Vortex 2 Real-Time Voice Changing Module Dark

Vortex 2 Real-Time Voice Changing Module
Dark Lord Version
 2001-20011, Hyperdyne Labs
This document explains how to setup your Vortex 2 voice amp, operate it correctly, and use all the features available
on the unit.
This package includes:
1) Programmed Vortex 2 voice effects board + interface board
2) 1/8” remote pushbutton cable
3) 1/8” stereo output cable
4) 9V 6AA battery holder
5) (optional) hard shell VHS case enclosure
You can also use the following compatible equipment with your voice amp (equipment listed is not all inclusive):
1) Amplified speaker (Radio Shack #277-1008C)
2) Radio Shack PA amp or Newton PA amp from
3) JBL OnTour Ipod speakers
Vortex 2 Voice Effects Amp, Hyperdyne Labs
1) Tie-clip electret mic (Radio Shack #33-3013)
2) Directional electret microphone with boom (Radio Shack #33-3012)
3) Nady HM-5U or HM-20U unidirectional electret head mic
Your voice amp transforms your voice in real time to sound like a dark lord - adding helmeted reverb, echo, shifting
your voice down in pitch, and slowing your voice so it replicates the effect heard in the movies.
This Vortex 2 voice changer also features several innovations not found in any other voice amp in its class:
16-bit CD quality output and DSP technology.
Stereo output – voice + sound fx on left channel, chorus sound fx on right channel
Different pitch settings to fine tune your voice effect.
Push-to-talk mode, enables voice output and disables breathing so you can talk at will.
Auto VOX mode automatically disables breathing sound fx while talking.
Digital voice output volume control
6’ remote pushbutton cable to control all the boards features with a single fingertip
Tunable onboard voice compressor – compression ratios of 1:1 up to 15:1
Compatible with all (Radio Shack) type amplified speakers, OnTour Ipod speakers, xtremegadget, etc
Uses any electret mic – board even supplies phantom mic power
The voice board will run off any DC power supply from 6V-18V. A 9V battery is sufficient to use, but may not last
long. Use alkaline batteries or lithium batteries for added life. You can also use a 6AA battery pack for extended
costuming sessions. When the batteries are getting low, you will start to hear a high-pitched whine emanating from
the speaker. This is your cue that the batteries need replacing soon!
NOTE: Handle your board as you would any piece of delicate electronics! Do not get it wet and do not handle it
without grounding yourself first! Even a static shock can destroy the delicate components on the board. I suggest
when installing the board, insulate it with non-static foam, hot glue, or other material. Handle the board around its
edges when moving it. We are not responsible for boards that are rendered useless by improper handling.
If you are not familiar with static electricity handling procedures, please refer to ESD procedures. Basic
information on ESD can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrostatic_discharge
This unit contains very sophisticated software that requires you to follow the setup procedures in order to get the best
performance from the voice amp. PLEASE READ!!!
Vortex 2 Voice Effects Amp, Hyperdyne Labs
The dimensions of the Vortex 2 module are (not including battery or cables): 3.4” L x 2.2” W x 1” H.
The Vortex module consists of two boards, the upper INTERFACE board and the lower PROCESSING
board. The two boards are sandwiched together using header pins. The boards must not be separated, as
both are necessary for proper operation!
Here is a picture of the Vortex 2 unit with all of the major parts listed on the INTERFACE board.
Vortex 2 Voice Effects Amp, Hyperdyne Labs
A. External sound effects input jack – 1/8” mono input jack for an external breathing sound or other sound
B. Mic input jack – 1/8” mono input jack for microphone.
C. Output jack – 1/8” stereo output jack for voice and sound fx output. Connect to an external amp/speaker.
D. Output level jumpers – Selects line-level or audio level output mode.
E. Jumper to enable phantom power for non-powered electret mics
F. Reset button – for rebooting system
G. Programming button – Allows user to change board settings and features
H. Programming jack – 1/8” mono jack that accepts remote pushbutton cable so user can remotely change
board settings and features (operates the same as prog button).
