Electrix WarpFactory Vocoder

This package landed on my desk. I unwrapped it and revealed a well-built piece of gear that can be mounted on a rack or slapped on a tabletop. I knew it was going to be fun putting this Electrix WarpFactory vocoder ($399) through its paces because, most of all, it's built to make things scream.
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Product PointsApplications: Studio production; remixing; DJ

Key Features: Vocoder with mic and line inputs, format and gender control; internal or external sound source; MIDI control

Price: $399

Contact: Electrix at 250-544-4091; www.electrixpro.com.
Electrix WarpFactory Vocoder


Plus: Great range of usable, Sturdy construction,
Ease of use

Minus: None

The Score: An excellent and highly creative tool for producers, remixers and DJs.This package landed on my desk. I unwrapped it and revealed a well-built piece of gear that can be mounted on a rack or slapped on a tabletop. I knew it was going to be fun putting this Electrix WarpFactory vocoder ($399) through its paces because, most of all, it's built to make things scream.

Features

When I first picked up the unit, I was impressed with its heft and construction. Everything about it is well polished and gives a feeling of security and reliability.

The features are laid out simply and efficiently. Here's the rundown, left to right:

There's a microphone input on the front panel and mic gain control right next to it. A set of LEDs above the gain knob allows the user to monitor the input level.

The formant input select section features two buttons. The first button shuttles through type of input (mic, line [ess on], line [ess off], and auto) and the second button switches between high and low frequency bands.

There are three large dials controlling gender, Q and order. The gender dial controls how thin or deep the vocal sounds by affecting the harmonic content without changing the pitch. The Q dial controls the width of the filters and generates a flange effect. The order dial adjusts the resolution of the filter, from clear to granular.

Robot pitch and noise are the next two dials. The robot pitch dial is for just that, making the sound oscillate like those old disco robot sounds. The noise dial adds hiss, similar to dead air on a radio.

The formant-freeze button takes a sound from the formant input and freezes it. The effect-mix dial controls the mix in relation to the dry input. The source-kill button controls source input in relation to the formant input. If there is no formant input the source is quiet, and if the formant is active then the source is active. The bypass button bypasses the entire WarpFactory.

On the back panel there are several 1/4-inch and RCA jacks, one XLR input and two MIDI jacks.

In use

When I first hooked it up and played around with it, I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it - or if I even liked it - but it definitely grew on me

It's fun playing with this thing. It is incredibly reliable. I never had a problem with it and the ease at which creative sounds can be had impressed me.

I used it for vocals during a live DJ set and on a studio project. In the studio, I used the effects to conceal or reveal the vocal track according to where I wanted it placed. Occasionally, I would place it as a backing track to the vocal, slowly taking the vocal out on a loop and leaving the highly distorted vocal track.

When deejaying I wanted the vocal to be intelligible for the most part, and it's easy to affect the vocals to a slight or great degree while still letting them sound like speech. The unit's effects have a nice gradual, sweeping, analog arc to the output; it doesn't step up or down when increasing the input like a digital effect box. Therefore, when "dialing in the sound" you can get, as jazz musicians say, "in between the notes."

As a DJ, I never found using the WarpFactory difficult or intrusive. When I was setting it up, however, it occurred to me that it might be a pain to make it work in the mix. I did not practice with it much, aside from getting the basics down, so when I decided to bring it with me I figured, "What the hell? It won't kill me and if it doesn't work well I don't have to use it."

Well, it worked like a charm. I hooked it up through the aux effect I/Os so I was able to cue the effect without any trouble. With a couple turns of the knobs I found the sound I was looking for.

One thing I found WarpFactory good for was affecting the rhythm track in a drum and bass, electro break, big beat or hardcore mix. I'd select the low band, dial it up (or key it in if I was using the MIDI input) and add a little or a lot of grunge/noise to the sound.

I am currently working on a project called My Evil Twin with a DJ friend of mine from Chicago. The project is essentially a dissident, atmospheric, ambient, drum and bass work. During the creation of the demo CD, "Bells, Loops, Whistles: An Intro to the Twin," we used the Electrix WarpFactory to great success. Though used on only two vocals in the entire album, the application of the unit really shined in affecting drum tracks, constant or oscillating tone signals, keyboards and guitar distortion.

I liked all the sounds we squeezed out of this thing - from deep, gnarly, crunchy, guttural to thin, hollow, tin-can sound to emulating scratching turntable sounds. I was never at a loss to find something usable and the density of the sound always ranged from subtle to overwhelming. On one track, "Cicada (Conversations with Insects)," we used the WarpFactory with a low oscillating tone.

The idea for this track came from a piece I heard on NPR about how the leaf hopper insect communicates, sending subharmonic frequencies by clicking and tapping on a leaf, stem of a plant or blade of grass. The effect that we achieved was similar but still abstract enough. We loved it.

We achieved the desired effect by creating a feedback loop. We sent one source input and the formant input from the mixing board from an aux send and one from the tone. Then one output was sent back to the return and one to a channel on the board. The tone was also sent to the board and line (ess off) was selected on the WarpFactory. I probably didn't need to do all that, but it did provide a feedback loop through the board that I was able to control, and that's what we were looking for.

Summary

Electrix products are fast becoming an invaluable tool for many electronic musicians, producers and DJs. Recently, I attended a local live performance by the band Chessie. One of the members of Chessie told me he is using an Electrix FilterFactory on a side project. Another person using these tools is DJ/Producer John Digweed, of Sasha and Digweed and Twilo fame. You can check out his interview on the Electrix Web site.

Actually, it doesn't matter who is using these effects; there's no need to keep up with the Joneses. It allows maximum individuality. I found the WarpFactory to be solid, easy to hook up, virtually indestructible and very satisfying.