For TEDxSMU last year, SMU electrical engineering professor Scott Douglas talked about how the next step in digital vocal processing was coming soon: instant vocal perfection, vocal perfection while you sing. Auto-tune is the digital process that allows you to correct any flat notes or weak sustains in a vocal recording. It can also make you sound like a robot singing on helium, as the singer T-Pain has demonstrated to a fare-thee-well (you can do the same with things like GarageBand, of course).
But Douglas was talking about making that same digital process happen in live concert performances, so that, essentially, singers would no longer have to lip-synch to pre-recordered tracks, they could even harmonize with themselves, and we in the audience could not tell whether a performer had real concert chops or just a good mixer manning the sound deck.
That future is now being sold — for a rather affordable $250. In his tech product column in the NYTimes, David Pogue reviews VoiceLive Play, “a new gadget from the vocal-processing company TC Helicon, offers all of those effects and more — it can even generate phantom backup singers.”
Now, vocal processors aren’t new. But programming most of them seems to require a degree in acoustical engineering, or possibly space shuttle cockpit design. The thought behind the VoiceLive Play is to put spectacular audio features into a box that’s about as difficult to use as elevator buttons.
The big advance, he says, is the automatic three-part harmony.