VOCALOID2 (often shortened to just "V2" in VOCALOID communities) was the successor to the original VOCALOID engine.
In Jan 2007, VOCALOID2 was announced. 3 Vocals were in demostration at the time of the NAMM 2007 event, these were later confirmed to be Sweet Ann who was announced in May, Big Al (announced later on in 2007) and Prima who was announced in February.
VOCALOID2 was released in 2007 after an overall successful response to the VOCALOID software. Its first voicebanks were Sweet ANN for English and Hatsune Miku for Japanese. However, as noted by Crypton Future Media, at the time of Miku's release the original version of the VOCALOID2 software was produced without public beta testing, unlike the VOCALOID era. Instead Yamaha had opted to update the software as users reported the errors. In contast toVOCALOID, the engine VOCALOID2 was an immediate success in Japan forwarding a VOCALOID phenomenon over the internet with more than 3,000 pre-release orders placed for the software of Hatsune Miku alone. Though the overseas English VOCALOIDs were much slower to catch on, the Japanese VOCALOIDs saw many additional voicebanks released and a number of new Japanese studios joining production.
Approaches to the engine were different across the studios. Amongst the Japanese VOCALOIDs, Crypton Future Media's early Character Vocal series (CV) VOCALOIDs were not trying to sound realistic at all, but later VOCALOIDs such as Gackpo and GUMI by Internet Co., Ltd took a more realistic approach. The engine was constantly updated with each new batch of VOCALOIDs, although the most major change to VOCALOID came with the production of the VY series by Bplats. This introduced changes to how the library was organised (VY1) and the first VOCALOID with a faint breath element (VY2). Some voicebanks sold well enough to warrant additional installations, as seen in the case of Hatsune Miku and the Kagamine software packages, who both received "Append" voicebanks.
Zero-G continued its specialist VOCALOID releases with the focus of this engine being opera based. Newcomer studio PowerFX tried for a more character orientated approach, which became more apparent after the update to Big AL than with Sweet ANN. English VOCALOID studios also experimented with attempts to increase their own profile and establish a fandom like the Japanese VOCALOIDs had secured. This created mixed progress. The English engine was more popular later in the VOCALOID2 era than it was in the first half, mostly due to the popularity of the Japanese version influencing Western buyers. While it never reached the same level of popularity as the Japanese version, it was overall more successful than the previous English VOCALOID voicebanks.
The software version was also adapted for release on the iPhone and iPad under the names iVocaloid and VocaloWitter (originally "i-Vocaloid"). In 2013 a "Lite" version of this software was also witnessed when Project 575 was cracked and the vocals Masaoka Azuki and Kobayashi Matcha were moved into the VOCALOID™ engine. However, the VOCALOID2 software did not support "Lite" versions of itself therefore did not have the capabilities to acknowledge these vocals; they were only exportable into VOCALOID3.
Updates were mainly supplied alongside VOCALOIDs with the latest version of the engine. Therefore when the updates were done to the engine they were were much harder to track. Packages like the Appends served as both expansion packs and methods of updating the software for older VOCALOID users. Some companies updated the software as new versions were released, while others did not.
The software became unsupported in late 2011 with the release of the VOCALOID3 software. Crypton Future Media hosted the only on-line support for the software, the most up to date version was VOCALOID 2.0.12 released on November 6, 2010.
Some studios had expansion packs and updates intended for VOCALOID2 in development at the time of the VOCALOID3 announcement.
The VOCALOID voicebanks known to have been effected by the newer engines release were:
- A male VOCALOID by Crypton known as "CV04"
- GUMI update
- Hatsune Miku English
- KAITO update
- MEIKO update
- Megurine Luka's Append
However, these were announced later to be set for a VOCALOID3 release.
Despite Spanish voicebanks being known to exist in production as early as 2009, they were never released. The reason as explained later was that adaptation to the VOCALOID™ engine itself needed to occur to allow Spanish vocals to work. The VOCALOID3 vocals Bruno and Clara, were later confirmed to have been held up in production since 2009 while the engine was adapted.
- Windows XP/Vista 32 bit (Windows 7 and Windows 8 are not officially supported; 64-bit & 2000 are NOT SUPPORTED)
- Pentium 4 2 GHz/ Athlon XP 2000
- 512 MB RAM (1GB of RAM recommended) (2 GB or more recommended when using VSTi realtime)·
- Approx 4 GB Free Hard Disk Space / DVD Drive
Note this is only the "standard" requirements for the software. Requirements may vary per package and users need to check each individual package before installation to ensure their set-up meets the recommended requirements.
