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TC-Helicon VoiceLive 2 Vocal Harmony and Effects Processor


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TC-Helicon VoiceLive 2 ($800 street)
Vocal Harmony and Effects Processor


The VoiceLive 2 is TC-Helicon’s top-of-the-line vocal processor, incorporating selected technologies from the company’s entire product line of vocal-oriented effects. Though its name seems to designate it a successor to the original VoiceLive, the model 2 comes with significantly smoother and more powerful processing capabilities, many more features, a new form factor, and added workflow routines that include Live Engineering Effects and a search wizard.

Before we get to the specifics of the VoiceLive 2—and to spare you the suspense—I can report that it is an other worldly experience to hear intelligent harmonization done so well. The VoiceLive 2 produces harmonies that are not only rich and accurate in all their chord-tone glory, but completely free of artifacts (noise, weird conversion glitches, etc.). The VoiceLive2’s extraordinarily realistic sound, ease of use, and powerful harmonizing intelligence put it at the top of hardware-based vocal processors—and make it completely addicting.

VoiceLive2_main.jpg
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At just under $800 street, the VoiceLive2 (check it out here, on TC-Helicon’s website) is not inexpensive, but it is one of the smoothest vocal harmonizing units I’ve used. “Smooth” here doesn’t just apply to the sound quality, either, though that is certainly one of the characteristics of its vocal processing. Rather, I’m referring to the entire process of working with the VoiceLive 2, from setting levels to dialing in a preset to effects selection to editing. It’s powerful, but not in a complex or confusing way. Through its good use of setup wizards, user interface, and display technology—and almost clairvoyant algorithms that produce appropriate harmonies for any situation—the VoiceLive 2 is the perfect live-performance tool for vocal performers who need high-quality harmonies along with fast and easy realtime control over editable parameters.

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The VoiceLive 2 is a floor-based processor, sporting a compact, rugged housing, high-quality footswitches, and a large and bright LED display. There are lots of dedicated switches (one footswitch each for Delay and Reverb, for example) and knobs, all of which go a long way when making realtime changes.

VoiceLive2_foot.jpg

The curved, sloping front is more graceful and homogeneous looking than its predecessor’s, and the back panel features a healthy complement of I/O, including all manner of audio (digital, analog), MIDI (I/O/T), and control (USB, external footpedal). The VoiceLive 2 allows you to insert a guitar, keyboard, or audio device with which to supply the source for the harmony algorithms to do their thing.

VoiceLive2_rear.jpg

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At the core of the VoiceLive 2 is the vocal processor that provides up to four separate intervals (which can be unison doubled) when triggered from an audio input (guitar, keyboard, or mp3 input) or up to eight discrete voices when MIDI-triggered. Each voice can be specified by register, interval, gender, level, and pan position.

Additionally, voices can be panned, doubled, choired, humanized, vibratoed, portamentoed (sliding into and out of notes), smoothed, and EQ’d. Besides prescribing the musical role of each individual voice, the VoiceLive 2 has effects—lots of them—and different operation modes. In this way, the unit operates similarly to a multi-effects processor for vocalists, so guitarists familiar with high-functioning floor-based controllers will be very at home here.

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The basic layout of the VoiceLive 2 has two footswitches for advancing programs in either direction, a Shortcut and Step switch (for accessing user-defined preset chains), and six dedicated footswitches that toggle the on/off statuses of microMod (an effects block that produces chorus, microtuning, flange, and other exotic effects), Harmony (the harmony voices), Delay, Double, Reverb, and FX (other effects that the user designates per program).

VoiceLive2_front1.jpg

Those conversant with multi-effects pedals will recognize that the unit works in both “program” mode (where stepping through the pre-programmed memory locations changes entire setups) as well as “stompbox” mode, where individual effects within a program can be toggled on and off. The Shortcut and Step switches act as an in-between mode to this paradigm, allowing users quick access to additional functionality within a preset but not available as a dedicated switch. (More on these later.)

The one slight disappointment to the otherwise stellar build of the unit is the power supply: a lightweight, outlet-hogging wall-wart with a short cord (a little over 6', putting the converter block squarely between your mic stand and the backline).

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Above the footswitches is the editing region and display. Dedicated buttons on the left of the unit invoke Tone, Pitch, Guitar FX, Home, Setup, Wizard, Store, and Edit. Pressing and holding any of these buttons calls up the appropriate pages and tabs on the display.

