Using the TC-Helicon VoiceTone Harmony-M Midi Harmonizer

(posted 10/19/2013) - Like a lot of amateur musicians I have longed for a good real-time harmony composer to go along with my arrangements (guitar and keyboard). I've been looking at the current crop of $500+ voice effects boxes, which also include 3 to 8 harmonized voices intelligently generated based on the analog multi-timbral instrument signal and/or midi-control information passed into the box along with the singer's voice signal.

TC-Helicon has been in the forefront of voice effects and live harmonizers for a number of years now. When I saw their $300 Harmony-M floor pedal on sale (with power brick) for $150 I pulled the trigger. It is a great intelligent equalizer / harmonizer / room effects box for Midi-Instruments + singer's voice (meaning keyboard players).

The thing that really makes it special is that when you put it in 'Manual' mode it creates harmonies which precisely follow up to 4 polyphonic key presses on your keyboard. Plus, if you use the 'sustain' pedal on your keyboard you can 'lock' a harmony while you riff before the next passage. The voices in 'manual' mode follow the keynote register you are playing so you can go from bass to treble with no artificial split points.

In the presets mode you get an 'A' and 'B' button for each preset; with 1 - 5 independent pairs of presets that you can select with a foot-button. You can configure each of the two harmony voices independently for octave above or below, 3rd above or below, 4th below, or 5th above - but the beauty of this intelligent harmonizer is that it pays attention to the chord structure and your voice as it selects the harmony voice frequency at any given moment. The result is nice variation as you sing and chord - pretty much indistinguishable from a good backup singer. An extra benefit is that if your voice is just a tad flat/sharp relative to the midi note pattern, the harmonizer does real-time pitch correction. If you get too far off key it will quaver noticeably (warbling harmonies are a sign you need to sing more on-key).

This unit includes a very good anti-feedback, equalization / compressor circuit that noticeably cleans up the voice signal so that it stands out (reduces muddy voice syndrome). Other features include voice doubling button, stereo outs (wet and dry mixed), Phantom voltage for condensor mics and easy controls for FX level, Mic Level, and Harmony Level. There is a separate stomp button to toggle harmony off/on on the fly. By the way the stomp buttons are solid and work silently.

In short, this is the best $150 bucks I've spent for an effect pedal in quite a while. Now I'm looking at buying a Shure WH30 XLR Headset condensor mike to use instead of my boomed Shure SM57. Santa ...... can you hear me?

Here's a link to the TC-Helicon website if you'd like to get more info on this and other harmonizers they sell.