I. PTT jack – 1/8” mono jack that controls push-to-talk feature. Can be used with remote pushbutton cable.
J. Power terminal block – Accepts 6-18V DC power source. Polarity: + on left, - on right
K. On/off switch
L. Vocal compressor pot – Turning pot screw changes the amount of compression applied to mic input
There are also 3 LEDs on the Vortex module for power and status.
Vortex 2 Voice Effects Amp, Hyperdyne Labs
When PTT mode is enabled, the push-to-talk LED will light up when the mic is “open”. The LED will go
off when the mic is “closed”.
When PTT mode is disabled, the PTT LED will light up when your voice surpasses the auto VOX
The programming LED will light up each time you depress the programming button. When no button
presses are detected within 1 sec, the board will update the feature selected and blink this LED to let the
user know the EPROM memory onboard has been updated.
The power LED lights when the board has power and is on.
The heartbeat LED is located on the lower PROCESSING board and blinks once per sec. if the board is
operating properly.
Microphone setup:
Plug in your microphone and amplified speaker using an 1/8” cable. If you already own a Radio Shack amplified
speaker (#277-1008C or the common black PA speaker), you can use this with your unit. You may have to dial
down the output volume in order to avoid too much feedback. See Section C on how to do this.
If you are using an electret mic that DOES NOT have an external battery (like a computer mic), you will have to use
the shorting terminal to enable power to the electret mic. See the below pic for details on how to do this. If you
have a mic that has an external battery and on/off switch (similar to Radio Shack #33-3012 or #33-3013), you can
leave the 2 gold pins on the board disconnected. By shorting these two gold pins together, you are providing power
to the mic.
Vortex 2 Voice Effects Amp, Hyperdyne Labs
NOTE: A condenser mic will not work with the board, as the output will be too low for you to hear.
Output level setup:
The output level jumpers on the board allow you to select one of two output levels – line out or audio out. By
default the audio output level is selected. Move the jumpers over the 2 pins to select the output level you would like
to use.
Line out is a lower level output and is better suited for equipment that needs a lower level input. Audio level is good
for most amplified speakers and preamp type equipment. The below diagram shows the jumper positions to select
each output level (filled-in circles denote jumper over those pins).
Audio level selected
Line level selected
Vortex 2 Voice Effects Amp, Hyperdyne Labs
Hooking all the components up:
Here is a diagram of how to connect up all the different jacks to your equipment.
Mic in
CD/MP3 player for
external breathing
sound (mono)
Amplified speaker setup
Vortex 2 board (top view)
9V battery or
PTT remote
pushbutton cable
Optional remote pushbutton programming
This section outlines how to change any of the settings for the board.
The voice amp has 6 functions that are controlled by the onboard pushbutton. These functions are included to help
mitigate feedback and to enable different features. The programmable settings are:
PTT enable/disable
Enable/disable external background sound effect mixed in with voice
Change the amount of pitch applied to voice
Enable/disable the auto VOX circuit for controlling the breathing sound output
Change output volume (digital)
Change auto VOX threshold for breathing sound cutoff
Reset all saved parameters to default
Vortex 2 Voice Effects Amp, Hyperdyne Labs
When you turn on the unit, the voice changer becomes active. When you talk the unit will automatically pitch shift
your voice down and also add reverb and echo. This will make your voice sound like the dark lord himself! The
amount of pitch shift, reverb, and echo was carefully researched and calibrated to match the movie voice.
If the amount of pitch shifting performed on your voice is not enough to make your natural voice sound like the exact
movie, try to lower your voice while you talk into the mic. You will find that by fine tuning your own voice, you can
achieve the spirit of the movie speech much more readily. Nothing can automatically turn your voice into the dark
lord, but if you study his speech patterns, talking speed, and word emphasis in the movies, you too can achieve a near
perfect effect that is indistinguishable to most people. Perfecting these intricacies will transform your voice effect
from good to great!
