Nowadays all records sound pitch-perfect and being able to duplicate that live is quite hard. I have been using some effects on my vocals in the studio and wondering how I could take them to a live situation. So I went through most of the available vocal autotune & pitch correction pedals out there and came back with a verdict. Read on and make your decision so you can start sounding pitch-perfect consistently in every show.
To me, the best pedal of the pack is the TC-Helicon Mic Mechanic 2. It is compact, affordable, and packs the essentials for a good performance. It is not complex to use; the learning curve is close to non-existent and delivers pitch correction, de-esser, compression, reverb, and delay in the size of a regular stompbox. As a singer, I got the most out of it without being distracted by the technical side.
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Voice AutoTune Pedals We Recommend
TC-Helicon Mic Mechanic 2
What’s good: Battery operation allows for more freedom on stage. Compressing, de-essing and gate are great additions to the Tone control,
Not so good: No way to adjust delay speed other than tapping. Tone correction sounds a little mechanic when turned up too high.
TC-Helicon is one of the biggest brands in the vocalist-products range. They built a reputation among singers and transformed into the go-to solution for most artists. This pedal is no exception to the huge heritage of the brand. Don´t be fooled by the size because the TC-Helicon Mic Mechanic 2 is a very powerful machine. In fact, judging it only among vocal autotune pedals is a little short because it has a lot more to offer.
I really enjoyed the Tone control being engaged because it brings on a combo I use in the studio a lot. Being able to add a live De-Esser effect while compressing is something I couldn´t do before and is very welcome. Especially if you are a live gigging musician that plays in different stages every night. Some PAs have a very high-pitch sound that´s thin and wimpy and your high pitch might be a nightmare with every S you pronounce. The fact that it is battery-operated makes things easier and cleaner on the floor as well.
Reverb, Delay, and Pitch Correction work perfectly well. If you try to go a little too high on the pitch correction, it might sound a little like a robot. It works amazingly in small quantities. The only complaint I guess is not being able to correct delay timing other than tapping. Not all singers can do that while performing. If you are on a tight budget and need something simple to solve it all, you might have found it in this pedal.
What’s good: One of the most powerful units in the market. Sounds natural in most presets including tone correction.
Not so good: The learning curve to use it properly is steep; menus are not so intuitive. The display is too tiny to read it live.
Roland and Boss are major players among voice autotune and pitch correction pedals as they are in all pedal niches. In this case, we are speaking about a pedal that can give you up to 9 effects at once tuned especially for vocals. Also, the ability to add vocoder, modulation, talk box, distortions, and more to your vocals allows you to create studio-like tricks on your live show.
The unit comes equipped with de-esser, compressor, enhancer, and pitch correction. Mixing that with some delay and reverb will give you a beautiful tone with a little extended depth. But that is just the beginning; you can go full-on Pink Floyd with it with the press of a button. I found the USB connection (although the cable is not included!) very useful to keep a library per song. You can automatically trigger presets and modify parameters via MIDI and it also takes a guitar to follow with a doubling vocal.
This is definitely not a beginners´ pedal because the learning curve is too steep. On the other hand, it can be the ultimate solution for advanced artists. One final thing: Boss should make that display bigger to see it in a live situation!
TC Helicon Voice Live Play
What’s good: The genre feature. Computer link updates continuously.
Not so good: Does not include compression. Complex to operate.
I guess in the world of vocal autotune and pitch correction this could be compared with the almighty Boss VE-500 but in a more… vocalist-oriented way.
While Boss tried to make the perfect pedal for the singer who also plays guitar, this pedal is specially crafted for singers. Among the (many) things I loved about this pedal is the genre feature to look for effects which were a time-saving wonder. I just thought to myself “is this a pop song?” and then look for the artist’s presets and effects under that genre.
Whenever I felt more creative and modern, the HardTune feature allows you to push Autotune into a modern effect like used on Hip Hop, Trap, and other modern genres. Finally, the RoomSense mic for auto key detection worked great to dial in harmonies effortlessly, which, along with the vocal looper gave me a lot to play with. Let me tell you that this is a powerful unit not only good on stage, but the Practice mode is also just what you need to get super picky about pitch and sing the night away on your headphones until you get it perfect.
