Output have become known for distinctive, groundbreaking VSTi. I have to admit, I was really looking forward to reviewing Exhale. It is described by Output as a “modern vocal engine”. In essence it is aimed at music producers, and sound designers, who want highly processed vocal samples for their productions. If it was anything like the promo videos I had seen… I was going to really enjoy performing the review.
On the other hand, how many times had I looked forward to an instrument based on a good demo and hype, only disappointed by the sad reality? I really hoped this was one of those times the product lived up to it’s hype.
Vocal Synth Patches
I have always liked vocal based patches. It has to be said that leading up to Exhale they had become pretty predictable and dated.
Although Exhale promised a lot, would there really be a breadth of quality, creative sounds? Just how versatile would Exhale be when it came to customising the existing sounds or creating new sounds?
As is customary in product reviews, we’ll get started with a basic tour of the features.
Video Review and Demo
There are 500 presets spread across 3 performance modes. All in all that’s 10 Gb of sample data. Notes mode, Loops mode and Slices mode. All three content categories are accessed through the same Kontakt interface.
Presets can be filtered using 12 filter buttons, making it quick and easy to find specific patches. The filter buttons can be used alone or in any combination.
In Notes mode samples are chromatically tuned. When you play D3, you get D3.
In Loops mode each note from C2 to C3 will play a different sample. The key of the sample playback can be selected, such that the pitch of the source samples are different, and mapped to the selected key.
Slices mode is very similar to Loops mode. The main difference between the two modes lies in the source samples. In Slices mode the original waveforms are slices of a larger sample that has been chopped up.
In loops and slice modes the playback key can be altered using the key selector, immediately above the patch macros.
Common features to all modes are the 4 macro controllers. They can be adjusted by mouse or an assigned controller, meaning they can be controlled via your DAW or an external midi controller. Each macro can control up to 6 underlying parameters.
The exact macros and settings can be customised for each preset using the macro assignment page. Each preset also has custom automatable FX for both modulation parameters and insert FX.
Users can also create their own snapshots for Native Instruments Maschine.
In addition to the 3 main modes, users can create custom patches using the Exhale Engine. This includes the ability to select two source waveforms, custom waveforms for the ADSR, set up custom macros, insert and mod FX and much more.
At the top of the main Engine page is the sources panel. This is where the two source samples that will be combined to create each patch are selected. Each of the source sounds have a dedicated tune, pan, EQ, and ADSR envelope along with options to reverse the sample and the ability to change its pitch.
Directly below the Source panel is the Rhythm panel. This is where rhythms can be used to modulate volume, pan, filters, and FX like Talk, Saturate and Phaser. These modulator (Mod) FX can be applied to the two Source channels in different amounts using control faders.
A broad selection of simple and complex modulation waveforms can be chosen, plus a fully programmable step sequencer modulation input.
The last element in the signal chain are a bank of insert FX, unaffected by the modulators. Insert FX include Pitch, Dirt (distortion), Comp, Tone, Delays, Reverb and Motion (a chorus effect).
- Audio Units
- RTAS (Pro Tools 9 + 10)
- AAX Native (Pro Tools 10)
- 64-bit AAX plugins (Pro Tools 11)
Output Exhale is available for both Mac and Windows platforms.
The test platform, used for the review, was a Windows 10 PC, featuring a Core with 16 Gb RAM.
Exhale is a synthesizer, not a simple sample library. It provides a good selection of highly processed vocal samples together with a very user friendly synth interface. It offers plenty to those interested in shaping sounds, or those who require a good level of timing control for rhythmic synchronisation.
I am really impressed with Exhale. It is an innovative synth with a lush set of high quality default patches. It is a lot more flexible than you might suspect and the promise of expansion packs only extends the potential uses of what is already a very useful synth.
Exhale is another triumph from Output. It joins an already impressive range of groundbreaking studio and live synths. Combined they offer a unique set of tools for music creation that really doesn’t disappoint.
At roughly $199 (£179), it really is a price that can’t be ignored.