Welcome to the 21st century, the time when singers don’t rely on the sound person’s mood for their effects but bring them to the gig. Back in the day, most singers did it with guitar pedals achieving polemic results but nowadays units got better and super powerful packing many interesting features. After using a plethora of them, I made my selection and chose a winner. Curious? Step inside and take a look!
The winner of this rundown to me is the Boss Vocal Echo because it blends in everything you need with a musical result and a very portable size. If it was stereo and had a blend knob for the doubler, I would say it is the perfect reverb + other features vocal pedal out there.
Vocal Reverbs We Recommend
BOSS Vocal Echo Effects Processor Stompbox
What’s good: Sounds very good, Easy to dial and use
Not so good: Mono outputs, No blend control for the doubler
This line of mini-vocal processors by Boss turned out to be a best-seller for the brand. They take the same concepts from bigger units such as the VE-20 and VE-500 but divide it by category. This vocal echo effects processor is, in fact, much more than that; a powerful multi-effects unit you can do a ton of things with.
For example, the correction level in it is perfect for live situations as well as the doubler. In the case of the doubler, Boss shares with TC Helicon a big fail which is no blend possibility; it is either as loud as the original voice or not there at all.
The sound of the reverbs and delays will make your voice sit down on the mix much better than dry. Sometimes the sound person can´t give you any effects from his or her end and being able to control it with your feet is a great thing. I just wished these lush effects the unit can produce would meet stereo outputs to pan them and get a 3-d spectrum for the audience.
TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2
What’s good: Great sound in a small package, Compression + de-esser with a single button
Not so good: Tone correction can be a tad robotic when pushed, No knob to adjust the delay time
The TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2 is a great way to solve all your live vocal needs with one pedal. The fact that you have a single button to engage de-esser and compressor makes it great for cutting through any mix. In fact, the Adaptative technology applied to it measures the timbre of your voice and applies these effects accordingly.
The echo and reverb in this unit are all you would expect from a brand like TC Helicon. With its huge heritage and some truly iconic reverb and delay units to draw inspiration from, it sounds lush, natural, and accurate.
I think the only flaw in this sense is the fact that you can´t set the delay time any other way but tap. Finally, when you push the tone correction up, the result is a little unnatural. Other than this, it is a perfect companion for countless nights of gigging.
TC Helicon VoiceTone R1
What’s good: Simple to use, Rugged, portable construction
Not so good: No option for 9-volt operation, Colors the natural tone of the voice (not in a nice way)
These little pedals by TC Helicon have proved their worth for the brand. They have become utterly popular among musicians worldwide. In fact, you can link them and have a complete processor at your feet spending little money.
The reverb unit is outstanding in its operation and construction. Perhaps, you could say that it is a little too basic but that is the idea behind the series. Having a straight-forward, no-frills pedal for reverb only is every singer´s dream.
On the other hand, TC Helicon should really include a 9-volt option for the series otherwise all the amazing portability and ease of use are kind of lost when you need an electrical socket. Finally, the tone of this pedal is arguably worse. It makes your mids pump out so much you end up being nasal. Reverb pedals shouldn’t change your tone and this one does.
TC Helicon Duplicator
What’s good: The tone knob is perfectly tuned, The loose control for the doubling is very musical
Not so good: There´s no mix level for the effect, Consumes a lot of power
The duplicator is a great addition for singers who want a little extra added to their voices. In fact, it is a subtlety that many of us engineers do in the studio which is to make a singer sing the same part twice and double the vocals.
This unit does exactly that and with the “Doubling” knob you can set it to be closer or further away from the original to create a more psychedelic or tighter effect. On the other hand, it would be super useful if there was a dry/wet knob to dial in just the perfect amount of effect.
I really liked the fact that you can just dial in the pitch correction as well as the reverb and bring in only the doubling effect with the footswitch. This allows you to just kick in those backing vocals only in the chorus but enjoy pitch correction, tone button, and reverb all the song.
Finally, I would like to point out that this is a very hungry pedal that runs only adapters above 750mA and that drains batteries way faster than most other pedals.
TC-Helicon Harmony G-XT
What’s good: Presets to go from one setting to the next, Takes guitar notes to create smart harmonies
Not so good: Can´t handle a band situation too well, Low octave sounds a tad unnatural
This is a very complete voice processor in a perfect size for the pedalboard of a singer-songwriter. You can plug your guitar and your vocals into it and create harmonies using both with the intelligent harmony creator inside this machine.
In regards to the harmonizer, I would say that it can´t be used in a bad situation because it will pick up the instrumentation and won´t lock in with the tones for the harmonies. Also, the low octave sounds as if you were a Jedi and Sith knights came after you with low, evil grunts. In other words, it sounds unnatural (and a little scary too).
I loved the fact that it has preset so you can set some mild reverb with a slapback echo for the verses and then some long, lush reverbs with delays for the chorus, for example. It is a great box to use live as a duet or for a solo act that can solve all your needs in a small, compact combo. If you are going to use it in a band situation, you need to isolate the mic.
What does Reverb do to your voice?
Reverb is an effect but it is based upon a natural phenomenon that happens with acoustics and sound. When you generate sound in a closed environment, the sound reverberates, which means that it bounces against the walls, ceiling, objects, and floor around you and creates a sort of tail that´s too short to call an echo but noticeable still.
If you ever wondered why amphitheaters have that shape is because the reverberation of the vocals inside the roofed section projects the sound out naturally. When you add reverb to a vocal line you allow projection and also allow it to mix with the rest of the sounds better. Finally, it adds an “epic” feeling to the overall sound that is very welcome in many case scenarios ranging from arena singing to a press conference or even karaoke in your living room.
Is reverb an autotune?
The answer to this question is absolutely not. Autotune (as the name implies) is pitch correction. This means that it alters the pitch of the original sound making it closer to a certain note. This is not a natural effect and, when used too much, can sound unnatural.
On the other hand, every time you use autotune on a vocal, you should use some reverb too so you can soothe the autotune effect and achieve a much more natural sound. The reverb will allow the vocal line to mix better with the rest.
Does reverb make you sound better?
Arguably yes. Although this is not a rule for every case scenario, in almost every case scenario a bit of reverb will definitely improve the final result. Now, the trick, in this case, is to know how much of which reverb type your vocals need.
Adding any effects to a vocal can result in an epic fail when not done the right way. It is not as difficult as blending in other not-so-natural effects but it takes time and practice to nail the exact amount for every occasion. The sooner you get started with the reverbs in your vocals, the sooner you´ll find the perfect spot for your voice.