Aug 24

INTRODUCING THE VOICETONE MIC MECHANIC

TC-Helicon need no introduction and for the world of vocals they have been slowly bringing more and more products onto the market to assist us both live and in the studio with achieving the vocal sound we are seeking. I am always intrigued to find out what they will do next and I did not have to wait long. At the Summer Namm show in Nashville this year they announced the release of the VoiceTone Mic Mechanic (I do love this name – excellent choice) which they tell us is a complete vocal toolbox in a pedal. The initial advertising seems to suggest they will be available in October, but I have got my hands on one and they seem to be available now – which is good. TC-Helicon describes their new pedal as a no-frills, compact effects pedal for vocalists who just want to sound great.

THE MECHANIC UNBOXED

There is not too much in the box, the pedal, a 12v power adapter, a USB lead and a very small manual with a 1 year warranty on parts and labour. The pedal is of cast metal construction with a rubberized base and looks like the type of a pedal a guitarist is used to. It is a good colour in red with a beige base that is larger than the pedal and beige controls. The pedal is a standard size 3.5″ x 5.4″ x 2.3″ which is 90mm x 140mm x 60mm and weighs just under one pound (0.92 lb) which is 0.42 kg.

Vocalists from what I have heard do not like the idea of pedals and having to look down to make changes as they feel it spoils their visual performance as well as their concentration. TC-Helicon has considered this with the fact that they have their MP-75 Modern Performance Vocal Microphone which has a small button on this mic that allows you to turn off or on the effects anywhere on stage. If you are a singer you either may not have a soundman or if you do, you may feel that your performance could be so much better, if you could control the effects yourself quickly and simply without having to rely on someone else. Having said this, I am very surprised TC-Helicon has not used the same design that they used on their VoiceLive Touch and mount the unit on a mic stand. I thought this was such a brilliant idea for vocalists.

LET’S TURN HER ON

TC-Helicon claim that this pedal makes your vocals sound Crisp clean and full sounding and that it is what every singer needs. Their angle is that some singers don’t want to change their voice; they just want it to sound great. So I suppose from that point of view, they have hit on a slightly different product to the rest of their range. I think I know where they are coming from on this. When I record my own voice and it sounds flat and dead, I thought that I wanted to change the sound of it because I hate it so much. In reality, all this does is just make it unrecognisable as me, (which defeats the object a bit), when what I really want is for me to sound great.

Ok let’s get the pedal setup by following the very simple instructions in the manual which tells me that I can press the footswitch to light the LED and confirm unit is powered on. Turn down my PA’s master volume, connect my mic and then plug in the AC adaptor. Now I just need to sing into my mic while adjusting the MIC GAIN control (which is on the side of the pedal) so that the input level LED flashes green to orange. That is easy enough but if you get just some brief flashes of red on the LED when you are singing your loudest then this is still ok.

There are just six controls on the pedal and four connections. I have used the first – the Mic Gain on the side of the pedal. On top there are three main knobs. The first allows you to select effects from the eight choices; Hall, Club, Room, Hall + Echo, Club + Echo, Room + Echo, Echo and Slap. Next is the Dry and Wet knob which has a 50:50 centre notch. You are probably best to start at this point and adjust when you are singing to determine how much of the effect you want to sound. Next up is selecting an effect by using the effect knob. I am going to choose one of the Reverbs because it is one of those essentials that all singers love to have to some lesser or greater extent. OK we will start with the first – Hall Reverb. I can activate the effect by simply pressing the footswitch and as I do so, the LED lights up.

WHAT DOES THE MIC MECHANIC SOUND LIKE?

