Stellar vocal harmonies at your fingertips
By Jon Chappell
Senior Editor, Harmony Central
TC Helicon makes a whole host of vocal processors from the Harmony-G XT to their flagship VoiceLive 2. But now they've come up with a model that neatly combines the utility of a stompbox, the power of a floor controller, and the ergonomics of a touch-enabled device. Welcome VoiceLive Touch, a performance-oriented vocal harmonizer, processor, and looper that could be the offspring of VoiceLive 2 and an iPad. It's a blast to use, and its peerless harmony production and lightning-fast touch-based operation make it the perfect choice for performing singers and guitarists alike.
C'mon, now touch me
What's immediately obvious is that VoiceLive Touch is compact. Despite the fact that it inherited its vocal-processing chops from VoiceLive 2—TC Helicon's large floor-based unit—the VoiceLive Touch is no bigger than a dual stompbox. It has a curved, rubber-coated backplate that allows it to easily slip onto a mic stand pole with a friction fit without using a clamp or threaded collar. Once on the stand, it's unobtrusive and can be positioned securely and quickly. The backplate also puts the front panel at an optimal viewing angle when the unit is placed on a tabletop.
VoiceLive Touch allows you to access all of its features using familiar touchpad moves. By tapping, pressing, swiping, and dragging with your finger (or fingers), you can activate, access, and edit presets, harmonies, effects, utilities, and loop modes. Tapping your finger quickly turns on or off any of the six modules up top: microMod (µMod), Delay, Reverb, FX (distortion, megaphones, and HardTune), Double, and Harmony. This is similar to what guitarists enjoy when using their multi-effects in "stompbox mode," where individual effects can be toggled on or off within a preset. Swiping your finger along the slider lets you quickly scroll through any parameters and features just beneath the surface buttons. Double-tapping anywhere on the slider always brings you home, and the text slides smoothly under your fingers, tracking the speed of your swipes. It's an ingenious use of touch technology, and you can really zoom around on this thing once you get your touch chops down.
A handy Favorites section sits on the bottom row (just where it should, for the quickest possible access when performing), consisting of five tap buttons. With five banks of five buttons, you have a total of 25 locations to store your favorite presets (out of over 200 total). For most bands that might play between 30 and 40 songs in an evening, 15 are probably plenty, so you have favorites to spare here, even if you share VoiceLive Touch among two or more performers.
Setting up VoiceLive Touch is simple. You plug in a mic and use the rotary trim control to set your level. Then the Adaptive Tone detection feature optimizes your particular vocal qualities for the unit, adjusting EQ, compression, and de-ess parameters. You can choose a style that matches your vocal qualities manually, but I found VoiceLive Touch always found the most flattering settings for my voice.
VoiceLive Touch accepts any of three inputs to drive the harmonies: guitar, MIDI, or MP3. If you plug in a guitar, you can elect to have it come through the mix with VoiceLive Touch supplying effects, or the guitar can be muted at the output, so that its function is only to drive the harmonies. Whether you play acoustic or electric, a Thru jack lets your signal pass through unaffected on its way to the amp. Besides the XLR and 1/4" inputs for the mic and guitar, VoiceLive Touch includes an XLR out, balanced L/R outs, a MIDI input, a stereo aux in, and a headphone out jack (with dedicated volume knob). This is a thoroughly professional unit with regard to its audio connections.
The blue people
The touch operation by itself is reason enough to crow about VoiceLive Touch, but it's what you can touch that truly makes it special. Unlike VoiceLive2, where the individual harmony Styles (arrangements of intelligent vocal harmonies above and below the lead) are accessed through an editing mode, VoiceLive Touch brings them right to the top for instant access, laying them out in blue buttons from top to bottom with gender-based iconography to indicate their ranges. This is the single most impressive aspect of VoiceLive Touch's performance mode—being able to invoke different harmonic schemes just by tapping the seven icons. You can add or subtract voices at will, and with a little practice, you can activate multiple contiguous parts simply by dragging your finger up or down the column of blue folks. The harmony voices all observe other aspects of the preset—EQ, reverb, and any effects—to ensure continuity with the lead vocal.
Other cool stuff
The VoiceLive Touch has many other features too, such as a dedicated Talk button that disables the harmonies and effects, but retains your Adaptive Tone settings so you can talk to the audience with consistent sound quality. Also included is a super-accurate tuner (that mutes the guitar's output for silent tuning as you talk to the audience), and a three-button footswitch that allows you to perform many functions so you don't have to use your fingers all the time, especially if you're otherwise occupied (such as playing the guitar!). Between the touch operation and the footswitch, you can optimize your appendages for controlling VoiceLive Touch efficiently.
Loops are a great way to compose on the spot and to set down grooves to jam over, and VoiceLive Touch offers VLoop, a performance vocal looper with looping modes that can greatly increase your creative sessions with the unit. In basic mode, you simply tap the record button twice—once to record and once to play. Tap the green button to start and stop the loop. You can layer and overdub on top of existing loops to build an arrangement, and you can even switch presets while looping, giving you different harmony, reverb, and effects qualities on subsequent overdubs. The VoiceLive Touch has advanced loop modes too. After assigning loop segments to the Favorite buttons, Loops mode plays the loop in its entirety, even as you hit the next loop choice within the sequence. Shots mode is better for shorter samples, where tapping the different buttons instantly triggers samples and allows you to rhythmically "play" the VoiceLive Touch as if it were a drum machine.
In perfect harmony
In VoiceLive Touch, TC Helicon has made all the right moves. They retained the effects and harmony engine of their flagship VoiceLive 2 while reducing the footprint. They raised the unit up off the floor and put it within arm's reach for touch operation. And they simplified and brought the most important features out to the front panel instead of tucking them beneath an edit menu. With the VoiceLive Touch at your fingertips, you'll make all the right moves too.
For state-of-the art vocal processing and harmonies in an easy-to-use, touch-based format, check out TC Helicon VoiceLive Touch. It features top-quality effects and the smoothest, most natural harmonies available.