Despite the number of dance tracks that rely on a pivotal vocal, the number of convincing vocal sample collections is underwhelming to say the least.
Sure, there’s *lots* of crap out there – anyone can shove a mediocre mic in front of a mediocre singer and get them to simulate a few mediocre orgasms. But inspired lyrical toplines performed by genuinely talented singers in a quality studio and – importantly – edited into highly useable sample content… how many of those kind of packs do you come across? A couple a year?
We audition a large number of prospective vocal sample packs here at S2S. 95 per cent go straight in the recycle bin. Then the bin gets emptied and disinfected so that all trace of them is gone. But there are some undoubted gems out there. Here are my picks of the best. Feel free to add your own recommendations below.
Hy2rogen – Glitch & Tech Vocals 1-4
Hy2rogen is one of the golden-boys of S2S, a phenomenally successful and prolific sample producer who appears to favour creating loops to sleeping. His prog synth lines are great, his kick drums are some of the best around and his glitchy vocal packs are a significant cut above the rest. There are four volumes in the series to date – all sliced beautifully. Highly recommended for adding vocal-infused flavours to deep, tech and progressive productions.
Crate Diggers- Cylinder Vocals: Singing & Operatics
Another exclusive S2S label, this time from the supremely talented James Johnson. Here’s the caveat: if you don’t like your vocals scratchy and old-school then move on; the whole raison d’être of the Crate Diggers brand is authentic samples from waaaaay back in the day. Singing & Operatics is – as the name suggests – devoted to all things sung, with 240+ sung one-shots featuring choirs, quartets, musical toplines, and soprano and tenor operatics. If they fit the track they can be truly sublime.
Diginoiz – High Heel Vocals Vol 1
Finding credible urban vocals is like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack – it’s almost impossible. That is, until you find Diginoiz’s imperious first volume of their High Heel Vocals series. Loaded with velvet verses, luxurious layered choruses and sassy, sultry solos this collection oozes attitude and authenticity. Packing in 12 premium radio-ready vocal construction kits, it’s essential for RnB and Hip Hop producers who might not have access to professional singers for their tracks.
Zero-G – Vocal Forge
You can’t write a post about fine vocal samples without mentioning Zero-G, the undisputed godfathers of the sample industry and still purveyors of some of the best sounds around. Nowhere is this truer than in Vocal Forge, which features 2,600+ one-shot Wav samples sourced from pro vocal performances – from gospel to urban, opera to radio and TV speech clips. It’s a huge collection, performed brilliantly, with a wealth of different content. And the quality is absolutely top notch: the singers, the recordings, the treatments: they’re all 5-star – as Sound on Sound noted when they awarded it their coveted 5-star award. Let the last words go to Remix magazine: “The point of this collection is to present mix-worthy, flexible, royalty-free samples. With this, Vocal Forge succeeds brilliantly.” Spot on.
Sample Station: Odissi Twisted Vocals Vol 2
Odissi’s first sample pack was released on S2S’s in-house label, where it topped the vocal charts for months. This second volume, on the new Sample Station imprint, sees a second serving of sauce and sleaze. Straddling the filthy, furious middle ground between electro and punk, the sounds are offered as 15 song-starting construction kits, boasting verses, choruses, twisted vocals, ad-libs, one-shots, glitched phrases and more. Naughty.
Sonokinetic – Tigris & Euphrates – Voices of the Ottoman Empire
Unique and beautifully-recorded library capturing the mystery and beauty of Middle Eastern voices and ambiences, offering a massive 2,750+ original royalty-free samples. It’s one of the best libraries yet from Sonokinetic, who have become the new standard in high-end world samples (among other things). If Middle Eastern vocals are on your brief then this is about as good as it gets.
Sounds To Sample: Glitch & Twist Vocals
This pack celebrates the meeting of lyrical imagination and production temerity with hugely inspiring results. Glitch & Twist Vocals delivers daft vocoders, glitched vox FX, nu-noise choirs, twisted spoken clips and pseudo-melodics combine in this 150+ strong collection that takes a concertedly obtuse approach to vocals – jettisoning high end mics for instant song-starting toplines and hooks. Great demo too.
Best Service: Voodoo Grooves
And finally, it would be remiss not to mention the biggest selling pack on S2S ever – which has maintained its unlikely crown due to two simple facts: it has the most authentic tribal percussion and vocal performances in the sample world. Not only is it criminally good value for such a hard-to-make product (all samples were recorded in the field at voodoo ceremonies in Benin), it’s also beautifully recorded. Ideal for injecting a live element into tribal techno, afro-house and minimal dance productions. Essential.