Vocaloid Software Companies – A Year-End Analysis

Vocaloid Family
O HAI GUIZE, remember this image?

The recent explosion of Vocaloid voice samples in recent months have brought out a number of new companies that are releasing the software packages. New companies to the Vocaloid community like Bplats and Sony have joined the ranks that include the well-established groups like Crypton, Zero-G, and PowerFX. It’s time to step back a bit and look at what each has accomplished thus far, and what may be in their future.

Zero-G Ltd.

  • Zero-G was the first English-speaking company to realize the potential of the Vocaloid software.  Before Vocaloid, they were heavily involved in creating sound effects and music loops to be used in audio and video production, and were the only ones that rose to the challenge.  They eventually became highly recommended by Crypton and Yamaha for the Vocaloid software.
  • While Crypton and Zero-G were developing the voice banks at the same time, Zero-G released theirs first.  Leon and Lola in March ’04, and Miriam in July of the same year, and their popularity wound up being higher than most had predicted.
  • This success continued with the release of Vocaloid 2, and Prima was released in January ’08 as an operatic soprano.  This became their baseline for future releases with customized software.  Sonika, released in July ’09, was designed as a global voice bank to be able to sing in most any language, and Tonio, released in July ’10, became the male operatic compliment to Prima.  Of all that have been released so far, Sonika has become the most popular due to the versatility of the voice.
  • The future for Zero-G’s Engloids seems to be going strong.  With an unnamed Vocaloid still in development, they show no signs of slowing down.  They also have been paying a lot of close attention to the fanbase, and have gotten them involved in interacting with the company.  Sonika has her own Twitter and 4Koma, and Zero-G organized two separate contests involving her, and even changed the box art of many of their products to better-suit the fans.  With attention like this to their core audience they continue to gain popularity.

– – – –

Crypton Future Media

  • Crypton needs no introduction.  Odds are most of you are reading this because of Crypton’s Vocaloids.  Since its establishment, Crypton was focused on developing sound effects and sampling, musical libraries and synthesizer apps.  They’re involved in all corners of the technology industry, from Sega to Roland and back again.
  • While Crypton and Zero-G were developing their voice banks at the same time, Zero-G released theirs first.  They followed with Meiko in November ’04, and Kaito in ’06.  While Meiko showed a lot of sales, Kaito wound up being a marked failure with the numbers.  This could have been due to a lot of factors, but when the popularity explosion of Vocaloid came about, many revisited the original releases and improved the sales records.
  • The first Crypton Vocaloid 2 needs no introduction.  In August ’07, Hatsune Miku hit the shelves, the Vocaloid who arguably started the craze.  This was also the start of the CV character series, a marketing solution that put a face to the voice and let the fans take it from there.  The Kagamine Twins (or mirror images depending on who you talk to) came out after Christmas that same year, soon followed by their Act2 in July ’08.  Act2 was designed to fix some of the glaring flaws that were in the initial voice sampling that went unnoticed in the initial release.  Act2 was released as a free patch to those who had bought the original, however Act1 was eventually phased out, and is no longer available.  Megurine Luka hit shelves in January ’09, the first ever bi-lingual Vocaloid, providing a solution to many fans issues with combining English and Japanese within the same song.
  • Crypton has recently been turning towards refining and re-defining their Vocaloids.  The Hatsune Miku Append, which hit shelves in April ’10, released six different refined vocal tones for Miku, and a different box art to match.  Its commercial success had blossomed into the development of yet another refinement of the Kagamine Twins, for their own Append, which was released only a few days ago.
  • Though Vocaloid is one of their major products, they also have introduced many mixing board products for Desktop Music producers that are compatible with Vocaloid, including the Fruity Loops software, which was later developed into the Vocaloid sub-character FL-chan.  They also opened Piapro, a fanart site designed to host Vocaloid illustrations, and their own record label of KarenT for those amateur producers of Vocaloid music.
  • While they’ve recently been focusing on revisits to their products, including a hinted re-release of Kaito, they haven’t been staying idle either.  For some time, they’ve hinted at a new male Vocaloid and released a few sound bytes of “Project If….”  They are also developing an English sound bank for Miku thanks to the overwhelming display of overseas popularity.  Crypton isn’t as focused on interacting with their fanbase as say PowerFX or Zero-G, they remain mindful of the legal implications of their software and try to provide their users with every opportunity and protection they can offer.

