension to their sound.
10. MXR M222 Talk Box Vocal Guitar Effects Pedal
This wouldn't be much of a 'best vocoder list' without the MXR M222 Talk Box Vocal Guitar Effects Pedal.
This classic vocoder appeared on Bon Jovi records, Foo Fighters 'Generator' and many more records, allowing guitarists to shape the sound of their guitar in a really interesting way.
Fortunately, this actually works with any line-level instrument, so the keyboard and bass players are covered too.
All you need to do is hook it up to your guitar or keyboard the same way you would a pedal and run the included tube up the microphone and into your mouth. Start playing and singing at the same time and watch how the sound of your guitar completely changes.
You have control over your volume and gain, so you can blend the effect with your guitar and add extra grit when you need to.
An incredibly cool tool for live and studio recording and one of the most famous vocoders ever created.
Visit PMT Online or call in to your local PMT Store to try out a full range of vocoders, synths and pedals - we've got what you need to make the sound that you want.