Trying out Discord voice changers

Should a female Clownfish disappear, the most alpha male around changes his sex to female, in a way that strongly resembles the human transgendering process.

With such a powerful brand (but unfortunately, it seems, one they chose unintentionally), it was obvious that Clownfish Voice Changer would be something I should try out.

Transgender voice is a messy thing.

For trans men, doing testosterone should elongate your vocal cords, and that’s more than half the work done towards a convincing voice.
For trans women, you can chomp as many pills as you want: those cords aren’t ever gonna shrink anymore.
And their length dictates their pitch, in much the same way that a bass guitar has longer strings than a six string guitar.

Surgery is available: you just have to travel to Korea, pay “if you gotta ask” Wons, stay silent and not even sneeze for a few months or your voice is ruined forever, then finally, discover your brand new voice where you sound almost the same as before.
Another option is to use your best baritone to scream about how “the kyriarchy is imposing cisheteropatriarchal pitch standards on bodies, because I am a real woman under late capitalism this is a real woman’s voice, now venmo me $50 for my emotional labor”.
Re-education is another option.

Re-education can achieve fantastic results. But it takes time and effort. It doesn’t work so well if you DIY half-ass it, which is what I have done so far.

With an impending Final Fantasy XIV update, raid season is upon us. And being on voice is more stressful to me than the actual raiding.

Not only my voice doesn’t really pass, I also have a bit of an accent, and I have terrible listening comprehension, especially in noisy environments. When I have a headset on, I feel anxious and not quite fully there. I’m left out of conversations because I can’t understand what people are saying fast enough to keep up.

I have been part of raid teams in the past, where people knew I was trans and more or less accepted it. FFXIV people are cool about this in general. They can accept to match “she” to a voice that isn’t quite there yet. But often, we’re missing a pair of regular members, and have to recruit people for the raid night. They join the discord server to talk with us, then we never hear of them again. I don’t want to have The Gender Talk with them.

For that reason, I’ve decided to try out voice changers. Not to deceive people I interact with regularly, just to feel a little bit more comfortable in this environment, to help people who aren’t used to interacting with trans people, and to avoid having the talk with random people.

I imagine there will be many cool people who’d understand the rationale of my using a voice changer, a few bigots who’d be bigoted voice changer or not, and not many people in between. Which is why I’m open about it on my site, it’s no secret, you just never asked.

I’m hoping the software can give me a barely noticeable tiny push, but the voice is a terribly difficult thing to process. Almost any effect will make it sound unnatural. Any amount of pitch correction makes its timbre eerie. Still, I’m hoping that in Discord, it can be chalked up to a bad microphone or aggressive encoding.

First, let’s listen how I sound like normally, not making any conscious effort to pass better.

Yup, not hopeless, but not passing either.
“Jazz singer after 40 years smoking a pack a day” would be the kindest way to match it to a cisgender female voice.

Let’s try it out with Clownfish.
It is easy to setup, even if you have many audio devices. It hijacks the stream transparently.

Screencap of the settings

The Clownfish presets are just good to clown on others. The “Male” and “Female” voice shift the pitch by a sufficient magnitude to sound comical. I obtained much more reasonable results by dialing in the settings myself, and shifting the pitch less than one semitone up (that is, less than the difference between two keys on a piano):

Even if the shift is subtle, it sounds quite unnatural. Bad enough you can’t assume it’s just due to compression.

Let’s try something else. One useful aspect of Clownfish is that you can use it as a VST host. VST plugins are virtual instruments and effects used in Digital Audio Workstations for music production, but you can also use them in Clownfish. One caveat is that 32 bits and 64 bits VST are only compatible with hosts compiled for the same architecture.

I decided to try out MAutoPitch. It is a free auto-tune clone, but I’m not using it for the auto-tune, I’m using it for the formant filter.

Formant filters are cool. I won’t embarrass myself attempting to explain how it works, I don’t understand it well. But within the context of this specific VST plug-in, what it does is alter the perceived gender without altering the pitch. I disabled the pitch shifting in Clownfish, and enabled the pitch shifting from MAutoPitch (it sounds better to my ears), added a bit of formant filter, and disabled the Autotune features:

Screencap of the settings

And here is how it sounds like:

Sounds much better than the previous example to me, still a bit unnatural, but I think it should work on Discord.

So, will it pass the “random person joined the server to play with us tonight” test? Good or bad, I’ll follow up how it goes. —Aria Salvatrice2019-06-25