No, it’s not quite Millennial Whoop: the VST. But Output’s latest, Hooked, makes a whole trove of popular pop vocal elements playable like an instrument.

California sound boutique Output has already done one outing in vocals – Exhale. True to its name, that product made breath-y vocal ingredients playable, with an engine that let you freely warp and mangle materials and add effects. It was great, and I certainly overused it here and there thanks to the ability to squeeze whatever sound you wanted. (I got carried away enough to make this track.)

Just one catch – the edit process was a lot of mouse-ing around in the UI, adjusting faders, then playing on the keyboard.

And that’s where Arcade comes in. Now the “edit/mangle the sound” workflow and the “play around like an instrument” workflow are one and the same. So, even with a mouse, the process is much clearer. And once you really begin to use the keyboard-centric interface, you discover you can make big changes by playing.

So ‘Hooked’ isn’t just a set of stock clips you would use to replace a studio session vocalist. It’s something you might mess around with as an instrumentalist (or supplementing your own vocals, for a software/human hybrid).

Plus to avoid this getting dry (literally), they’ve added a bunch of processing – “pedal boards, pitch shifters, modular and analog gear.” And of course you can add more from there. (Arcade has an extensive, editable effects engine.)

The other big change: Output are now embracing a subscription model, so you subscribe once to Arcade and get this content included in your price, rather than having to commit separately to each new monolithic instrument they unveil.

As always, this tool seems both essential for anyone on tough deadlines for commercial work, while wanting to keep things fresh and original, but also potentially very powerful for creative abuse and unexpected applications. And yeah, I think mixing this with your own vocals could also be interesting. Let us know if you give it a try.

Singer/songwriter/producer Keeley Bumford aka Dresage seems to have contributed to the human side of the samples. Photo: Output.


Arcade update

While we’re at it, there have been big changes on the Arcade side, too. Earlier this month, Output pushed a 1.1 update:

Download all kits in a Line with a single click
Global pitch transposition via lower keyboard octave
Sort by Recently Downloaded
Manual entry of parameters via double click + QWERTY
Improvements to scrolling within a Line
Auto-update notifications/in-app updates
Scalable GUI (bigger and smaller)
Drag multiple user loops to the keyboard instead of just one
Select multiple loop keys and apply a parameter setting to the selection
Copy/swap loop keys
Copy/swap FX modules

This is all quite relevant if you use Arcade with your own sound content, so you do get a big range of possibilities – including if you aren’t into what you’re hearing here.