Voxengo is one of those few plugin companies making smart plugins. By “smart”, I mean plugins that actually make my life easier and my music sound better.
After that disaster of a review for Soniformer ( Voxengo Soniformer Review), Aleksey decided the world needed more of my literary marvels. I agree. SMILEY So here we are.
I wasn’t sure what the hell to do with Voxformer. Honestly, I didn’t really want another channel strip. I was kinda….well, let’s just say Aleksey picked out the plugins he thought I’d like. An odd choice. (He’s Russian. Whaddyagonnado?) I’ve been burned by useless channel strips before, and I’m always leery of instructions in product titles. (I’m still mad about the Boss Metal Zone guitar pedal.)
Voxengo Voxformer is “Not” A Channel Strip
I don’t want to call it a channel strip. I don’t know why. When I think of a “channel strip”, I think of those wannabe-real-console channel strips that I own and never use. They almost never get me where I want to go sound wise and it always takes 10 minutes before I get to a point where I realize I’m not getting where I want to go. YMMV
I remember the interview with Ryan Hewitt talking about the Don’t Fear The Reaper mix he did for Guitar Zero (Hero). He said he couldn’t quite get what he wanted and then he tossed the UAD SSL 4k channel strip on every track. Then, he nailed it!
I tried this, too. It sounded exactly the same to me. It was the most boring difference I didn’t hear in my entire life. SMILEY You can say this is a game of inches and I should pull out my micrometer. I say some of us have miles to go. I’d prefer Concord, please.
On To Voxformer
Voxformer has been GREAT at getting me where I want to go. That makes it not-a-channel-strip, by my definition.
Everything is laid out to be very right-brained. I mean that you can mix creatively without thinking too much about 11.7256Khz or compression ratios of 5.323. This may be what I’ve needed.
I tend to be equally untalented at both left and right brain functions. I can get real caught up in the technicalities until I say “screw the technicalities”. Chaos it is. No problem.
This is where the speed comes in. Voxengo is a masterpiece in speed.
For most vocals I mix with Voxformer, the process goes like this:
- Turn on gate.
- Turn on the compressor and turn it up.
- If I need de-essing, usually simply turning it on solves the problem with little to no artifacts.
- If I need EQ, I’ve got it. The extremely well-tuned RTA makes EQing fast as well.
There are times when I tweak by going deeper into each process but Voxformer is absolutely STELLAR at providing you with settings that work out of the gate. I’ve never seen a plugin within light years of the speed and usability of Voxengo Voxformer.
The default settings for the Gate “just work” a BUNCH of the time. The compressor simply requires me cranking up a single knob one time and I’ve got compression…GOOD compression…compression with character…lots of it if I want it (but it plays nice enough for voiceover work).
The stock settings work a scary amount of the time. I love to put it on when listening to a playback in tracking. With just one knob crank I usually have something REALLY good.
The default settings for De-essing, Presence, and Saturation are effective often enough to make an eyebrow scrunch down. You enable each function. It works….a LOT of the time.
If you happen to not dig the stock settings for this and that, every function has an “Edit” button. You can get as nuts as you’d like with the popup.
There are functions that I haven’t seen since college like “Asymmetry”, for example. A person can get really freakin’ nuts with just about every setting, but at the same time, you can just tweak the parameters that truly matter.
They really have found some perfect compromise between the tech heads and the not-remotely-technical types. I love how often I’m happy using it in the not-remotely-technical way. That’s called “Saved Me A Crapload Of Time”.
It’s a hell of an achievement that Voxengo Voxformer actually does both. They’ve clearly worked VERY hard to get these initial settings REALLY damn good. This facet makes Voxformer an outstanding choice for musicians who don’t want to think too much and for any engineer that wants to work fast.
It’s soooo nice to see a company that cares about making plugins in a computer AWESOME. (The alternative is making plugins in a computer look like hardware. I rarely find this of any use.)
After spending so much time helping Boz with Rhino Kick Machine, I now realize that all that insanely complex DSP math is the easy part. The hard part is arranging a bunch of stuff on the screen so people can make music with it. Voxengo Voxformer is tip freakin’ top in that realm.
