We’ve come up with a very useful topic today, especially for musicians who sing. We’re talking about the Top 9 Talkbox Pedals for all Budgets in this post. We’ve listed pedals and processors from TC Helicon, Rocktron, Banshee, Boss, Zoom, and Electro-Harmonix.
As you read on, you’ll notice that even though these units work towards a common goal, they come in different shapes and sizes. Some employ the traditional rubber tube design to deliver the TalkBox feel effectively, while others use direct microphones to get the job done.
Furthermore, some effects units are more focused in their approach and keep things simple and direct. Others look like comprehensive vocal processors offering the TalkBox feature and plenty of other effects equally useful for vocalists today.
But before getting into the details, let’s first get some answers about the functionality, usage, and importance of such pedals in a studio/live set.
What is a Talkbox pedal?
A talkbox pedal is a fun little unit that allows you to manipulate, via an artificial hose mouthpiece, the sound of any connected instrument. An easier way to understand the effect produced by the talkbox would be to imagine a manual wah pedal, but instead of just having your instrument make the “wah” sound, you can make it talk using your mouth.
How Does a Talkbox pedal work?
The TalkBox function is simple, usually working by directing sound from your instrument to the person’s mouth via a plastic tube next to a microphone. The musician shapes the instrument’s sound by talking into the plastic mouthpiece. The shape of the mouth controls the overall sound of the notes played on the instrument into the microphone.
What’s The Use of Talkbox Pedal?
Talkboxes can be used in multiple ways. You can have the Vocoder or Talkbox effect on different parts of the song to create emphasis or to add character. You could use a radio or robotic effect on your voice, for instance, when in the interlude of a song. You can check out popular songs like Bon Jovi’s “Livin on a Prayer” and “It’s my life” for reference and inspiration.
What To Know Before Buying Talkbox Pedal
Talk boxes are somewhat of an acquired taste, so you’ll need to see how necessary these pedals/processors are for your own playing style. Secondly, if you frequently use the vocal variations such units provide, you must determine how much you’re willing to spend and what features your next purchase must include.
Once clear on these points, you can choose whether to go for the rubber hose version or stick to the microphone-controlled variations. Furthermore, some vocal processors discussed below cover many more functions than the more modest effects pedals. So it all boils down to your need and preference.
Top 9 Talkbox Pedals 2023 For All Budgets
1. TC Helicon Talkbox Synth
Not your conventional singing into a rubber tubing kind of pedal, the Talkbox offers lots of unique features.
The usage is simple. The pedal focuses on the instrument’s pitch and the vocalization fed through the mic to create interesting Talkbox effects. Of course, over-enunciation is the key to having more profound effects. The user can dial in multiple usable vocal effects through the simple control layout.
Housed in a hard plastic chassis measuring just 2.3 inches by 3.5 inches by 5.4 inches, the Talkbox Synth from Tc Helicon is not only a great vocoder but delivers some fascinating synthesizer sounds. Moreover, hidden inside is a powerful circuit board that improves your overall vocal quality.
- Style Knob: Classic & Modern
The “Style” control is the most important aspect of this three-knob pedal. The rotary switch’s movement is divided into eight different segments. The first four are the “Classic,” “Modern,” “Classic+,” and “Modern+” settings. The Classic effect imitates the hose-in-the-mouth sound with some saturation/distortion. Classic+ is the more enhanced version which throws in the guitar’s dry sound on top of the standard Classic saturation effect for more thickness and body. The Modern setting is clean and articulate with no distortion. The vocoder effect will shine through with great clarity when in this setting. Similarly, the Modern+ setting adds the guitar’s original sound to the vocal effect.
- Style Knob: Synth
The four other selectable style options include “Synth1,” “Synth2,” “Synth3,” and “Synth4.” There are a lot of creative options that you can access through the synthesizer section. Synth1 combines slightly out-of-tune synthesized voices to create a chorus effect focused on what is played on the guitar. Synth2 makes use of a square waveform algorithm paired with distortion. For a more low-end chorus effect, use the Synth3 voicing to deliver out-of-pitch notes a few octaves below the original signal. Finally, Synth4 mimics what is being played through the instrument and adds a 5th note above it for vintage synth sounds.
The second knob is all about vocal “Correction.” This means that if you’re having an off day and not singing in pitch, the Talkbox will easily make pitch corrections to your vocals. You can turn the knob fully to the left to turn the correction off or fully to the right for maximum correction. Near the noon position, the pitch correction will feel more organic without any unusual artifacts. However, the effect will intensify as the knob is turned past the 12 o’clock position. At 100%, you can even create Cher-like robotic pitch correction. One thing to note is that the pitch correction will be paused when the Talkbox effects are active.
