Brian from World Music Supply here again to bring you all your usual dose of gear and guitar reviews, and today I have the privilege of reviewing some great products from TC Helicon. These include the six voice tone singles, the T1 Adaptive EQ and Dynamics pedal, the H-1 Harmonist pedal, the C-1 Hard tune and Correction pedal, the D-1 Detune pedal, E-1 Echo Pedal, and the R-1 Voice tuned reverb pedal, and lastly I’m also going to review all of these with the MP-75 Vocal Microphone with Mic Control.
First up, is the Mp-75 Microphone which is a really nice addition to any of these pedals, because it allows you to control tany of the pedals from a button mounted on the microphone, meaning you can control say the H-1 Harmony pedal while your roaming the stage during a song, meaning you can still be the frontman, running around the stage, but still have those big thick tones that you want. As a standard microphone the MP-75 does its job well too, all of the cool switching effects aside, it is as Super Cardioid mic with excellent pop and breath noise rejection, and it is surprisingly resistant to feedback and background noise. As well the suspended dual shock mounted Lismer dynamic capsule is specifically voiced for the modern singer, who uses a really close mic technique, so that your vocals still have all the warmth and body they need, even when your right on the mic.
Using this mic to record my vocals during a brief practice with my band was pretty impressive, the mic actually sounds like a studio grade mic, but without all of the hassle of trying to use a good studio grade mic around a loud band. I was able to get good tones, and never once had to worry about feedback from the monitors or amplifiers, which was impressive in its own right, not to mention that my voice still sounded full and pure from a dynamic mic. Also, being able to control the H-1 and the C-1 pedals without having to walk over to the hit the button would be a life saver in a live situation. For its ability to control most of the TC helicon pedals and still sound amazing the MP-75 gets a solid 10 out of 10.
Now for the Voice tone singles, these are all single stompbox versions of existing TC Helicon effects from their Voicetone and Voice live effect boxes, so without further ado, lets get down to business. First up is the T1 Adaptive EQ and Dynamics pedal, which is a fancy way of saying it is a compressor, and desser pedal. The T1 actually does have a really useful “Shape” Control that is a wide EQ sweep that while a little simplistic, is extremely musical, taking rather flat sounding vocals and helping to just give them a little bit of extra body and girth. The compressor and de-ess programs in the TC Helicon are equally simplistic and musically useful, with enough control to help squash the plosives out of your vocals, and to bring all of your vocals into tighter dynamic field.
In a band situation, this pedal was honestly really useful, mainly because it allowed the more whispery parts of songs to have the same punch and clarity that say, the chorus, would have. This means your vocals sound a lot smoother and more put together, more like you’re listening to a record, rather than listening to some band through a P.A. This pedal also did a good job of taking those nasty plosives out, which we all do on accident from time to time, and are never nice to a listener’s ears. So having this little guy in any vocal chain wouldn’t be too bad of an idea, as it allows you to have great sounding vocals, with minimal effort of either the singer or the sound man. Now while it does do some things amazing, I have to give the T1 a 9 out of 10 though, because while its EQ is smooth sounding and it does its job wonderfully, it is a tad simplistic.
Next up is the H1 Vocal Harmonizer pedal, which supplies you those great sounding close country style harmonies that everyone loves. This pedal has an input for guitar, which tracks your chords, and morphs the harmony key to fit, which is a life saver for anyone who either doesn’t know too much music theory, or whose ever used an older vocal harmonizer that you had to set to a static key and hope that everyone’s instruments are still in tune by the time you need the harmonies. There are plenty of different harmony combinations, so there really are no limits to what this pedal can do for you.
Live, this pedal is a life saver, without a doubt we’ve all had one or two back-up singers, who either could not sing harmony, or just plain couldn’t sing. This pedal solves all of those problems by creating perfect harmonies every time. This means that all of those choruses that you want to pump up with big harmonies but haven’t been able to, well you can now. Also an application that I quickly found useful was routing one guitar signal to multiple H1 pedals, and having your normal back up singer sing their normal harmonies while you sing your normal part, the resulting harmonies were tremendous and almost Queen like in their tonality. For its ability to create tight, perfect harmonies every time, the H1 easily land itself a 10 out of 10.
Next up is the C1 Hardtuner and pitch correction pedal, which as its name says, gives you that sharp, T pain style auto tuner sound. The good thing about this pedal as opposed to many other auto tuner style pedals, is this one features two modes that are not always set to one key, my band had one song that required a auto tuned vocal section, which was immediately followed by a key change, and one more then one occasion the auto tuner didn’t turn off immediately, resulting in me being horribly out of tune once the key change hit. With this pedal however, you can either have the key controlled by your guitar, or keyboard, meaning that key change wouldn’t be a big deal, or you can put it into chromatic mode, which has a more gentle “scoop” into each note to help cover up the fact that it’s an auto tuner. Speaking of helping to cover up the fact that you are “cheating” so to speak at singing, you can also adjust how hard the tuning is, so it can do it ever so gently, just to help you out on those nights when your voice isn’t really up to par so to speak.
I’m sure there are other musicians who would get a lot more mileage out of this pedal than I would, but for my bands songs, this pedal did its job wonderfully. For most of the songs I just had it on a softer setting to help keeping my voice in tune, but on one or two songs I put it on the way heavy setting, which made my band sound less like a cookie cutter garage rock band, and more like daft punk with a lame drummer. The soft setting was amazingly useful, and helped me sound like I really knew what I was doing vocally, always on pitch, even when I was out of breath, or more then once, when I couldn’t hear myself very well. On its harder settings however it was actually almost too easy to stay in tune, meaning I had less and less of that cool auto tune warble happen, which means you get more of that on the hard setting if you actually sing badly, which while that might be a good habit to have while the pedal is on, once you turn off the pedal it quickly turns into a bad habit. Overall though, this pedal does exactly what you want it too, it takes your vocals and fixes them, making them sound like a perfectly adjusted studio track. The C1 easily earns a 10 out of 10 for its ability to take anyone and making them sound perfect.
Next up is the D1 Detune pedal is a much more subtle effect then the last two, as it simply detunes your vocals, creating either a light chorus, or a doubled vocal effect. This means that you get those cool doubled vocal sounds that you get on a recording, but in a live situation. In a band situation this is a fantastic effect that surprisingly, rarely gets turned off. It gives you crisp doubled vocals, as if you had two singers at once, which helps thicken up your live vocals without sounding gaudy or flamboyant. For this reason alone, the D1 gets a simply deserved 10 out of 10, because it does all of those cool studio effects you’ve grown to love, but in a live situation.
lastly are the E1 and R1 echo and reverb pedals, which do their jobs fantastically, and both are tuned specifically for vocals, which, while a subtle change, is amazingly musical and useful. The E-1 does its job perfectly, creating everything from subtle slap back, to full out prince style repeats, all of which are useful in basically any situation. The same holds true for the R1, which is a reverb that has been specifically tuned for vocals, in other words, its designed to help saturate vocals without muddying up the signal, which is amazing, as anyone who has ever had way too much reverb, or the wrong kind of reverb (too dark, too bright) poured over there vocals knows, sometimes too much really is too much. The E1 and the R1 however always sound full and musical, no more stale sounding vocals, always crisp reverbs, and sweet sounding repeats. For their ability to bring something unique to a market that is flooded with imitators, the E1 and the R1 both get a 10 out of 10, because they’re both affordable, and indispensable when it comes to a singers live gear.