VoiceLive2_front2.jpg

The generous complement of dedicated buttons here ensures that all the expected editable parameters are included underneath. A dedicated Home button is a particularly nice touch: It means wherever you are you can go to the first page, without having to step back through nested pages. What’s more, each button remembers where you were, should you leave and go to another parameter. When you re-hit the button, you’re returned to where you left off. Nice.

The middle and right side of the front panel show the display, which is quite large, well-illuminated, and readable at any angle, distance, and under all lighting conditions. Underneath the window are four soft encoders that align with the various on-screen parameters that show up, and on the extreme right are left/right cursor buttons and a large rotary encoder. All buttons and knobs here are well spaced and have a good feel. You can easily edit the VoiceLive 2 in your socks!

There are more aspects to the switches, buttons and soft knobs, all of them versatile and good, but suffice it to say that in having worked with the unit for a couple of months now, I can say that I’ve never encountered a better implementation of a front-panel interface. This is admirable in its own right, but especially significant because this unit is designed to be used almost exclusively in a live situation.

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As soon as you plug in and begin to set levels, the VoiceLive 2 goes to work. To work to best effect, the unit needs to hear you and make decisions about your voice, based on the mic you’re using, your volume level, your dynamic range, your sibilant tendencies (chiefly over-emphasized “S” sounds), and the overall tonal quality.

For this it uses an auto-setup routing (called the “Live Engineer Effects”) which continually analyzes and then makes adjustments using a suite of tools consisting of EQ, compression, de-essing, and gating. It’s helpful to know what the tools are, but you don’t really need to know what they’re doing; they all make your voice sound better. If you want to do something different, you can always go into edit mode and make manual adjustments.

Once you have your mic input optimized, you're ready to go to town. You simply start singing and playing, and the unit creates harmonies based on the notes you sing and the chords you play. That may be simplified explanation, but that’s how it works. Step through the presets and you hear the range of harmonies and effects programs available. I started out with stuff I knew, to give me a familiar benchmark. So I sang Eagles, Beatles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Doobie Brothers, and other pop and classic rock stuff that featured harmonies. Prince's "Purple Rain" was particularly fun.

I sort of lost myself at this stage, spending day after day, session upon session, just acclimating myself to the existing programs and finding material appropriate to the harmonies and effects within the programs. I sang myself hoarse and into the night on many occasions.

One of the biggest benefits I found in working with the VoiceLive 2 is that it can make your own voice sound better, simply by employing its Live Engineer Effects and the voice pitch correction (again, incorporated from previously developed TC-Helicon technology). This automatically produces a stronger vocal performance—sonically optimized and pitch-corrected. So if you’re the rhythm guitarist backing up a lead vocalist with a counter-melody or “ooze and oz,” you can provide stronger, more accurate harmonies by having passed through the VoiceLive 2’s tools first.

Another very useful mode--also of interest to guitarists, harmony singers, and everyone except the lead singer--is the VoiceLive 2’s Lead Mute feature. This allows someone other than the lead singer to provide the harmonies by singing along in unison with him or her. You simply mute the lead, and you’re left with the harmonies.

This way, the harmonies track with the lead singer, but not quite exactly, in case he or she wants to throw in an improvised flourish or trill that would sound gimmicky and robotic if doubled. This also lets the lead singer worry just about singing lead expressively and emotionally, rather than singing to produce the background harmonies.

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To hear some folks who sing a lot better than I do, check out TC-Helicon product specialist Tom Lang, and his video demo of the VoiceLive 2 here:

Tom Lang video demo
Tom_Lang.jpg


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Here’s another one where Laura Clapp, working for TC-Helicon at the 2009 Musikmesse show, demonstrates (singing a cappella) the choir feature and harmonies, at about 1:07:



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Each video shows off different aspects of the VoiceLive 2 nicely, I think: Tom with a guitar singing some iconic harmony examples we can all relate to; Laura with a beautiful, a cappella segment that highlights the smooth, rich sound of the VoiceLive 2.

