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Real-time emotional voices

DAVID, a real-time emotional voice transformation tool

“Like an auto-tune, but for emotions” (Brian Resnick, for

DAVID (Da Amazing Voice Inflection Device) is a free, real-time voice transformation tool able to “colour” any voice with an emotion that wasn’t intended by it’s speaker. DAVID was especially designed with the affective psychology and neuroscience community in mind, and aims to provide researchers with new ways to produce and control affective stimuli, both for offline listening and for real-time paradigms. For instance, we have used it to create real-time emotional vocal feedback in Aucouturier et al, 2016.

Technically, DAVID is implemented as an open-source patch for the close-source audio processing plateform Max (Cycling’74), and, like Max, is available for most Windows and MacOS configurations. DAVID is available for free to the Forum community after registration (follow download link to proceed).

What does it do ?

DAVID is a software tool able to “add” emotion to a speech recording, i.e. it can make that American chap

or that French young lady

sound anxious,


or sad

(and whatever else you’d like them to sound like).

It does so in a way that’s properly validated for behavioural science, i.e. emotions are recognizable by listeners, they are fully controllable and reproducible in intensity, and there are mistaken as natural expressions and not detected as synthetic (Rachman et al, 2017). In fact, even the speakers themselves typically mistake the manipulated speech as their own .

In addition, it does so in real-time, i.e. you can transform speech as it is spoken, e.g. over the phone or onstage. With modern audio interfaces, we reached in/out latencies as small as 15ms, which even makes it useable as vocal feedback to a speaker without disrupting speech production.


DAVID is implemented as an open-source patch for the close-source audio processing plateform Max (Cycling’74). To use DAVID, you need to install Max first.

1. First step: Installing Max

DAVID has been fully tested with Max7, and also supports Max6. Both are available in MacOS and Windows versions on the seller’s website: Max is available under a commercial license from Cycling’74, but is available in free runtime versions that suffice to run DAVID.

According to its seller Cycling’74, system requirements for Max7 are Intel® Mac with Mac OS X 10.7 (or later), OR a PC with Windows 7 (or later); Multicore processor; 2 GB RAM; 1024×768 display. If your system widely departs from these specifications, consider installing Max6 (

2. First step: downloading  DAVID

DAVID V1.2 was released on January 31st, 2017. As of March 2017, DAVID is available as a free download on the IRCAM Forum, the community for science and art users of audio software developed in the IRCAM community. Simply follow the download link at, create a (free) IRCAM Forum account (or login with your account if you already have one), and extract the .zip file on your computer. Finally, to open the patch with Max, double click on the DAVID.maxproj file.

Tutorial and Usage documentation

See the readme.

The following video is a tutorial presented by Marco Liuni (IRCAM/CNRS) at the 4th International Conference on Music and Emotion, October 2015 in Geneva (Switzerland).

In addition, the following extract is a report by JJ Aucouturier and Laura Rachman (IRCAM/CNRS) on some of the effects’ experimental validation, presented at the same conference.

Design and Development

DAVID was developped by the CREAM Neuroscience Lab at IRCAM with funding from the European Research Council (CREAM 335536, PI: JJ Aucouturier) and in collaboration with Petter Johansson and Lars Hall (Lund University, Sweden), Rodrigo Segnini (Siemens, Japan), Katsumi Watanabe (Waseda University, Japan), and Daniel Richardson (University College, London UK). DAVID was so named after Talking Heads’ frontman David Byrne, whom we were priviledged to count as our early users in March’15.

Technical support and questions can be addressed to the (free) DAVID user-group (join here), where you can ask about technical issues and the applicability of DAVID to your own research needs. DAVID was especially designed for researchers in experimental psychology and neuroscience, but we also encourage artistic and creative applications – you’re all welcome to get in touch.

Associated Publications (open-access)

, L., Liuni, M., Arias, P., Lind, A., Johansson, P., Hall, L., Richardson, D., Watanabe, K., Dubal, S. and Aucouturier, J.J. (2017) DAVID: An open-source platform for real-time transformation of infra-segmental emotional cues in running speech. Behaviour Research Methods. doi: 10.3758/s13428-017-0873-y. [html] [pdf]

Aucouturier, J.J., Johansson, P., Hall, L., Segnini, R., Mercadié, L. & Watanabe, K. (2016) Covert Digital Manipulation of Vocal Emotion Alter Speakers’ Emotional State in a Congruent Direction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 113 no. 4, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1506552113. [html] [pdf]