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Fairlight Instruments Voicetracker VT-5

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In 1985, Fairlight Instruments introduced the Voicetracker VT-5, a device that allows you to operate MIDI and control voltage synthesizers with your voice or any monophonic instrument, rather than with a MIDI keyboard. It was priced at US$2495 when it first came out.

The Voicetracker's 8MHz 68008 CPU analyzes an input signal to determine the pitch and harmonic content of the sound (such as dynamics and breathiness). It takes about 1ms plus several cycles of the incoming sound to determine the pitch. As you might guess, the pitch information is output as MIDI note values and analog control voltages, while the harmonic content analysis can be used to control a synthesizer's filters (among other things).

The Voicetracker can be used to "double" parts, either live or from tape. The original sound can be either enhanced with the doubling sound, or replaced completely by it. The Voicetracker can follow the original pitch exactly, or quantize it to semitone steps.

Like other Fairlight products, the Voicetracker was continually updated, so not all Voicetrackers have the same features. Within a year after its introduction, Fairlight added the capability to perform "intelligent harmonization" -- up to seven note harmony in a designated scale. You can create six harmony setups and switch between them in real time. This capability allows one singer to provide the sound of an entire choir. This is particulary effective if the synthesizer is patched through a vocoder, which imposes the singer's vocal characteristics on the synthesized sound.

Either microphone- or line-level sound sources can be fed into the Voicetracker. These signals are fed right back out unaltered, so that they can be sent to a mixing console. Also, an audio source can be fed into the Voicetracker's voltage controlled amplifier.

The digital inputs and outputs include MIDI in, out, and through. The Voicetracker can send MIDI note messages, along with key velocity, pitch bend, and other controls. There are also patchable footswitch jacks and a serial port for connection to a computer.

The analog outputs (pitch, gate, envelope, brightness, and purity) run from 0 to +5V, with the pitch output at 1 volt per octave. The Voicetracker also contains a built-in synthesizer, with dual DCO and DCF, which is used primarily for practice.

Although the box itself is a fairly attractive package, the video screen interface is a bit primitive looking. But perhaps that is not surprising considering that it was designed to appear on a relatively low resolution video (TV) monitor.

When a video monitor (NTSC or PAL format) is connected to the Voicetracker the pitch information is presented in a scrolling display. The frequencies can be shown in reference to a simulated on-screen piano keyboard or a numerical scale. The scrolling speed and direction can be altered, a visual metronome can be enabled, and you can zoom in until the screen shows just two semi-tones.

Technical Specifications
Type: Analog, Digital
Synthesis: Subtractive
Oscillators: 2
Osc Modulation: Input, Keyboard
Filters: 1
Polyphony & Tuning
Polyphony: 1
Timbrality: 1
Tuning: Standard
Modes: Mono
Case: Desktop
Controls: Buttons
Display Type: LED
Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, Mono Out, Stereo Headphone
CV Ports: CV IN, CV OUT, Gate In, Gate Out
Power: 120V AC
Year Released: 1985
MSRP List Price: $2,495 - convert
Used Price: $400 - convert
References & Sources

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