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As I do with all reviews of a certain complexity and power, I recommend you download the manual and any other documentation the manufacturer provides (list of presets, etc.). TC-Helicon provides its manual and preset lists in pdf form, and you can find them here:

http://www.tc-helicon.com/voicelive2support.asp
VoiceLive2_manual.jpg

____________________________________

voicelive2_presets.jpg


Note that the preset list includes a column called “Assigned Tags.” When creating and editing presets, you can enter in keywords of your choosing, allowing you to search presets with this additional criterion. For example, I created a trio harmony with a female vocalist above and one male below—I call it “AlisonK” after Alison Krauss and Union Station, which also uses this scheme whenever Alison, Dan Tyminski, and Ron Block are singing in three-part harmony.

BTW, there are 250 presets; this is just a screen capture of the first 25! (And you're not limited to just two entries for tags, either, but this is all that would fit on the screen!)

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Though the VoiceLive 2 is extensively editable as far as its effects, panning, routing, and recording and MIDI options (all of which we’ll explore), it is at its heart a vocal harmonizer. The core of that function lies in the Harmony tab in the Edit menu. From any preset, you simply hit two buttons (Edit/Harmony) and you’re there.

The VoiceLive 2 uses a short-cut system called “Styles,” where 15 pre-configured setups are used as the kernels to produce its onboard 250 factory programs (and however many user programs you create). There’s no “default” or otherwise zeroed-out Style, so you have to look for the one that most closely matches the harmony you’re building. For example, if I wanted to create a simple same-sex (male, in my case), two-voice, close-harmony arrangement in the style of Simon and Garfunkel or the Everly brothers, I’d choose the Style named “1 Voice Above.” If I was a woman singing melody with a man singing harmony, I’d choose “1 Voice Below” (men typically sing an octave lower than women, even when singing the “higher part”—the most-common choice in two-voice harmony).

The 15 Styles are named intuitively and somewhat progressively:

Styles.jpg

I wish this list were presented in the manual somewhere, because to me, it’s the obvious place to begin when you’re setting up a program from scratch. And I’d like to see not only the list, but the most important editable parameters under that Style, such as interval and gender. If you’re a vocal arranger, or otherwise skilled in the ways of harmony, this will be your first stop if you want to understand what’s going on musically with the harmony scheme. It’s a simple task, though, to make your own list for quick reference.

To illustrate, I took a four-voice harmony, which uses all four available voices, displayed as four columns of parameters in the Edit/Harmony menu. Below is a table I constructed that shows how the Style called "2 Above 2 Below" lays out. Note that I footnoted parameters that require additional explanation (and are some of the most powerful that the VoiceLive 2 offers); all other categories are fairly intuitive.

VoiceLive 2 Edit/Harmony screen:
Harmony_screen.jpg

Varying the qualities like "Porta" (the sliding in and out of notes), "Humanize" (subtle time and pitch variations), "Smooth" (which, along with some portamento, helps to soften note-to-note transitions unless a robot-like effect is desired), and others yields a more natural, human feel, eliminating that tell-tale "robotic lock-step" effect that many lesser vocal processors have.

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It's important to note with regards to the above screen on the Harmony parameters that you can derive eight separate voices (intervals) through MIDI input.

On the other end of the NaturalPlay spectrum, the VoiceLive 2 will derive harmonies from an Aux Input. This means you can hook up your mp3 player, sing along to the song, and have harmonies generated for you! If you have grooves, backing tracks, or instrumentals already on CD or in your mp3 library, this would be a fantastic place to start. It's also a boon to folks who don't play an instrument, but who want to generate harmonies.

So the NaturalPlay modes run from the ultra-prescriptive (MIDI Notes) to the totally automatic (Aux Input). The "in between" modes are Auto Input Sense (the most typical setting), Guitar, MIDI, Scale, and Shift.

For using MIDI to generate notes instead of audio or a pre-programmed Scale, you can use two modes MIDI Notes and MIDI 4 Chan. When using MIDI notes, you can break the "lock step" tendency of vocal harmonizers in general by having the Voice Live 2 follow your keyboard or guitar. So for example, if you hold a MIDI note while singing a moving line, the harmony will not move until you change the played note. Conversely, you can sustain a sung note while moving the MIDI notes underneath--playing, an arpeggio, for instance. The mode called MIDI 4 Chan. puts each voice on its own separate MIDI channel, to allow for independent vibrato, pitch bending, etc.

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When I record, I'll often overdub my own vocals to create harmony. But it occurred to me that instead of overdubbing, I could use the VoiceLive 2--even though it's really designed to be used as a live performance tool.

