Test Drive: VoicePro Processor from TC-Helicon

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VoicePro front

by Steve Cunningham

TC-Helicon has become synonymous with vocal harmonizing and voice processing. Their VoicePrism and VoicePrism Plus products have set a standard for harmonizing and voice modeling processors. TC have just begun shipping their flagship processor, the VoicePro, and I’m fortunate to get my hands on one for this month’s review. This is a deep product, but most of its magic is located near the top levels, so that’s where we’ll concentrate.

Think of the VoicePro as a rackmount studio processor that specializes in the human voice, because that’s precisely what it is. It combines TC-Helicon’s unique Character mode, which lets you manipulate the human voice with a high degree of precision, with a four-voice harmonizer plus the customary dynamics, EQ, delay effects and reverbs. All these effects are easily controlled using the front panel’s color LCD screen, along with its dedicated function buttons and soft knobs. No function on the VoicePro is more than two key-presses away, and most can be reached with one.

INSTALLATION AND CONNECTION

The rear panel of the VoicePro is deceptive in its simplicity. On the left are a pair of balanced XLR inputs and another pair of like outputs, and behind these are 24-bit converters that work at sample rates from 44.1 to 96 kHz (the VoicePro’s internal processing is always at 24 bits). On the right you’ll find a DB-25 connector that sends out eight channels of AES-EBU digital audio, and TC-Helicon thoughtfully includes a breakout loom for use with the DB-25. Sweet.

Next to this is a BNC wordclock input for synchronization, and below are two Ethernet network ports and two MIDI ports. The former are quite interesting... the VoicePro comes configured as a network device, complete with its own IP address, for performing software updates.

Shortly after I received the VoicePro, an email from TC-Helicon included its first software update which I successfully applied over my network. With the VoicePro connected to the switch in my studio, I unzipped the attached file on my laptop and ran the update .exe program, which found the VoicePro and loaded it up with the latest in software goodness, all in about three minutes. The MIDI ports let you control parameters from external MIDI control surfaces, and the forthcoming PC and Mac editors for the VoicePro will access the unit via MIDI. There’s also an RS-232 port on the rear, but for now it’s just eye-candy.

The gunmetal blue front panel is where the action is, and as mentioned it’s where you’ll get access to the parameter controls. The seventeen dedicated buttons are organized and located by function — the SYSTEM buttons, including the important HOME button, are to the left of the color LCD display, while the EFFECTS buttons run down the right side of the display. On the far left are the OUTPUT and PRESET buttons, including the convenient BROWSER button, and below these are the four-way navigation buttons and the continuous SELECT/SCROLL knob.

You’ll find these important as you cruise through the presets and tweak ‘em, and the best way to check out the presets is via the BROWSER rather than stepping through presets serially. In the center are buttons for TIME, PITCH, and CHARACTER, and below these are four soft knobs for editing parameter values.

There’s no headphone jack on the VoicePro, which makes sense as it’s an effects box, so you’ll want to connect it as an insert or aux effect on your mixer or audio interface. In my case I ran a pair of analog line outputs from the RME Fireface 800 to the VoicePro’s inputs, connected the VoicePro’s outputs to two of the Fireface’s analog line inputs, and then configured the Fireface software to see those ins and outs as a stereo aux send and aux return. With that done, pressing the UTILITY button on the VoicePro brings up the I/O tab, where you can see its meters and set its default input and output levels and format. This is the only place to adjust the VoicePro’s input to avoid clipping, so be sure you check it out.

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