The Elder Scrolls

xVASynth 2: A tiny guide to better-sounding audio

Hi. Here's another small article from me. This time it's about tips and tricks of xVASynth 2 I've learned while working on my Maven Follower and Spouse mod.

Dialogue pre-conditioning

It's probably a widely-known quirk among the circles, but I found it quite amusing.

There are three things you need to know about the neural net: it's dumb, lazy and reflexive. And just like any "real" brain, it's prone to "nostalgia" and "comfort zones". In other words, it does best what it's been taught to do and clings to familiarity.

This means you can break out Lazy Voice Finder, tell it to filter by the voice bank you'd like to simulate with xVASynth 2, then… prepend the phrases you'd like for it to say with parts of sentences the original VA said!

In most cases, this will transfer the tone and "energy" of the original sentence onto the one you're trying to generate, resulting in far more "alive" voice acting.

Rebooting the brain

If you feel that for some reason xVA outputs incoherent garbage despite all your best attempts, shut it down and launch again – it may simply be due to bad neural net's initialization.

Sample rate

I know it'll be very frustrating for many of you to learn now, but you could make much better sounding voice lines. This is achieved by opening settings (gear icon on the top right), scrolling down and changing "Audio sample rate (Hz)" from 22050 to 48000.

This simple change will increase the output fidelity, but we definitely can do better.

Pitching, stretching and xVA vocoder artifacts removal

For this step, you'll need a wonderful shareware DAW Reaper, developed by a team led by one of the original Winamp's developers – Justin Frankel.

Open Reaper and drag your voice file onto one of its tracks. After importing the file, right-click on its representation and select "Item properties".

In the opened Properties window, navigate to and change the following settings:

  • Take pitch shift/time stretch mode: uLastique 2.28 SOLOIST or uLastique 3 Soloist. Do not pick other modes, they do not preserve formants and will result in voice distortion.

  • Pitch adjust (semitones): anything between 1 and 4. 2 is enough to reduce the robotic reverb on hissing. Adjust to your taste until the result is satisfactory enough.

After that, select "File" -> "Render" and set the output as 44100Hz Mono 16-bit PCM (this is the format accepted by the game and FaceFXWrapper, which you can use to generate .lip files for your project without launching Creation Kit).

But wait, there's more!

Passing the voice through exciter VST

Just like any hi-quality DAW, Reaper supports VST plugins, one particular kind of which will help you to make the generated voice files sound even better! They're called "exciters". You can find them across the web, for example, here.

After installing it (usually it's just a matter of dragging the .dll file of exciter into Reaper's PluginsFX directory (despite devs telling you not to, it's for the sake of having a portable installation) and telling Reaper to re-scan for new plugins, click "FX" button located on the control block of the track you put the voice file onto, then navigate for the exciter VST you downloaded and installed prior (press F5 if you haven't scanned for new plugins yet).

If you did everything correctly, click the loop button in Reaper's main window and hit play. In exciter's window, adjust the high and mid frequency responses (depends on the features of the particular plugin you've downloaded) until you hear the voice starts to sound clearer.

Now here's the best part of this exercise – you only have to do all this ONCE, because Reaper supports templates! All you have to do now is delete the block of the voice file you've imported (make sure to leave the track itself intact), click "File" -> "Project templates" -> "Save project as template…".

After that, pick the saved template in the exact same menu and drag another voice file onto the same "excited" track. You can easily duplicate the track if you need to splice several chunks of audio.

Well, I guess that wraps it up. Happy modding.


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