– – – –

PowerFX

  • As a company, PowerFX has been around just as long as Crypton, doing pretty much the same thing, making loops, sound effects, and background sounds since 1995.  They’ve released many products beyond Vocaloid pertaining to Desktop Music.
  • PowerFX entered the Vocaloid scene with the first ever Vocaloid 2, Sweet Ann in June ’07, an Engloid.  How serious they were about it at the time was a bit under scrutiny because of the parody of Frankenstein’s Monster they made with Sweet Ann’s head.  This was followed in December ’09 with BigAl, the male counterpart, still keeping with the Frankenstein theme, however using a similar styling to Crypton’s CV styling for the box art.
  • PowerFX, like Zero-G, attempts to keep their core audience in the loop.  Sweet Ann has her own Myspace page, and they’ve been attempting to get input for a redesign of her box art so as to better match Big Al.  PowerFX has recently released Sweet Ann and BigAl samplings on a Christmas loops disk, and are currently holding a contest to win the software.  Though their involvement with the fans is intricate, they’ve released very little, and any upcoming Vocaloids still remain unannounced.

– – – –

Internet Co., Ltd.

  • Founded earlier than even Crypton and PowerFX, Internet Co. was focused on audio and video development for web usage.  They created the Singer Song Writer music sequencer, and the NicoNico Movie Maker for Nico Nico Douga.
  • Internet Co. took a different spin on Vocaloid, focusing more on actual musical artists of popular culture.  Though that was done originally with Miriam and Meiko, their strict focus on it is what set them apart from the others.  Their first release was Gackpoid in July ’08, voiced by the Pop/Rock star Gackt, along with a specially-designed music mixing program called OPUS.  This theme continued on with Megpoid in June ’09, voiced by Megumi Nakajima (Ranka Lee in Macross Frontier).  Lily, released in August ’10, voiced by m.o.v.e.’s Yuri Matsuda, was not an exclusively Internet Co. Product.  Yamaha Corporation and Avex Management also contributed to the release, and eventually saw Yamaha’s breakaway into its own Vocaloid production.  The fourth release was Gachapoid, voiced by the Gachapin mascot character, in October ’10, an exclusive product to the developers.
  • The overwhelming success of the Megpoid voice bank, and Crypton’s Append release successes have lead to the announcement of the development of a Megpoid Extend release sometime in the future.  Any future releases of other products have not been announced.

– – – –

AH-Software

  • Also known as AHS Co., Ltd., they’re a relatively new corporation that started out as digital audio and encoding importers in 2005.  Now they are almost exclusively Vocaloid-producing, also using it to create the Voiceroid software for spoken vocals as opposed to sung.
  • AHS’s debut in Vocaloid was a massive release in December ’09 of three Vocaloids and two Voiceroids.  The Vocaloid SF-A2 Miki was initially given out to Vocaloid producers to produce a holiday mix album which advertised her release to the public.  Kaai Yuki and Hiyama Kiyoteru were also released, the first ever primary-school Vocaloid and the first Male Vocaloid since Gackpoid.  Afterward they released Nekomura Iroha in October ’10 in association with Sanrio, who’s character design has distinct Hello Kitty markings.
  • Since its debut, AHS has been more known for its quantity than quality.  As of yet, none of their Vocaloids have had their “big break” in the fandom.  Kaai Yuki has proven to be next to impossible to manage as a voice sampling other than by a select few, and Kiyoteru has a decidedly Kaito-esque feel.  However that image changed with Nekomura Iroha, which has a much cleaner sampling, and a much higher potential than their former releases.  AH Software has an unnamed Vocaloid in the works.