The onboard programming pushbutton (or using the remote cable w/ button) allows you to set up and use the features
of the board. When the unit is installed on your costume, you can use the remote programming pushbutton to
enable/disable features of the board.
Each feature on the board is triggered by pressing the programming button the desired number of times. Below is a
table outlining each feature.
NOTE: If any of the settings are changed, they are automatically saved in EPROM memory, which is not lost after
powerdown. Thus you only need to change the setting once, and the unit will remember your settings upon each
Number of
button presses
Voice board feature
Enable/disable Push-to-talk function (PTT).
Enabled = must use PTT button to open mic
Disabled = mic always opened
Enable/disable external sound effect/breathing sound
Change pitch setting (7 available settings).
Table Auto wraps after 7th setting is hit.
Enable/disable auto VOX playback of external sound
effect/breathing sound
Change output volume gain (in dB).
Table of values: -12dB, -6dB, 0dB, +6dB, +12dB
Change VOX auto threshold for external sound/breathing
cutoff (8 available settings)
Reset EPROM back to default vals
Default setting
2 semitones
Setting 1: Push to talk (PTT) mode enable/disable
Pushing the button 1x toggle the PTT mode on and off. PTT mode is off by default. When PTT mode is off, the mic
is always opened. The PTT mode disables the mic output so you will only be able to talk through the speaker when
you press the remote pushbutton and hold it in. Now the mic will open and allow you to talk.
When you release the button in PTT mode, the mic is automatically closed. PTT mode is best used if you are
experiencing too much feedback and need to mic to close after talking, or if you just want absolute control of when
the mic opens and closes (can be used for secure comm also). Pushing the programming button 1x again will disable
PTT mode.
NOTE: When the mic opens in PTT mode the external sound effect/breathing sound will be disabled as well. This
allows you to have maximum voice volume without the breathing sound interfering. If you prefer to have the
Vortex 2 Voice Effects Amp, Hyperdyne Labs
breathing sound always mixed in with your voice, you can disable PTT mode which will keep the mic open and mix
in the external sound fx.
TIP: The PTT trigger is run off the second 1/8” jack on the board labeled “PTT jack”. This jack is right next to the
programming cable jack. You can connect your remote pushbutton cable to this jack if you plan to use the PTT
mode in your costume. Also, the PTT LED will go on whenever you press the PTT pushbutton while PTT mode is
enabled. This will allow you to see when the mic is opened and closed.
Setting 2: Enable/disable external sound effect mixed in with voice
You can easily add background breathing or other sound effects that will be mixed in with your voice.
The Vortex 2 board has an input jack that allows you to input an outside sound from a CD player, MP3 player,
computer sound card, etc. When you connect your source to this input jack, it will be mixed in with the mic input
For best quality, your transformed voice plus the mixed sound effect/breathing sound is output on the left channel of
the stereo output. The right channel contains only the sound effect/breathing input from an external source, and it
has been digitally delayed by 20ms.
TIP: The combination of the L and delayed R breathing sound allows you to connect up a stereo speaker and create
a pseudo-stereo echo effect! Using both channels, the external sound effect/breathing sound will appear more
mechanical and give a slight echo, increasing the presence of the sound effect coming out of your stereo speakers.
If you only have one speaker, you can use a stereo combiner to mix both sounds into one output, use a 2nd speaker
for the chorus sound effect, or just use the left channel into a single speaker to get the voice + breathing effect.
You can enable or disable this external sound effect by pressing the programming pushbutton 2x. The default setting
is “on”, so any sound piped through the input jack will be mixed in with your transformed voice.
TIP: Be sure to tweak the volume on your external playback device so it sounds best coming out of the Vortex unit.