The very handy “Reverb” control has three sections labeled around its circumference. To the far left is fully off. As the knob is turned up, you’ll dial in the “Rm” or Room reverb. This setting imitates the acoustics of a small closed studio. Next to this is the “Club” setting which is a little more spacious. Finally, the “Hall” setting is the most expansive-sounding reverb effect. When the Reverb is on, it is applied not only to your guitar but to the Talkbox effects as well.
Even if you’re not using the Vocal effects, you can turn the pedal off but leave the soft “Tone” button on. This is because, through this feature, you can activate the reactive equalizer setting. Two EQ modes (Normal and Less Bright) can be toggled by pressing one button and hitting the footswitch. With the Tone button, you can add compression, noise reduction, and a de-essing feature that eliminates annoying sibilant frequencies.
The unit has a quarter-inch jack on either of the side panels, much like a standard guitar pedal. Towards the right is the instrument input, and the left jack connects to a guitar amp. You’ll find the XLR port for your condenser microphone on the top panel. The Talkbox Synth offers 24V of phantom power which is always on but won’t affect your dynamic mics. There’s also an XLR Out port that carries the signal to a PA system. Also present here is the 9V power input and a Micro-B USB port for firmware updates. The on/off button is handy and protects the connected speaker systems from getting damaged when the power supply is plugged in.
This multifunctional unit offers four vocoder presets and as many synth sounds to create all sorts of vocal effects that can be applied practically in different situations. The Correction feature will keep your vocals in tune, and the Tone button opens doors to other features like a noise gate, equalizer, de-esser, and compressor.
If you’re new to Talkbox pedals, using this TC Helicon unit will take some getting used to. Furthermore, the Talkbox Synth depends heavily on microphone sensitivity to deliver optimal results, which is again something you’ll need to dial in just right. Finally, the plastic exterior has a cheap feel and won’t last after a few tours.
2. Rocktron Banshee 2 Amplified Talkbox
The Banshee 2 is a great improvement on the original Banshee unit that had its limitations.
Both versions are similar in the sense that they employ the usage of rubber tubing for TalkBox effects. However, the older version would mute your guitar sound, and all you’d hear would be whatever is being vocalized through the tube. This is where the Banshee 2 outperforms its predecessor.
This Rocktron unit does its job well and doesn’t break the bank. It’s also a great way to sound like renowned guitar players who made the usage of Talkboxes famous in their time, including Richie Sambora, Joe Perry, Peter Frampton, and Joe Walsh.
- Gain, Tone & Output
The Banshee 2 brings back some familiar knobs from the previous version. The “Gain” control adds preamp gain to your audio signal. Turn it clockwise to hear considerable distortion coming through the tube. You can brighten your sound by moving the “Tone” knob clockwise. Rotate it the other way to make your sound more mellow and warm. Finally, the last knob on the interface controls the “Output” of the Talkbox.
- Additional Features: To Amp
This is one feature that the previous version of the Banshee lacked. When the button is in its unpressed state, the guitar is active, so you’ll hear the vocalization effect and the guitar sound through your amp. However, when the “To Amp” button is pressed, the guitar signal is muted, which is how the standard Banshee unit was set up. When the footswitch is pressed to activate the stomp box, only the vocalizations will be heard.
- Additional Features: EFX Loop
Indeed, a very useful feature to have on the Banshee 2 is the addition of an “EFX Loop” button. If you’ve got a guitar signal going through an effects chain, you can choose to have all those effects apply to the vocalization section or have them bypass it and go straight to the guitar amplifier. For instance, when this button isn’t pressed, you can add effects like distortion, chorus, or delay to the TalkBox. However, when the EFX Loop button is pressed, the modulations won’t affect the Talkbox in any way.
Toward the right is a quarter-inch input for connecting a guitar. The pedal also hosts a couple of jacks on the right panel for the effects loop. This way, you can choose to have effects pedals before or after the Talkbox. The left panel has a standard output jack for outputting your guitar signal to an amp. You’ll also find an external speaker output here for linking an additional 8Ω cabinet/speaker to the unit. Lastly, there’s also a 9V input jack for the proprietary power supply that comes with the unit. If you forget to pack it with your gear while gigging, you can always pop in a 9V battery to drive the Banshee 2.
The Banshee 2 uses the traditional rubber tubing design to create vocalized effects that are much more organic and natural sounding. You can use it with an effects loop if you choose to, and the unit also offers the ability to connect an external speaker system to it to route different aspects of your overall sound in various ways.
Measuring 3 inches in height, 8.5 inches in width, and 5 inches in depth, the Banshee 2 isn’t a small pedal by any stretch of the imagination. Also, if you’re not a fan of sticking a rubber tube in your mouth to create vocalizations, maybe something from TC Helicon could be a better alternative. Lastly, some internal components can get damaged if driven too hard.
