Hands-On Review:Professional-studio quality for home-studio bucks

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By Hugh Johnson


TC Helicon VoiceWorks and QuintetWith the VoiceWorks and Quintet Vocal Processors, TC Helicon has made amazingly advanced vocal processing available to the average vocalist or home-studio ace. A wealth of presets for harmonies, pitch correction, and TC's peerless effects let you scroll through no-brainer interfaces to dial in killer vocal tones every time.


Best of both worlds
When IVL Technologies-world leader in pitch shifting and voice processing-joined forces with effects king TC Electronic, the result was nothing less than magical. TC Helicon's engineers make the human voice a musical tool as powerful and flexible as the most complex synth yet more personal and intimate than any other instrument.


Now the VoiceWorks and its scrappy little brother, the Quintet, put all that genius to work for musicians like you and me who aren't rolling in dough but want to produce serious recordings and crowd-pleasing live performances. The vocal harmony algorithms in both of these units are the most usable, rich, and convincing I've encountered. And TC's efforts to make their astoundingly clean and vibrant effects available for approachable prices has resulted in effects signal quality you couldn't have touched for anywhere near this price just a couple of years ago.


VoiceWorks-the whole enchilada
The VoiceWorks won my heart in about ten minutes. It required zero setup to get into the presets; all I had to do was plug everything in and start turning the jog wheel. With a 100 rewritable combinations of effects and/or five-part harmonies (including my natural voice with or without pitch correction and lead-voice thickening), based on scales, chords, or simple shift, I was lost in possibilities. It was an unbelievable rush to have four slave singers at my beck and call.


There are dedicated function buttons for each backup singer, harmony, thicken, effects, and pitch correct. Once I discovered that you just double click on the function button to get right into an intuitive menu of control parameters, I was suddenly in total command. The three-part thickening effects really blew me away. It was distinctly my voice but instantly it sounded much fuller and rounder, even through a middle-of-the-road mic. And I loved the HarmonyHold function that lets you freeze the harmony voices after the lead voice goes silent or changes pitch.


The VoiceWorks' most useful feature for serious performers is the song mode that lets you save up to 50 song chord sequences with 30 user presets per song and lets you click through the chords with an optional foot switch. It also sports selectable equal-tempered and just tuning for harmonies, subtle and smart scale-based pitch correction, fully adjustable gender and voicing on each of the harmony voices, a high-quality mic preamp with 48V phantom power, EQ, compressor/gate, reverb/tap-tempo delay, and MIDI control over all parameters. The only drawback was that it was so much fun to mess around with I had a hard time getting down to real work.


Quintet-packs a punch for poquito pesos
TC Helicon really showed their smarts while stuffing the key strengths of the VoiceWorks in a tight package for under half a G. It features the same vocal algorithm with four harmony voices, a mic preamp, reverb, pitch and gender shifting, voice doubling, independent control of all voice levels, complete MIDI control, and 50 rewritable presets. The sound quality is just as good as the VoiceWorks, so you trade lead voice pitch correction, comp and EQ, delay, and some control parameters for a significant chunk of change. For the cash-strapped, it's definitely the way to go.