Using a Vocoder in Orion

A vocoder brings together two signals, a  carrier signal and a modulator signal, and combines them into an output signal. If the modulator signal is a vocal recording, and the carrier signal is a synthesiser sound, then the result is a robotic effect, a bit like Cylons in the old Battlestar Galactica (according to Wikipedia, they used an EMS Vocoder 2000).

Here’s how to do something similar using a vocal recording and a synth of your choice in Synapse’s Orion… We’ll assume that you have a suitable vocal signal for the modulator (perhaps a long vocal sample) on one mxing channel and a  good, solid and simple synth waveform (keep it simple, use something like Wasp or Triangle 2) on another.

  1. Send the carrier signal (i.e. your synth) to a bus, hard panned right
  2. Send the modulator signal (i.e. your vocals) to the same bus, hard panned left
  3. Open the master console, and add the vocoder to an insert slot (you’ll find the Orion Vocoder in the Direct X effects section)

That’s your routing sorted. You’ll find that you’ll only hear anything if both the carrier AND the modulator are outputting something at the same time. This means that in your song playlist you’ll need to have any chords/notes sorted out in the carrier synth, and in sync with your modulator parts.

Using an electric guitar with Orion Virtual Studio

I’ve been using Synapse’s wonderful Orion for a few years now, and it’s my main staple for my secondary hobby of making electronic music. Simply put, it’s the most easy to use and versatile thing out there. Recently (Christmas day, actually) I found out how to connect my old Yamaha RGX110 guitar to my PC, and record it in Orion complete with effects.

  1. Plug your guitar into one of the first two inputs on your breakout box. No pre-amp should be required.
  2. Open Orion
  3. Go to Options -> Audio Input Settings…
  4. Set Audio Input settings to be the Same As Output Device
  5. Tick the following boxes:
    • ‘enable audio input’
    • ‘monitor input’
    • ‘mono’ (because the guitar produces a mono signal)

    This will allow you to hear what’s going on!

  6. Click OK
  7. Go to Insert -> Audio Track -> Stereo Input 1/2 to add an audio track using inputs 1/2. You can rename the resulting ‘Audio Track #1’ track to something more sensible like ‘Guitar’ by right-clicking on the label in the Playlist window.

Orion is now ready to accept your input. What I’ve got into the habit of doing at this point is adding a simple drum line to play over. You may already have a load of synths, drums and samples already.

  1. In the playlist, you’ll notice that the track has MSR buttons. Hit the ‘R’ button to queue it up for recording. The Record button light, up at the top of the screen, will light up red
  2. When you’re ready to record your section, hit the Play button. Orion will count you in
  3. When you’re done, hit the Stop button

It’s worth noting the following:

  • You can rename each section, or ‘chunk’, that you record
  • If you record over a section, the original is still there and intact, you just have to slide it about a bit
  • Don’t leave two audio tracks with the same audio input, or they’ll double up and make a terrible din!
  • You can chop bits up and clone them using the song editing tools
  • Right click a section to edit it in your chosen sample editing software
  • You may well need to experiment with a compressor/limiter a bit to get the signal at a reasonable level.

Orion 8 has three insert effects, four sends and if that’s not enough you can use a MultiFX plugin which can hold four effects. This means you can experiment around with various arrangements of compressors, flangers, echoes, distortion units, EQs to your heart’s content… The only limit appears to be the spec of the PC.

[Fetches pipe and slippers] Hehe, kids these days have it easy. Back in my day I had one flanger and couldn’t afford a delay pedal or a four-track recorder. Nowadays all you need as £500 worth of PC plus £160-odd for Orion (which is less than an analogue Fostex cassette-tape-based four-track recorder cost back then) and you have as many blimmin’ digital effects as you like, plus multi-track recording, drum machine, some awesome synths (Toxic III, Wasp, Screamer, WaveFusion etc.) and the ability to upload your stuff to MySpace. Damn I wish I had had this stuff back in 1995…