– – – –

Yamaha Corporation

  • Yamaha and its affiliates had originally developed the Vocaloid software, however Yamaha had never officially made a Vocaloid voice bank itself.  It’s not clear why that decision was made, but the drive could have been monetary, as selling the rights to the software may have been more profitable initially than releasing them.
  • The first Yamaha Vocaloid was released under an association with Internet Co. LTD, Vocaloid Lily.  This partnership only lasted for that single release.  Their next release was a departure from any other Vocaloid in existence, the VY1 Mizki, coproduced with Bplats.  The September ’10 release was marketed as a professional-grade unisex product, and priced higher than the previous Vocaloids in turn.  There was no characterization to go with it, as it was designed to be faceless.  However due to circumstances by the fanbase, it became associated with the Oniko and CUL characters.
  • Bplats has announced the VY2 project, however, considering that Bplats is not a music company at all, but more of a service provider company, we can safely assume that the production side is Yamaha.  The reputation of Yamaha and the success of VY1 will almost assuredly yield to the success of VY2 and the future Vocaloids as well.

– – – –

Bplats

  • Bplats is not a music-based company.  They market themselves as an opensource service provider through software.  Yamaha is partnering with them with the intent to use them as a support medium while they focus on the production aspect.

– – – –

Sony Music Entertainment

  • Though they’ve been around for just about as long as Yamaha, Sony has been focusing on record labels and CD production more than software releases.  The success of Vocaloid, and of the Nico Singers that have gone professional from covering those songs on Nico Nico Douga led them to produce a Vocaloid of their own.
  • Sony’s recent release of Utatane Piko in December ’10 was voiced by the Nico Singer turned Pro, Piko.  This first release seems more attuned to Piko’s high-pitched range rather than his lower, and the quality is reminiscent of SF-A2 Miki of AH Software.
  • As of yet Sony has not made any announcements on furthering Vocaloid production.  If they do, it is possible they will continue to turn Nico Singers into Vocaloids.

Even with all the listed future Vocaloids, there’s still the unmentioned, unofficial bits of information that are waiting to be divulged.  “Project If…” and Kaito’s Append are still unannounced, and Vocaloid 3 is nearing completion, as is the unknown number of voice banks for that software package.  The future of Vocaloid is almost assured, and I think we can expect more surprises to come in the next year.

– – – –

Recap Chart:

Company Number of Vocaloid Releases Claim to Fame Future Prospects
Zero-G 6 (3 VocaloidX,
3 Vocaloid2)
Variety of Engloids Strong Communication, New Project Announced
Crypton 8 (2 VocaloidX,
6 Vocaloid2)
Character Vocaloid Series 2 Official Projects, 2 Unofficial Projects
PowerFX 2 Vocaloid2 Quality Engloids Strong Communication, Unofficial Project
Internet Co. 4 Vocaloid2 Music Artist Samplings New Project Announced
AH Software 4 Vocaloid2 Large Quantity – Short Time Improving Vocals, New Project Announced
Yamaha/Bplats 2 Vocaloid2 Professional-Grade New Project Announced
Sony 1 Vocaloid2 Nico Singer Samplings?? No New Projects

Happy Holidays.

About: redemption2


20 thoughts on “Vocaloid Software Companies – A Year-End Analysis”

  1. Who "assisted" miki getting into the top three? samfree? Just because he's a popular producer, you assume it wasn't because of the song itself that miki made the top three? That's kind of cheap. =/

    Other than that, you're right, but still.

    1. *puts a muzzle on dez*

      Easy there… I think he just meant that none of the AH Vocaloid have had a “big break” yet, and being relegated to back-up singers for the other, more famous Vocaloids (like Kiyoteru being a member of KAITO’s/Gakupo’s/Len’s boy-band.

      …But it’ll make you feel better, I’ll just re-word that little pet peeve of yours.

  2. Thanks for this informative post. I am surprised that there's a fan community around Zero-G, are they only on Zero-G website ? To my perception, only some of the Japaloids got enough renown to claim a fan base.

    1. Zero-G and PowerFX both support Vocaloid Otaku forums. They use the forum for a fan feed back base. In fact if you look up Vocaloid 3 on the wikia or just look around the main page, theres a link directly to the topic where they want fan feed back. You can also find the link on the main page of the wikia or that topic on VO forums that will take you to the topic on what voices everyone wants. Sadly, VO forums is down right now due to a crash… But theres promise they'll be up next week.

