VOCAL COLORS BY GALAXY INSTRUMENTS
It’s been some time since we have seen a new product from Galaxy Instruments, and now the creators behind many popular products such as Una Corda, Thrill, Mysteria, Noire & Piano Colors their last release, are back on the scene with Vocal Colors, a new sample library that essentially makes further use of the Colors Kontakt engine, this time to instead process the natural and emotive tones of the human voice.
Vocal Colors runs in the full version of Kontakt 7.3.1 and above, or the free Kontakt Player equivalent, and is compliant with Komplete Kontrol.
The library occupies 16.61GB of disk space in it’s compressed NCW format, from the original 19.77GB uncompressed.
There is one master Vocal Colors Kontakt NKI file, which is the source for a further 253 NKSN Kontakt snapshot files, these provide the presets that we find within Komplete Kontrol.
DOWNLOAD & INSTALLATION
Being a Native Instruments product, the entire authorisation, download and installation procedure is handled through Native Access, making this a very simple, accessible and seamless process.
Loading up an instance of Komplete Kontrol within your chosen DAW will quickly auto scan your new library into your browser ready for use.
KOMPLETE KONTROL PLUG-IN EDIT NKS PARAMETER MAPPING
PAGE ONE – Layer 1, Layer 2, Particles, Global
Knob 1 – Layer 1 On/Off
Knob 2 – Layer 1 Volume
Knob 3 – Layer 2 On/Off
Knob 4 – Layer 2 Volume
Knob 5 – Particles On/Off
Knob 6 – Particles Volume
Knob 7 – Global Volume
Knob 8 – Not Allocated
PAGE TWO – Arp Routing, Arp Settings
Knob 1 – Arp On/Off
Knob 2 – Arp Layer 1 On/Off
Knob 3 – Arp Layer 2 On/Off
Knob 4 – Not Allocated
Knob 5 – Arp Settings, Time1/1 up to 1/32 including triplets
Knob 6 – Arp Octave Range 0 to 2
Knob 7 – Length
Knob 8 – Velocity
PAGE THREE – Layer 1 Tone
Knob 1 – Formant Shift
Knob 2 – Dynamic
Knob 3 – Colour
Knob 4 – Pan
Knob 5 – Tracking, Single Track, Double Track
Knob 6 – Pitch Slide On/Off
Knob 7 – Pitch Slide Amount
Knob 8 – Tuning
PAGE FOUR – Layer 1 Tone, Tone Envelope, Tone Split
Knob 1 – Attack
Knob 2 – Decay
Knob 3 – Sustain
Knob 4 – Release
Knob 5 – Layer 1 Tone Split Note
Knob 6 to 8 – Unallocated
PAGE FIVE – Layer 1 Modulation FX
Knob 1 – FX 1 On/Off
Knob 2 – FX 1 Amount
Knob 3 – FX 2 On/Off
Knob 4 – FX 2 Amount
Knob 5 – FX 3 On/Off
Knob 6 – FX 3 Amount
Knob 7 – FX 4 On/Off
Knob 8 – FX 4 Amount
PAGE SIX – Layer 1 EQ, Layer 1 Space, Layer 1 Dynamics
Knob 1 – Layer 1 EQ ON/Off
Knob 2 – Layer 1 Space On/Off
Knob 3 – Send
Knob 4 – Time
Knob 5 – Layer 1 Dynamics On/Off
Knob 6 – Compression
Knob 7 – Saturation
Knob 8 – Volume
PAGE SEVEN – Layer 1 Motion A, Layer Layer 1 Motion B
Knob 1 – Motion A On/Off
Knob 2 – Motion A Speed 1/1 to 1/32 including triplets
Knob 3 – ReTrigger On/Off
Knob 4 – Motion A Direction, Forwards, Backwards, Ping Pong
Knob 5 – Motion B On/Off
Knob 6 – Motion B Speed, 1/1 to 1/32 including triplets
Knob 7 – ReTrigger
Knob 8 – Direction, Forwards, Backwards, Ping Pong
PAGE EIGHT TO PAGE TWELVE – As per pages 3 to 7 for layer 1
PAGE THIRTEEN – Particles
Knob 1 – Particle Presets (Various)
Knob 2 – Density
Knob 3 – Variation, Timing Based
Knob 4 – Pre Delay On/Off
Knob 5 – Decay, 0 to Infinite
Knob 6 – Double On/Off
Knob 7 – Source Mix
Knob 8 – Timbre, Soft to Hard 0 to 100%
PAGE FOURTEEN – Global EQ
Knob 1 – EQ On/Off
Knob 2 – Low Freq Gain
Knob 3 – Low Mid Freq Gain
Knob 4 – Low Mid Freq
Knob 5 – High Mid Gain
