I am not quite sure what I am looking for yet exactly, but I know i wanted something that can do:
1. vocoder effects (a.k.a. robot vocal/harmonies)
2. analogue synths
3. need to be able to do (1) in realtime
also, preferrably it's something that is not going to sink my bank account - guess that means I probably wouldn't mind if it is software based.
so with those in mind, I looked around on the internet, and it seems there are a few things which does what I wanted:
1. Access Virus (probably the Rack version, even that's stretching 2. Clavia/Nord Micromodular (analogue synth sounds, vocoder effects + more!)
a little, but the sounds I heard are really nice)
3. Orange Vocoder (Cubase VST plugin for PC)
Are there other things out there that I would probably want to check out? obviously a plugin is going to be a lot cheaper than buying a hardware synth... has anyone had any experiences with cubase vst plugins? how easy are they to use if I want to, say, record a vocal track and then use it as the modulator on a carrier sound that is played on an external synth (or from another soft-synth plugin? or from OrangeVocoder's synth portion - can this even be done?)
i use orange vocoder with nuendo to great effect. in a PC, orange vocoder works by simply having your modulation signal panned left, and your carrier panned right (i might have that backwards..). the best way to do it is set up a group track with orange vocoder running as an insert effect. then you can simply set your modulator signal to L and your carrier to R, and set both of them to the group channel's bus (hope i'm not losing you, since cubase might work differently with group channels, etc.). i've never used the onboard synth in orange vocoder, but if you use any other softsynth (pro-52, reaktor, model-e) you can easily achieve the classic vocoded effect. i've also had it set up so i can sing real time and play my midi synth (controlling a soft synth) to actually vocode in real time-pretty fun.
i suggest you download a trial version of orange vocoder and spend some time working with it until you figure it out and feel comfortable with it. you might also download trial versions of any prospective softsynths you're looking into at the same time. Native Instruments makes good softsynths. check out the Pro-52 for a nice sequential circuits prophet 5 emulation. they also make probably the most powerful softsynth/sampler/fx/etc./etc. program, Reaktor. this thing is absolutely sick. it's like a virtual synth "erector set" (remember those things), and you can custom build synths, samplers, fx, etc. from scratch. this can have a great advantage in that you can do things that you could never dream of with hardware synths. want to have 10 LFO's that modulate anything and everything in sight? no problem. it does have a pretty high learning curve though.. again, get a trial version and make sure you're comfortable and happy with something before you spend x amount of cash on it. and be warned, all the aformentioned programs EAT CPU like it was nothing.