Virtual effect plug-ins new to eXplorer-7 well worth mentioning include the simultaneously-released RoCoder, whose well-chosen, Rob Papen-partially-rooted name steers close to the vocoder concept, so surely stepping, briefly, back in time is inevitably of historical help here? Let learning begin: vocoder — a portmanteau of voice and encoder — is a category of voice codec that analyses and synthesizes the human voice signal, invented in 1938 as a means of synthesizing human speech by Bell Labs’ Homer Dudley, whose work was developed into the channel vocoder for telecommunication transmission purposes, permitting speech transmission with very low bandwidth that results in somewhat distorted yet intelligible speech. Subsequently applied to musical signals, the results sound more or less like robotic speech or singing — think Teutonic techno-pop trailblazers Kraftwerk’s 1978 classic cut ‘The Robots’ (from The Man Machine album) and ‘Autobahn’ (a surprise international hit as a radio edit of the title track from the 1974 album). As always with Rob Papen products, however, here there are many new and creative features, so don’t go expecting a regular vocoder with RoCoder! Alongside a 32-band vocoder, it includes an additional Additive MODE, a combined Vocoder + Additive MODE, Noise MODE, Tuned Noise MODE, and a Tuned Comb MODE — no ‘Depeche Mode,’ but, then again, you can’t always have everything, sadly! Seriously, these new modes allow anyone to create many new types of sound in addition to the sound of the top-tier Vocoder MODE. Moreover, RoCoder far from stops there since it also includes stereo panning per band, Rob Papen’s critically-acclaimed XY pad, and an extensive MOD (modulation) matrix — all topped off with top-tier inbuilt FX, including CHORUS, FLANGER, PHASER, stereo DELAY, and REVERB… RoCoder really rocks as a musically muscular new type of effect plug-in that truly opens up a whole new range of sounds to owners of eXplorer-7 (or otherwise)!
To take a brief break from the wonderful world of effect plug-ins in favour of (re)entering the virtual instrument realm that is clearly close to the collective heart of Rob Papen and its namesake founder for whom they will forever be associated, also new to eXplorer-7 is the also simultaneously-released Predator-3, the successor to one of the most popular virtual instruments with which Rob Papen first made its notable name around a decade or so ago — a long time, indeed, in the wonderful world of virtual instruments with the original Predator and 2016-released Predator-2 having inspired an array of artists and composers across many musical genres over the years between them to make their particular presence heard on countless tracks! That being said, Predator-3 is so much more than an incremental update, despite following in the fanciful footsteps of its elder virtual instrument siblings by combining a large library of over 6,500 professionally-programmed presets — many by Rob Papen himself — with cutting-edge features to make it the definitive ‘go-to’ virtual instrument for any kind of contemporary music production. Pushing onwards and upwards beyond its predecessors, Predator-3’s UI (User Interface) has been redesigned so that all of the essential main controls are always visible on screen, making it interactive and incredibly easy to use. Ultimately, Rob Papen has integrated many new features into its ARP (arpeggiator), added multi-stage — ATTACK, DECAY, SUSTAIN, FADE, and RELEASE — envelopes for FILTER 2 (alongside those previously available for the original FILTER — now FILTER 1 — and AMP), added an ‘audio follower’ input for side chain control, and, last but not least, integrated the analogue-modelled sound code from the virtual instrument and effect plug-in developer’s 2019-released B.I.T. (Back In Time) — an apt acronym if ever there was one… one which really reflects namesake company founder and acclaimed sound designer Rob Papen’s passion for subtractive synthesis, a passion that remains as strong as when he first started working with synthesizers way back when purchasing an analogue Korg MS-20 semi-modular monosynth and accompanying analogue SQ-10 sequencer at the tender age of 15 — to allow non-compromised audio quality for analogue types of sound or hybrid wavetable sounds alike! As a unique concept that creatively combines user friendliness and deep sound design features in one amazing product, Predator-3 picks up where its predecessor left off and runs with it — going in for the virtual instrument kill!