When you route the harmony output to a different track from the lead, and you employ the MIDI Notes mode to define the harmony exactly, this becomes a reality.

Well, I found out quickly that it was problematic for me to play a harmony line on my MIDI keyboard while singing. I could do it without hitting wrong notes, but it took me a couple of tries and I realized I was concentrating too hard on playing the notes correctly--sacrificing some feel.

Then it occurred to me: Why not just record the lead vocal first, and then run the output through the VoiceLive 2 while playing the MIDI part? It's the same process as overdubbing, but I'm not actually "playing" second part; I'm merely supplying the pitch information. It's more akin to what guitar players do when re-amping.

This worked amazingly well, and I was able to generate quickly specific harmonies in both four-voice hymns (such as the chorale arrangements of Bach, Praetorious, etc.) and barbershop quartets.

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In the chart that lists the Harmony parameters above, there's one row that possibly requires explanation: Guitar Chords/Accept Dom7.

Here's how they explain it in the manual:

GUITAR CHORDS

This parameter changes the harmony note response to DOM7 guitar chords only. At the default setting; ACCEPT DOM7, whenever you play a dominant 7th chord and the combination of your singing note and harmony voicing is set to produce a 7th harmony, you’ll hear the 7th.


In a song composed largely of DOM7 chords, it’s not that easy to sing a melody composed of all of the 7ths and thus, many harmony singers move to the chord root instead. Broadly speaking, this is also a difference between a “Pop” sounding harmony and a more “Bluesy” harmony sound.This is what the IGNORE DOM7 setting does. A good song to play and sing to check out the difference is “Michelle” by the Beatles.

The other choice is "Ignore Dom7," where the unit harmonizes only the triad of the chord--in this case dom7s would be major.

I'm not quite sure why they chose to cite the song "Michelle." In the verse, there's only one dominant seventh chord, and it comes at the end, like this:

Code:
D         Gm        C                    Bb          A7    Bb   A7Michelle, ma belle, these are words that go together well, my Michelle.
You'd think to really hear the difference well, you'd play a tune where the accompaniment has all dominant sevenths, like a blues. And it might be because in a blues (I7, IV7, V7), the 7ths of the I and IV chords are non-diatonic. For example, in C blues, the 7th of the I chord, C, is Bb; the 7th of the IV chord, F, is Eb; So the unit can't use its usual scheme of deducing the tonic of the key.

Still not sure why "Michelle" illustrates this, as A7--the only 7th chord in the verse, is actually diatonic. But I'll check it out and see.
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Hey Jon - thought I'd check out what you're doing smile.gif I've been interested in hearing more about the VoiceLive 2.

Have you tried the VoiceLive 2 with any signal sources other than voice? Not that I'm expecting miracles, but I remember trying a harmonization device once with toms, and it sounded fabulous. I know you have other things to cover, but maybe you could indulge me with a few experiments when you get a chance.

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Quote Originally Posted by Anderton View Post
Hey Jon - thought I'd check out what you're doing smile.gif I've been interested in hearing more about the VoiceLive 2.

Have you tried the VoiceLive 2 with any signal sources other than voice? Not that I'm expecting miracles, but I remember trying a harmonization device once with toms, and it sounded fabulous. I know you have other things to cover, but maybe you could indulge me with a few experiments when you get a chance.
Toms! That's inspired. That might be a case for the "fixed scale" mode, where you define the key and scale for the source to operate in. So I would determine (as close as possible) what the "fundamental" of the tom is.

Or not. smile.gif

In any case, I'll try routing a couple of sources through the Voice Live 2--saxophone to start, and moving to toms and other off-beat choices--just to see what happens.

Stay tuned! thumb.gif
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Per Craig’s suggestion and in the spirit of exploring “new and different uses for things you normally use for something else,” I tried a bunch of different drum sounds passed through the VoiceLive 2.

It turns out, tom-toms are really the only thing that yield usable results. This is probably because they are the most focused in terms of a “fundamental,” at least when compared to the other instruments found in a standard kit. Snares and cymbals are just too smeary for a vocal processor to work with, and a kick doesn’t really produce anything musical. Toms, however, provided some nice surprises, especially when you remember that this was all done with a vocal processor.

