TC Helicon VoiceTone D1 Stomp Box: Better Sound Effects For Vocalists?
No matter where you look every market has two kinds of companies: those that innovate and those that imitate. Consider the old Apple OS vs. Microsoft Windows comparison [pretty much a direct rip-off] or German vs. Japanese auto manufacturers [a la Lexus LS400 being pretty much a copy of a Mercedes S-Class ]. Sometimes the imitation ends up being better than the original but sometimes the original turns out to be pretty difficult to improve upon. Enter TC Helicon with their brand new line of vocal effects pedals - VoiceTone Singles including the VoiceTone D1 reviewed here.
TC Helicon VoiceTone D1: Philosophy
Order from The Vocal Gear Store - Click Here
Whether or not you are familiar with the name, TC Helicon is one of the leading pioneers of cutting edge vocal effects and processing. They were one of the first to realize working singers and vocalist's as well as professionals want affordable full control over their sound the same way a guitar player wants control over their axe. Since the introduction of the or iginal VoiceLive 1 of which your author owns and still uses one daily, many industry players have followed suit with similar vocal effects offerings but I digress. The original [TC Helicon] still sets a very high standard. The only beef I sometimes have with Helicon gear in general is their over-complexity. It's the old story of everything you want times 1000. Due to the menu-driven approach of some of their other offerings I have sometimes found it less than simple to find the sound I'm looking for which can be a drag in a live situation. This time around TC has a solution with a new line of vocal stomp pedals which are a bit of a departure from their brethren. With the new TC singles: gone are the menu driven LCD/LED displays and the multitudes of effects. In their place come devices that focus on one type of effect each and lie within a compact footprint with robust build quality and a beautifully simplistic layout.
TC Helicon VoiceTone D1: A Closer Look
Over the past few weeks I've had a chance to play around in depth with the VoiceTone D1 Doubling and Detune pedal with currently lists at Guitar Center for $149.00 + tax. If you're familiar with TC it should come as no surprise that this little pedal on first glance looks and feels more expensive than it is. With chassis mounted gold-plated XLR connections, rubberized well-labeled knobs with smooth detents and an all-metal housing with anti-slide rubberized base the build quality is first class.
TC Helicon VoiceTone D1: Controls
Starting topside on the Voice Tone D1, you'll find only 3 simple controls: A knob for the type of doubling selected, a Dry/Wet control and an engaged/bypass footswitch. The only indicators you'll find are a red LED to signify if the doubler is engaged and a green signal indicator light. On left and right sides of the unit are a built-in input gain control and Mic control respectively for when an TC Helicon MP-75 mic is used. For those of you unfamiliar with the MP-75 it features a built-in button to control the engaged/bypass function on the pedal itself via standard XLR cable. O n the backside are your in/out XLR connections, power in and mini-USB for future firmware upgrades.
TC Helicon VoiceTone D1: Useability
Aesthetics and build quality aside the real clincher is obviously how useful the VoiceTone D1 is in the wild. The short answer: pretty dang good. With the VoiceTone D1, at your disposal are a total of 8 types of doubling and detuning: Tight, Loose, Group, Detune, Thick, Octave Up, Octave Down, and Shout. The only configuration limitation is that changing an effect type mid-song requires bending down to manually change the active setting as opposed to some of the bigger TC boxes (VoiceLive2, CreateXT) which with allow you select and scroll through effects via the foot switches. It's a minor annoyance and quite honestly well worth the trade-off of ditching the menu's.
TC Helicon VoiceTone D1: Test
While on the VoiceTone D1 there is no dud to be found in the 8 available presets in practice I found myself more often than not gravitating towards 3 of the 8 settings: Loose, Thick, an Octave Up. With Loose activated and the Dry/Wet knob around the 9 0'clock position I found the VoiceTone D1 to add a subtle yet realistic doubling effect to my vocals. Sure every effects box has a doubling setting but generally I find them to be less than realistic sounding. To this day I have yet to find the right magical combination of settings on my VoiceLive that gives a convincing doubler. Bam! With the D1 I had a setting ready to go that sounded great in about 10 seconds.
Activating the Thick setting this time with the dry/wet mix at about 11 0'clock resulted in a pretty cool effect that lent itself well to more whispery type vocals a la Chino of the Deftones. To up the ante I added in a VoiceTone T1 Adaptive Tone pedal to the signal chain. With the combination of the Thickening and slick compression of the T1 my whisper-like vocal lines became larger than life and easily soared over the rest of the band. I now had an amazing new sound with less than 2 minutes of work. I nearly wet myself.
The final effect I spent time experimenting with was Octave Up. If any of you read my review of the Electro-Harmonix v256 you know I had managed after a bit of tweaking to achieve a similar effect. Personally I like the vocal layering effect it can give when used under the right conditions. I found it most useful when I was utilizing the lower half of my range below middle C. Here the VoiceTone D1 sounds about on par with the v256 but it took me 10 seconds to dial in my sounds rather than 5 minutes.
WRAP UP: Plug, Select, Twirl, Repeat
Overall the beauty of the TC Helicon D1 is in its simplicity and top-notch construction. There is no need to spend hours tweaking and retweaking to find the exact setting you want. Simply plug it in, select your effect, twirl the mix to suit your liking and go. It's compact design adds minimally to what you already pack around in your signal chain and t he quality of the effects themselves are without question up to TC's high level of standards. VoiceTone D1 aside the introduction of the VoiceTone Singles proves that TC is still on top of their game and continues to lead the industry as innovators not imitators. Stay tuned as we have more TC Singles in the pipe for review including the Adaptive Tone T1, Vocal Tuned Reverb R1, and Hard Tune and Correction C1.
Video: TC Helicon Voicetone Singles Series (Including Voicetone D1)
Getting In Touch With TC Helicon
TC Helicon - www.TC-Helicon.com
Review by Travis North