Vocal libraries released for the VOCALOID2 engine.
Note; more can be found on the Status page
The interface and engine were overhauled between VOCALOID and VOCALOID2. Japanese VOCALOIDs now have a Japanese interface to work with, making usage easier for Japanese users.
VOCALOID2 saves the files as .VSQ, allowing for more VOCALOID specific data to be saved, unlike the previous VOCALOID "VOCALOID midi" file type that only saved the standard industry data format. VOCALOID2 will import any midi related file into it, but has a more limited midi support then other music software packages released at its time of release. It will not save a file as a midi file format, however, it can be exported as such, although it may cause the loss of the more complex VOCALOID2 data in the process. The software's .VSQ files can also be imported into UTAU and converted to the UTAU's own vocal sequence file format, although the reverse is not possible and VOCALOID2 will not import UTAU's data sequence file format. It will also not load VOCALOID3 .VSQX files.
VOCALOID2 introduces several hidden Phonetics that are not mentioned by the help guide of the software. There is a vowel-to-vowel transaction (written as [-]) which carries a word across several notes smoothly. Breaths are introduced and created by typing in [br1] up to [br5] (depending on which of the 5 samples you want to use). This is an improvement over VOCALOID wherein you had to create a breath via [*in]. Exhaling ([*out]) capabilities have been removed. [Sil] and [Asp] are also new capabilities and will increase a VOCALOID's capabilities greatly depending on the usage.
One of the improvements to this engine are various improvements to pronunciations. For example, the word "Now" as spoken by English VOCALOIDs sounds much smoother, whereas VOCALOID would break it up and sound it out as "No-ow". The new additions and cleaner engine make VOCALOID2 overall the superior to its predecessor. VOCALOID2, has a more realistic human tone than VOCALOID. Most vocals are much sharper sounding then VOCALOID vocals and rendered results are overall cleaner.
In addition, due to the improvements between VOCALOID and VOCALOID2, the standard voicebank of VOCALOID2 is of better quality overall than VOCALOID. Many improvements to quality were made during the engine's lifespan and later voicebanks were smoother than older ones overall, therefore some older VOCALOID2 voicebanks like Miku Hatsune, Gackpo Camui (Gackpoid) or Sweet ANN, have trouble matching up to others like VY1, Big AL or Iroha Nekomura. However, the overall quality of many VOCALOID2 voicebanks varied greatly between them even in the later versions of the engine and a variety of issues contributed to the quality of one vocal over another. Furthermore, as of the development of the VY series VOCALOID VY1 and VY2, improvements were made to how the engine worked while still using just the VOCALOID2 core.
Voicebanks in VOCALOID however, had more editing options possible than VOCALOID2 and more varied voices could be achieved.VOCALOID2 vocals were overall flatter than their provider's own vocals and at times also slightly deeper, although the deepness was not as notable as the VOCALOID difference. Synchronisation between vocals and backing tracks, as well as with other vocals in the software, has been improved; though some VOCALOIDs like Utatane Piko still have issues with synchronising. VOCALOID2 also continues to struggle with bass-range vocals and was one of the limiters of vocal types for this version of the software.
While the software could work with either an English or Japanese interface, it was still not possible to switch interfaces manually. The Japanese language was controlled by additional .dll files with changed the otherwise English interface to Japanese. Since Japanese and English VOCALOIDs had been sold to different markets there was no concerns with the different versions of the software. However, this did not stop users from trying to use VOCALOIDs from both languages and by the time Megurine Luka was released, it was becoming more increasingly common for producers to own both English and Japanese VOCALOIDs. Luka Megurine presented the most major issue with this version of the software in regards to the language situation: though her package contained an English voicebank, she did not have an English interface. Therefore getting the engine to work in the right language presented a difficulty in itself. Her English voicebank attracted potential native English users. Prior to the knowledge of alternative methods to gain access to the English interface, producers were often attracted to Sweet ANN or Prima to gain access to the English interface or installing a mod that would change it for them. If one deletes the Japanese .dll language files, the interface will switch back to English, though the voicebank will continue to only work in Japanese phonetics. However, this aside, the installation order of different languages will decide the interface the VOCALOID2 software adopts.
Some VOCALOIDs will have conflicts if installed over a newer version of the engine. This issue was resolved with later versions of the software but previously caused the editor to refuse to open. Re-installing the most current version will resolve the problem. The first VOCALOID2 released which encountered this problem was Prima, as previous VOCALOIDs before her had similar engine versions. This can also cause conflict with VOCALOIDs and the language situation, as a user can unintentionally install VOCALOIDs in the wrong order while trying to get the software in the correct interface.
