Review of ReVoice Pro 3 from Synchro Arts

I don’t do many in-depth reviews on the blog, be it a plugin bundle, a software package, acoustic treatment or some other piece of home-recording gear. I have my reasons for not doing so, and if you have been around the site for some time, you should be well aware of them at this point. If the reasons still seem unclear to you, let me put it this way – the final sound and quality of our finished mixes is rarely up to specific tools we use. It is what we do with what we already have that really matters and also what decisions we make based on what we hear. That has been a mantra for this blog since the day one.

It should also be noted, that we obviously need some sort of basic gear, a recording software with few plugins, couple of accessories and stuff – otherwise we wouldn’t be able to have anything recorded, edited or mixed. But the truth is, the vast majority of work can be done using basic tools, without having to spend any extra cash on some fancy equipment. However, sometimes we come across an incredible piece of software, outboard gear or other tool, that simply cannot be ignored! And it is not because the thing will do all the work for us or instantly make us rich and famous. It is because it does its job in a phenomenal manner and it brings great results in a blink of an eye. And it’s these type of products that usually get my attention, not just another EQ or compression plugin.

Whenever I hear about a unique tool, my curiousity gets the better of me and I just can’t resist – I have to take it for the test drive. If the product lives up to its hype and I am personally delighted or even overwhelmed by the results, my jaw just simply starts to drop deeper and deeper. With each and every use I almost start to faint and drool like a teenage girl watching One Direction performing live. Ok, enough of those graphic details, lets get to the point.

One of these exceptional products, that I have been lucky to use lately is ReVoice Pro 3. Courtesy of British software/plugin manufacturer Synchro Arts I was given a chance to test out their flagship piece of software. It is truly unbelieveable what this “plugin” can do. I will explain the use of word “plugin” later on. Let me start from the beginning, though.

What is ReVoice Pro 3?

Some of you are probably familiar with VocAlign from Synchro Arts, which is somewhat a little sister to ReVoice Pro. VocAlign is basically designed to align the timing of one track to the timing of another. Very useful feature when it comes to making a vocal double or a harmony part sit tight with the lead. I have been a long-time user of Vocalign myself and can’t recommend it enough. It is really simple to use and gives us great results in no time.

RVP3, however, is more of a multi-task monster, which can not only do what Vocalign does, but it goes way beyond that. This feature-rich product provides us with many additional possibilities and solutions. It also makes working with vocal tracks very convenient and simplified. The best part of it, though, is definitely the quality of the rendered files. I can honestly say, that the algorithms RVP use sound a lot better than anything else I have ever used in the past.

ReVoice Pro 3 can be used to:

  • fix the timing flaws of a track
  • correct the pitch of a vocal
  • APT – transfer several performance aspects of one track onto the other (e.g. timing, pitch, level, vibrato) while letting us decide how much of a processed sound is to be applied onto the second track
  • automate the level of changes applied on the duration of a track (so cool!)
  • creating very convincing vocal doubles (Doubler)
  • time-stretching and time-compressing phrases without audible artifacts
  • creating many layers of different sounding vocal doubles
  • other…

ReVoice Pro 3 Format

I called RVP a “plugin” for a good reason, let me elaborate on this one for a second. Generally speaking it is a stand-alone application – we import audio to it, it does its job and spits out the result, that can be then imported inside our favourite DAW. And there is nothing wrong with using it this way. Nevertheless, one of RVP’s big advantage is the fact, that Synchro Arts have put in a lot of effort to have their product easily integrate and communicate with most of the popular DAW’s out there, be it Cubase, Nuendo, Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, Studio One or others, thus eliminating the need to have to work in RVP separately and then import the results into the DAW.

Thanks to two additional plugins (called Revoice Pro Link and Revoice Pro Monitor) that come free with RVP package, the application syncs with the DAW without any hassle. We can monitor the signal from RVP inside our DAW on an Aux (or Instrument) track and we can also send audio clips to and from RVP with one click of a mouse. It works like a charm, I have to admit.

Capturing audio from DAW and then spotting it back in from RVP works pretty much the same for each DAW. There may be tiny differences, beacuse we all know different DAWs do things differently, but there’s absolutely nothing to be worried about. The process is dead simple! In Cubase and Nuendo it’s as easy as draging and dropping. It can’t get any easier than that.