Knob 6 – High Mid Freq
Knob 7 – High Freq Gain
Knob 8 – High Freq
PAGE FIFTEEN – Global Compressor
Knob 1 – Compressor On/Off
Knob 2 – Input Level
Knob 3 – Saturation
Knob 4 – Compression
Knob 5 – Character
Knob 6 – Attack
Knob 7 – Release
Knob 8 – Mix
PAGE SIXTEEN – Macro Velocity, Macro LFO
Knob 1 – Macro Velocity On/Off
Knob 2 – Smoothing
Knob 3 – Pullback
Knob 4 – Unallocated
Knob 5 – Macro LFO On/Off
Knob 6 – Shape
Knob 7 – Time, 4/1 to 1/8
Knob 8 – Strength
I did have some expectations that Vocal Colors may have received a more significant NKS mapping template compared to it’s predecessor Piano Colors, which sadly never received any NKS related updates beyond the initial release version.
As things stand, there are two additional pages which do extend the template from 14 to 16 pages, however these are mostly related to the more specific Vocal Colors features that are not generic to it’s Piano sibling.
We still have no access to the sample browsers which would allow the real time changing of samples and particles, possibly due to recommendations within the technical KSP scripting language that relate to the purging of loaded samples.
However as other developers do appear to be able to workaround this, I am awaiting some official clarification from Native Instruments on the general viability, especially when accessibility is potentially dependant upon it.
The expansive Arp feature could easily have had a couple of extra pages dedicated to it’s operation.
At the moment the NKS mapping allows us to turn the arp on, on a per layer basis, provided that each layer has a sample already pre loaded,.
The timing options are global and affect both layers simultaneously, and there are no means for us to choose from the various arp pattern types directly through NKS.
THE KONTAKT COMPARISON
If we take some time to cross reference the controls that have been made available for automation within Kontakt outside of Komplete Kontrol, via the parameter list of our DAW, then we find that there are an almost bewildering 461 available, which would offer a far greater scope for sound shaping, but sadly still no access to the sample browsers.
For blind & visually impaired users, this does leave us somewhere between a rock & a hard place in terms of accessibility.
On the one hand, using Komplete Kontrol we can load all of the 264 presets, but with a limited number of the controls being passed through to NKS.
In contrast, when loading the master Vocal Colors NKI directly into Kontakt, there is a far greater array of useful control, but due to the Kontakt application having a lack of accessibility in order to load the NKSN snapshots results in us only having the single master NKI preset to work with, and no way to access and use the extensive Vocal Colors sample pool, (having the snapshots resaved as NKI files would perhaps be a reasonable although time consuming workaround).
Vocal Colors does offer a respectable number of cu rated factory presets, which aptly demonstrate the capabilities of the instrument.
These are not separated into banks, but do have browser tagging for Chord, One Shots, Vocal, Mixed Choir, Bright, Evolving, Human, Pads, Percussive, Processed, Special FX, Tempo Synced, Arpeggiated & Sequenced/Looped.
Vocal Colors does offer a quite unique perspective on the use of the processed human voice, with a varying quantity of more obviously blended vocoded sounds being omni present throughout the library.
