If you are a singer and have not heard of or tried out any of the TC-Helicon vocal processors, then you are really missing out! TC-Helicon is in the business of vocals and making it so singers can have the sound they want live. You'll never have to worry if the sound man at the club you are playing at is able to send you reverb or delay for your voice. You can dial in whatever you like and then send your complete personal sound out to the sound man. You are in control of your sound — just like guitar or keyboard player.
TC-Helicon makes four different pedals just for singing guitarists. I was able to sit down with the TC-Helicon VoiceLive Play Electric and see what was under the hood.
Singers Have the Control
The first thing you need to know before using the Play Electric is what kind of microphone you're going to plug into it. The Play Electric can take either dynamic and condenser microphones but you need to tell it what kind you are using. I used a Shure SM58. My Play Electric was already set to accept a dynamic mic when I turned it on, so I was good to go. But to change it to accept a condenser mic is very easy: just hit two buttons.
The first thing I noticed when I sang into the TC-Helicon VoiceLive Play Electric is that it can do some crazy things to your voice! I'll get into that below, but first I wanted to see what it sounded like in a more "normal" setting. I scrolled through some of the 170+ Song & Artist-inspired presets and found a lot of very nice sounds. The preset reverbs are very smooth and getting into the box to adjust the decay time or the kind of reverb was easy. The compressor made my voice jump out and have that "in your face" vibe. The delays were again very easy to adjust. I was looking for a kind of "John Lennon-style" slap delay and there are presets with that kind of thing already in there, but I went in further and got it right where I wanted it.
The box comes equipped with what TC Helicon calls their trademark Adaptive Tone, where Play Electric acts as your personal sound engineer giving you automatic and intelligent control of compression, EQ, de-essing, and gating. That definitely made it easy to get right into singing with a nice full sound, yet all the settings were still easily changable.
In addition to creating a nice "produced" vocal tone, the Play Electric can help you get creative, too — one example is its ability to automatically harmonize with your voice. The harmonies really did follow my voice quite well but remember, you still have to do your part. If you don't sing the right notes then the harmonies will not be the right notes either. Luckily the Play Electric can also provide pitch correction, which can be a big help. There are also great distortion, megaphone, and old radio effects as well.
The coolest feature for me is the fact that Play Electric follows your guitar playing so your harmonies are always locked into the right key and chord. I found this really worked well. I had to adjust the way I sang some faster lines that jumped all over the place but that was no a big deal. It followed me going from major keys to minor keys to modulations, all with no hiccups or problems.
Packs an Electric Guitar Punch
For just one pedal, the TC-Helicon VoiceLive Play Electric packs quite a punch. On the guitar side of the pedal there are 24 different amp models plus two dedicated acoustic models. The models range from vintage British to classic American, plus many others. You could easily go direct to the front-of-house PA either with or without a speaker cabinet onstage. I found the sounds to be good and easily tweakable. Even the acoustic models were totally usable.
There are a wide range of effects for the guitar as well from TC Electronic's award-winning range of TonePrint pedals. This includes nice soupy reverbs, delay taken from their Flashback pedal, chorus from the Corona, compression, modulation effects, and of course, lots of distortion and overdrive. All of the paramaters are easily accessable and no problem to adjust and save.
Yet another great Play Electric feature is the Guitar THRU, which is intended to pass your guitar signal directly from the input out to an external amp or pedalboard. If you don't want to use any of the Play Electric's onboard guitar effects but want Play Electric to still follow the guitar so your harmonies are synced, then just use the Guitar THRU to pass your signal through the pedal.
Ease of Use
The Play Electric is very easy to plug into whatever you are using, whether it be a full PA or your headphones. There are the basic microphone in, guitar in/thru/out, balanced stereo out, and headphone output connections. There is a Pedal input that allows direct access to looping and other effect controls. There is also an aux input where you can connect your MP3 player and use the Vocal Cancel feature so you can sing along with you favorite tracks and practice to your heart's content.
The front/top panel of the Play Electric is very easy to understand and there are not very many buttons to navigate. The buttons do exactly what they say they are going to do. If you need to edit the guitar effect just hit the GUITAR FX button and the same goes for the vocal effects. The SETUP button gets you into the guts of the pedal, where you set up the kind of mic you're using, guitar level, the amount of pitch correction, and other parameters.
The HIT button is very cool because it allows you to have a couple of different settings for your song instantly switchable right under your feet. You could, for example, program a dry slap delay on the verse section and then when you go to the chorus, press the HIT button to switch to a huge reverb and turn on the harmonies function. It's a great way to really manipulate your vocals live. If you hold down the HIT button for a few seconds it bypasses all of the effects so you can talk to your audience between songs with a dry, un-effected tone.
A fun feature of the pedal is the GENRE button. This calls up preset vocal and guitar sounds from songs and artists along with sounds appropriate for types of music including pop, rock, country, hip-hop, and others. It was a great way to explore all of the possible combinations the pedal offers.
I found the TC-Helicon VoiceLive Play Electric a fun, great sounding, and easy-to-use pedal perfect for a club gig with a band, a solo gig, or a house of worship service where you want a small and quick set up with professional vocal sounds along with top-notch guitar effects and amp processing. The Play Electric will get you where you need to go!