Mar 19

INTRODUCING THE TC HELICON VOICELIVE PLAY

On my last review we looked at a great vocal product from TC Helicon – The VoiceLive 2 vocal stomp-box. TC Helicon have decided to also market a product for those on a budget by providing us with the VoiceLive Play announced at NAMM 2012 last month and which is also available immediately which makes a very pleasant change from having to wait months. They seemed to have approached the product however from a slightly different angle by stating that “VoiceLive Play gives you two hundred plus song & artist presets to choose from, helping you create amazing vocals. Plug in your MP3 player and sing along with your favourite tracks or create instant HIT effects for your own songs”. Well if it still has that professional sound and allows you to get that vocal sound you love from your favourite artist, all at the third of the cost of VoiceLive 2, then I think I want to give this pedal a look.

OPEN PANDORA’S BOX

Well we are dealing with a much smaller and lighter product here but also a more up to date product. Size-wise it is 200mm wide x 156 mm deep x 45mm high which is 7.9 inches x 6.1 inches x 1.8 inches and it only weighs 2.1 lb. (0.95 kg). As you take out of the box you will see it is a brighter retro- blue (Dual die-cast clamshell design) metal floor pedal with just three footswitches for Preset Up/Down and HIT Footswitch. It appears to have a clear but simple LCD and I am not sure about the colouring of the 6 soft buttons (3 either side of the LCD) as to how well you will see them in the dark. Under the LCD is the main data knob and either side of the knob is a forward arrow and back arrow buttons and a back and store button. So this is considerably less controls than the VoiceLive 2 as the VoiceLive Play has just 10 buttons, 3 Switches and 1 knob as well as the LCD.

THE VOICELIVE PLAY – LET’S GET CONNECTED


Connections are very simple and obviously there are not as many as on the VoiveLive 2. From Left to right you have the 12V DC 0.4A max output Power In connection, a small USB-B port for control, MIDI and audio I/O data for PC / MAC allowing VoiceSupport to manage your presets and up-date Firmware, a Headphone Out 1/8? Mini stereo jack, Main balanced Left & Right XLR outputs, a Pedal: 1/4? TRS phone jack where you can connect a Switch 3 pedal to give you more options including the control of looping (you obviously need to use a TRS cable here), an Auxiliary 1/8? stereo mini jack cable for you to connect things like an mp3 player (input here means the VoiceLive Play will try to figure out the Key or scale of the music – very clever and lastly there is a singular XLR Mic Input. It is also worth noting that as you set up your microphone the VoiceLive Play provides you with an indication of the mic input level by way of a small LED to the left of the LCD corner labelled ‘IN’, which changes from green to red and is controlled by a small knob on the left-hand side.

POWER ON THE VOICELIVE PLAY

As soon as you switch on, you realise that you will be able to see the button names clearly because they are brightly backlit in white, making them very clear. I thought before I go any further, I would have a look at the manual which doesn’t seem too bad with only 30 pages. TC has also been a little inventive when it comes to the manual. Near the start they have three pages which are each headed up – “How do I use this thing?” The sub-headings are:-

1. I’ve got nothing… just a VoiceLive Play and some headphones!

2. I’ve got a microphone, headphones and an acoustic guitar, electric guitar with an amplifier, acoustic piano or   electric piano with speakers…

3. I’ve got a mic , PA system and play with a band. I’d like the harmonies to be in key automatically…

4. I want to sing along, Karaoke style, with my mp3 player or through my computer. I think this is very useful but I suppose there are many scenarios possible. I think they should have included one for recording in your Studio.

OK so we are all powered up and I am ready to try out the many presets but I think one of the first questions that comes to mind is:- What is the ‘Hit’ button, what does it do and how does it work? Sorry for the pun but it doesn’t immediately ‘hit’ me. After all, it is the main button on the whole unit and it goes off and on and, but I am unsure what this means. Apparently every preset has an effect that you can build upon by pressing the ‘Hit’ button. As you turn it on, a new effect or effects are added to the current displayed patch. If you press and hold it, it will go into ‘Talk’ mode so that you can talk to your audience with no effects. I will explain later how you add effects to the ‘Hit’ button.

