Gadget of the Week: TC-Helicon’s VoiceLive Play

by Kira Grunenberg

TC-Helicon has a new, all-in-one tool for aspiring singers. The product is a small blue box, called the VoiceLive Play, and its main appeal comes from ease of use and large selection of digital effects. Plug in a microphone and you can start experimenting. Terms like Echo, Doubling, and HardTune/Correction (because TC-Helicon can’t say “Auto-Tune,”) come up in the feature list for VoiceLive Play. The VoiceLive Play features presets using these and other effects to very closely emulate the type of sound for an artist or song you might like.

For example, if you love how the Black Eyed Peas sounded in that one hit, “Let’s Get It Started,” but you have no idea how they got their voices to sound that way, VoiceLive Play has legally safe, but recognizably similar titles for the presets that will give you the sound of that song. (In this case, the effect is titled “Geddit Started”). The full list of presets can be found on the TC-Helicon’s website in PDF here. Other abilities like looping and programming/saving your own presets are possible as well, which are pushed as being the perfect support for practicing and not just performing.

When it is time to get on stage though, the convenience factor of the box comes in handy. If you’re singing, you can’t exactly concentrate on turning many knobs or pressing many buttons to activate your effects or presets. The convenience comes from a pedal ‘stomping’ type setup. If you’re doing an intimate set, the discretion of being able to push a button down with your toe keeps the performance intact without giant pauses for “technological adjustments.”

The last major feature of the VoiceLive Play is probably the most impressive, for being such a compact device. The box has a couple of built in mics for a process called “Room Sense,” that allows a singer to activate phantom backup singers that will harmonize with the real one. Since a single pitch can belong to multiple chords and keys, the machine can’t just guess what key is used or harmonizing disaster could follow. By sampling the performance first, appropriate harmonies can be added to enhance a chorus or bridge.

Judging the VoiceLive Play against itself, the device is justifiably powerful and has its practical uses, regardless of one’s feelings on artificial correction. After all, even if you sing perfectly, when you’re live, there’s only one of you. There are many other ways VoiceLive Play can be used and described, which are aptly summed up in the videos below, direct form TC-Helicon’s website.

VoiceLive Play: First Impressions with Georgia Murray

VoiceLive Play: 10 Things to Know

Kira is an old school music nerd with a love for all things creative; always searching for music’s common ground. She graduated with an M.A. in Performing Arts Administration from New York University. Drop her a tweet @shadowmelody1