On the other hand, it doesn´t include compression which I think is a major flaw in such a complete unit. Finally, I found it (just like the VE-500) quite hard to operate. It took me a while to dial in what I needed in every case.
What’s good: You can use up to three vocal processors at the same time. Includes a shotgun microphone to isolate and improve vocal performance.
Not so good: Too many controls crammed into a little box makes it a little confusing live. Mono out.
Speaking of vocal autotune pedals, this Japanese giant couldn´t be out of the list. This is a very complete and powerful unit that will allow you to modify your vocals in many ways. I personally loved some of the presets like “telephone” (to get that Adele bridge-before-the-chorus tension going on). Also, the effects are very well-tuned for vocals and the operation is very easy. It is not as powerful in terms of connections and possibilities as the Boss VE-500 but is still a very powerful unit. I would say that if you´ve had a couple of vocal effects processors already and want to take a step to the next level, this is a very capable product to do it.
For live situations, I found two things that were a little annoying. First, it has six switches crammed in a little space which makes you think twice before you stomp on it. Second, it only has a mono out which makes any kind of stereo delay impossible.
What’s good: Powerful and compact. Stereo outputs to create stereo sounds.
Not so good: You can´t edit all parameters in the effects. The batteries “jump” with stage movement causing it to restart every time.
This pedal by Boss is the “back to the essentials” move from the brand. Don´t get me wrong, the VE-20 is a great one among voice autotune and pitch correction pedals; it is just an intermediate step for intermediate singers. I loved that it features a looper inside so you can do your own harmonies manually up to 38 seconds.
This stereo unit packs all the essentials adding some very natural-sounding pitch correction to the mix. I didn´t like the fact that I couldn´t go in to change more parameters in the effects, but I guess Boss released the VE-500 for that matter.
One thing that annoyed me about this pedal is that with battery operation you have to add foam to the cavity. With normal stage movement (I am a singer-songwriter, not a metal-core singer) the batteries move and the unit resets. If you want a complete and powerful unit and don´t want to go as far as the VE-500 can go, this might be great with its limitations.
TC Electronics Singles VoiceTone C1
What’s good: Rubber soil so it won´t move around on stage. Compact and easy to use.
Not so good: Sounds a tad robotic when pushed. No major or minor function is available.
Having seen some of the most powerful voice correction pedals out there this feels a little too basic. This pedal is definitely a one-trick pony intended for singers who want to bring their autotune pitch correction in real-time on the stage.
When pushed it can sound a little robotic and you might come out like T-Pain unintendedly. Also, the fact that you have to dial in the key of the song every time moving a knob makes it a little uncomfortable for live situations.
On the other hand, it is as small and portable as it can be since it is the same size as a regular Boss pedal. Also, construction is very rugged and the rubber bottom part adds stability so it won´t go sliding anywhere on stage. I would say it is a good first approach to live pitch correction and autotune that is good for beginners.
What is autotune?
First things first, autotune is the automatic process of correcting the pitch of vocals. In times gone by, when a vocalist went slightly out of key, a studio-engineer would either: tell the singer to do vocals again, or they would painstakingly correct each bum note. It wasn’t a particularly simple process and it would require a certain amount of musical theory knowledge to know how to correct the error.
Autotune then is the much easier process of letting a pedal or piece of software carry out the heavy lifting. The autotune device is generally set to a key from which it bumps each bum note back in tune. It’s basically a device to correct notes without much effort on the singer’s part.
Is pitch-correction the same as autotune?
While pitch-correction and autotune are closely linked, they are not exactly the same thing.
As mentioned earlier, pitch-correction applies to correct specific notes and moving that note back into key — it’s a manual process. Essentially, it requires a studio-engineer to meticulously go through every note and then correct it accordingly. It doesn’t just apply to vocals too, any tonal instrument that can go out will go out, and so any studio-engineer worth their salt will correct them. Think of it as a more precise version of autotune, but one that requires patience and effort.
Autotune is more specifically for vocalists. It’s a roundabout way of correcting pitch. Rather than going through every single note and moving it back in key, autotune does it automatically. The better the autotune, the seamless the correction will sound, but autotune also allows for robotic sounds if that’s what you’re going for.