OK back to the presets and I like some of the names I am seeing like Jagger Moves, Kanye Lockdown, Jaylo on Floor, Edge of Gaga, American Grnday, Taylor Sparks, Pink Money, How to Love Lil, Hold On Corn, Summer 1969, Want U2 Want Me, In My Coldplace, Cali Hotel, Bring Me 2 Life, Rollin Deep, Smile Avrill, FeelGd Gorillas, Soldier Dixies, Blue Rhimes, Easy Flatts, 50 Cent Candy, Don’t Tread 311, Tru Faith, Baby Bieber, Fix U, Pokerface, Living on Prayr, Dog Days Rover, Party Anthem, Apologize Tland, Viol Hill, Go Yr Own Way, Running on MT, U Give Love B-N, Like TN Spirit, I still haven’t, Dire Str8z Walk, Evenflow Jam, Off Spring Job, California Katy, Come 2Gether, Enter Metallica, Paradise Rose, November Guns, Don’t Stand So and Beastie Shout.

I have given you enough here to give you a complete idea of the range of songs and artists that have inspired new and exciting vocal effects over the years. You will certainly pick up on the fact that artists like Coldplay, Lady Gaga, The Police, Greenday etc. have been the inspiration to create these effect patches. I would not be too worried if your favourite song or artist has not been included here as what you need to think about is using one of these patches as a starting point and tweaking it to your own requirements or change it totally and discover the next ‘Hit’ effect.

There is a Genre button which allows you to easily browse the many presets so that you can quickly choose a suitable style and the VoiceLive Play will list them for you. If you just press the BACK button it will return you to the main window where you will be able to navigate through just the presets for that Genre. It is also worth noting that the presets can be associated with multiple genres. Another great idea from TC here is that you can also download free new artist presets every month from VoiceSupport – how cool is that?

As well as the Genre Button, there is the Favourite button which I found more useful once I had been using the VoiceLive Play for a while. Here you can simply add the current patch as a Favourite and the word “FAV” will appear in the top right of the LCD. Once you have done this you will be able to view and list your favourites from the ‘Genre’ screen which can act as a Set List.

Also included inside the box is a Region specific power supply, a USB cable, the User guide, a TC-Helicon Sticker and a 1 year warranty for parts and labour.

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK

The VoiceLive Play has eight effect blocks, which are – µMod, Echo and Delay, Reverb, Harmony, Double, Transducer, Hard Tune / Correction, and Tone. These effect blocks can be either Off, On or assigned to the ‘Hit’ Switch or the Mic switch on TC’s own MP-75 Microphone. To carry out the assigning you need to use ‘Control’ which you will see when you press the soft button ‘Effects’.

µMOD gives you effects to modulate the sound with 24 styles covering Flange, Chorus, Pan and Phase.

For ECHO and DELAY you have 18 styles and 13 filters to select from. The styles have pingpongs, multitaps, dots and slaps, whilst the filters give you tape, analog, digital, radio, low fi, megaphone, high and low cuts.

REVERB has 28 Styles to choose from giving you the usual spring, plates, halls, rooms, chambers, clubs and arena reverbs

HARMONY has four Key modes: Auto, Room Sense, Shift and Key. If you select ‘Auto’ it will get the Key from either the AUX input, if you have something connected, or the currently set Key if there is nothing connected. ‘Room Sense’ is an interesting option as there are two mics that pickup sound from two slits in the blue chassis of the VoiceLive Play. These mics seem to listen to what is around and attempt to work out the key from what it hears. I tried this out next to my keyboard that I was playing and it found my key of G minor. ‘Shift’ very cleverly measures pitch from the note you are singing and works out the harmonies to prevent them “jumping” from note to note. Lastly ‘Key’ simply gives you the choice to select any of the 12 keys. It is also worth noting that the Room Sense mics could be used for headphone practice without a mic connected and/or add ambience to your headphone mix as some singers like to have some Reverb in their headphone mix to assist their singing.

DOUBLE uses TC’s intelligent harmonising and provides you with small differences in timing of two voices. I always like this, to give my own voice a ‘thicker’ sound. Because I like these I thought it was a shame that there were only four types – There are 4 styles to choose from: 1 Voice Tight, Voice Loose, 2 Voices Wide and Shout.

