Nestling somewhere in the middle of the TC Helicon range of vocal processors, the VoiceLive Play has a very comprehensive set of effects and features, while remaining simple and easy to use.
The layout is relatively sparse, but intuitive, allowing you all the control you would need in a live situation. As with all the TC Helicon stomp boxes, this is a sturdy die cast metal unit with the three large footswitches getting most of the action. The left and middle switches take you up and down through the presets and the right switch is labeled “HIT”, giving you another chosen effect when pressed. Holding this down for a short while gets you into “TALK” mode, which bypasses all effects to address the audience and another single tap gets you back to play mode. Holding the up/down switches together activates a looping mode where you can overdub and stop/start/cancel.
The other controls are a series of backlit buttons, three either side of the large display for editing and another four underneath for further menu navigation and storing presets. In the middle is a continuous rotary encoder to adjust whichever parameter is being edited at the time.
The main inputs and outputs are on the top of the unit: an XLR mic input (with phantom) and stereo XLR out, along with a mini-jack out for headphones. There’s also a mini-jack input, which can be used along with the ‘Voice Cancelling’ effect to sing to either backing tracks or your favourite chart hits! A mini-USB socket for access to firmware and preset management via TC Helicon’s own software sits along side the power adapter socket and the pedal jack for further remote control.
The unit comes with over two hundred presets to get you started, but you can narrow your selection choices with a ‘Genre’ button to suit the style of music that you’re performing. These range from lush Pop/Rock reverbs with delay to more contemporary effects such as doubling, distortion and hard-tune. Whether you’re in a Country duo or a Metal band, there are effects here to complement your style. A ‘Favorite’ button tags any preset that you like whilst scrolling through and this puts them in the Favorite ‘Genre’ for faster access. Another press removes the tag. I found I used this a lot when setting up the pedal for demo review, so I didn’t have to trawl through all the presets that I didn’t need.
There are seven effects blocks to be had here: modulation, echo/delay, reverb, harmony (two voices), doubling, hardtune and transducer. You have complete control over level and depth of effect and pressing the ‘Store’ button lets you name and keep your custom made presets.
All effects can be used at the same time with any one of your choice being assigned to the ‘HIT’ button. This is used in much the same way as a guitarist would add an effect for a solo, or different section of the song - so you can add harmonies to the Chorus, or a bigger delay or reverb. All the factory presets have a function assigned to the HIT button to get you started.
Editing is really easy and intuitive - in set-up, effects and mix mode, the six buttons around the screen change colour and correspond to the parameter that is next to it. One touch gets you into that parameter and the rotary controller adjusts the amount or on/off - simple. The two backlit buttons either side of the rotary knob move you back and forth through the pages of each menu.
Usefully, you can also download extra pre-sets, which are being added to TC Helicon's site all the time.
In the set-up menu, you can choose the input source. This can be a regular dynamic mic, a condenser, stereo input via USB (from computer), or the integral ‘Roomsense’ mics on either side of the chassis. These can be used to detect the key of the tune that is currently playing and adjust the harmonies (if selected) to suit - how well this works depends on how close the instrument source is. I didn’t try it, but TC Helicon say that it can even analyse full track playback - quite a feat!
The quality of the effects is excellent, as we've come to expect from TC Helicon - even the harmony section, when properly mixed is realistic enough for live use. Being able to bring in an extra effect as and when is a great bonus and can make all the difference to a performance. A powerful tool in a simple package at a good price.