3. MXR Talk Box M222
Here’s a compact but solidly built Talk Box pedal from MXR that will arouse your curiosity.
The M222 has a straightforward design but conceals some exceptional features inside its metallic exterior. The pedal possesses true bypass, so your sound will not be altered if the unit isn’t active. Furthermore, running a separate rig is unnecessary, as the M222 has an amp and speaker driver inside.
With a power consumption of 1,000 mA, the Talk Box runs on 18V. But not to worry, as the kind and considerate people at MXR have ensured the inclusion of a Dunlop AC adapter that will power the M222 sufficiently. However, as a precaution, don’t use any other power supply with the unit.
- Volume, Tone & Gain
This little pedal is blessed with three different knobs. The “Volume” knob adjusts the level of the talk box effect. Turn this knob clockwise to increase the volume. Next to this is the “Tone” control. You can brighten the tone by turning the knob to the right. When turned anticlockwise, the lower end will be enhanced. Finally, the last knob controls the “Gain.” Turn the knob clockwise to add more saturation to the vocalization effect.
All the connection jacks on this pedal are top-mounted. The first quarter-inch port acts as an instrument input. There’s also an output to connect to an amplifier or speaker system. Sitting between these two jacks is the 18V power input. All the other sides of the Talk Box are plain.
Setting up the MXR Talk Box is a no-brainer. Simply use the included power supply to turn the pedal on. The tubing needs to be connected to the tube hole in the center of the user interface. The other end needs to be aligned with the microphone stand with the help of the clip that comes with the unit.
When performing, the tube must be placed in the middle of your teeth at the back of your mouth. You won’t be making any sound as the connected instrument will contribute towards doing so. The idea is to exaggerate and enunciate the sounds of the vowels A, E, I, O, and U to give your guitar or keyboard sound voice-like characteristics. Once you’ve got the vowel sounds down, you can try working on consonant sounds. You may also try to vary your breath to get better results.
The good thing about this rubber tube-based talk box is that you don’t need a separate PA system or mic to get a sound out of it, as the vocalization effect is loud enough. Furthermore, this MXR pedal is all about simplicity of usage as you only find 3 controls on it which are sufficient to get the most out of this compact unit.
The unit is very practical and adds another dimension to your playing style. However, if you’re more of a guitarist who signs, you would’ve liked to have an effects loop-enabled talk box pedal to apply some of the effects from your pedal collection to your vocals.
4. Boss VO-1 Vocoder
The VO-1 unit is a powerful Vocoder from Boss equipped with exciting features.
As with most Boss pedals, the brand’s innovative approach always captures the curiosity of modern musicians worldwide. Where companies struggle, Boss outshines its competition by smarty packaging multiple features in the simplest layouts.
This Vocoder pedal effortlessly exudes this quality and is engineered to offer multiple modes, each of which can be further adjusted using the controls on board. Furthermore, all this in a powerful metallic housing makes the VO-1 all the more durable, built to last the test of time.
The input panel on the right is where you’ll find the usual guitar/bass input configured on a quarter-inch jack. Next to this is the XLR input to connect a microphone. Once a mic is connected to the pedal, you can refer to the top panel to locate the mic sensitivity switch. The switch should be set at the “Low” setting by default, but if there’s a need to increase the sensitivity, the “High” setting can be used. On the left panel is a standard amplifier output. Below this are the effects “Send” and “Return” jack for placing the VO-1 before or after your effects chain.
- Level/Blend & Tone
The user interface hosts four knobs. Starting from the far left, you’ll notice a multifunctional concentric knob. The outer knob acts as a master volume for all the effects the VO-1 can conjure. The smaller knob on the inside acts as a “Blend” control. You can rotate it to adjust the dry signal and processed sound ratio. If the pedal is part of an effects loop, you can use the blend knob to control how much of the external effects routed to the VO-1 will be heard compared to the wet signal produced by the pedal. Next to this dual-function knob is the “Tone” control which acts as an equalizer and dulls down or brightens your tone.
The “Mode” knob is where all the magic happens. The four different settings on offer here are “Vintage,” “Advanced,” “Talk Box,” and “Choir.” These settings control the functionality of the Vocoder circuit. If you’re looking to implement a unique keyboard style effect on your voice, the Vintage setting is what you want to choose. The Advanced setting has great articulation and sounds much clearer than the Vintage mode. The third setting is about the classic “Talk Box” sound without the rubber hose. Lastly, mic or no mic, the Choir mode observes the signal fed through the input jack and adds depth and space to the overall sound for a surround sound experience.
