Excellent sound design has the ability to create some of the most memorable elements of a show. One example are the Daleks, the killer robots from Doctor Who. Their robotic voices created the archetype for how people think robots should sound. Back then, audio professionals relied on analog tools for crafting unique vocal effects. Today, they reach for Mutator, the sound design tool for producing weird, otherworldly vocal effects.
The sound designers who created the Dalek’s voice used an analog effect called ring modulation (an effect modeled in Mutator). In principal, ring modulation is pretty simple—a modulator (usually an LFO) is applied to the output level of an amplifier. At low rates (below ~20 Hz), the result is an effect commonly known as tremolo.
When the modulating oscillator gets into audio range, however, the effect changes drastically. Listen to “exterminate” slowly take shape using a basic amplitude modulation, first in tremolo range, then passing into audio range:
More Than Modulation
There’s more to Mutator than just ring modulation. It’s also a pitch shifting plug-in, letting you manipulate pitch up to +/- 24 semitones, or two octaves in either direction. The Throat Length and Throat Width controls can be used to adjust the effect to sound either more natural or more alien. One example of a natural effect would be shifting a male voice up an octave to sound convincingly female. But when you exaggerate the Throat Length and Throat Width controls, you really unlock the alien nature of Mutator’s effects.
Alien Vocal Effects
In addition to ring modulation, throat-modeling (similar to Throat), and pitch shifting, Mutator also delivers the mindbending Alienize effect. Take a listen to an example of the otherworldly “Alienize” effect:
When the Alienize control is applied, everything gets a little crazy. Mutator does this by chopping up the vocal into tiny fragments then playing them back in reverse. The Dialect control sets the length of the segments, and can optionally be synced to tempo in your DAW. These effects make spoken dialog sound less like modified human language and more like an inhuman language.
The Versatile Vocal Sound Design Tool
Mutator gives you a vast amount of creative options. Try pitching a voice up and applying Alienize to create a vocal effect that sounds truly out of this world. Or, pitch things down 12+ semitones, mix in full Mutation, and widen/lengthen the throat for a growling monster voice. No matter how you use it, exploring these effects is undeniably fun for any audio geek.
Combining the functions of a ring modulator, “alienizer,” and pitch shifting plug-in, Mutator is an incredibly powerful sound design tool. If you’re ready to explore the possibilities with Mutator, download a free trial of Auto-Tune Unlimited. Available through subscription, Auto-Tune Unlimited comes complete with Mutator, every AVOX plug-in, every current edition of Auto-Tune, and more.