What follows is a progression from normal to increasingly weird. My approach was to just step through the presets with a looped tom fill. When I heard some aspect of the preset that I thought could be drawn out more, I altered just that parameter (e.g., tap tempo), and only slightly at that. Otherwise, I left everything intact, because the experiment here was to use vocal processing, and not to tweak the functions you’d find on any multi-effects processor (detuning, modulation, ambience, etc.).

Below are my rough descriptions of the eight clips on the mp3 file found here:

1. Unprocessed one-bar tom fill using four drums: three rack toms and a floor tom, played from high to low.
2. Doubled, with increased ambience.
3. Boomier, with a clappy, flappy sound.
4. Boomier still, with audible rhythmic slapback and some slight flanging (I used the tap tempo function here).
5. Fundamental of toms are perceived as pitches, with buzzy vocoder effect
6. Explosive effect with flange and weird “afterglow”—my favorite!
7. Ray-gun effect with descending filter-sweep fall-off, courtesy of vocoder function.
8. The megaphone/AM-radio treatment, yielding a hand-clap/high-roto-tom/guiro sound.


I really like #6, #7, and #8. They’re just unexpected, bizarre, and fun. But note the fullness of #3 and #4. These are closer in function to the original, though they might be just the ticket if you’re looking for that “tom-toms that ate Cleveland” sound. smile.gif

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After lusting after one online for a couple of weeks & viewing all the demo vids, I was able to talk a friend into letting me borrow his for a week. Here's my assessment:

Top notch! Smooth, high quality effects and sounds with great options - reverb, delay, harmony, bypass, etc. Solid construction. There's not much to complain about, with the exception of the standard wall wart (as mentioned before here in this thread.) I didn't really get into programming much, but found that slight adjustments were easily made without having to read the manual.

Using a Rode NT1A and taking advantage of my unusually monumental vocal skills (rebuttal, anyone?) - I demo'd all the vocal patches, and practically all are useful. As a horn player, I blew some trumpet through a 1-down patch, and was able to create some killer riffs and a perfect lower harmony under the lead. I didn't get to sample much sax, but usually if the harmonies on trumpet work well, the sax is not too hard to follow suit, either by adjustment or default. Saxes, I have found, are harder to emulate anyway because of their dynamic nature. It's a little easier - for me - to create realistic harmonies on trumpet through a harmonizer rather than saxophone. I attribute this to the cutting, clear and ringing brass tones a trumpet is capable of, whereas a saxophone seems to have more "looseness" in tonality and general make-up.

I got to use the Voice Live 2 on three gigs, and the first was not that successful. I MIDI'd a keyboard and sang some bgv's at a church gig. I kept having gating issues, as I'd sing into the mic, and suddenly everything - lead vocals and harmonies, would just jump out loudly. In the unit's defense, I didn't get to do a sound check and set up the parameters properly. I had been using the M-Harmony by TC Helicon, and I was used to "plug & play" operation. The other two gigs were primarily horn gigs, and I didn't even use the harmony settings, rather just relying on the reverb and delay to sweeten my sound, and boy, did it! The unit is almost worth its price just for the effects without the harmony function.

Anyway, I've been wanting a unit before I got to demo one, and I still want one now that I have had the chance to put it through the paces! For a guy like myself who does a variety of gigs - church, cover bands, solo, on-call horns, this unit is a "must have" for me. If you're a serious vocalist who plays guitar or keys, and you are versatile enough to perform different gigs, a tool like the Voice Live 2 would be very valuable. I didn't even get into the mp3 input option, but I can see myself doing "coffee shop" and solo gigs again. thumb.gif

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Quote Originally Posted by chazmuz View Post
After lusting after one online for a couple of weeks & viewing all the demo vids, I was able to talk a friend into letting me borrow his for a week. Here's my assessment:

Top notch! Smooth, high quality effects and sounds with great options - reverb, delay, harmony, bypass, etc. Solid construction. There's not much to complain about, with the exception of the standard wall wart (as mentioned before here in this thread.) I didn't really get into programming much, but found that slight adjustments were easily made without having to read the manual.