As a Pro Tools user, I only need to use an extra click here and there to select, capture and spot pieces of audio, so no worries there either. I can call myself lucky, though, since there are even more plugins added to the package for PT users (Quick Doubler and Quick APT) – apart from the other two mentioned above, obvioulsy. At the minute they are only available for Pro Tools, but it may change soon.

Don’t get me wrong – RVP is a fully functional software that integrates with most of the DAW’s. It’s not that you are missing out on some features if your DAW of choice is not Pro Tools. These two extra plugins (found in Audiosuite menu) are just “quick” versions of Doubler and APT modules.

What we get with ReVoice Pro 3:

Main Application and a Plugin Bundle:

  • Revoice Pro Link – links your DAW to RVP Application (for sending tracks in and out)
  • Revoice Pro Monitor – enables you to monitor the signal from RVP inside your DAW
  • Quick Doubler (Pro Tools only) – simplified version of Doubler module
  • Quick APT (Pro Tools only) – simplified version of APT module

To install everything properly, we start with the application itself, followed by installing the plugin package (they all install in one go).

Now, let’s talk about the most important features of RVP, so that you would have a better idea of what this puppy can do!

Pitch Correction

The tuning algorythm built-in RVP is truly impressive. Not only does it sound as good as it gets when it’s time to perfectly shift notes to their intended pitch, but it goes even further. As we all know (or should know), automatic pitch correction shifts each and every note, syllable (sometimes even the breath) strictly to a given pitch. And that includes all the less-important parts, the in-between notes when the singer glides from one note to the next. That is usually the reason for the unwanted, wobbly and fluttery sound, that we got so tired of (say hello to Cher, T-Pain and too many others).

In most cases, when it is not being used intentionally (as a special effect or a “signature sound”), we just want to get rid of that annoying thing asap, no matter what. It gives out the use of a tuning plugin straight away and we (or the singer) end up looking bad and amateurish. The usual solution would be to slow down the retune speed or even automate it. It is no longer a pain with RVP. There is a feature called „Smooth Selected Groups”, which re-builds all the broken links between the key notes and the results sound very natural. This has to be my favourite feature of the tuning algorithm.

Time Alignment

With RVP we can easily fix the timing of a track (automatically or manually) using markers called Warp Points. We can either insert them one at a time by hand in any spot or create three warp points in one go (after selecting a block of notes) – to constrain the area we are working on. The start and end points work like anchors, which prevent signals outside of selection from being accidently moved around. That way we can quickly and efficiently fix the sloppy performance without worrying about other bits of audio being stretched or compressed. After the alignment process is finished we will not hear any audible artifacts, because time-compressing and time-stretching algorithms are top of the notch here. I will give you some examples of that later on.

Apart from all the possibilities of tweaking and fixing a single audio file, RVP has also many advanced features, that were designed for working with many audio files at a time. What I mean by that is –  transferring different nuances from one track to another, creating vocal doubles from a single track and a lot more. Let’s take a look at some of them now.

APT (Audio Performance Transfer)

FOTA 1

This is the flagship process of the entire application. It will help us transfer different characteristics of one track onto the other (or others). Nuances that can be applied to a target track include: timing, pitch, vibrato, volume. For APT to work properly, we need to create 3 tracks inside of RVP (Guide, Dub, Output). First, we will capture the audio from our DAW and select it as our Guide (the one we will be taking characteristics from). Then we’ll capture the target track (Dub) – it is the one we will be transferring the performance aspects to. And lastly, our third track (caled Output) will be the one containing the result of the process.

It is vital to set up and name the tracks inside of RVP before we start importing audio to it, as that will help us work quicker and also the ReVoice Pro Link plugin will be displaying meaningful track names instead of mysterious Audio 1, Audio 2, Audio 3 and so on. After all the audio is in place, we start new process (Cmd+B), choose our settings (there are few very helpful presets to start with) and we hit New Process. It all takes couple of seconds, really. It is very quick and easy, so if we are interested in great results, that take only few seconds to get – this is the product for a serious consideration.

