Lately, I’ve been hunting down the instruments and samples used in my favorite video game soundtracks. One sample library that’s appeared in several games is the Voice Spectral sample library by Best Service.
What is Voice Spectral?
Voice Spectral was a sample library released by Best Service sometime in the early ‘90s. It had over 1000 pre-recorded vocal samples and phrases made for music production and sound design. The sounds mostly consisted of dance vocal hooks, gospel choir clips, shouts, screams, and other phrases.
There was also a second volume called Voice Spectral II. Later on, the samples were repackaged as Sound Cube Vol. 3: Voice Spectral.
While the sounds were frequently used in pop and electronic music, they’re arguably best remembered today for appearing in various video game soundtracks.
The original CD release had over 1000 samples divided into 99 tracks, with each track containing multiple samples. They were grouped together based on the sample type:
- 1: The Voice Spectral Demo
- 2–17: Shouts Part 1
- 18–40: Electronics
- 41–46: Vocal Percussion
- 47–64: Females
- 65–74: Males
- 75–81: Volks (ethnic and world phrases)
- 82–96: Shouts Part 2
- 97–99: Synth Choirs
Can You Still Get the Voice Spectral Sample Library?
Best Service eventually retired the Voice Spectral and Sound Cube series. And to my knowledge, the sounds haven’t been recycled into any modern products. So as of this writing, there’s no official way to obtain the original sample library.
However, you can download an archived version of the Voice Spectral library from the Internet Archive. Keep in mind that the sounds might not be cleared for commercial use.
What Games Used the Voice Spectral Samples?
You can hear these sounds in various titles by Nintendo, Sega, and other publishers. Here’s a partial list of games that used Voice Spectral samples:
- Super Mario 64
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Ridge Racer
- Earthworm Jim 2
- Samba de Amigo
- Jet Set Radio
- Sonic Adventure 2
If you want more examples, you can find a more comprehensive list of games thanks to research from the VGM community.
Some of the samples have transcended the game soundtracks themselves and taken a life of their own. Here are some of the more interesting examples:
The Super Mario “Paah” and Other Voice Clips
If you’ve played any game in the New Super Mario Bros. series, you’ll be familiar with the “Paah” sound that the Koopas dance to. That sample comes from Track 53.
But that sound actually has a longer history with Mario than many realize. The “Paah” sample was actually first used in Super Mario 64 for the Mission Select jingle.
Voice Spectral Track 53
New Super Mario Bros. Overworld Theme
Super Mario 64 Mission Select Jingle
Interestingly, many shouts from this pack were also used as placeholders for Mario’s voice in the beta version of Super Mario 64. This was before Charles Martinet was hired for the role. Watch this footage and hear for yourself:
Fire Temple Chants in Ocarina of Time
The original release of Zelda: Ocarina of Time infamously used some Islamic prayers for the Fire Temple’s music. These samples were taken from Track 76.
Nintendo caught this before they released the game, but had already printed cartridges with this version of the track. After some quick fixes, Nintendo printed more copies of the game without the chants.
As a result, both versions of the game were released at the same time. So it was entirely possible that some players had a slightly different experience than their friends.
Original Version With Chanting
Updated Version With Chanting Removed
Future ports of Ocarina of Time would end up using the updated version without the Islamic chanting. They also removed other religious imagery from the original release.
Learn About Other Classic Sample Libraries
We’ve covered other classic sample libraries from video games. Here are two of our favorites from the Nintendo 64 era: