TC Helicon VoiceWorks Vocal Processor
Notes by Bob Sellon

I bought the VoiceWorks as a sort of golden channel for live work. Rather than leaving the EQ, dynamics and processing of my voice to a sound guy (who may or may not even be present), the VoiceWorks allows me to deliver a complete signal to the house sound , which is often my rack mixer en route to my powered EONs on solo gigs. One rack space and I'm done.

Mic Preamp

Like any good golden channel should, the VoiceWorks contains a very nice balanced mic input with phantom power support (for condenser mics, etc.). For the vast majority of my gigs I use a 6U rack of gear and a pair of powered EONs (no conventional mixer) so being able to plug my vocal mic directly into the processor is a big plus. I've really haven't done a lot of critical listening but the preamps sound ok for the limited recording I've done and have been great for live sound. Having the phantom power is a big plus when using a higher end mic (condenser, etc.).

Harmonies

The Voiceworks is the first harmonizer I've tried that I would consider using live. The voices are very smooth and include formant correction to reduce the chipmunk sound. One of my favorite parameters is "Gender" which allows you to change the sound of the harmony from a male to female. Absolutely amazing. There are lots of neat parameters and tricks such as vibrato after a hold-off delay but it's the real meat and potatoes stuff that impresses me: it just sounds good.

Presets and Parameters

The Voiceworks contains a nice set of presets that show off the capabilities of the device well. I've hand tweaked the ones I use live but I really love the "Arnold", "Radio Voice", "MIDI Notes" (see below), "Giant", "Little Guy" and "Big Guy" presets. Genius.

Dynamics Processor

One of the features that attracted me to the Voiceworks was its built in dynamics processor. In my opinion, a lead vocal should always have some limiting and/or compression. The Voiceworks covers this but in the end, comes up short since there is only one dynamics processor and you really need separate processing for the harmony than the lead vocal. Since a lead vocal mic usually has a lot of gain, the mic ends up picking up the sound of everything around it and harmonizing it. In my case it was my acoustic guitar. It's especially bad when you use more than one harmony voice. Nasty. I was able to work around this by setting the dynamics processor up as a gate on the harmony vocal but this left my lead vocal with no compression which just wasn't flying. For this reason, I mostly use only a single harmony and be careful about muting when not in use.

I need to double check this but I don't think the settings for the dynamics processor are saved with the user programs. Normally this would be a good thing since dynamics parameters are not something you usually mess with once they are dialed in but due to the limit of only one processor and the bleed problem with harmonies, it would be nice to be able to create a preset with 4 voice harmony with a gate but having a compressor on the lead for regular use.

Reverb/Delay Effects

I worked at Lexicon for over 18 years so you might think I'd be picky about the reverb in the Voiceworks but this is not the case. I found the reverb in the device to perfectly adequate for its intended use. I would only use it for live performances anyway which are often lousy listening environments and the reverb sounds fine. I like the verb to be subtle anyway.

The delay effect also seems to cover my live needs though I wished they kept the reverb and delay completely separate. They each have separate parameters but use a single reverb/delay balance control which I find more difficult to work with than individual level parameters. Even so, the combination of reverb and delay is fine for creating a space around your voice.

SPDIF Output

The Voiceworks includes both an SPDIF in and out though I only use the output. Surprisingly, this has been very handy for live gigs since I can use it to get the vocals into my Traveler interface I use for a mixer without tying up a pair of the analog inputs. Though I didn't try it, the SPDIF input could probably be used as a clock source for the Voiceworks in more complicated setups. I just let the Voiceworks be the master and slave the Traveler to it.

Control

Control of voices and virtually all parameters is available via MIDI Controllers . I generally use two presets: a one voice harmony and a 4 voice harmony then select the key via a MIDI foot controller which also allows me to select major or minor for the note mapping. I currently do this with my MidiMapper program but there are lots of ways of doing this.

MIDI Note Mapping

The Voiceworks includes a mode where you can feed MIDI notes to the device and it will transpose whatever you sing to the pitch of the key you're pressing. The possibilities are endless. The most obvious use of this is to connect the MIDI output from a keyboard or MIDI controller to the MIDI input on the Voiceworks and play the harmonies you'd like in real time. I took this one step further and fed a MIDI notes from a sequence to the Voiceworks so I didn't have to worry about the harmonies. The background vocal parts were programmed into the sequence so all I needed to do was to route the tracks with the vocals to the MIDI interface/channel connected to the Voiceworks. There is a video of me doing the song "Mister Moonlight" on my homepage where you can hear this in action (there is at least one other song on my video page that uses this technique).

Things to watch out for

- The configuration of the footswitch does not seem to get saved. I was never able to figure this out. According to the manual it was automatic but I kept having to reset it and eventually just switched to MIDI.

- Bleeding. As mentioned earlier, the sound of your guitar or other instruments can easily bleed into the harmony which can sound terrible. You can hear this on the "Mister Moonlight" video.

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