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TC-Helicon VoiceLive Rack

February 22, 2012
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Sophisticated vocalprocessor strip for stage or studio

TC-Helicon’s VoiceLive Rack package includes the MP-75 mic, which features a useful hands-on control button.
Voicelive Rack (VLR) adds a more studio/live sound overlay to the performance-oriented VoiceLive Touch. VLR is more complex, more capable, and more expensive, but folds in multiple pro options in addition to TC-Helicon “trademark” features like an obvious interface, excellent sound quality, and keying harmonies to guitar, MIDI, or MP3 input.

The package includes the MP-75 mic; yes, I know you have a favorite mic, but don’t underestimate the MP-75. It flatters my voice, might do the same for yours, and the hands-on control it offers is limited, but welcome.

Effects The six main effects blocks are μMod (various modulation effects), Delay, Reverb, Hardtune, Double, Harmony with up to four intervals, Transducer (distortion, megaphone, etc.), and Rhythm (chopper, stutter, panner, etc.). Each is loaded with parameters—for example, the reverb has 30 different “styles” (algorithms), with editable reflections, mix from other modules, decay, diffusion, ducking, etc. The VLR also includes a Pitch block and Tone block with compression, EQ, and gating that can adapt automatically to your voice (or be tweaked manually) so even without effects, you can get full, rich vocals.

All editing is front-panel-based, but the LCD is big and readable, with three lines per page and up to four parameters per line that you tweak with four physical knobs below the display. Each effect block has its own tab, and navigation involves the usual up/down/right/ left buttons coupled with a data wheel. I had no problem getting around without opening the manual.

I/O Analog ins include XLR with switchable phantom power, line in from a mixer or other mic pre, aux in (either for backing tracks or a harmony reference), and a guitar input for harmony reference that can feed dedicated effects and mix with the voice, or be taken out of the mix and sent to a thru jack. XLR and 1/4" outs are configurable as stereo, mono, or dual mono (e.g., for voice and guitar on separate channels). Digital I/O includes MIDI in/out/ thru for control, S/PDIF I/O—don’t overlook using VoiceLive Rack with audio other than voice!—and USB for interfacing voice and/or guitar with computers. (Mac fans will need to create an aggregate device if you’re using other USB devices.)

Surprisingly, the headphone jack is 1/8". I feel a pro unit like this virtually demands a 1/4" jack, particularly because a singer would likely want to use circumaural headphones, not earbuds. Well, use an adapter.

A jack accommodates TC’s three-switch footswitch for preset control, effects bypass, harmony hold, and the like. While these switches offer latching control, but not momentary (e.g., press and hold to bring in a harmony, release to turn it off ), mic control does offer momentary control—and it’s more convenient than using a footswitch.

Is it for You? TC-Helicon’s rep for effects is outstanding, with good reason—it seemed like any preset I called up made my voice sound better. So, the question becomes whether you need VLR’s extra functionality. VoiceLive Touch is 5/8 the price, but nonetheless includes a looper and the effects you’d need for most performance situations. However, VoiceLive Rack is definitely a more capable choice for live sound, and is wonderful in the studio as a ready-to-go vocal processing strip. (And it stores ten different profiles for different vocalists.) If you can afford the ne plus ultra of live sound/studio vocal processors, this is it.

SUMMARY
STRENGTHS: Excellent-sounding, varied effects. Easy navigation despite deep set of parameters. Includes MP-75 mic with handson control over a selected preset parameter. Follows musical input to create harmonies. Good I/O. Solid construction.

LIMITATIONS: Optional triplefootswitch does latching control, but not momentary. 1/8" headphone jack.

$945 MSRP tc-helicon.com

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