- Color Knob
The “Color” knob works closely with the VO-1’s modes. For those of you who want to adjust the vocals by making them sound thicker/thinner, simply select the Vintage or Advanced settings and hear the magic happen. Turning the Color knob counterclockwise will create a more masculine effect while turning it the other way will deliver a thinner, more feminine sound. Furthermore, you can select the Talk Box mode and use the Color aspect to control how saturated or distorted the vocalization effect sounds. Lastly, further enhancement of sonic characteristics is possible using the Color knob when the Choir mode is active.
With just a few knobs, you can access four interesting Vocoder modes and different Color variations to change various aspects. The pedal works with several instruments, and the mic sensitivity control will drive your microphone to the best of its abilities. In addition, if you’re tired of too many wires, the VO-1 can also run on a 9V battery.
Usually, Boss pedals do things right, as all the basics are covered well. However, the VO-1 doesn’t have an XLR thru for your mic, so there’s no way to bypass the vocoder effect to use an unprocessed, dry mic. Also, for some frequent Talk Box users, the Blend knob isn’t as profound and emphatic as it needs to be.
5. Zoom V6 Vocal Processor
Contrary to the V3, the V6 is a floor-based effects processor with multiple footswitches and an expression pedal.
The defining characteristic of Zoom pedals and effects units has always been the extreme versatility, a myriad of features, and an unbelievably low price tag. This is why you’ll find many budding vocalists and musicians gravitating toward their products when they’re at the beginning of their musical journey.
Even I started as a guitar player using the Zoom 505II during my garage band phase. The V6 is a much more advanced vocal processor, though, that is full of practical functions and has an interface divided into different sections for easy navigation.
- Voice Section Explained
The most crucial part of the “Voice” section is the selection knob that helps choose the voice type. For many of these types, the rotary knob can set the “Key.” The “Adjust” knob makes further adjustments to the selected voice type.
- Voice Types: Pitch Correction
There are two types of pitch correction methods. Firstly, the correction can be made depending on the set key using the rotary key knob. The other option involves making pitch corrections based on semitones. More enhanced pitch correction creates mechanical artifacts that sound very interesting.
- Talk Box & Vocoder
The vocal processor has a powerful Talk Box effect. Using the manual key selector, you can also throw some pitch correction into the mix. The correction effect works based on the blues scale and adds 3rd and 5th notes to major and natural minor scales, respectively. The unit also features two Vocoder effects. There is a standard “Vocoder” version and a “Bass Vocoder” variation much lower than the regular version. The adjustment knob can adjust the pitch correction amount for both options.
- Voice Types: Octaves
The processor can produce higher as well as lower octaves. The way this works is that the original voice is duplicated and layered as octaves above and below what is being sung. You can also adjust the blend between the original and processed sound to set them at varying levels.
- Voice Types: Child, Deep & Unison
The V6 can change the characteristics of your vocals in many different ways. You can make your vocals more feminine by raising the pitch in the “Child” mode or make it sound much deeper and masculine in the “Deep” setting. In “Unison,” the vocals are doubled and played with a slight shift in the timing and pitch.
- Voice Types: Whistle & Robot
In “Whistle” mode, the melody of whatever you sing will be processed and converted to a whistling sound. You can further adjust the levels or the original vocals and processed whistles through the adjustment knob. The “Robot” sound comes in handy to add more character to your song intros or interludes. The adjustment of the octaves is made easy using the adjustment control.
The “Harmony” section is identical to the Harmony segment found on the V3 unit. First, the song’s pitch is selected using the Key rotary switch. Once that is done, you can choose any of the two available options from “Higher,” “High,” “Fixed,” “Low,” and “Lower.” The fixed mode keeps the pitch focused on the key selected manually. High/Low buttons, when pressed, deliver octaves 3 to 4 degrees above and below the original melody. The Higher/Lower settings take things a step further and create a shift of 5 to 6 degrees. Finally, the “Mix” knob alters the volumes of the dry and wet signals compared to each other.
The effects section is loaded with all the bells and whistles. In the “Delay” mode, you can adjust the delay time, the number of repetitions, and even the mix between the original and delayed signals. There’s also a “Delay + Reverb” option that combines the two effects. Other settings here include an “Echo” effect, a lush-sounding “Chorus” setting, and even three different reverb settings, including “Room,” “Plate,” and “Hall.” Finally, the section also allows the user to dial in decent-sounding “Distortion,” a “Telephone” effect, and a “Beat Box” setting that enhances the beats vocalized by the user.
- Other Controls
On the unit, you’ll also find a master volume controlling all three sections’ levels, a compressor knob that helps smoothen out the sound, and an expression pedal. The treadle is marked “Formant Character” and is used to create variations based on the differences in shapes and sizes of vocal tracts. A “Looper” function on board can be activated using the dedicated footswitch to create loops up to 3:30 minutes long.
