Vochlea Dubler 2 review: live audio to MIDI solution is always better for beats than for pitch
Price Software $ 249 / £ 189, Upgrade $ 78 / £ 59, Dubler Studio Kit $ 2,329 / £ 249
The original Vochlea Dubler Studio kit impressed with its incredible ability to turn beatbox to MIDI with incredibly low latency. However, its smart software component was previously only available with Vochlea’s micro USB. On the other hand, you can now buy the Dubler 2 software on its own and use any dynamic mic you already own, which brings the price down.
So what else is new?
Dubler 2 has dramatically improved the chord management capabilities that truly open up unexpected creative paths, and it’s a bit more immediate than V1. However, if you want to turn those golden song ideas in your head into production-ready tracks just by singing them along, Dubler 2 is not a quick fix.
The software works with any dynamic microphone; we used an SM7B and a Rode PodMic. The advantage of using Vochlea’s microphone (available in the more expensive kit) is that there is no calibration required. Even so, calibration takes less than a minute with a third-party model. Of course, the other advantage of using your own mic is that you can record audio simultaneously, if you want to.
When it comes to beat detection, you need to “train” (record) your drum triggers for each sound. Training is remarkably streamlined in this release. You simply repeat each trigger sound up to 12 times, then move on to the next. These can be beatbox drums, finger clicks, claps, and other short, percussive sounds – each should be as distinct as possible. Once you’re in the game, recording the triggers for three sounds can take as little as 15 seconds.
As with the original Dubler, as soon as you exceed three triggers, the likelihood of trigger error increases. In our tests, the sweet spot was to practice just a kick, snare, and hi-hat through the beatbox and practice a finger click and a real helping hand to trigger two more sounds.
Triggering is extremely fast and precise, especially if your parts are relatively simple. However, accidental triggers (especially double triggers) can hamper the rapid programming of drum parts. For us, virtually all of the MIDI that Dubler 2 spits out requires editing. At the bare minimum, you’ll want to memorize your MIDI quantization shortcut. We needed our own very much.
Almost everything about the layout and usability of Dubler 2 is more inviting than version 1. The interface is much better organized with tabs for each major function or parameter.
Where the original Dubler software lacked immediacy, Dubler 2 has it in spades. This is largely thanks to this version having built-in sounds. This means that no DAW setup is required before you can start training the software. It might seem like a minor point, but psychologically it makes the set a lot more welcoming and exciting than its predecessor. There are 808 drums and a range of different sounds for the Pitch and Chord outputs, including oscillating bass, trumpets, and 8-bit pads and pads. Immediately after launch you get a fantastic idea of what Dubler is capable of.
The pitch tracking section is vastly improved in Dubler 2. Our vocal skills leave a lot to be desired, but we could still produce something musical from the software. That said, if your vocal abilities are lacking, Dubler 2 might not be all you hope for.
Obtaining useful pitch results from Dubler 2 depends on a “Stickiness” control that balances timing accuracy against pitch stability. The less sticky it is, the more agile the note movements can be. The downside is that if you don’t have full control over the pitch of your voice, the software may have a hard time pinpointing your intention, oscillating between notes and creating additional MIDI data that you can edit later.
One of the most useful features is the Sing In Notes feature, where you sing in your intended part, and the software determines which key includes the notes you need. The advantage of setting a tone is the Key Restriction feature – a scale quantization mode – which helps the software interpret your voice input. A small amount of music theory goes a long way for this section due to all the new scales available, but it’s pretty easy to use.
The most significant creative difference in Dubler 2 is the updated Chords mode. Once you’ve set your clef, Chord Mode transforms each note sung into a full MIDI chord. This makes it extremely easy to quickly create fairly complex chord progressions. The interface is more advanced than the MIDI DAW chord trigger effects. You can set the behavior just to create triads, or there are Pop Simple and Pop Advanced modes that automatically harmonize notes with appropriate (and increasingly complex) chords. Once you factor in an automatic root note bassline feature and the ability to group or spread your chords, its benefits become evident. Chords mode turns Dubler 2 into an extremely flexible tool for composing with strings, synths, keys and more. In short, if offering convincing chord progressions is not your forte, it could add an extra touch of musicality.
As well as offering pitch, chord, and drum triggers, Dubler is also a controller, turning vowel sounds (AAA, EEE, OOO) and level (ENV) into CC messages. The control tools in Dubler 2 are, again, fine-tuned compared to the original. You can set minimum and maximum input and output values to gain much greater control with your voice, and it makes a big difference if you choose to use this feature.
A daily use case is to map the sound of AAA vowels to the filter cutoff frequency on a VST synth. This way, when you produce an open mouth sound, the VST synth filter opens. In this case, the synthesized sound becomes a perfect analog for the sound you’re singing, and anyone can do it with minimal MIDI mapping.
In theory, you can map these controls to any parameter you like, but most of the other mappings (mixing between sounds, for example) seem a bit too abstract to perform without a fair amount of practice. That’s the problem with the Dubler concept. If you already have a DAW controller, turning a knob will likely be smoother and require less editing than using Dubler 2. If Dubler 2 is your first foray into controllers, then this is a valuable addition. Likewise, if you are playing and your hands are busy playing other musical parts, then having that level of control using just your voice could make all the difference.
In the right hands, Dubler 2 can be a capable creative sidekick. Just watch the videos of Vochlea artists to realize this. For pitch-to-MIDI, Dubler 2 is most powerful when used by a skilled and precise singer. It is a full-fledged instrument that requires you to invest time and energy to become proficient. If holding a song isn’t your strong suit, and you’re already making do with keyboards or pads (and triggering chords), Dubler 2 might just cause more frustration than just sticking to traditional controllers.
However, its great strength remains its fast and precise beatbox recognition capabilities; here it is really first class. As a very amateur beatboxer, I have often dreamed of translating the beats entirely in my head into the DAW. Dubler 2 easily provides the closest approximation to date.
- Standalone software
- Compatible with macOS 10.13+, Windows 10
- Compatible with all DAWs
- Convert Trigger to Live MIDI
- Extremely low latency
- Convert pitch to MIDI
- Vowel to MIDI CC conversion
- Integrated sounds
- Supports up to 8 triggers at a time
- Small CPU footprint