Review – Precisionsound Angelic Vocal Pads 5
Precisionsound’s Angleic Vocal Pads 5 is a library of vocal silkiness in the Enya/10cc tradition. If you’re looking for “that sound”, maybe you’re just found it.
by David Keenum, Mar. 2017
The Enya Sound
I still remember hearing Enya for the first time. The vocal sound was fascinating, and it still holds a fascination these many years later. Most of us recording at the time wanted to know how we could get “that sound.” “That sound” had depth and width, and an airy quality. It could hang in the background as a layer or move to the front of the sound field and say, “Hello! I’m here!” It was obviously Enya’s voice… wasn’t it? Had to be. But how did she do it? What studio magic was she using? Was it the Aphex Aural Exciter? The AAE was all the rage during that time. Well, whatever it was, there had to be a secret.
Come to find out, it had a lot to do with the singer, Enya. You may have heard of her family’s band, Clannad. Yeah, family genes may play a part in that sound. In 1988 you had to have a talented, trained singer to layer a track as many as 30 times (some reports had the track layering as high as 80 or 100 tracks). There were other methods used as well. I’ve heard they used different microphones, and recorded the layered vocals at different distances from the mic. It was all genius and even if it was overused in the end, it still made its mark in recorded music.
And, of course, when you discuss layered vocals, there has to be a nod to 10cc’s 1975 hit, I’m Not in Love. Rather than take another “rabbit trail”, let me reference Sound on Sound’s Classic Track article on the making of I’m Not in Love: http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/classic-tracks-10cc-not-love. The short version is that they used 48 vocals for every note of a one octave chromatic scale. They then “played” the mixing desk as an instrument, bringing in whatever notes were needed for the chords. Again, a genius moment in music recording.
But how does that help us making music now. Do you know a singer that good? That patient? With the right vocal sound? And how about you? Even with our modern-day endless tracks, do we have the time or patience to record one line thirty times? Enter Precisionsound and their Angelic Vocal Pads series. There are currently six volumes in the series with a seventh on the way. And their philosophy is similar to the two examples mentioned above: one or two singers layered many times. Today we’ll take a quick look at Angelic Vocal Pads 5 and investigate how well they did it.
Precisionsound’s Angelic Vocal Pads 5 features the voice of Swedish folk/pop singer Malin Hansson Dahl. The natural range of the singer is F2 – G4 but the voices are stretched from C2 – C5. The vowels A, E, I, O, U, and the sound M are recorded. There are 324 24bit stereo wave files. All of this comes as:
- 18 programs for Steinberg HALion
- 18 programs for Logic EXS24
- 18 programs for NI Kontakt v.1 and 2
- 3 programs for NI Kontakt v.3, 4 and 5 (enhanced with KSP scripts, FX and GUI – read below…)
- 12 programs for SoundFont (16bit)
I used Kontakt 5 in an iMac for my review, which means everything is included in the three presets. Precisionsound made the decision to give you the ability to change vowel sounds with key switches. So you have three programs: Mode I, Mode II, and Mode I & II. Modes I and II each contain a layer of stereo samples. The preset, Mode I & II, contains both layers. What is the difference between their two individual layers? I don’t know; they’re just different. Look at it this way – they were recorded by the same lady singing the same vowel. So they are similar … but they are different, too. My impression is that Mode II is a little thicker than Mode I and has a little more high end. But I’m not willing to fight over that opinion. For me, Mode I & II is a good starting point. If the sound is too dense, you can always change to Mode I or II.
The GUI is rather plain, but I’m not particularly inspired by a GUI. I do want it to be functionally easy, and this GUI is functional. In addition to the Perform tab, there are tabs for Tone, FX, and Credits. All the tabs are easy to edit. For example, Reverb is off, but you can easily turn it on, select a reverb from the supplied IRs, and edit its level. The Delay is just as easy to edit.
The Perform tab is where you choose your vowel (you can also use key switching for that). There is also a setting for a “Destination” vowel so you can crossfade (morf) between two vowels. And you can decide what will cause the notes to morf: the modulation wheel on your controller, MIDI velocity, or the controller knob.
The Tone tab is as simple and intuitive as the FX tab. You get a Hi, Lo, and Mid-sweep EQ, Detune, and Stereo Width.
Let me add, the PDF manual is short and easy to read. And it is important if you are using Kontakt 3, 4, or 5. The key switching was not obvious to me from looking at the GUI. I downloaded the PDF manual from the product page.
I found Angelic Vocal Pads 5 to sound full, animated, and useable. The O vowel sounds would be especially useful under a string pad. Both the E and I vowels sound “Enya-like.” The M vowel is very subdued and somewhat mysterious. The A vowel sounds somewhat synthetic to me. Not bad, but a little less real to my ears. The O vowel sounds like it came straight from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack – full of exotic mystery. There is a lot of variety in these vowel sounds, and the GUI gives you the ability to quickly shorten the Attack and/or Release to use the vocals as staccato notes.
The sound is individual… as opposed to generic. You can still hear Malin Hansson Dahl’s voice, and it is consistent and pleasant. The recording and programming is smooth and professional. I did not hear any obvious loop points; and when you play individual notes up and down the scale, I didn’t hear anomalies. It sounded natural. This is a specialized library and is priced that way: one good singer, multi-tracked, singing six sounds.
The product page contains some helpful audio demos that show AVP 5’s usefulness, but please listen to the demo titled “AVP5 vowels A E I U O M”. I think you will be pleased. This demo gives you examples of the vowels and M sound in a raw state.
So will this give you the ability to create your own Enya hit? I doubt it. But it does give you the ability to incorporate that sound for $50. Listen to the demos and decide for yourself.
324 24-bit stereo WAV files
3 programs for Kontakt 3+ with scripted interface
18 programs for Kontakt 1+
18 programs for EXS24
18 programs for HALion
12 programs in SoundFont format
This library does not work with the free Kontakt Player.
Price: $49.00 USD (but you can purchase in your country’s currency)