      Most of the information supplied here though, I note, was already mentioned in the wikia systems, although the more places mentioning this kind of thing hopefully the more informative the fandom will become. When I look back at this time last year, there was FAR less easy accessiable information around then there is now. So the more people become aware of this kind of information, the less fantards there are out there to deal with. And the less fantards the happier the more informative fans are. :-3

  3. Great post! I learned a lot of things that I didn't know about the companies. I have two things to add though, one is that you said that Piapro is a fanart site but didn't mention that it is also a site where Vocaloid producers can upload their music. Second, you didn't mention CV04, who has pretty much been confirmed according to my knowledge. The voicer is supposed to be male, a popular anime voice actor, and a user of Miku.

    Also I find a little strange that you mentioned the voice/recording quality of some Vocaloids but not others. Lily, for instance, had markedly poor recording quality. I suppose it isn't necessary to mention the quality of all the Vocaloids though.

  4. Awesome. I love reading stuff like this; I learned a lot.
    Though I have to agree on soft; Piapro is not only for fanart but also has a section for lyrics, 3D models and of course music. Not only that but also it hosts official/unofficial contests and and collaborations.

  5. "Since its debut, AHS has been more known for its quantity than quality."
    I'm very put-off by this statement. AHS released a lot at once, but that means nothing as far as the actual voice banks' quality goes.

    "As of yet, none of their Vocaloids have had their “big break” in the fandom."
    This is ridiculous. Big break? What defines that? Miki has been used by famous producers and had a handful of songs with thousands of mylists. Yuki's mylists aren't as impressive, but certain producers (namely KagomeP and a few others) have taken to her and use her for a lot of very good songs. Yuki's popularity is taking off more lately, too. Kiyoteru is admittedly a little more on the unsuccessful side, but he's still had a handful of defining songs.

    "Kaai Yuki has proven to be next to impossible to manage as a voice sampling other than by a select few"
    ??? What?
    All the moderately experienced producers I've seen use Yuki make her sound remarkably good. I haven't used her myself, so I can't say anything as far as difficulty goes, but it's obviously not impossible and the output is great and very realistic (going back to that comment about "quality"…).

    "and Kiyoteru has a decidedly Kaito-esque feel."
    Sigh.
    This is an unprofessional comment at best. All of the Vocaloids can sound like each other, easily. Gumi, Luka, and Iroha can all sound like each other. Does that impede on their quality as individual voice banks? No. Kiyoteru can sound very different from Kaito as well.

    I'm not looking to start an argument, and I generally enjoy Vocaloidism's articles, but this entire commentary on AHS has really put me off. What about Lily's low quality? Her voice is almost always muffled and her enunciation is incredibly poor. A lot of people even completely overlook the low quality of (the original) Len's pronunciation (not to say anything bad about Len, as I enjoy his voice even still.) Why be so harsh on AHS in particular?

    1. Hey, I'm with you on all of those points, but I believe this is more of an editorial piece than an informative one (kind of a mix of the two, really). I'm taking the opinions as just those: opinions. Though it does bother the budding journalist in me that they are presented as facts…

      1. What about the pair in blue and red? Are they Vocaloids or something? I don't really recognize them o_o The ones beside Haku and Neru

        1. Male + female symbol = Leon & Lola of course.

          Their not in their usual depiction, Leon normally get portrayed as a blonde. But they have no avatar forms anyway.

  6. Where's SF-A2 miki, Kiyo, and Yuki in the pic???

    The comment directed at AH Software irked me. "Quantity over Quality"??? I understand that they released them all a little too soon, but they do not have poor voice quality!

    Miki's voice is actually incredibly versatile and can sing well to fill in a few gaps in some of the previous Vocaloid songs. I admit, she is difficult to use if the person is new to the program (such as myself) but she sounds amazing once you get the hang of it!

  7. Same goes to Kiyoteru and Yuki. In my honest opinion, I can tell the difference between Kiyoteru and Kaito. They don't sound a like to me, anybody that listens closely enough can hear that Kiyo's sings a bit higher than Kaito.

    Yuki's becoming more popular as well, thanks to some dedicated producers out there willing to give her a shot. These three have positive qualities (and some negative qualitites of course) and they are not the only ones. The Kagamine's had a few issues here and there in Act 1 and Lily doesn't enunciate the words very well. But I still like them, they are all unique and don't sound alike one bit.

    It's like saying the makers are trying to reproduce them to you as a cheap marketing scam.

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