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By Jon Chappell
Senior Editor, Harmony Central
TC-Helicon continues its innovative releases in vocal-processing technology. In addition to the flagship VoiceLive 2 and the stand-mounted VoiceLive Touch is the Create XT—a pedal that shares many of the best processing features that graced those high-end units into a compact format that fits neatly under foot. The Create XT is not meant to replace the larger units because it doesn't harmonize, but for serving up quality vocals with professional polish and a producer-like sheen, the TC Helicon Create XT vocal effect pedal is perfect for gigs, rehearsals, and creative explorations into vocal processing.
The Create XT has a tool for honing and sharpening just about every aspect of your vocal presentation, so you can deliver a clean, clear sound and an optimized signal. First up is the Tone function, which is a realtime "corrector" comprised of TC's Adaptive Shape EQ (which makes adjustments according to your particular vocal qualities), compression, and de-essing. Then comes the effects block—four discrete sections of effects that include the ever-popular auto-tune, a megaphone/telephone effect, chorus and flanging, delay, and reverb. Added to this are two unique programming features called Style and Tweak, which offer even more variety to the setups included in the Effects blocks.
The Create XT holds 100 Presets at a time, accessible as 10 banks with 10 Styles each. A Preset stores a Style, effects block status, and any edited Tweak settings that modify them. Each Preset can be assigned two versions, an A and B form, which can be toggled back and forth using the left footswitch. Examples might include a dry, intimate quality for the verse, and a reverb-drenched, long-delay setting for the chorus or bridge. The A/B approach is perfect for having a more dramatic version of a sound. The unit is also operable in "stompbox mode" (a guitarist's term meaning the performer can toggle individual effects on and off within a Preset) or Bank mode (where the footswitch steps through the 10 banks numerically).
Physically, the Create XT's size is within range of your average stompbox, with a wide but compact front panel that allows you to see all the knobs, buttons, footswitches, status lights, and labels clearly. Four rotary knobs handle the continuous control functions of Input (level), Mix (effect + dry), Style (10 genres, + effects), and Tweak (assignable parameters within a Style). A bank of on/off pushbuttons, borrowed from the VoiceLive 2, allow you to toggle FX, μMod (micromod—chorus and flanging, from subtle to outrageous), Delay, Reverb, and Tweak—a multifunction variable, depending on the context.
It comes as no surprise when dealing with a piece of TC-Helicon gear; the I/O is robust and professional, capable of both mono and stereo operation. There is a pair of stereo XLR outputs, an XLR input, and a 1/4" pedal input jack, which can accept the optional Switch 3 pedal (for more hands-off control in selecting and toggling effects blocks). Completing the back-panel connections are a power supply jack and a USB port. Connecting a USB cable from the unit to your computer allows you to use VoiceSupport—a software application that performs a variety of functions, including managing firmware updates, downloading presets, and communicating with other Create XT owners online. The housing is made of metal (not plastic), is satisfyingly heavy-duty, and will withstand plenty of stage use and the rigors of the road.
The Create XT is quite versatile. First, the clever footswitching scheme ensures that you can get to any sound quickly, either by accessing banks in Preset Select mode, or using A/B mode, where the footswitches change between different Preset states within a Preset. I stayed in A/B almost exclusively, because I found I could tap the Preset button easily with my toes, leaving the quick changes between states to the more-easily stomp-able footswitch. The Presets themselves are excellent, and the best starting place to create your own sounds. After having too much fun with HardTune (Create XT's particularly well-implemented version of auto-tune), I spent most of my time using the Showcase, Delay, Pop/R&B, and Oldies Styles. And while I've never quite known how to devise more experimental effects using flanger and other truly electronic sounds tailored for vocals, the Create XT's Presets serve as great teachers. There are some crazy—but really useful, and vocally optimized choices—stuff in the Rock/Metal and Electronic categories.
The Styles offer a quick and easy way to serve up distinct vocal sounds in the same way a guitarists would vary the pickups, pedal settings, and EQ for each song. When you're within range of a desired setup with a Style, you invoke Tweak to fine-tune any of the parameters. This makes the Create XT a great pedal to use on the fly, where your ability to make subtle adjustments while in the moment is an important advantage. For example, when I dialed up a rockabilly sound in the Oldies category, the slapback was initially too intense. But the Tweak button simultaneously dialed back both the delay time and the feedback level. In about one-eighth of a turn, voila! It still had a slappy Elvis thing going, but the lyrics were now a bit more intelligible. I encountered case after case of this intelligent parameter-mapping throughout the Styles, just in the Tweak function.
With the Create XT, vocalists can enjoy a compact multi-effects processor on their vocals. You don't have to get weird and wacky to appreciate the power of the Create XT, either. It works just as well as a gentle way to tune up to your voice. And its compact size and speed of operation means it's well-suited for vocalists who aren't comfortable with a conspicuously gigantic floor rig under their feet. For singing guitarists, it's great too, as it's just one more average-sized stompbox on the pedalboard. The Create XT offers you a way to apply a produced and polished sound to your vocal signal that can be dialed in quickly and easily. If you're a vocalist who would like to present a finished product to the board—rather than relying on the soundperson—the Create XT is the pedal for you.
Treat your vocal signal to some professional polish and that producer-like sheen with the portable and user-friendly Create XT from TC-Helicon. Order today from Musician's Friend and get our 45-Day Total Satisfaction and Lowest Price Guarantees.