- Back Panel
Hidden on the rear panel are an XLR mic input and a Phantom power toggle button that instantly turns on 48V of power. There’s also an expression pedal input here to control different effects. If you’re at a gig and your mobile is running low on power, you can connect it to the USB power to charge it. The same USB port can also update the processor’s firmware. There’s also a section at the rear that includes the 3.5mm headphone jack and volume control. The XLR output lets you send your processed signal to a PA system. The presence of a “Ground” lift button eliminates an unwanted hum. Finally, to the far right are the power switch and the 9V power input. Only use a Zoom AD-16 power supply or 4 AA batteries with the V6 unit.
This particular vocal processor brings forth so many useful options for the modern singer/songwriter that the negligible price you pay to own it is a real headscratcher. Talkbox effects, multiple vocoder variations, octaves, harmonies, tons of voice types, and truckloads of effects make this a unit worth checking out.
Although you get many effects, most have unnatural characteristics, lack depth, and sound inorganic. Perhaps more adjustments would give the user more control over how they can be made to sound. Otherwise, this budget vocal processor does well in other aspects.
6. TC Helicon Voicelive 3 Extreme
This advanced vocal processor from the TC Helicon line features all things good by the brand packed into a single unit.
This flagship device improves on its predecessor and offers four times more memory for functionality and storage. The unit is equally versatile in a recording studio or a live stage. The control layout is simple, and all key features are mapped on single footswitches for easy activation.
This rather large unit measures 3 inches by 13.8 inches by 8.5 inches and has some useful modes, including a harmonizer, talk box, Vocoder, looper, guitar effects, and much more. The Voicelive 3 even lets you record your live performances.
- Layers & Effects
The Voicelive 3 Extreme has three different layers. There’s a vocal layer, a guitar layer, and a backing track or looping layer. You can toggle between the vocal and guitar layers by pressing the footswitch that has mic and guitar icons on it. Long pressing it will activate the looper function. Whichever layer is active, the display’s bottom left corner will show the relevant indication for it. Once a layer is selected, the six effects footswitch become active for that particular layer. The effects include “Delay,” “Reverb,” “uMod,” “Hit,” “Double/Comp,” and “Harmony/Drive.”
- The Display
The large display screen on the user interface makes navigation through the multiple functions easy. When the home button is pressed, this screen displays the preset name, number, and six effects patches corresponding to the effects footswitches. Under the display is a strip of mix knobs. Whenever these knobs are rotated, a digital representation of the knob is shown on the display to indicate which parameter it changes and the value by which it is adjusted.
- Genre & Setup
The great thing about this vocal processor is that it has many presets you can apply at any time. Pressing the “Genre” button displays the presets on the screen. For instance, you can choose genres like rock or country and use the control knob on the right of the screen to cycle through the available presets pertaining to the set genre. Next is the “Setup” button that gives you access to all the system settings, including Input, Output, Midi, Tone, Guitar, and more. When the Setup button is long pressed, it takes you to the gain setting mode for the connected guitar and microphone.
- Vocal, Guitar & Loop Buttons
The “Vocal” button is there to let the user make adjustments to the current vocal preset. Various adjustable parameters like delay, reverb, harmony, and levels. The vocal effects on offer include pitch correction, choir, stutter, Vocoder, adaptive tone, and more. Next to this is the “Guitar” button. Once this button is pressed, the user can change the current guitar preset. The Voicelive 3 Extreme has many built-in guitar effects, so you won’t need to carry your effects pedals separately to your live gig. The “Looper” button has a small red LED next to it, which indicates when a loop is active. Pressing the button gives access to the loop settings.
The rear panel has a combo jack that takes signals from a line instrument or an XLR microphone. Next is a quarter-inch guitar “Thru” jack that lets your guitar’s dry signal pass through to an amplifier unaffected. There’s a 3.5mm jack for connecting an audio device. The input section also includes XLR “In” and “Thru” ports for monitor connectivity. Furthermore, the unit also has Midi In and Out ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and separate footswitch and expression pedal inputs. You can also connect the unit to a computer to update the firmware or to record directly from it.
TC Helicon has put all its most sought-after features in one unit called the Voicelive 3 Extreme. The processor offers multiple layers to dial in vocal and guitar effects. The looper on board helps create detailed backing tracks, allowing the user to store complete songs to perform live on stage.
Using the Voicelive 3 Extreme isn’t the simplest experience. You’ll have to spend time on the different layers to understand how the menus are set. In addition, the guitar effects aren’t the best. You may be able to get by when jamming at home, but you’ll still want to hold on to the pedal board you’ve carefully put together.
7. Electro-Harmonix Voice Box
It’s fascinating how this boxy but compact and affordable unit offers so much.
