Output’s Exhale is a powerful new vocal engine for producers (Review)
Software developer Output has become renown in the music production space for creating some of the most innovative and expressive virtual instruments of the past few years. Since gaining attention in 2013 with their reverse sound engine, REV, Output have consistently raised the bar with each successive creation. Their latest invention is Exhale, a fully functional, modern vocal engine, with over 500 different presets.
On the surface, Exhale is a massive vocal bank of one shots, loops, and sliced samples, all of which can be played like any other virtual instrument via MIDI. The reality, however, is much more complex. From sweeping macro controls, to fully customizable vocal patches built from scratch, Exhale is an immensely powerful vocal engine with precise creative control.
The selection of presets within Exhale is seemingly endless, and one can easily spend hours jumping between the different sound banks. From rich textures like “Celtic Woods,” to more ominous tones such as “Warrior’s Horn,” the library is packed with cinematic vocal textures perfect for everything from film scoring to dance production.
Exhale is divided into three sections: Notes, Loops, and Slices. Choosing between these larger categories dictates how one performs the presets. In Notes mode, for instance, a preset is controlled by pitch, allowing one to easily create a melody or chord progression out of the vocal tone. In Loops mode, however, different notes trigger different loops with their own unique rhythm and pitch, while still corresponding to the theme of the preset. The results here are a bit more spontaneous, yet within these more complex vocal patterns rests enormous potential for resampling and audio editing. Finally, there’s Slices mode, which takes the two previous modes a step farther by chopping up a loop and playing it at different pitches.
Altogether, the three different sections allow one to decide to choose how to best utilize Exhale to their own creative means. Underlying each is the ability to change each the preset with four macro controls that are unique to each sound. One preset, for instance, might have macros tied to reverb, distortion, and tone, while another will have macros tied to delay, panning, and filter. These sweeping controls make each sound vastly more dynamic than any standard audio one shot or vocal loop.
The concept of Exhale is taken even further by accessing the Engine tab. You are essentially given the ability to build your own vocal patches from the ground up, starting with a source sound from a list of clean, pitchable vocal takes. From there, it’s a matter of crafting the sound to taste, just as you would through subtractive synthesis, by changing the envelope, applying effects, or even shaping the sound with the built in step sequencer. Aside from using it to create one’s own patches, the Engine tab can be used to modify any native preset, allowing one to further enhance and customize Exhale’s existing instrument options.
Ultimately, the potential of Exhale in the right hands is tremendous. Creating things like ODESZA-style vocal chops, Halo-like vocal pads, or pitched down deep house one shots are achievable with ease. One could easily find satisfying results with the preset bank alone, yet the addition of the Engine opens the door for endless creativity. Exhale is not only an alluring tool for the studio arsenal of composers and electronic musicians alike, but an exciting step forward for software instruments as a whole.
Exhale is available for purchase on Output’s online store.