Still tagged with the VoiceLive moniker, you might think that this is just another update to TC-Helicon’s flagship vocal processor. However, the VoiceLive 3 is much more than that - this time TC-Helicon gone the whole nine yards with a slew of new and updated vocal effects, a TC guitar pedalboard FX unit and a multi-track looper, all in one!
A quick glance will tell you that getting the most out of this unit is not going to be a simple affair and will require you to roll your virtual sleeves up and get your hands dirty with some serious programming. That said, TC-Helicon has made things as simple and intuitive as they can be. As the name suggests, the VoiceLive 3 is intended for live performance and over half the front panel has been dedicated to the 10 heavy-duty buttons that give you control over pretty much every feature that you would want to have access to during a gig. Even the LED lights that surround the footswitches lead the way - glowing Blue in Vocal mode, Red in Guitar mode and a mid-way Pink for Looper mode to let you know what’s going on. On any pre-set, these can be combined, giving access to say, a vocal reverb and harmony as well as a delay and compressor for the guitar - and still be able to turn the looper on and off.
Above the footswitch section on the left are six master edit buttons for global functions and the three modes: GENRE - for quick preset access to ‘favourites’ or a particular music style. SETUP - this is for all things global. Here you have a series of pages for in/out levels for voice and guitar, mic type (inc. phantom), vocal canceller (aux input), guitar amp speaker simulator, MIDI control (inc. tempo sync for delays etc.), global tone for the whole unit and System page where you can choose a global guitar FX preset for the unit regardless of patch changes. The last page here is Button Map, which gives you complete control over how the footswitches behave – even changing them from latching to momentary. Press and hold the SETUP button activates an automatic mic level calibration function - just sing the loudest you can and it’s set. STORE lets you overwrite, or store your edited patch in to any of the 494 (count 'em!) presets.
Below are the buttons to edit the three modes: VOCAL - enters edit mode for all 11 effects and parameters including Harmony, Reverb, Delay, Synth, Hard Tune etc. Any of these can be assigned to the HIT button or given their own button for full control during performance. GUITAR - here you have a regular signal chain, from numerous choices of amps and overdrive pedals, boost pedal, delay, reverb, compressor, wah- wah (controllable by the exp. pedal), chorus and more - again, all assignable to footswitches for each preset. LOOPER - this is a very comprehensive feature-laden multitrack affair that can be fed from any source in any preset of your choice for each track or overdub and has the facility to mute tracks and swap phrases on the fly. So you can record a guitar part and then overdub either a vocal part from the mic or from an external source via the Aux input or a combination of all!
The metronome function keeps everything in time and tempo can be fed from an external source, or the BPM of the preset, or entered manually by tapping it in. All loop patterns are divided into SLOTS, which can be assigned to any preset. This means that you can prepare some vocal/guitar/percussion loops in advance that you can bring in and out for each particular preset to add to your performance. I confess I’m new to the looping game, but this is not just the simple overdub/phrase utility you get on some units - I had great fun with this and lost most of a sunny afternoon in the process!
Below the large LCD display are four ‘soft’ rotary encoders, which correspond to whichever parameter is highlighted in the screen. In HOME/preset mode, these four knobs give quick access to the overall mix of guitar/looper/aux/metronome/vocal FX and reverb. These are used in conjunction with a large rubberised rotary control and two left/right buttons for navigation around the screen. When auditioning the presets, a quick press of the large rotary control puts the current (unedited) preset in the ‘Favourites’ tag in the ‘Genre’ list – very convenient when going through suitable sounds for a particular song.
The rear panel is just as comprehensive as the unit itself and gives the user every in/out option and further control over FX. Mic/Line input is proved by an XLR/Jack combi-connector, a jack guitar input (with a thru for connection to an amp) and mini-jack Aux input. There’s an additional Monitor input on balanced XLR to provide a cue mix (not routed to the output), which only appears on the headphone output for those using an In-Ear monitoring system. There are separate stereo outs for both the processed vocal (XLR) and guitar (Jack) sound, plus headphone out on mini jack. Two further jacks are for the external footswitch (for additional looper control) and an expression pedal. Further along are MIDI in/out sockets and two USB sockets, one regular and one mini for hooking up the unit to a computer to access firmware / patch data etc.
I haven’t even mentioned the quality of sounds, but take it from me, these are all top end effects for both vocal and guitar. I used this on a couple of gigs during the review - once just as a vocal processor and once as a stand-alone guitar FX unit. Both performed exceptionally, as they should, given their pedigree. I’ve had the good fortune to experiment with lots of vocal processors that give either a nod to the guitar sound or just use the guitar to facilitate pitch correct and harmonies etc but TC-Helicon has produced a bit of a game-changer here and provided the guitarist and vocalist with all the tools they’ll need for a live performance. Highly recommended!