Unlike VOCALOID, the interface did not take on a different color for every voicebank, and the standard green VOCALOID2 interface remained the only appearance it could take.
Slurring continues to occur on many vocals, for English VOCALOIDs this is more likely to happen than with Japanese VOCALOIDs due to the larger array of samples needed to be handled. Clarity is still lost during slurring as a result of bad sampling handling, though improvised digital noise tends not to be the most major cause of loss of vocal results and it falls more on the samples quality and tone of vocal in comparison to VOCALOID. Some VOCALOIDs also suffer from a few notable glitches, such as one which produces a "pluck" sound at the end of sounding out a particular bad sample. Non-Japanese languages are not the cause of such faults: Kamui Gackpo and Kiyoteru Hiyama will produce this same particular glitch. However, the degree to which glitches were noticeable varies greatly per voicebank library; SONiKA is one of the VOCALOIDs who produces this sound more frequently, making it an clear issue surrounding her voicebank. In contrast to this, it is not an issue associated with Big AL's vocal and is rarely heard at all.
Though the software has diaphonetic data, triphonetic data is still absent and some sounds are difficult to distinguish from others because of it. Some work is needed to make these odd sounds more unique from each other. This also separated it from the UTAU software, which by 2010 could use triphone samples ("VCV" voicebanks; vowel-consonant-vowel); VOCALOID would not carry this data until the VOCALOID3 software was released in late 2011.
The current version of VOCALOID2 has no reported problems with the current operating systems but is unsupported as of 2011. Some older versions of VOCALOID2 (those purchased pre-2009) do not work with some 64-bit systems, although newer versions (those purchased post 2009) function with the set-up. For users with older versions of this engine, this can prove problematic in getting them working on later 64-bit OS. Some studios such as Crypton Future Media updated their software versions for purchasable products, but others such as Zero-G did not update their products for sale. Otherwise the VOCALOID2 software works relatively well on Windows 7 or other 64-bit OS though some may encounter minor running issues. However, as of the release of VOCALOID3, VOCALOID2 engine voicebanks can now be imported into this newer engine. This improves both the smoothness and clarity the voicebanks. VOCALOID and VOCALOID2 are incompatible with each other. Users wishing to have VOCALOID and VOCALOID2 voicebanks sing together have to transfer via midi format between the two programs to have the singers sing the same song and then use an additional music/media program to organize the voicebanks.
|Prima singing in her raw state (file info)|
|Default settings and no vocal editing.|
|Gackpo singing in his raw state (file info)|
|Default settings and no vocal editing.|
|SONiKA singing in her raw state (file info)|
|Default settings and no vocal editing. *|
|BIG AL singing in his raw state (file info)|
|Default settings and no vocal editing.|
|Tonio singing in his raw state (file info)|
|Default settings and no vocal editing. *|
|Kiyoteru singing in his raw state (file info)|
|Default settings and no vocal editing.|
Note : SONiKA and Tonio's name were the only item that was not in the dictionary and had to be constructed from scratch.
- "Magnet [English Cover] " by 52Circle ft. BIG AL & LE♂N (comparison between VOCALOID and VOCALOID2)
Marketing was handled by each studio and it was not until the end of the VOCALOID2 era that Yamaha themselves began to promote the software. For that reason, guides to VOCALOID2 and promotion of program's usage were mostly focused on the Crypton VOCALOIDs well up until the late 2009 period. Magazines and books were produced showing how to use VOCALOID2, this was a contrast to VOCALOID and even Crypton Future Media had acknowledged they had virtually no support in comparison.
Crypton Future Media in particular enjoyed successful marketing of their products owed to the popularity and success of Miku Hatsune. Miku's image was used to promote the VOCALOID software and she became the face of VOCALOID. Crypton was able to set up their own website. On November 29, 2010, Crypton started an independent music publication for seeking copyright royalties if songs are used for commercial purposes such as karaoke, because VOCALOID users hardly used the copyright collective Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC).
Part of the problem for newer studios entering the VOCALOID market at this stage was that they were entering into a user base that already was used to the dominating Crypton VOCALOIDs. Other Japanese studios did not always adopt such marketing measures. For example Internet Co., Ltd did not heavily promote any of their VOCALOIDs in the same manner such Crypton at first, Lily being an exception. However, Internet began promoting their VOCALOIDs from 2010 onwards more heavily, for example, GUMI and Gackpo made special appearances in the 2010 new year celebration event known as King Run Anison Red and White. Most of the promotions by other studios did not start until VOCALOID3 was released.