The intuitive circuitry inside the pedal’s metallic exterior delivers many harmony variations and octave modes. Furthermore, the intelligent knobs on the interface will adjust automatically to allow relevant changes to the selected mode.
Perfectly designed for the musician who sings, the Voice Box offers all the necessary inputs and outputs without adding too much clutter to the side and back panels. Furthermore, you’ll find plenty of settings to get your microphone working optimally.
The pedal has a 9V power input and can be powered easily with the proprietary power supply that comes with the unit. On the left panel is where you find all the inputs. Firstly, the Voice Box has an XLR input for your microphone. Next to this is a toggle switch that activates the Phantom power to driver condenser microphones. There’s also a quarter-inch instrument input here for your guitar. On the opposite panel is an XLR out that carries the process voice signal to a PA system. There’s also a corresponding quarter-inch output that sends the signal from your instrument to an amplifier.
- Blend & Reverb
The “Blend” control sets the proportion of the wet and dry mix relative to each other. You can reduce the unprocessed signal to hear more processed sound and vice versa. The “Reverb” section has two knobs which are great as each of these knobs works independently. The “Dry” knob sets the Reverb of the original sound, and the “Harmony” knob controls the Reverb of the processed sound.
- Gender Bender & Voice Mix
The “Gender Bender,” as the name suggests, can deliver the sonic characteristics of male and female voices depending on where it is set. As you turn the knob to the right, the pitch is altered, and the voice starts to sound more masculine. Moving the Gender Bender knob in the other direction will cause more feminine characteristics to appear.
- The Modes: Harmonies & Octaves
The only white knob on the vocal pedal helps cycle through the 9 available modes. Whenever a mode is selected, the available knobs will adjust automatically to change various aspects of it. The “Low Harmony” mode places harmonies consisting of thirds and fifth notes below the original melody. Similarly, the “High Harmony” setting will add the same two notes above the original melody. A third mode puts both the “Low + High” settings together. Three more “Multi Harmony” settings add varying degrees of harmonies to the unprocessed melody. The “Octave” mode adds octaves above and below the vocalist’s voice.
- The Modes: Vocoder & Unison + Whistle
The “Vocoder” feature takes what you play on the connected instrument and adds modulations and effects to your vocals as you sing. The Voice Mix knob brightens the modulation’s tone in this mode. You can also add formant changes to the sound through the Gender Bender knob. The “Unison + Whistle” mode merges two effects into one. The Unison creates a duplicated voice from the original melody based on a shift in the vocal formant but without pitch shifting. The Whistle aspect of the mode considers the original vocal signal changing it into a whistle tone that is two octaves higher.
- Presets, Mic Gain & Footswitches
The Voice Box allows you to save a preset for each of the 9 modes you have at your disposal. That way, you can easily recall the last settings used when a certain mode was active. If you’re not satisfied with the sensitivity of your microphone, the Voice Box has you covered. Simply locate the “Mic Gain” switch and set it to “Lo” or “Hi,” depending on the requirement. In addition, the pedal has a dual footswitch design where the left switch bypasses the effects so that all you hear are the dry vocals through the microphone, and the right footswitch helps access the saved presets.
Good things come in small packages; as in the Voice Box, you get formant adjustments, gender-based controls, separate reverb settings for your wet and dry sound, and 9 modes that offer harmony variations, octaves, a vocoder, and more. In addition, the pedal is indeed quite affordable.
The Voice Box tends to get noisy, so have a noise gate on your pedal board to combat this issue. There are many unnecessary harmony variations from which only a few may be useful. Furthermore, the reverb controls add too much reverb, which is hard to cut back on even when both knobs are fully turned down.
8. Zoom V3 Vocal Processor
This can be the ultimate vocal processor for singers worldwide because of all it can do.
The Zoom V3 Vocal Processor isn’t a “Pedal” per se, as you’re not going to be stomping on it to change the truckloads of effects it conceals inside its sleek presence. Instead, the unit clamps onto your mic stand and stays within reach for changing vocal effects with your hands on the fly.
The V3 unit is incredibly affordable, and its user interface has many dedicated one-touch buttons, ensuring the user is well-equipped to handle any situation on a live stage or studio setting. As discussed below, Zoom has also added every possible I/O option on the rear panel.
The interface is largely taken up by the soft buttons that control various effects the V3 can deliver. Each button illuminates when pressed to indicate activation. Pressing the “Effects Off” button can instantly turn off the effects. An “Effects Adjust” knob at the base of the unit controls various aspects depending on the chosen effect.