I would also like to encourage you to dive deeper into the settings of APT process, because the amount of aspects we can tweak is truly impressive. It may give you a little headache at the start, but once you get familiar with it, you will see more and more possibilities. What also matters is the fact, that tweaking all these parameters can make a significant changes to a signal. I recommend you give it a shot sometime and do not rely on the factory presets only.

Quick APT

If we are on Pro Tools, there is one more way we can take advantage of the APT Process and it is called Quick APT. It will reach the exact same goal as our regular APT Process described above. The only difference is, that “Quick” version works as an Audiosuite plugin and it is basically sitting there waiting for us ready to go. What we need to do is just capture the Guide and Dub and hit Spot. The result of the process is then automatically spotted back in our DAW. That saves even more time (takes about 5 seconds to be exact) and is indeed super-easy, even if we’re not fully-awake yet.

Another thing worth mentioning here is that both Quick APT and Quick Doubler work based on our User Default Settings. We are free to change our default settings at any time (even while performing “Quick” processes) by expanding the view of the process details in the RVP Audiosuite that is fired up automatically. However, “Quick” versions were developed mostly for speeding up the whole process in mind. Click, click, clik – done! Users of VocAlign should be delighted with the possibility of using RVP in this manner.

How Does It Sound?

To support my observations I will give you some audio examples now. Even though RVP has been designed to work mainly with vocals (Monophonic signal), I decided to throw it at deep waters straight away and see how it will perform with the acoustic guitar track, which is a Polyphonic signal. That should put some extra strain on its time-compressing/stretching algorithms and also help my rebelious attitude to come forward 🙂 I have to admit, that raises the bar very high. We’ll see how it goes then.

What we’ve got here is an example of time alignment process. The track in the right channel, that has been purposely played in a very sloppy way is going to be time-aligned based on the timing of the track in the left channel.

But first, let’s hear the original recording – two guitars panned hard left and hard right:

      AUDIO-1.mp3

 

Now the same recording summed to mono (to make the sloppiness even more obvious):

      AUDIO-2.mp3

 

Here’s both guitars after applying the time-alignment process in RVP:

      AUDIO-3.mp3

 

It took me about 8 seconds to complete this task…

Now, If I was to use any of the Pro Tools’ Elastic Audio algorithms, that I am used to working with and wait for the audio to be analyzed (which takes about half a minute for a 3,5 min. track), perform automatic or manual quantization, double-check the accents and transients of my second track against the first one, loose plenty of time for minor fixes, listening back each time I tweak – I would most likely end up in spasms. Not to mention that I probably wouldn’t be happy with the results. Especially now, that I know how quickly and efficiently ReVoice Pro can do all these things and still sound like million dollars.

But just to be fair here… We cannot ignore the fact, that there is the X-Form algorithm in Pro Tools. It does work offline and takes its time to render files, but at the same time it is believed to be the best sounding algorythm for stretching/compressing found in Pro Tools application. Despite the fact, that it can come close to the sound of RVP, I’ve always been reluctant of using it, because of the amount of time it takes to do its job and an annoying fact of having to wait for a new render every time you make the slightest change to the “X-formed” track afterwards (it doesn’t work in real-time).

Don’t get me wrong – time-compressing/stretching algorithms that we get in Pro Tools are very handy and if we use few more tricks, we can hide the artifacts that appear while performing stretching or compressing duties. It gets even easier, when the track in question is to be sitting at the back of the mix. I’ve done that dozens of times myself and it worked pretty well. But let’s be honest – files that are rendered by RVP sound so damn good, that I would be perfectly comfortable with placing a track processed by it right in front of a mix. More so – RVP is made to work with vocals, so it just has to sound exceptionally clean!

By any means, I don’t want to slag the competition off here, because it is not the point of this article, but I am not sure if any other software or plugin comes close to what RVP is capable of. Even the famous Serato Pitch And Time (costing around 800 USD), that is really great piece of software, could have trouble achieving such a good results in such a short period.

Doubler

The purpose of this module is to create natural-sounding double tracks in seconds. To achieve this, RVP uses pretty much the same algorithms as APT. The difference lies in the way it handles the tracks, though. Instead of using three tracks (Guide, Dub, Output), Doubler needs only two – Input and Output. The Input tracks serves the role of a source to create a double from, and the result will appear on the Output track. Simple as that.

