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 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.
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- 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.
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- 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.
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- 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.
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- 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.
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- 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.
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- 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.
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- 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.
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|Company||Number of Vocaloid Releases||Claim to Fame||Future Prospects|
|Zero-G||6 (3 VocaloidX,
|Variety of Engloids||Strong Communication, New Project Announced|
|Crypton||8 (2 VocaloidX,
|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|