I’ve noticed that I have a hard time with iZotope Alloy’s spectrum analyzer. My brain isn’t very good at detecting the exact frequency of low-frequency vocal mud particularly when it may only be one little peaky syllable every 10 seconds. Somehow I miss these in Alloy.
With Voxformer, I can EQ vocals FAST. Faster than I’ve ever done before. This is entirely due to the work put into the settings on the spectrum analyzer. I’m not sure if it’s just zoomed in more or what.
Maybe Voxengo got lucky. (I doubt it.) It’s my belief that they spent quite a bit of time testing the idea default settings and nailed it.
Note: I’m not claiming that the EQ “sounds better”. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same EQ in 99,000 other digital EQs out there. I’m saying that someone stayed at work late many nights to get the damn RTA to function EXACTLY as it should to be effective and FAST.
There’s nothing wrong with the RTA in iZotope Alloy. I just wish they would have tuned the thing to the level similarly to how Voxengo did here.
The Voxformer Compressor
The compressor does what ALL compressors should do. All compressors, when you drive the input and crank down the release, should sound DRIVEN. Why? Because we absolutely need that harmonic content. Some call it “sheen” or “clarity”. I don’t know what to call it.
The thing is just fine on clean voiceover as well if you keep the release reasonable. I used it on the Slate Digital Cup: Grand Champion video, Bark Of Dog video, etc.
As of this writing, there are two compressor plugins that I absolutely LOOOOOOVE. The Voxformer compressor and the Stillwell Rocket are all making life very, very nice for Brandon.
Not nearly enough channel strips allow you to put the EQ in front of the compressor. Not nearly enough let you put it after the compressor. (iZotope nailed this concept in Trash2 but missed it in Alloy. Bummer.)
You have the option for both. Frankly, I can’t understand why every channel strip on the planet doesn’t allow this. I’ve needed EQ either before the compressor, after the compressor, or both so many times that it seems obvious to have a choice.
If you are working a compressor hard, the mud comes up (if there is mud). Toss the EQ in front of the compressor. Cut the mud. When you go to bed that night you’ll smile a bit. I did.
Some of the controls are a bit new for the EQ. Adjusting the bandwidth requires holding alt….or is it shift….and pulling the mouse left/right. I don’t remember. It’s a bit odd. It’s certainly not a deal breaker. I’m not really critiquing this strategy, just saving you some cussing if you try it out.
It’s funny that this thing is called Voxformer, but it has the coolest high pass filter I’ve seen on a “vocal” channel strip. Why do you need 36db/octave high pass filtering on a vocal? You don’t. I’ve never needed that. Regular ol’ whatever is fine in most cases. You really only need this caliber of high pass options on drums, bass, and/or 2bus.
Note: The Ozone5 EQ is currently the champion for high pass filtering. I left the Voxformer comments because it gets second place and is of extreme use for people who may not have Ozone 5.
The compressor can get bold in a hurry, but it made it through the final mix on several songs I’ve been working on. It can hold up to 2bus scrutiny. That I like!
All Other Instruments
I find Voxformer to be just as good on acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass, and just about everything else as I do vocals. I think they should have just called Former or something. SMILEY
The Price Is Right
Voxformer is pathetically priced at $69. If the thing were $269, it may get pro engineer attention. If a high-end company made and sold this compressor, it would cost $199. That’s how freakin’ good this compressor is. The high-end plugin companies should be sweating bullets right now because of this compressor.
I don’t expect the gear snobs to ever get excited by a channel strip at this price. It’s too cheap to be good, right?
With possibly the best compressor on the market (or really freakin’ close), and the fastest channel strip I’ve ever seen (by a LONG shot), the Voxformer is a freakin’ killer tool. The RTA is tuned just right. The gate and the de-esser often work perfectly with just a single click each.
At $69, I’m not even sure what to say. You’ve spent more on Doritos this year.
My advice is to try the demo. Grab the compressor. Overuse it on ANYTHING (bass, drums, vocals, synth, 2bus, etc) and then smile.
See how damn fast the thing is. Get used to the EQ controls. Get used to the RTA which you don’t have to get used to. You’ll wonder why you ever used fiddled with those CONSOLE_NAME channel strip.