Just to be clear about the scenario – we only have the lead vocal recorded in our project. No vocal doubles were tracked in this session and the singer has already gone home. That is why, it is our job now to create a ‘double’ from what we’ve got. If we had that vocal double tracked, we could use RVP to align or pitch-correct the second track to the first on – all within RVP, but this is not the case here.

Back to the Doubler. We get a choice of creating a mono or stereo output. The latter is a great addition and a sought-after solution for all those looking for a wide, stereo-spread doubles, that can be performed quickly. By the way, the two-channel output is actually the deafult setting in the Doubler module. To make the two doubles sound even more different and separated, RVP gives us the ability to process each channel individually.

The realistic and natural-sounding vocal doubles in RVP are possible to achieve thanks to couple of different processes, that take place “under the hood”. When we decide to create doubles on our own, we usually tend to reach for tiny amounts of delay and pitch-shifting. Sometimes the results are fairly good, other times they’re not. With RVP, there are more things involved in the process, e.g. modulation, formant shifting, vibrato, randomness. That is most likely the reason, we get such a great results. Take a look at couple of audio samples:

Source sound:

      AUDIO-4.mp3

 

Source with manually generated double (delay + pitch-shifting):

      AUDIO-5.mp3

 

Source with a double by RVP (mono):

      AUDIO-6.mp3

 

Source with two independent doubles from RVP (stereo):

      AUDIO-7.mp3

 

There are plenty of other things we can do using APT Process, well beyond the scope of this article, so it is rather impossible to describe them all. I will strongly advise you to reach for the manual and learn all the other features. You can find an on-line version of it HERE.

Graphical User Interface

GUI in RVP is very clear and logical. It will let us see all of the imported tracks before and after the processing takes place (highlighting the Output track and all tracks associated with the process). It also gives us the option to view one or more selected tracks filling up the entire window and not distracting us from viewing tracks we are not currently working on. There are also some great improvements to setting and adjusting the Playback Range – very helpful when we work with the track section by section (overlapping).

It is also worth noting, that in order to perform some functions, RVP utilises the exact same keyboard shortcuts, that we use in Pro Tools, like zooming in and out or creating new tracks, to name a few. It will definitely help Pro Tools users feel at home.

The Sound Quality

I said earlier on, that the quality of audio rendered by RVP is better than anything else I had ever used in the past. However, “better than anything else” may sound almost like an insult here… When you put this thing to work and set it properly, it can, pardon the street language, wipe the floor with competition. The more I fiddled around with this product and learnt how to use it in a best possible way, the better and more realistic results I was getting. At some stage I just realised it was virtually impossible to distinguish between a vocal-double generated by RVP and the vocal take that was actually recorded. Not to mention the quality of time-compression and time-expansion algorithms.

I have talked about these a lot in this review, so now it’s time to see (hear) it for yourselves. In the examples below, I have time-stretched and time-compressed the source file to the limits, very aggressively and more than we will ever need to. In order for you to have some sort of reference and comparison, I also included samples of the exact same processing using the default algorithms in my DAW.

Source file:

      AUDIO-8.mp3

 

The same file now time-streched (to almost 150% of its original lenght). I used the default Elastic Audio algorythm (Monophonic) in Pro Tools :

      AUDIO-9.mp3

 

The exact same process, but this time done in RVP:

      AUDIO-10.mp3

 

Time-compressed source file (to about 50% of the original lenght). Again, I used the default Elastic Audio algorythm in PT:

      AUDIO-11.mp3

 

The same process done in RVP:

      AUDIO-12.mp3

 

There is really not much left to be said about it… We don’t need to be audio experts to tell how big of a difference can a proper algorythm make. RVP eats the PT’s TCE for breakfast, that’s no brainer. Honestly, I don’t think I will reach for Elastic Audio ever again. At least not when I am in need for for time-compression / time-expansion duties.

Please be aware, that I have purposely overused both algorithms. I decided to go that road, because I really wanted to see how well (or not so well) they will perform in extreme settings. In a real life scenario we probably wouldn’t take the time-compression or time-stretching processes that far. It was only done for the purpose of this article. However, I find it rather amusing, that RVP could still retain such a good sound after being abused so hard.

