OUTPUT EXHALE – VOCAL INNOVATION
Hi, welcome to our review for Outputs’ Exhale Modern Vocal Engine sampler. In today’s modern studios producers are looking for any edge they can get to lift their music over the competition, be it from high-quality loops or, in this case, creative effect processing. Though not as groundbreaking as the “Cher” vocoder effect from the 90s, the release of this instrument is perfectly timed with the current trends of heavy vocal effect processing on pop hits.
Exhale is a VST sampler instrument for the Kontakt platform, requiring the free player version 5.6 or higher. It installs at a tad over 8GB from the slick Output Hub automated installer software.
Those familiar with Output’s previous instruments will immediately be at home with Exhales GUI frontend, a nicely divided layout between the work area and the built-in browser housing some 500+presets. This is split between three modes (notes, loops and slices) with meta tags to help you narrow down the choices. Opening the Engine tab enables access to the backend settings for creating and modifying presets.
On the main screen, the top work area is split into four macro fader zones specific to each preset. Each macro can be swapped out from a list of available choices. These are tailor matched to each preset, but experimentation provides very interesting results. Of course, mapping the faders to MIDI controls works best for the performance of the presets.
Each of the three core modes works in different ways. Note mode is most similar to a typical synth, in that a single sound is mapped across the keyboard so you can play it like an instrument. This is a great place to start getting a feel for the capabilities of the instrument.
Loops mode features 13 one-shot loops assigned to individual keys, each being different yet related in timbre or style. Again, four patch-specific macros are available to further modulate the results.
Finally, Slice mode acts similar to loop mode, except only a single sample has been pre-sliced into creative arrangements across your keyboard range.
Both loop and slice modes can be pitched globally to your project key.
Diving deeper into the engine edit screen, you can mess with the presets or create custom sounds from scratch. Each preset can contain two separate sample engines, each with volume, pan, tuning, EQ and ADSR controls. You can choose from 80 available categorised waves, including one-shots, pads and two tape-sampled waves. The icons are designated male, female or both, with a graphic depicting the style of performance.
Moving down to the rather ingenuous effects section, a large rhythmic FX engine allows you to choose a modulation effect that is triggered by the effects under it. You have the choice of volume, pan, filter, phase, talk and saturation. Each has a little fader you apply to the core modulation effect.
The last three phases, talk and saturate a single effect, but the volume, pan and filter can be applied individually to each of your two sample engines leading to some incredible results.
Altering the send levels and the rhythm FX engine pattern creates endless variations, often leading off into wild tangents.
Finally, at the bottom of the screen are a collection of 5 global insert effects applied to the output of the instrument.
Overall the editing process feels slick and weighted toward experimentation over calculated science, which is the way I prefer to work.
Exhale is an instrument that rewards skilful performance. It is important o familiarise yourself well with the controls and utilise MIDI control where possible. In the hands-on an expert you can achieve some outstanding results.
Even with my rather hamfisted efforts, I managed to squeeze some quite usable sounds. The cleaver backend layout in the Engine section tempts you to experiment, turn things on and toggle dials just to see what happens. Much of what I created was by accident, but I like this approach where you can open the instrument with no idea what to do, then within minutes have something interesting up and running.
I will be first to admit this genre is not my forte, though I did attempt to layer the instrument with some multitrack mixes I was working on, with varying degrees of success. I think with contemporary pop music this effect is bang on trend right now and offers a massive amount of content for those in the scene. For traditional orchestral, rock and metal such as I create, Exhale is perhaps a little more challenging to adapt.
Ultimately though, the interface, like other titles in the Output catalogue, is a triumph. It’s beautifully designed, well laid out, and intuitive with just the right level of complexity in the workflow. The built-in effects are all top-notch meaning there is little reason to look outside the instrument for further processing.
Even if the core focus of Exhale is not specifically your style, there is justification for picking up this title even if you’re just a fan of the Output line. There are a lot of possibilities here for sound design, especially when layered or comped with the likes of Analog Brass or others in the series.
Exhale from Output is another surprisingly deep yet simple-to-operate instrument from the ever-expanding universe of creative sound tools by the company.
The sound is pure contemporary pop, but there is scope here for sound design, film and TV production scores. The distinctive vocalise timbre of the instrument is a little one-dimensional and risks the possibility of becoming off-trend at some point, but for right now this style is very hip and can certainly be put to great use.
The interface is clean and well-organized, and its cool yellow-on-black looks great. It is a shame you can’t play all these modes at once, thus requiring three unique instances of Exhale to be loaded.
Without a doubt, a pop producer’s dream delivers a tonne of inspiration and ideas at every turn. Exhale is another feather in Output’s cap, and if this type of effect is what you need, you’ll find no better library on the market for the job.
For full details and purchasing options, check the official website www.output.com
Like the review? Shout us a cup of coffee!