HARDTUNE gives you that well known Cher or Kanye West auto-tune effect and there are three parameters for you to adjust – Shift, Gender and Style. Shift can take the note you are singing and shift it up or down a semi-tone up to an octave in each direction. Gender does what it says on the can and makes you sound more masculine or more feminine. Style applies one of seven styles- Pop, Country Gliss, Robot, Natural Correction, Chromatic Correction, Drone and Gender Bender to the sound.

TRANSDUCER adds filters and overdrive compo¬nents. It has three parameters – Drive, Filter and Style and there are 8 styles to choose from – Megaphone, Radio, On the Phone, Overdrive, Buzz Cut, Stack, Tweed and Combo.

MIX has 6 parameters – Voices to control the level of all voice generated effects, USB Level to adjust the incoming USB signal, Out Level to control the overall output level, Delay/Reverb to alter the level of any Delay and Reverb effects simultaneously, Room Sense to control the level of the Room Sense mics and headphone level to adjust the volume of the headphone output.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, HELP ME PRACTICE

The VoiceLive Play provides you with two great features to assist with practicing your vocal lines. Whatever your singing ability, everyone needs to rehearse to ensure that they can sing their part in key, are able to phrase it properly and get the timing right, know where and how to breath, learn new melodies or work out harmonies or different phrasing. It is however always more productive if you can have some fun so that you enjoy your practice.

Well TC has made a ‘Practice’ mode feature which very cleverly analyses your singing in real-time and you can actually see how the pitch correction is working. For this I would recommend that you take it off the floor and put it at a suitable reading height to watch as you are singing. This has just given me an idea for DAWs. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to have your DAW with a vocal recording mode so that you could see this on a large screen as you are doing your vocal takes? The practice mode gives you six pieces of information – the Range covering the lowest and Highest notes that you sing, your Longest note held displayed in seconds, your accuracy which is displayed as a percentage, how sharp or flat you are singing on average and problem notes sharp and problem notes flat which are both a list of the notes that you have missed the most.

The other feature is called ‘Sing Along with Vocal Cancel’. With this feature you can plug in your MP3 player via the AUX In connector to play the song you wish to learn and then use a clever feature called ‘Vocal Cancel’ which lowers the level of the vocals on your MP3 Track so that your own voice stands out. As well as this, you can also record and play back your performance using the USB connection to your PC or MAC.

VOICELIVE PLAY PERFORMANCE LOOPER


One other function that is certainly great for creative fun is the real-time Vloop performance looper to allow you to have complex layers of vocals all looping around giving you a complete an individual performance whilst you are turning effects off and on. This could also be used as a practice tool or song-writing aid as it certainly gets your brain thinking as to what you should be singing over the top of your first vocal loop and so on. There is also a Undo and Redo function and if you are lucky enough to have TC’s MP-75 microphone, you can use the Mic Control button as a looping remote control.

CONCLUSION

Well I think what you have here is simply great Studio Vocal effects processing for playing live which is really what TC Helicon set out to achieve in the first place. It is not complicated and may instantly appeal to some as not so intimidating say compared to the VoiceLive 2. The main thing that I discovered was how easy it felt to use whilst you are singing and using the switches. I wasn’t sure at first when I saw only three switches but in use its simplicity means you can concentrate wholly on your vocal performance and that to me is what it should be about. With many of the features found in their flagship vocal processors and a few great new ideas on top included at this incredible price, I am sure it is going to be a ‘Hit’.

Absolute Music

4 Responses

  1. rocco ventrella Says:

    Hello,
    can you please let me know how many simultaneous effects can be used with it?

    Thank you. Best. RV

  2. tonylongmusic Says:

    Hi Rocco, I believe you can have 8 simultaneous effects on the TC VoiceLive Play

  3. Mal Aldridge Says:

    Hello. I want just a third above harmony only. The setting, HIGH on the voicelive play should provide that. But I hear a 3rd above and also a lower note below my vocal when I use this setting. I am an experienced harmoniser user.
    Thanks,
    Mal.
    Any ideas?

  4. tonylongmusic Says:

    There are 28 Harmony Style settings and these include a High Setting as well as a High and Low setting. If your High Setting is behaving like the High and Low setting, there is something wrong and you need to report this to TC Helicon Support. I would try puting it on Style 1 High and sing and then change to Style 7 – High and Low and see what the difference is if any. If there is no difference, you obviously have an issue that needs reporting – Thanks Tony

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