Presets such as ‘Angelic Voices’ provide a beautiful harmonic mix of the male and female voice, with an underlying musical tonality and a high frequency breathy layer which evolves into your auditory focus over time.
The breath samples are a distinctive feature of the Vocal Colors signature sound, with patches such as ‘Breathe & Make Off’ and ‘Breathy Drone’ being among these blatantly named candidates.
The latter has a rather sinister sounding processed baritone at your disposal in the lower octaves.
Some more immediately noticeable timbre modulations can be achieved by changing the Particle presets, which in contrast to Piano Colors have now been added and are helpfully labelled. The subsequent adjustment of the particle density can provide even more dramatic changes to the overall tone.
There are a number of arpeggiated and tempo synced presets included among the content, which can work well to add some animation to your tracks.
‘Consonant Soundscape’ is one of the more subtle exponents of this category, with the quarter note timing delivering a slow dream like quality to the choice of notes you play.
To up the anti a little more, ‘E Yey Pulse’, uses more defined vowels and a distinct arp patten, for good rhythmic effect.
While at the top end of the spectrum, ‘Three Five Four’ will place you into more pronounced and obvious arp territory.
<pre class="wp-block-syntaxhighlighter-code"><br /><br /><strong> VOCAL CLARITY</strong></pre>
Galaxy Instruments are clearly an established and talented commodity when it comes to the sampling process, the sound is of a high quality, clear, bright, spatially wide and with a well crafted and polished sound right out of the box.
There are no keyswitches used within Vocal Colors, and the modulation wheel has various pre assignments ranging from filter cut-off to more creative usage such as the particle density control which brings some nice expressiveness to the proceedings.
The presets generally cover a 7 octave range, with the low registers delivering a disturbing vocoded demonic presence, while at the upper end, the extreme high pitches could well set your neighbourhood dogs barking!
The pitch slide control is put to good use in many of the presets, which gives a kind of hybrid portamento and glide effect for the notes and chords you play.
Also pertinent to Vocal Colors is the formant control, which in traditional vocoding terms highlights the frequencies of the voice, and if automated as an NKS control can add another useful modulation option.
Do make a point of checking out the various videos linked at the review footer, these are especially helpful and insightful in understanding the potential of the instrument and hearing the presets it contains.
There is no doubt that Vocal Colors is a far reaching and extremely capable vocal engine, and equally in capable hands can be a really creative and impressive musical tool.
I have to confess I was disappointed that the many and extensive processing controls had not been carried over to the NKS mapping, which as blind users we rely entirely upon.
For sound design, this is a sobering reality where access to the Vocal Colors sample set is concerned.
My sighted readers need have no concerns whatsoever, as Vocal Colors will provide you with a wealth of controls once the user interface has been mastered.
The library does have a broad appeal and spectrum of musical use cases, from modern pop & EDM, cinematic & soundscapes and everything in between.
For most blind & VI users though, it is likely to be a considered purchase beyond the factory presets, where weighing up the pros & cons between accessibility versus value for money and usage is a factor.
Vocal Colors by Galaxy Instruments is available from the Native Instruments website at an introductory price of £129.00 (usually £179.00) until June 12th.
Vocal Colors – Product Page:
Vocal Colors – Product Walkthrough:
One Week With Vocal Colors:
Vocal Colors – User Manual:
(c) Chris Ankin
25th May 2023
The author can not accept any responsibility for subsequent purchase decisions made as a result of this review,or Any inaccuracies found therein. All opinions and product functions stated are based solely on information perceived as a blind user whilst using the product and/or gathered from official factual sources such as the developer, web or supplied product manual.
About the Author
Based in Buckinghamshire, England, Chris Ankin has worked as a freelance review writer and contributor with articles published in Sound On Sound, Home & Studio Recording and ST Format Magazines.
He has also successfully worked extensively in and around the music, recording, film Soundtrack scoring, Game & media composition, the creative arts, Charitable trusts,publishing, music streaming and property investments since 1982 whilst continuously and deliberately managed to evade any mainstream recognition under his own name by the use of various pseudonyms.