Too much volume will swamp the input and cause it to sound crackly and distorted. If this happens turn down the
external volume or turn down the voice gain (setting 5 below).
Setting 3: Changing pitch setting
There are 7 different pitch settings to help match your voice pitch to a proper dark lord voice. If the default setting
does not give your voice the proper amount of shift (which varies between the user’s own voice), you can press the
button 3x to increase or decrease the pitch setting. The internal pitch table wraps around after 7 pitch settings so you
can search for the best effect using your own voice.
The pitch table is measured in semitones. The default pitch when the board powers up is 2.0 semitones of downward
pitch. The available pitch settings in the pitch table are 1.0, 1.25, 1.5, 1.75, 2.0, 2.25, 2.5 semitones. Every time you
change the pitch (by pressing the button 3x), the pitch advances through the table one setting at a time. Since the
default pitch setting is 2.0, then successive presses of the pushbutton would set the pitch to 2.25, 2.5, 1.0, 1.25, 1.5,
……, etc. So, the largest amount of pitch is 2.5 semitones and the smallest amount of pitch is 1.0 semitones.
Vortex 2 Voice Effects Amp, Hyperdyne Labs
Setting 4: Enable/disable auto VOX for external sound effect
Pressing the programming button 4x will enable and disable the auto VOX feature for playback of the external sound
effect. This feature is useful if you are not using PTT mode, but would still like the breathing/external sound effect
to cut off automatically while you are talking. Enabling this feature will do that for you. When the mic hears any
activity above a preset VOX threshold, it will automatically turn off the external breathing sound. When the mic
input drops in volume once again, the unit will pass the external breathing sound through the speaker again. The
default value is “disabled”, which means the external sound is always output (if it is enabled via setting 2).
NOTE: You can tell if the auto VOX is picking up any mic activity by observing the PTT LED. When you are not
in PTT mode, this LED will light when your voice volume passes the VOX threshold (see Setting 6).
Setting 5: Changing output volume gain
Pressing the programming button 5x will change the output volume of your voice. If you are using a different
speaker setup, this feature will allow you to increase or decrease the output volume to better match your input
amplifier expectations. The volume table has values of -12dB, -6dB, 0dB, +6dB, +12dB. The default setting is 0dB
(no gain).
Every time you change the output volume (by pressing the button 5x), the volume advances through the table one
setting at a time. If your voice is distorting too much, try to lower the output volume. If you are having trouble
hearing the speaker output, try increasing the output volume.
NOTE: This setting does not affect the sound fx volume on the L or R channel, as you should change that volume
input using the external source’s volume control.
Setting 6: Changing the auto VOX threshold for external sound effect
Pressing the programming button 6x will increase the VOX voice threshold. This is also known as the squelch point.
When you talk into the mic, you voice volume must surpass this threshold before the external breathing/sound effect
is automatically disabled (see Setting 4). This is used in conjunction with Setting 4, as enabling Setting 4 will
activate the VOX threshold logic.
The higher the VOX threshold setting, the more voice volume you need to trigger the auto breath cutoff per Setting
4. The default setting is the lowest VOX threshold. If background noise is cutting the external sound effect in and
out, increment this setting by one level and try again. There are 8 VOX threshold values you can cycle through, each
one is higher than the last one. After the last value is selected, the next VOX threshold change cycles back the
lowest in the table. This way you can cycle through all values to find the best threshold for your mic.
NOTE: You can tell if the auto VOX is picking up any mic activity by observing the PTT LED. If you blow into the
mic with PTT mode disabled, this LED will light up when the mic input surpasses the current VOX threshold. The
LED will go off when no voice input is detected. If the LED is always on then your mic is too sensitive and you
should try and increase the VOX threshold. If the LED is never on, the VOX threshold may be set too high or you
may have a faulty mic, input jack, etc.
Setting 8: Reset all settings to default
Pushing the button 8x will reset all the saved settings back to their default values. If you ever want to reprogram the
user settings for your board (as outlined in Section C), or just go back to the default settings, this feature allows you
to do that.