While AH-Software also attempted to make promotional efforts, it was on a smaller scale. Bplats did smaller scale promotions for their VY series, though the difference was that their marketing was focused on the quality of their VOCALOIDs' voicebank rather then the image. Aside from a demo of Piko Utatane, Sony did not put much promotional marketing effort into their VOCALOID.
While Japanese VOCALOID studios had enjoyed a strong fanbase to sell and market their products to, Zero-G and Power FX had to earn their fanbase from scratch since most of the focus was on Japanese VOCALOIDs. Though traditionally they had always sold to the professional market successfully, due to the increased interest in the VOCALOID software, they attempted to establish their own VOCALOID fandom. This meant making contact and continuing that contact with the VOCALOID fans, gaining their feedback and interesting them rather than isolating them from the software. Though this tactic was not always successful, they broke the ice and later adopted VOCALOID Otaku forums as their main base for feedback and fan input. Despite this, they were not able to gain as much support as the Japanese VOCALOIDs had during VOCALOID2 due to their much more limited market. PowerFX for example was even quite late into the VOCALOID2 era, the smallest studio making VOCALOID at the time and therefore did not have the money to invest heavily in their products.
Outside of this, the largest promotional event for VOCALOIDs was "The Voc@loid M@ster" (Vom@s) convention held four times a year in Tokyo or the neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture. The event brings producers and illustrators involved with the production of VOCALOID art and music together so they can sell their work to others. The original event was held in 2007 with 48 groups, or "circles", given permission to host stalls at the event for the selling of their goods. The event soon gained popularity and at the 14th event, nearly 500 groups had been chosen to have stalls. Additionally, Japanese companies involved with production of the software also have stalls at the events. Yamaha themselves began promotional events in 2011, such as the VocaFes 2011 and the Vocafarre.
Crypton Future Media also began aiming to influence America with their own VOCALOIDs during the 2010 period. In May 2011, Toyota used Miku Hatsune for two online adverts to promote the 2011 Toyota Corolla. She was also displayed on the official Toyota page. Toyota had been the ones who had approached Crypton for the use of Miku. Since Crypton always sold Miku as a virtual instrument in Japan, they asked their Japanese fanbase if it was acceptable for them to sell her as a virtual singer to the new market audience. Miku's Los Angeles concert sold out on the 26th of May 2011. Not only was she the first singer to sell out but this was the only time AX, the company in charge of selling her tickets, had ever sold out. AX were forced to book more seats than they had initially to meet demands.
However, promotion of VOCALOIDs stayed away from politics to avoid mascots appearing to take sides in general public opinions.
According to Crypton, a popular video with "Hachune Miku", a super deformed Miku/Loituma Girl, holding a spring onion and singing "Ievan Polkka", presented multifarious possibilities of applying the software in multimedia content creation. As the recognition and popularity of the software grew, Nico Nico Douga became a place for collaborative content creation. Popular original songs written by a user would generate illustrations, animation in 2D computer graphics and 3D computer graphics, and remixes by other users. Other creators would show their unfinished work and ask for ideas. The website has become so influential that studios often post demos on Nico Nico Douga, as well as other websites such as YouTube, as part of the promotional effort of their VOCALOID products. The important role Nico Nico Douga has played in promoting the VOCALOIDs also sparked interest in the software and Kentaro Miura, the artist of Gackpo's mascot design, had offered his services for free because of his love for the website.
In September 2009, three figurines based on the derivative character "Hachune Miku" were launched in a rocket from the United States state of Nevada's Black Rock Desert, though it did not reach outer space. In late November 2009, a petition was launched in order to get a custom made Hatsune Miku aluminum plate (8 cm x 12 cm, 3.1" x 4.7") made that would be used as a balancing weight for the Japanese Venus space probe Akatsuki (Planet-C). Started by Miku Hatsune fan Sumio Morioka that goes by chodenzi-P, this project has received the backing of Dr. Seiichi Sakamoto of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). On December 22, 2009, the petition exceeded the needed 10,000 signatures necessary to have the plates made. An original deadline of December 20, 2009 had been set to send in the petition, but due to a couple of delays in the Akatsuki project, a new deadline of January 6, 2010 was set; by this deadline, over 14,000 signatures had been received. On May 21, 2010 at 06:58:22 (Japan Standard Time), Akatsuki was launched on the rocket H-IIA 202 Fright 17 from the Japanese spaceport Tanegashima Space Center, having three plates depicting Miku Hatsune.