As I start to sing and adjust the Dry and Wet knob, to me the Hall Reverb has that classic, smooth as silk, lush TC-Helicon Reverb that you hear on their other VoiceLive products. The early reflections you hear give you a sense that the Hall is large and spacious. It’s hard to say without another TC-Helicon Voice product alongside to carry out an immediate comparison but I feel it is fair to say that I feel it is no better or no worse than any of their other Reverbs that they have given us the last few years, it simply has that professional quality which we have come to expect. In a pedal at this cost, you cannot fault it. The Club Reverb, I think is my favourite out of the three reverbs because the tail is shorter than the Hall and it sounds just a little bit brighter than and not as distant as the Hall. I think I would use this on a recording but from a ‘live’ point of view, it is a great reverb to give you some vocal confidence. The last of the Reverbs is the Room and again this had an equal quality to the others with a very short tail and may well suit a different song to that of the Club Reverb, so therefore equally as useful. The changes to the effects are very smooth. If you sing and change the effect whilst singing, there are no blips or noises as you go from one effect to the other, the process is perfectly seamless.

Next on the first knob dial we move onto the Delays which in the main are Reverb and Delays. Basically a Delay is attached to the three Reverbs giving you Hall + Echo, Club + Echo, Room + Echo. The last two are simply Echo (which has no reverb) and Slap (which has a very fast delay). With the Echo and Delay presets you can set the tempo by tapping. If you hold down the footswitch for a moment, you will notice that the LED is flashing and it will flash at the rate of the last tempo set or a default rate. If you then tap a few beats on the switch to match the timing of your song you can create some rhythmic interest by the echo repeats falling on the beats of your song. The Mic Mechanic measures your Tap Tempo as the time between your last two taps. If you then hold the footswitch again you can exit Tempo Tap mode.

The Third knob on the Pedal is for Pitch Correction. This according to TC-Helicon is Auto Chromatic Pitch Correction that gently guides you towards the true note being sung. I quite like that explanation of Pitch Correction. It almost hints of the fact that they are sorry that you are singing slightly flat or sharp but don’t worry; they have the technology to gently guide you and make you sound pitch perfect – excellent advertising. They also say that it is an organic correction that can either be transparent or used as an effect. My own view on this is that when this is on full it does not seem like a Hard Tune effect that you will hear on some of their other pedals; it is a lot more subtle.

The Tone Button adds Compression, adaptive EQ de-essing and gating. Apparently this is set to automatically adjust to your voice as you sing. As I sung and switched this on I found that it subtly added just a little bit more quality to my sound. I quite like this idea, as there is nothing extreme here and you do not need an engineer or a whole load of expensive hardware – you simply have a better sound. As a result, I found that generally when using this pedal, I just left this on.

MAKING THE RIGHT CONNECTIONS WITH THE MIC MECHANIC

Looking around the back of the Mic Mechanic, it all looks very logical and easy to understand. You have a Mic XLR Balanced Analog Input, an XLR output that can be Balanced or Unbalanced, a USB input so that you can connect to a PC or MAC for firmware updates via TC’s Voice Support software and a 12 volt, 4 amp power input for the supplied power adaptor. It comes with an excellent low noise mic preamp and Phantom power is always available – great stuff.

CONCLUSION

I think this pedal is ideal for a lot of singers in bands, duos and solo artists who are playing the pubs and clubs and want to be assured of producing a good sound. It is not expensive and even if at first they had nothing more than a little bit of reverb in their mix, they could just press the tone button for instant Compression, EQ, de-essing and gating – how cool is that. The pedal is very easy to control and they will become experts in no time at all. Yes I do feel it is a shame that they did not make this mountable on a mic stand and base it on their VoiceLive Touch but I am sure this would have increased the price. You never know TC may bring out the Mic Mechanic Touch. There I go again that is another idea I have given them. Having said all this, I think it really is the ‘Less is More’ scenario. I have come to the conclusion that if I had one, I would get it set up how I like it and use it like that all night so I would not be constantly looking down to change it. I would have some mild transparent pitch correction, a tiny bit of reverb and the Tone button on all the time, so there is nothing changing my voice, just me sounding the best that I can without a sound engineer. If you sing live in a band and do not have any vocal effects pedals – go and buy this one today.

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Absolute Music

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