The other day, I received a shipment of a few pedals from TC Electronic to evaluate and review. I wrote a review of the MojoMojo Overdrive Pedal yesterday and this evening started evaluating the TC Helicon VoiceLive Play GTX vocal and guitar processor. Out of all the pedals I received from TC Electronic (I received four total), this pedal – or should I say unit – was the one that was going to be real important to me, because I use a vocal processor for my solo acoustic gigs for harmonies. For the last few years, I’ve been using at DigiTech Vocalist Live 4, and I still love it. But it’s showing its age now, and is pretty beat up, considering I gig with it weekly, and I’ve been getting nervous using it as of late.
My interest in the VoiceLive comes not only from needing a new unit, but also from listening to the demos out there, and also seeing/hearing its sibling, the VoiceLive Touch in action at a live demo done by Christine Havrilla, one of TC’s American demo artists (she’s the chick with the great voice in all the demo videos). What struck me about the VoiceLive technology then was how natural the harmony voices sounded. While I dig my VocalistLive box, I have to admit that the harmonies can sometimes sound almost chipmunk-like; but I wasn’t hearing any of that with the VoiceLive. So I was absolutely excited to receive the shipment because I finally had a chance to try out the unit myself, and see if I could get it dialed in so I could use in my gigs this weekend (I have three).
I “cheated” a bit before I hooked up the unit this evening by reading the manual online earlier this afternoon to get myself familiarized with the control possibilities; there are LOTS! But as I messed around with it tonight, while having read the manual was useful, with how easy it is to access all the parameters, I could’ve saved myself some time. It really is that easy to use!
The VoiceLive Play has 235 presets based upon various popular songs. Presets aren’t my thing, so instead of using the, I paged through presets and found three presets that would work with acoustic guitar. I then edited them, removing most of the vocal processing (I did keep some compression because that’s always a good thing), then tweaked the modulation effects so all the normal voicings would be the same. I would then construct harmonies for the “Hit” button. I also matched the guitar settings for two of them so I could switch between them in a single song. For instance, one of the presets has a single vocal harmony with “Hit” activated, while the second preset has two voices of harmony plus a doubling voice.
I edited these so I could switch between them mid-song, as some songs have sections that only require a single harmony voice, but other sections may requite more. A good example is the Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feelin.'” I recorded a sample of that:
I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the ability to switch presets mid-song while keeping “Hit” active as I was able to do that with my Vocalist Live 4. But the fact that I can do that with the VoiceLive is a HUGE plus. In fact, that might’ve been a deal-breaker for me if I couldn’t do that because having to tap dance from the preset selector to the Hit button would make things difficult while playing.
With respect to sound quality, the VoiceLive absolutely shines. The problem I’ve always had with my Vocalist Live 4 is that the guitar processing absolutely stunk. Admittedly, I’m not too impressed with the dirty amp models in the VoiceLive, but I’d never use them. But the mere fact that you can finely adjust the guitar sounds is absolutely huge for me because it means that I can choose not to use my pedal board with the unit. Sometimes I play in places where real estate is a premium, and having a couple of floor units – however small – takes up valuable space. For my larger venue gigs, I’ll probably still bring my board because my modulation effects are way better than the onboard effects of this unit. But the effects here are good enough. This coming weekend, I’ll be playing three gigs, and even though there will be space, I’m going to make it a point to not bring my board. From what I can tell so far from this unit, it’s going to work just fine with my Fishman SA220 SoloAmp.
Another place where this unit shines is in vocal doubling. With my old unit, I never used it because it did not sound at all natural. You can tell that a lot of work went into getting the VoiceLive’s vocal processing to a very high quality. Even recorded direct into my DAW, the vocals sound natural. Plus, there are all sorts of params that you can adjust that affect vocals; a big one for me being compression. Apparently, TC modeled their compression after a very well-known compressor (don’t know the name, but they mention it). I personally don’t use much compression, maybe 2.1 – 3.2 to 1 compression so I can retain dynamics, but it’s a necessity to have at least some, especially when playing in an open environment. Here’s a short clip of the Beatles’ “In My Life” that demonstrates the fantastic doubling and light compression:
All in all, my initial impression is simply this: I see a VoiceLive Play GTX in my immediate future and beyond!