In summary

I spent quite some time testing RVP and not even once I opted for a different result, than the one coming from the Synchro Arts product. No matter if I tried manual solutions or plugins that would do the job for me, I always end up choosing RVP. That’s why I can say with full responsibility, that ReVoice Pro 3 is the best audio processor I have been able to play around with in the last couple of years. Not only it provides astonishing audio quality, but it also does its job very quickly and efficiently and will definitely help us spend more time focusing on the music itself, eliminating the need to worry about technical detalis and processes.

Pros and Cons

I tried my best to stay impartial throughout the article and not to make my judgements based on the fact, that I could mess around with RVP for 3 months free of charge. The plan was to give you my real thoughts and findings with actual audio examples to support it, instead of blindly promoting the product just because I was asked to try it out. It’s hard not to see, that the entire review seems like a one big pro, so let’s try to find some cons instead.

1. The Price

ReVoice Pro 3 is obviously not the cheapest piece of software out there. At the minute we would have to shell out a little over €600 to get it and that price applies to those, who have never purchased and registered any Synchro Arts product. People who already own a VocAlign license (Pro, Project or Project LE) can take advantage of the discounted upgrade price. Details can be found HERE.

The good news is, that for the next two weeks readers of Audio Corners can purchase any of the available Synchro Arts product (including RVP 3) with a special, 20-percent discount. This offer is valid until 21st of April 2015. In order to use the discount, please copy the code below and paste it in at a checkout:

YZWR-KB8T-SRLQ-SH10

This code will bring the price down to €489. It may still seem like a small fortune for some and I am totally aware of that, but if we were to get few different plugins in order to be able to achieve what RVP can achieve on its own, we would probably spend a lot more. Just think – seperate plugin for pitch correction, seperate plugin for realistic vocal-double creation, great sounding time-compression/expansion algorythm and few others… That’s where we would be spendidng fortune. And on top of that, we still wouldn’t be able to automatically transfer nuances of a performance from one track onto another!

If you are serious about your studio work that kind of investment will not only bring you great results in no time, but it will also take the pressure of buying all these seperate plugins which will basically save you money in a long run. If you are still not convinced, feel free to download the demo and put the RVP through its paces. I can guarantee this test-drive will make you desire this plugin forever.

2. No Grid Mode

RVP works with the absolute time measures (hours, minutes, seconds, frames, etc). There is nothing wrong with that and it actually makes a lot of sense, because every piece of audio we capture from the DAW and then process with RVP, will be returned (spotted) to the exact same location it was taken from on the time line. With 100% accuracy. That is obviously a big advantage.

I am not even going to question that. However, I think it would be a great addition and a massive improvement if we could temporary switch RVP to work in Grid Mode, so that we could base our decisions of creating warp points and warping the actual audio to the exact bars and beats. In my opinion it would open more possibilities for time aligning vocals and other instruments as well. If you then consider the possibility of deciding how much of a “processed” sound we want (how tight to the grid we want the Dub in this case) – then you just got yourself a perfect time-aligning tool for many different tracks with the best sounding algorithms available on the market today.

It is probably unfair to call the lack of grid mode a serious flaw. It is more of a suggesstion for future versions, really.

The End

Call me biased. I have been praising the product which was given to me for free. I hear you. I understand where you are coming from and I forgive you! As I said at the very beginning – I don’t do many reviews. I only agree to talk about (or even promote) only the tools I truly believe in. ReVoice Pro 3 is one of those tools – without a shadow of a doubt. It’s been a while since I last came across such an incredible piece of software and it will probably be long before something else amazes me that much again. RVP 3 can do so many great things, it is fast and still sounds way better than the competition.

I tested it for couple of weeks, I agreed to write the review and share my thoughts (with the audio examples) with you. I really wanted you to hear for yourselves what RVP can do, so that my personal opinion was also supported by the actual sounds, not just plain text. I am still very impressed with the way this thing works and I bet you will be too, once you take it for a spin.


I would like to thank Jeremy and Jeff from Synchro Arts for supplying the ReVoice Pro license, for all their help, support and patience and one hell of a professional approach. You guys rock! Thank you.