Using a Rode NT1A and taking advantage of my unusually monumental vocal skills (rebuttal, anyone?) - I demo'd all the vocal patches, and practically all are useful. As a horn player, I blew some trumpet through a 1-down patch, and was able to create some killer riffs and a perfect lower harmony under the lead. I didn't get to sample much sax, but usually if the harmonies on trumpet work well, the sax is not too hard to follow suit, either by adjustment or default. Saxes, I have found, are harder to emulate anyway because of their dynamic nature. It's a little easier - for me - to create realistic harmonies on trumpet through a harmonizer rather than saxophone. I attribute this to the cutting, clear and ringing brass tones a trumpet is capable of, whereas a saxophone seems to have more "looseness" in tonality and general make-up.

I got to use the Voice Live 2 on three gigs, and the first was not that successful. I MIDI'd a keyboard and sang some bgv's at a church gig. I kept having gating issues, as I'd sing into the mic, and suddenly everything - lead vocals and harmonies, would just jump out loudly. In the unit's defense, I didn't get to do a sound check and set up the parameters properly. I had been using the M-Harmony by TC Helicon, and I was used to "plug & play" operation. The other two gigs were primarily horn gigs, and I didn't even use the harmony settings, rather just relying on the reverb and delay to sweeten my sound, and boy, did it! The unit is almost worth its price just for the effects without the harmony function.

Anyway, I've been wanting a unit before I got to demo one, and I still want one now that I have had the chance to put it through the paces! For a guy like myself who does a variety of gigs - church, cover bands, solo, on-call horns, this unit is a "must have" for me. If you're a serious vocalist who plays guitar or keys, and you are versatile enough to perform different gigs, a tool like the Voice Live 2 would be very valuable. I didn't even get into the mp3 input option, but I can see myself doing "coffee shop" and solo gigs again. thumb.gif
Great assessment, chazmuz. I'm not a horn player, so I appreciate the insight on trumpets and saxophones. My experience about saxes being more slippery is consistent with yours, but I'm coming at it from the perspective of a non-wind player. I suppose that's why the sax is often said to be the most "vocal-like." It's a little slower to speak, the transient isn't a sharp, and it tends to have a little more portamento (sliding into and out of notes, pitchwise) overall.

I agree about the "must have." If you can marshal the powers of this harmonizer, you can really bring something unique to a live performance gig. Even just "ooze and oz" on chord tones while the lead singer does his/her thing is a great way to provide additional texture. And you don't have to do it all the time; just a little "icing on the cake" once in a while.

Also, the mfr. advises that the soundcheck is a must--that the unit is not only making your lead vocal "sound better," but is calibrating the VL2's performance, too. Maybe that's why you experienced unpredictable behavior.

If you could post some mp3 clips of trumpet examples through the VoiceLive 2, I'm sure people would like to hear them. That would be much more satisfying than my harmonized sampled collection! thumb.gif
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Cool to see a Pro Review of this unit. I ordered mine from a local supplier in Melbourne here two months ago and I am still waiting on delivery. I am just about ready to purchase one from overseas. As a dedicated vocalist, I play instruments to accompany myself under protest, but I prefer just to let the cords to the work. I am going to experiment with the unit using a loop pedal to create pitching information. Theoretically I can lay down a bass line and then run this through the VoiceLive singing melodic lines. This should be enough information to create some useable harmonies. However, waiting, waiting ,waiting.

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Quote Originally Posted by DaveStergo View Post
Theoretically I can lay down a bass line and then run this through the VoiceLive singing melodic lines. This should be enough information to create some useable harmonies.
The VoiceLive 2 works great in this mode. If you define the key first (rather than letting the machine guess the key from the context), you'll get perfect diatonic harmonies. Now, if you do non-diatonic chords (any secondary dominant, such as a D7 in the key of C), you need to provide the unit with more info than just a root and a fifth from a bassline.

But the VoiceLive 2 provides several ways to do this.
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The VoiceLive 2 is great for inspiration. Sometimes songwriting can be a lonely and solitary task, so yesterday I turned on the VoiceLive 2 to keep me company. And to help me through a chorus of an Alison Krauss-type song I'm writing.

First I started with just a simple 3rd harmony. For the sustained notes at the ends of phrases, I switched to 4-voice mode. This seemed to work well. But that wasn't the cool part.

I was unintentionally using the VoiceLive 2's pitch correction feature on my voice. You actually want that in most cases, so that's the unit's default state. I just forgot, as I turned it on and started singing.