The VOCALOID software has also had a great influence on the character Black Rock Shooter, which looks somewhat like Miku Hatsune but is not linked to her by design. The character was made famous by the song "Black Rock Shooter", and a number of figurines have been made. An original video animation made by Ordet was streamed for free as part of a promotional campaign running from June 25 to August 31, 2010.
The one thing that was noted through this version in comparison to VOCALOID was that it was used more by amateur musicians than by professionals. Due to the impact of Miku Hatsune, VOCALOID2 saw more departure from its original intention and it wasn't until midway through its life until late that it attempted to return to its professional routes. It became one of the negative points of the VOCALOID2 and focus on voicebank turned in many cases to focusing on the character. Undesirable boxart was often mocked such as Power FX's Sweet ANN, who was often mocked for having what seemed to be a "demonic" boxart. VY1 and VY2's existence was an attempt to draw users away from this tendency to prefer character over vocal, abandoning the character image altogether for a "avatarless" approach. Some VOCALOIDs of low quality were able to sell well against more higher quality voicebanks, as seen in the case of Lily and VY1. Regardless, this carried on into even early VOCALOID3 voicebanks.
Criticism was also thrown at the engine as a reaction to Miku Hatsune, who had gained world wide fame. It was common for VOCALOID haters to presume that all VOCALOIDs "sounded like her and the other Crypton Future Media VOCALOIDs." However, despite this criticism, the only VOCALOID actually capable of reaching her vocal range released during the VOCALOID2 era was English VOCALOID Prima, with most vocals being much lower in tone and pitch then Miku was. Part of the problem in the overseas fandom was at this point the knowledge on Japanese VOCALOIDs was limited to just the Crypton VOCALOIDs MEIKO, KAITO, Miku Hatsune, Rin & Len Kagamine and Luka Megurine. Other Japanese VOCALOIDs often went unnoticed because of it even though they did not always always have the same high pitch vocals as Crypton's VOCALOIDs.
A target for criticism was the English version of the software, as some of the overseas fans of the Japanese VOCALOIDs felt they were not on par with their Japanese counterparts. Yet despite this, many Japanese users who used English VOCALOID had said the reverse, that English VOCALOIDs were better than Japanese contradicting this statement. Most of the criticism came from anime-based VOCALOID fans, who knew little information about the engine and its finer workings nor to a native speaker the Japanese VOCALOIDs sound just as unrealistic. As support for the English VOCALOIDs began to grow, some efforts were made to make VOCALOID fans in the overseas understand that overall there was very little difference between the two languages. One of the notes in regards to the reaction of the different VOCALOID fandoms is that English VOCALOIDs such as Sweet ANN and Prima were voiced by professional singers, resulting in a higher quality singing result. However, early Japanese voicebank libraries, such as Miku Hatsune and the Kagamines, based their vocals on maintaining a characteristic vocal with overall less quality singing results.
The route of the issue was simply a lack of information, for example Yamaha's Japanese VOCALOID website was kept fairly well updated on information in regard to this version, however, they did not maintain updates on their English website, on top of this guidebooks and information on techniques that could be used to tune VOCALOIDs were only produced for the Japanese version. Nothing was put in place to support the English version at all, beyond what help PowerFX or Zero-G could offer themselves and even though Luka had English phonetics she had no English support for her vocal. This left English users with little information on the VOCALOID2 software. With Japanese VOCALOIDs getting more promotion and attention, it was some time before information on VOCALOID2 became more easily accessible, with Zero-G and PowerFX asking fans what they wanted from VOCALOID . In the Japanese fandom, few producers used the English language, despite Luka Megurine having it included in her software package, because few could understand enough English lyrics to work with this particular version of the software.
A constant thought throughout the VOCALOID2 era was on how despite improvements from VOCALOID to VOCALOID2, VOCALOID2 was still far from perfect. Professional reviewers from Sound on Sound magazine, John Walden and Tom Flint both stressed that singers still do not fear losing their jobs, with Flint in particular stressing that in the time it takes to learn how to use the engine, it would be easier to hire a professional singer for half an hour for the same recording. However, praise was given to the VOCALOID2 engine for its improvements over the VOCALOID engine as well as the overhaul to the interface, which had been a criticism to the original VOCALOID software. Later reviews commented that anyone who wanted to know more on VOCALOID only had to type in the word "VOCALOID" into YouTube to see the many thousands of song titles, praising the fandom for its use of the software to push it to the limits.
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