BUTTON PROGRAMMING NOTE: Every time a new setting is saved to EPROM, the board will blink the
programming LED briefly to inform you the save was successful.
Vortex 2 Voice Effects Amp, Hyperdyne Labs
Below is a pic of all the tunable potentiometers on the board, with their functions listed.
NOTE: The potentiometer on the board requires 20 full turns in order to span the entire range.
Changing voice compression:
The mic input goes through a voice compressor. A compressor makes all of your words the same volume, resulting
in a more “in your face” effect. If you have ever listened to a movie commercial, the announcer that has a very
pronounced voice with equal volume for all words. This is a good example of vocal compression.
To increase compression, turn the pot screw clockwise. To decrease it, turn the pot counter-clockwise. The below
pic shows this:
More compression results in softer spoken words receiving more gain, making them sound louder. Loudly spoken
words are gained down some. There is also a limiter, which limits the output of the mic. So if you yell into the mic,
the output is well behaved and still discernable. A vocal compression of 1:1 is equivalent to normal speaking. A
maximum vocal compression of 15:1 provides a large amount of vocal gain, giving the”in your face” effect. More
compression is also good if the mic is farther from your mouth than normal. If the mic is far away, then the
compressor will amplify the mic signal more. The correct amount of compression can also make your words more
legible to outsiders, since volume between all words is maximized.
To increase the compression, turn the screw on the compression pot clockwise as shown. This will increase the
compression from 1:1 up to 15:1. So, each turn of the screw will give you an increase of around 1x:1. Turning the
screw counterclockwise will decrease compression.
NOTE: If you have set the vocal compression very high, a side effect is more feedback howling. This is because the
gain of the mic on low level signals is greatly amplified, causing more feedback to happen when the mic is open and
you are not talking. This is a tradeoff that needs experimentation to get right. If you are experiencing way too much
feedback, then back off the vocal compression until it subsides or opt for using the PTT mode.
Vortex 2 Voice Effects Amp, Hyperdyne Labs
TIP: If you want to hear the effect of different compression settings, connect the Vortex 2 speaker output to your
computer’s sound card input. You can record several vocal passages using several different compression settings.
You will be able to hear the difference in vocal volume over your passage by playing back the different recordings.
Mic placement issues
For the tie-clip mic (Radio Shack #33-3013), I have found it best to place it right under your lower lip. This gives
you maximum sensitivity and loudness. Experimentation will give the best results. If you use the boom mic (#333012), the headset is more comfortable and can be worn under your helmet. The boom mic also has a unidirectional
mic, which will help reduce feedback. The tie-clip mic has an omnidirectional mic, which gives better voice pickup
but increases potential feedback.
Feedback troubleshooting
If you are having problems with feedback, you will have to try one or more of the following:
Use PTT mode
Move the mic farther away from the speaker
Turn the volume down on the amplified speaker
Turn down the vocal compression - a 1:1 compression will result in less feedback.
Use a directional microphone, such as the Radio Shack boom mic model #33-3012
TIP: The closer the mic and speaker are, the worse this feedback is. Even if you eliminate feedback in this extreme
case, the slightest movement of your head will cause a new feedback path. As the speaker and mic are separated,
you will have more “leeway” in your head movement before feedback ensues.
This unit has its own natural feedback attenuator. If you turn up the speaker volume too much, or move the mic too
close to the speaker, you will begin to hear a strange reverberant type noise. You must lower the volume or place the
speaker farther away from the mic. Otherwise you risk having the unpleasant sounds continue, which is known as
Feedback is caused by the output of the speaker being picked up by the mic, and that sound amplified over and over,
until the amplifier “howls” or otherwise makes unpleasant noises. You should experiment where to place the speaker
and mic in order to find the “sweet spot” in your setup. The anti-feedback mechanism in the software can only
handle a certain amount of feedback. You must remember that feedback always exists. Physical placement of the
mic and speaker are the main variables in combating feedback. Feedback also increases when you put a helmet on
your head, so some trial and error is necessary to find the best configuration and mic/speaker placement. Using the
boom mic will also help with feedback since it is a unidirectional mic. The easiest way to combat feedback is to
lower the volume until it disappears. Also, separating the mic and speaker will reduce feedback immensely.