- Harmony Section
On this Zoom unit, you’ll find a very detailed harmony section. Pressing the “Harmony” button on the button cluster brings the “Key” rotary switch and a horizontal strip of buttons at the top of the interface into play. The rotary switch allows the user to select the key of the song. Secondly, you can press any two of the available five harmony buttons to set the pitch of the harmony. The options here include “Lower,” “Low,” “Fixed,” “High,” and “Higher.” The Lower and Higher buttons reduce or increase the pitch by 5 or 6 degrees. The Low and Highs settings work similarly, but the increase/decrease here is worth 3 to 4 degrees. When the Fixed button is pressed, the V3 will stick to the note set by the Key knob to create harmonies.
- Talk Box & Vocoder
You’ll also find dedicated buttons for the “Talk Box” and “Vocoder” features. When the Talk Box is selected, the user can add pitch correction according to the manually selected key. The pitch correction is designed to follow the blues scan. It adds a 5th note to the minor scales and a 3rd to the major scales. The Vocoder setting adds a synthesizer effect to the vocals. This mode is also dependent on where the key rotary switch is set. With the Effects Adjustment knob, you can make changes to the octaves and pitch of the Vocoder.
- Octave, Unison & Whistle
The second row of effects includes the “Octave,” “Unison,” and “Whistle” settings. The Octave effect adds an octave above or below the original vocals. The Effects Adjust knob can be used to set the mix between the dry and processed sound. As the name suggests, the Unison setting duplicates the original vocals with a slight change in the timing and pitch. The user can make adjustments to the level using the Effects Adjustment knob. The third button adds a Whistle effect to your vocals regardless of what is being sung. The Effects Adjustor sets the mix between the original and whistle sounds.
- Distortion, Telephone & Beat Box
The next three effects include “Distortion,” “Telephone,” and “Beat Box.” Using the Effects Adjustor, you can set the amount of saturation when using the Distortion effect. The Telephone setting adds a retro sound to the vocals. In this case, the frequency band can be altered as needed. If you’re a beatboxing pro, you can emphasize your vocalized beats using the extra impact the Beat Box mode adds. The intensity can be set according to the requirement.
- Deep, Robot & Child
There are three further options to add effects to the vocals. The “Deep” effects button enhances the low-end frequencies making your voice sound much deeper. As a result, your voice’s overall character and pitch significantly change. Select the “Robot” effect to achieve a robotic voice. The pitch can be altered through the Effects Adjustment knob. As the name suggests, the “Child” setting makes your voice high-pitched, adding childlike characteristics that can be further modified according to the situation.
- Pitch Correction: Key, Chromatic
If you don’t have any effect activated and simply need to add pitch correction, you get two effects buttons to achieve this. When the pitch correction is set to “Key,” you can use the Key rotary switch to select the reference key for correction. Here the correction is done based on steps. When “Chromatic” pitch correction is active, the correction can be made based on semitones. Setting the intensity of the pitch correction is a breeze through the Effects Adjustor.
- Chorus & Formant Character
You can also easily apply a rich, lush-sounding “Chorus” to your vocals. The intensity can be set by rotating the Effects Adjustor. Finally, you can play around with the “Formant Character” effect, which changes your voice’s characteristics according to variations in the shapes and sizes of vocal tracts. There’s no change in the pitch of the vocals when this effect is active.
- Comp, Delay & Reverb
The Zoom V3 also possesses a separate section for effects like Compression, Delay, and Reverb. Each of these effects is configured on a knob. Moving each knob clockwise increases the effect. Conversely, rotating the knob the other way decreases the effect. From compact to spacious sounding reverbs, the sky is the limit thanks to the easy-to-use effects section the V3 boasts.
- Back Panel: Mic Section
The back panel is loaded with input/output options. On the far left is the XLR input for condenser microphones. The V3 comes loaded with 48V of phantom power that can be activated by pressing the “Phantom” switch. There’s also a mic volume control here to set the input level of the mic to avoid clipping.
- Back Panel: Other Connections
Stereo outputs configured on quarter-inch jacks send signals to a PA system, recorder, or mixer. The V3 also has a very useful aux input for connecting a mobile device and a “Phone” to plug in your headphones. You’ll find a separate volume control for your headphones here as well. Connecting a footswitch through the “Control In” jack helps turn effects on and off with your foot. You can also connect an expression pedal here to control various aspects of the active effects.
- Back Panel: Power Section
Finally, the last section on the rear panel has the power switch to turn the unit on or off and a power input for the power supply. You’ll need a Zoom AD-16 power supply with the Zoom V3. However, you can always power the pedal using four double A batteries if you don’t have one.
This wonderful all-in-one Zoom unit will fulfill all the requirements of the modern vocalist. Packed with a harmonizer, a talk box effect, and a vocoder, you can have a lot of fun with the V3. With more than 16 effects on board and ample adjustment controls to manipulate every aspect, the price you pay is astonishingly low.
