Software Review: EXHALE by Output – The World’s First Modern Vocal Engine

In this software review, Dubspot’s Rory PQ takes us through EXHALE, the world’s first modern Vocal Engine developed by Output. Get an in-depth look at the powerful features that makes this cutting-edge vocal instrument worth adding to your arsenal.

Output, the creative force behind the development of innovative software instruments such as REV, SIGNAL, and X-LOOPS have taken the music community by storm once again with their latest groundbreaking concept EXHALE, a playable vocal engine built for producers, composers, artists, and sound designers across all genres.

Listen to EXHALE in action below.

EXHALE Overview

Truly the first of its kind, EXHALE is a modern vocal engine that combines sampling, synthesis, and effects designed for manipulating and creating creative vocal sounds with ease. EXHALE was developed by a team of 25 sound designers and acclaimed record producers that worked together to capture and shape hundreds of vocal performances using different types of vintage gear, analog gear, tape machines, vocoders, and various other pieces of gear. The result, is a unique vocal instrument loaded with modern effects, modulation options, performance tools, and presets that allow you to transform vocal samples into simple or complex sounds.

EXHALE features two display pages loaded with various functions for sculpting, selecting, and editing sounds, as well as an impressive preset library and Macro controls to get you started. The powerful engine offers three distinct Play Modes: Notes for chromatic playing, Loops for looping vocal elements, and Slices for sliced vocal phrases. Sounds can either be triggered using a keyboard or by drawing in MIDI notes through your DAW of choice. Evolve sounds further through EXHALE’s FX Engine and Rhythm Panel using six different Mod Effects modulated by either an LFO or Step Sequencer or by any of the seven Insert Effects that can be applied without modulation. Finally, select from over 500 presets and control your sound on the Main page using any of four Macro sliders, which allow you to alter up to six parameters at once with just one slider. EXHALE also has a handy Help menu that is easily accessible to learn more about the instrument on-the-fly. Let’s dive in and get a closer look at what EXHALE has to offer.



EXHALE’s most noticeable feature is the four signature Output curved Macro sliders that allow users to control up to six parameters per slider. Assigning EXHALE’s Macros to various parameters is quick and easy. Clicking the ‘Macros’ button in the top-right menu panel will access Macro Edit Mode. The Engine page then becomes the Macro Assign page where you can assign any available parameter to the selected Macro slider with a simple click. Hovering over any parameter will reveal if it can be assigned to a Macro or overridden. Clicking on the ‘Override’ button will remove the parameter from the older Macro slider and assign it to the new one. In addition, EXHALE’s Main page becomes the Macro Edit page in Macro Mode. This is where you can edit the range and depth of each effect parameter, as well as bypass or remove a parameter from a Macro slider.

Key Selector


The Key Selector button located in the top-right menu next to the Macros button allows you to transpose Slices or Loops to match your songs key. You can also turn off any transposition to keep the original pitch and maintain the inherent tonality of the selected sound. There are also options to choose from major keys or minor keys.

EXHALE Main Page


EXHALE’s Main page is where you can adjust Output’s signature curved Macro sliders, switch through Play Modes, and work with a large selection of presets. The three Play Modes: Notes, Loops, and Slices contain various styles of sounds that can be played forwards, reversed, looped or unlooped. To get started, choose a play mode by clicking on one of the three mode switches located beneath the Macro sliders and then select from 12 different tags to help filter the preset options by sound characteristic. Once a preset is selected, switch over to the Engine page to access a wealth of features used to sculpt your sound. Let’s check out the three Play Modes in more detail.

Notes Mode


Notes Mode is a lot of fun; it allows you to simultaneously play two independent sources chromatically for creating rich sounding chords or harmonies. This powerful mode makes it easy to layer different vocal sources that always play great together. Each source also has independent Volume, Pan, Tune, and sample start time controls. Additionally, either source can be set to playback forwards or reversed. Shape sounds further by accessing the EQ, Volume Envelope, and Advanced Settings by clicking on the corresponding button in the center of the Source Panel. There are also three additional sound sources to choose from while in Notes Mode that displays a visual representation of the different sound sources:

  • One Shots – Allows you to trigger sounds chromatically without looping.
  • Pads – Will infinitely sustain sounds while triggered.
  • Tape – Great for triggering tempo synced loops chromatically.

Loops Mode


Loops Mode is a single source that offers 40 different tempo synced Loop banks with 13 loops per bank mapped across C2-C3 on the keyboard. Each note in a Loop bank has individual Volume, Tune, Pan, Reverse, and Loop Playback controls. To get started, select the desired loop via mouse click or MIDI trigger, then adjust the loop’s note settings to taste. There’s even a note indicator that will show the selected note. Shape your sounds further by accessing controls that allow you to adjust the Volume, Formant Shift, Playback Speed, Four-band EQ, Envelope (ADSR), and Advanced Settings such as Velocity Sensitivity and Monophonic Mode, which only allows one note to play at once, even if multiple notes are triggered.