Also, as a stopgap measure for complete feedback mitigation you can close the mic and open it manually by enabling
PTT mode. This feature rids of any feedback that you would normally hear when the volume is up too loud or if the
mic were constantly “open”.
Remember, feedback is always there, it is just a matter of how much you can attenuate it. Feedback is also directly
proportional to volume, so the more you turn up your speaker, the more feedback you will experience. Our Vortex
voice amp is the only unit capable of tackling difficult feedback paths by using advanced algorithms.
Vortex 2 Voice Effects Amp, Hyperdyne Labs
If you are mounting the unit inside your helmet, you want to make sure you do not get it wet. That includes
condensation, sweat, etc. These things can short out the board and render it inoperable. A good way to protect the
board is to use epoxy, hot glue, or even heat shrink wrap. If you boards gets wet or stops operating, turn it off and let
it air dry completely before turning it back on. You can also mount the boards inside a plastic project box to protect
TIP: Radio Shack project box #270-1803 (box dims are 5x2x2.5”) is one enclosure that will house the unit.
You can also use the included blue project box to house the boards or use a slim line hard shell VHS tape case
to store all the electronics and batteries.
Your Vortex 2 board will fit in a hard shell VHS plastic tape case with room to spare. You can hot glue or mount the
boards in the case. This will protect them, and also allow you to mount the entire package on a belt, underneath a
cape, etc. You can cut the case with an exacto knife, dremel, drill, etc. The batteries can also be housed in the case
so everything is contained.
Vortex 2 module
Power switch
Mic in
Speaker out
Hole for external mp3
Hole for remote
breath fx jack
pushbutton 1/8” cable
Vortex 2 Voice Effects Amp, Hyperdyne Labs
Q: I am experiencing more feedback than my previous system, why?
A: Feedback for one system is not the same for a different system. Since the gain for different boards is not
constant, feedback can increase/decrease for a given speaker/mic configuration you have set up. That is the nature
of feedback. If you want to reduce feedback, try repositioning the speakers and mic, turn down the compressor until
you have a 1:1 gain, and use a directional microphone. Feedback is a direct function of gain, which includes the
compressor gain, the speaker gain (volume), system gain, and distant between mic and speakers.
Q: My mic is not working, why?
A: Make sure if you have an UNPOWERED electret mic, makes sure that the 2 header pins are shorted together
using the provided shorting block as shown before. If you are using a Radio Shack powered mic, you must remove
the shorting block from the 2 header pins.
Q: I am trying to tune the compressor on the board but am not hearing any significant changes?
A: When you are tuning the board using the onboard potentiometers, be aware that to go from one end to another,
you must turn the pot screw 25 times! So if you are going from max compression to a 1:1 compression, try turning
the pot 25 times (full rotations) and then test again. If you are fine tuning the board, try to turn the pot 4 rotations
at a time. You should start to hear incremental changes in the voice effect. Turning the pot 1-2 times wont really
make much of a difference.
Any questions, email: hyperdyne@hyperdynelabs.com if you are having difficulties setting up the unit. Good luck
and enjoy!!!!
NOTICE: There is no warranty on kits. It is your responsibility to install the board. Opened kits cannot be returned. Be careful if
you plan to use a battery source that is capable of delivering alot of current. Contact a professional if you need assistance.
Hyperdyne Labs assumes no responsibility for the misuse of this kit.
Vortex 2 Voice Effects Amp, Hyperdyne Labs
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