So, the time has finally come! VocaTone’s second Vocaloid voicebank, Yohioloid, is released to much applause. Personally, I feel it’s a major milestone for the Western community, because this is the first bilingual English/Japanese voicebank to have both very good quality English and Japanese. While his English is indeed accented (Swedish-Japanese I think?), the voicebank still lends itself remarkably to small tweaks and tricks to achieve respectable results. All in all, I’m very happy to have gotten to work with the voicebank and even contribute a few (very small) suggestions.
“Pros and cons”, you ask? I only got to play with his English bank, so my commentary is limited to half of the package.
On the downside, as I mentioned, ‘Hio is clearly not a native English speaker. The good news is, with only a few vowel replacements, I was surprised to hear a big difference. I’d rank his receptiveness to phoneme-tweaking on the same level as Big Al’s or Avanna’s. With such an easy-to-fix problem as number one, I think it speaks volumes for this quality voicebank.
As for the second disadvantage, along the same lines, some of his English phonemes don’t play nicely together. I noticed “eI and “N” (“ang”) don’t have a smooth transition, which is a fairly common combination in American accents. I substitute “e N” (a more British or perhaps non-regional version), but it’s not quite what I want. In the end though, I did manage to quickly find an alternative phoneme combination, so I suppose it’s not that big an issue.
Somewhere in the middle of a pro and a con is the formant in his voice. For you non-music-speakers, that’s the same as Vocaloid Editor’s “gender” value. While ‘Hio sounds distinctly male in his natural pitch-range, once you get above a certain point on the piano roll his voice takes on a more feminine tone until it’s hard to hear him as the same singer anymore. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your preferences, but I find it not so much a “good” or “bad” thing as just a “thing”.
On the other end of the discussion, I think ‘Hio’s voice is great in a wide variety of musical genres. Because of his higher range, he’s great at sailing over the top of the sea of thick musical textures you might find in trance or in metal. As a producer, I like writing songs where the instrumental lines can be enjoyed even without the singer, which often makes it difficult to add a singer on top of them. I don’t have this problem at all when mixing Yohioloid in, and I’d call that a definite plus.
As a final compliment to this product, I’d like to refer back to my first point: Yohioloid is one of only a few bilingual Vocaloids on the market today. More than anything else, I appreciate the opportunities this provides for more cross-over between those Vocaloid producers who write in Japanese, and those who write in English. It’s a great chance to try writing music in a different language, without the investment of buying a different voicebank that you might end up regretting. In plain English that means you’d be buying two separate, remarkable voicebanks for the price of a single, modestly-priced one.
To put it all together, Yohioloid ended up surprising me. When I expected a bilingual voicebank to have low-quality English, VocaTone delivered a respectable musical instrument that I’d be glad to add to my growing collection. While I don’t think this particular Vocaloid will be the one to bring balance to the Force, nor the Vocaloid movement to the West, I do think that it has the great potential to turn the world’s (and even the kuudere Japanese community’s) glance in our direction.