The rationale for pitch correction is this: If you didn't have it on, harmonizing an out-of-tune lead voice makes everything pretty "sloshing." (It does not make it "real" or "human"--it just sounds bad. Trust me, I know.) So the VoiceLive 2 gently corrects you. Since harmony singing generally has more static melodic movement, and you're trying to (again, generally) square off your melodic moves, you don't really notice pitch correction. At least, I didn't. I only discovered it when I forgot to put the unit in bypass to sing a verse. Then I heard the pitch correction, and went, "Has this been on the whole time?" It had, but I didn't notice.

If you record your singing, you can use the VoiceLive 2 the way a lot of people would use a plug-in, such as Antares' Auto-Tune. Except that you can use it live, so you're ensured a natural performance going onto disk. This means that if you hear something really bad, or at least unnatural, you can do a retake. You don't have this flexibility if you count on using a plug-in after the fact. You're stuck with what's already on disk.

So I'm learning to be a better singer with this unit. Mostly because it's keeping me honest about what I decide are "keeper" vocal takes. smile.gif

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The VoiceLive 2 is great for acoustic guitar players. For one thing, the idea of having self-contained harmony singers seems to benefit the solo musician (or a duo), and many of those folks strap on acoustics when they do their thing.

But there’s another reason: the VoiceLive 2 sports a no-frills but powerful guitar processor onboard, independent of all the groovy vocal-processing magic it performs. This has two benefits:

  1. You can use the VoiceLive 2 as your sole guitar processor for basic sound-shaping and effects.
  2. By not needing an additional component to process the guitar, you maintain a much simpler signal chain.

The above two points would appeal to any guitarist, but particularly to acoustic guitarists. (Electric guitarists are used to carting around pedals and boards for their sound.)

The features the VoiceLive 2 devotes to processing just the guitar—with no involvement of the vocals—are impressive. They include the five “staple” effects you need to process any guitar for live and recording use: gain, EQ, compression, reverb, and modulation. This is like having a dedicated channel strip for your guitar. It’s especially handy for acoustic guitars, which benefit from having some degree of all five effects above, but shun the aesthetics and clutter of a large pedalboard.

Since you have to plug in your guitar to the VoiceLive 2 anyway (to drive the harmony effects), you might as well benefit from the additional control.

Having a virtual channel strip inside the VoiceLive 2 makes for a very tidy stage setup!

Below is the layout of the five effects. You dial these up by simply pressing the Guitar FX button. What could be simpler?
Guitar_FX.jpg
Guitar_Tab.jpg
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I received a P.M. asking me to lay naked the VoiceLive 2's harmony processor--without fancy effects or a busy mix, or anything to obscure the quality of the harmonies.

I thought it was a pretty reasonable request, so here's what I did: I took a slow a cappella ballad (the Irish song Danny Boy, sung by a male tenor) and just ran the solo vocal through the unit, switching presets. The only prep work I did was to set the levels. But there are no effects, other than the onboard reverb. Nothing was added in post (i.e., between recording and converting to an mp3).

The results were stellar, as you can hear for yourself. In the mp3 file below, you can hear the first phrase ("Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling") in front, as it sounds as I recorded it (with the VoiceLive 2 in bypass mode). This is followed by the entire song (with the first line repeated) with different presets activated on the different phrases.

Here's how it broke down.

Code:
(Bypass):            Oh Danny Boy, the pipes the pipes are calling Doubling:            Oh Danny Boy, the pipes the pipes are callingUnison Choir:        From glen to glen and down the mountainsideHarmony Above:       The summer's gone and all the roses falling                    'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bideHarmony Above/Below: But come ye back when summer's in the meadow                     Or when the valley's hushed and white with snowFull Choir Harmony: 'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow                     Oh Danny Boy, Oh Danny Boy, I love you so.
Danny Boy.mp3

For the second verse, I started with a high harmony and went to full choir.

To supply the harmonies, I simply brushed chords on the downbeats--something any moderately competent guitarist could do.
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Quote Originally Posted by Chumly View Post
In a live setting, is there any real-world audible net benefit to this unit over the VL4?
Well, if by "live" and "real world," you mean readily discernible to the ear, the answer is yes. I've worked with the VL4 and it's a good unit.

The TC-H VoiceLive 2 is much smoother, less glitchy, more accurate, and more powerful. It's more expensive too, so it's not really fair to compare the two, but as a processor, the VoiceLive 2 is in a different class.
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