If you’re a vocalist who isn’t too fussy about having a million vocal effects at your disposal, perhaps something more modest from the Tc Helicon may do the job for you. Also, including effects like Reverb, Delay, and Compression is great, but perhaps each could have more controls for in-depth adjustments.
9. Boss VE-500 Vocal Performer
Compared to the Boss VO-1, the VE-500 is a much more comprehensive vocal processing unit.
Some of the highlighted features of this processor include a Vocoder, a harmonizer, pitch correction features, four separate effects units, and more. Measuring just 2.5 inches by 6.75 inches by 5.43 inches, the VE-500 takes much less space on your board than the other processors discussed today.
The Boss VE-500 can be a useful companion on live stages as you can use multiple effects simultaneously and arrange them in any order you prefer to enrich your performance. The layout is user-friendly and facilitates quick but effective changes on the fly.
The “Vocoder” section on the VE-500 has a nice level of simplicity. You can set the instrument as the reference point on the first page. You can also adjust the level here and select the type of Talk Box effect you wish to use. The Talk Box mode generally has a quick attack and delay, is very articulate, and easily cuts through the mix. The Vintage Vocoder is a lot smoother and works well with chord play. There’s also a Standard mode that’s very sensitive, has good sustain, and has greater clarity. You also get other fun parameters in the Vocoder section, including waveform adjustment, detune effect, octaves, formant changes, and distortion.
- Rear Panel
Starting from the back, the unit features an instrument section with a quarter-inch guitar input and a “Thru” jack to connect to an effects unit or an amplifier. There’s an XLR input for condenser mics. Through the display menu, there’s an option to activate the Phantom power if needed. Next, you’ll find a pair of stereo XLR outputs to connect to a mixer. There’s also a ground lift button to remove unwanted noise. There’s also a Midi In port and a micro-USB jack for connecting a computer. The “CTL/EXP” input lets you connect an external footswitch or expression pedal to the unit to manipulate different effects. Finally, there’s a power input for the included 9V power supply.
- Display & Parameter Knobs
The processor keeps things simple with its uncluttered and easy-to-navigate user interface. A small but useful screen displays the selected patch’s name and number along with the implemented effects. Toward the right are three large parameter adjustment knobs corresponding to the digital knobs on the display.
Navigation is made simple through a strip of buttons. You can tune the selected effects on/off or edit them using one of the buttons. You can also access the main menu and sub-menus using the “Menu” button and “Key” and “Enter” buttons to jump to different pages.
Finally, the process has 3 footswitches that control various functions. The first two footswitches help in cycling through and selecting patches. When operating in manual mode, the same two switches can apply “FX1” and “FX2” effects. The switch on the far right turns on the harmony function. You can pair it with the middle footswitch to bypass effects or activate the tuner by long-pressing both switches.
The Vocoder menu is very detailed and gives the user access to many different variations of vocal effects, all with unique sonic characteristics. The harmony section also works well and provides many layering options to the vocalist. In addition, the looper feature is great as it’s an exceptional tool to aid you in songwriting.
The folks at Boss have packed this processor with many features, but they’ve missed a few basic functions. The pedal lacks a noise gate, so you’ll need a Boss NR-2 to handle unwanted sounds. Also, the pitch correction sometimes doesn’t function properly if, for instance, the drums bleed through.
Growing up listening to Bon Jovi, Joe Walsh, Pink Floyd, and the like, it was always fascinating to see some of these musical geniuses use Talkboxes in their hit songs. I’m sure your curiosity about such vocal effects has brought you to this post today.
The 9 vocal pedals and processors we’ve discussed today are all unique in their own way. The MXR M222 and the Banshee 2 from Rocktron offer classic vocalized sounds using the classic rubber hose. The TC-Helicon Talkbox Synth keeps things compact yet offers pitch correction and sever classic and synth sounds. The Boss VO-1 falls under the same category and gives the user multiple vocal effects to take advantage of.
The Electro-Harmonix Voice Box is a slightly chunkier dual footswitch unit that delivers 9 modes of vocal magic employing harmonies, octaves, unison mode, whistle mode, and a vocoder to boot. A slightly more expensive unit, the Boss VE-500 delivers good value for money due to its multi-functional nature.
Entering the realms of detailed vocal processing, both vocal units from ZOOM offer endless possibilities. The V3 is a more hands-on device that attaches itself to your mic stand, while the flagship V6 is a foot-controlled floor unit. Finally, the TC Helicon Voicelive 3 Extreme has a slightly complex interface, but once you get familiar with it, it’s well-equipped to rock your world.
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Sultan Zafar is a guitar player from Islamabad, Pakistan. He has been playing music with various mainstream musicians for over 20 years. He is a song writer and music producer. These days he spends his time exploring different music genres and collaborating with fellow musicians on various projects. Read more..