Hands-On Review:DigiTech Vocal 300 Vocal Processor and Control X Foot Controller.
by Dominic Hilton
Guitarists and bassists have trusted DigiTech’s range of tough, tone-packed effects units for years. For that matter, the Utah company has also manufactured products for singers, though these processors were always of the desktop and rack variety. But with its new Vocal 300 processor, the first floor processor designed specifically for stage vocalists, DigiTech is now able to accommodate singers as completely as it has guitarists and bassists.
The Vocal 300 features a full-metal chassis with a rocker switch and an ergonomic control layout, all finished in an eye-catching metallic purple. In addition to the rocker pedal, the Vocal 300’s controls consist of three footswitches for up/down scrolling and bypassing effects, and five rotary controls for adjusting various parameters. In performance mode these rotaries control low, mid and high EQs, master volume and input gain; in edit mode, the first four of these controls can be used to tweak the 300’s effects parameters. These comprise 40 factory presets that are duplicated in 40 user-defined patches with editable parameters. The parameters are displayed in columns arranged in a reference matrix above the relevant controls, with LEDs that indicate which effects are active or selected for editing. You can enter Edit mode by pressing a Select button; once a patch has been adjusted, it can be saved in the 300’s memory by tapping the Save button. A large illuminated LED display keeps track of all these patches and parameters by indicating patch and parameter names alongside a patch number or value, depending on which mode it’s being used in. This system is fast and user-friendly, even when you’re making on-the-fly adjustments.
Of course, a processor is only as good as its effects, and the Vocal 300’s stockpile of 24-bit effects with a 44.1 kHz sampling rate delivers simply excellent tones. The effects signal path begins with an adjustable compressor and a selection of mic preamp/vocal characteristics, which provide the foundation for a patch. These characteristics—12 in all—include a workhorse tube preamp model, modern distortion tones and a variety of weirder voices such as “Monster,” “Robot” and “Alien.” The chain continues with the previously discussed EQ, an effective noise gate and a block of modulation effects containing 12 popular effects such as flanger, chorus, phaser, tremolo, doubler, detuner and DigiTech’s Whammy. Some spatial effects—including a choice of digital, analog and ping-pong delays, as well as eight types of reverbs with various lengths—complete the package.
Designed to function in between a microphone and a mixer, the Vocal 300 has balanced XLR in/out connections, a quarter-inch input for line-level devices, a quarter-inch output for a stereo feed, a headphone jack for monitoring/practice and a mini-jack CD input for high-tech karaoke. When properly connected to a P.A., the Vocal 300 delivers some amazing sounds. The more discreet settings gave warmth, weight and depth to a performance, while some of the stronger patches added texture and outright insanity to the mix. The Vocal 300 also offers plenty of serious effects that will give your performance an edge, including powerful feedback-free distortions. You’ll find that being able to control your vocals with your own feet is a novel and liberating experience, especially when you’re using the expression pedal to adjust effect mix, volume, reverb or, more bizarrely, Whammy-style pitch shifting.
Along with the Vocal 300, DigiTech is now offering another new foot-controlled product: the Control X, a foot controller designed to increase the flexibility of the company’s GeNetX Genesis 3 desktop guitar processor. The Control X product is not a MIDI controller but rather a superaccessory for the Genesis 3; by using the supplied 25-foot five-pin DIN cable, the Control X takes command of, and power from, the Genesis 3. Similar in proportions to the GNX2 floor unit, this rugged metal controller features eight footswitches with two up/down bank switches, three switches for patch selection and three switches for toggling effects and amp channels. It also features numerical display with tuner function LEDs, and an expression pedal for changing selected parameters and engaging wah via the V-Switch feature. Strictly intended for Genesis 3 owners, the Control X allows the benefits of real-time control and hands-free switching for hampered home-recordists or players wishing to take their processors onstage.
The Bottom Line
The Vocal 300 is a revolutionary and affordable product for vocalists who want to be more creative with their live sound. Its tough construction, fresh sounds and friendly editing should all earn it a place by the mic stand. Genesis 3 owners, meanwhile, will enjoy the Control X, which can bring their favorite studio tones into the spotlight.