Slices Mode


Slices Mode is great for modulating, creating unique patterns, and triggering mind-blowing stutters or glitched vocal chops. Choose from 40 different tempo synced vocal phrases that are then split into 13 slices per bank and mapped to each note from C2-C3. This mode works perfectly for playing Slices with a 16 pad MPC-style controller such as the Ableton Push. Individual notes within a Slice Bank can also be tuned, panned, mixed, looped, or reversed independently as well. Additionally, you can keep track of the triggered slices with the Note Indicator and access Advanced Settings for even more sound shaping fun.

EXHALE Engine Page


The Engine page is where the real magic happens. Here you can access and edit the Source Panel, Mod Rhythm Section, Mod Effects, and Insert Effects. Let’s check out these sections in more detail.

Source Panel


At the top of EXHALE’s Engine page is the Source Panel. We explored many of the features offered in this section while looking at the different Play Modes. This section allows you to select your sound source and customize the characteristics of the sound source before any effects or modulation takes place. The various sound shaping controls vary depending on the selected play mode.

Rhythm Panel | FX Engine

The section of controls below the Source Panel is EXHALE’s FX Engine. Here you can shape rhythms, adjust modulation send levels, and apply various audio effects that can be saved as FX presets to recall anytime. The FX Engine consists of two parts: the Rhythm Panel and Effects Panel. In addition, there are two types of effects: Mod Effects and Insert Effects. Mod Effects are modulated by settings in the Rhythm Panel while Insert Effects are applied separately and are not modulated by the Rhythm Panel. For more intuitive control, both Mod and Insert Effects parameters can be assigned to Macro sliders.

Rhythm Panel


The Rhythm Panel allows you to set the shape, speed, and fluctuation of modulation. Here you can choose your modulation type between an LFO or Step Sequencer. After a mod type is selected, customize the sound further by choosing a desired preset in the form of a waveshape or sequence pattern. You can also draw your own sequence patterns. The presets offer some great starting points, and you can choose anywhere between simple to complex presets that work amazingly for any situation. This section also offers a secondary step sequencer called Flux, that will either increase or decrease the global modulation rate. Flux also has additional settings that allow you to draw a sequencer shape or generate random sequences controlled by a Rate knob that provides visual feedback.

Mod Effects


Effects modulated by EXHALE’s Rhythm Panel are referred to as Mod Effects. These effects have individual yellow Mod Sliders above them, which control the amount of modulation taking place. The following are the available Mod Effects:

  • Volume – Sets the output level.
  • Pan – Positions sound in the stereo field.
  • Filter – Used as a brightness control or to add movement.
  • Phaser – A dual notch filtering effect.
  • Talk – A formant filtering effect used to morph vowel sounds.
  • Saturate – Simulates the soft compression and distortion provided by magnetic tape recorders.

Insert Effects


EXHALE also offers various Insert Effects to take your sounds to new depths and are applied to all sounds without any modulation. The following are the available Insert Effects:

  • Pitch – Shifts the overall pitch of EXHALE up according to the number of semitones set by the ‘Amount Knob. Use the dedicated envelope generator to shape the onset of the pitch shifting effect. Use the ‘Flutter’ effect to slightly warble the pitch with a dedicated LFO.
  • Dirt – A collection of three different distortion effects: Screamer, Cabinet, and Lo-Fi.
  • Motion – Collection of time-based effects that simulate the movement of the sound: Chorus, Flanger, and Rotator.
  • Compression – Dynamically adjusts the overall output level based on an input level threshold.
  • Tone – A coloration unit consisting of a three-band EQ, a highpass filter and a lowpass filter.
  • Delays – Two tempo-synced echo units.
  • Reverb – A convolution based reverb unit. Choose from over 16 different creative and real convolution algorithms.

EXHALE Features

  • 500 Presets for instant playability
  • Real singers recorded by top producers
  • 3 Modes; Notes, Loops and Slices
  • All Phrases, Loops and Slices lock to tempo
  • 4 central Macro sliders unique to each preset
  • LFO and Step Sequencer modulation
  • Complete effects control
  • Convolution reverb engine
  • Engines page for shaping sounds into your own
  • Smart tagging preset menu
  • Simple design and ease of use

The Results

EXHALE is an amazing instrument that makes it easy and fun to musically transform voices. I seriously got goosebumps after hitting the first note. The elegant design of the interface, intuitive control, and flexibility makes it a great tool for creating and manipulating simple or complex vox sounds in minutes. It sparks instant creative inspiration and is a must have if you work with vocal samples.

Pricing and Availability

Price: $199 USD or $179 through November 30, 2015 for existing customers.

For more information and bundle options visit the Output website.

About Output

Output develops innovative software instruments for musicians, composers, producers and sound designers across all genres. Our focus is simple – groundbreaking concepts, new sounds, new sources of inspiration.


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