Auto tune pedals are used to enhance the pitch accuracy of your vocals, giving your live performances a polished studio sound.
When it comes to singing, even the best singers have off days. You may have a cold, you may be super-tired, other times you may just have a really tough song to tackle and there are just a few notes you aren’t quite hitting, even after warming up.
In these cases, you could really do with a helping hand. Just a little nudge into the correct pitch. Fear no more, auto tune pedals are here to the rescue!
At a Glance – Our Choice Of The Best Auto Tune Pedals On The Market
- TC Helicon VoiceLive Play
- Boss VE-500 Vocal Performer
- TC Helicon VoiceTone Single C1
- TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2
- Boss VE-20
- Tascam TA1VP
- Roland VT-4 Vocal Transformer
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices, and customer reviews on Amazon.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:
Table of Contents
- What is a Vocal Auto Tune Pedal?
- Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
- Product Round-up & Reviews – Best Vocal Auto Tune Pedals
What is a Vocal Auto Tune Pedal?
So what is an auto tune pedal? You’re probably more familiar with the idea of pitch correction – well, auto tune is the same thing: it’s a vocal effect used to enhance the pitch accuracy of your vocal take. They won’t make you sing better (learning how to sing correctly is a lifelong pursuit), they will make you sound better.
While this is process is typically done ‘in-studio’ by a studio engineer, when you’re gigging you don’t have the same luxury, making your vocals sound less than ideal. Here’s where these pedals come into action: they make your live performance sound as good as in the studio.
They often come as foot pedals to be used on stage – or as dedicated rack mount units. The latter is especially suited for a static studio set up.
Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
Auto tune/vocal effects processors come in three main formats: pedals, mountable or tabletop.
Pedals are the handiest for on-stage use. Simply plug them in between your mic and the PA system and there you have it: control at your feet. You can use them subtly as you sing, and if you’re a guitarist then it will be expected that you’ll be stamping on things. They are also often easy to use, and some of them even contain loopers.
Singers who don’t play guitar might prefer mountable processors. These can be mounted onto your mic stand and operated with your fingers. Like the pedals, they are often easy to use and you simply plug it in between your mic and the PA.
Tabletop vocal effects processors are more suited to electronic performers who have decks or similar in front of them. These devices can be added to the table where the mixers are, and can be controlled easily by hand. Any of these three kinds of processors can be used in the studio, though it is usually a device that’s controlled by hand and can be fitted into a rack that is chosen for recording.
While there are standalone auto tune pedals, some of the products listed in this article are ‘all-in-one’ vocal processors with multiple effects.
Reverb adds depth to any instrument, especially voice, as it’s very rare that a singer will record their vocals without reverb, and it’s equally rare to perform on stage without any. Normally, this is controlled by the sound engineer in a studio set up.
Delay, doubling and vocoder effects are also common, which are useful if you’re an electronic or psychedelic singer.
EQ is another feature to look out for. Often your voice will sound a bit muffled if there is too much low end, or a bit tinny if there’s too much high. Having your own EQ device can really make a difference when it comes to ensuring that your voice sounds like your voice.
A lot of vocal processors also include a harmonizer function. If you’re in a band with people who are a bit unsure about singing, the ability to add a harmonized line at the switch of a button can remove all of the pressure. Solo performances can also be massively enhanced by harmonizing effects, to bring out choruses or just to make the act more interesting. While dedicated harmonizer pedals are available, having a harmonizer function as part of an effects pedal is handy too.
Product Round-up & Reviews – Best Vocal Auto Tune Pedals
TC Helicon VoiceLive Play
The VoiceLive Play, brought to you by the venerable guys at TC Helicon, is a brilliantly versatile autotune pedal that has an array of settings to help you improve on your performance.
Singers can really go to town on practicing, with a ‘Vocal Cancel’ feature that allows you to plug an MP3 player via an aux into the unit. You can easily lower the vocals on the track so that your own voice becomes more prominent. What a fantastic way to practice!
Some autotune pedals can feel a little intrusive, but not this one. In fact, two internal microphones can listen to surrounding instruments through small gaps in the casing. These mics listen for the key of the song, and follow the chord progression to ensure accurate and in-key harmonies.
An LED light signals the mic output level, so you’ll easily be able to track your performance live.
With over 200 presets ready to use, players can decide on whether to experiment with the pre-installed sounds, or use them to record their own. After all, there really isn’t anything wrong with a little outside inspiration.
- A robust unit that looks at home on stage
- One of the more versatile pedals on the market
- The ‘Hit’ button is superb for boosting those all-important choruses
- Easy to program and use on stage
- Plenty of processing power
- Some users may see the MP3 functionality as ‘karaoke’
- The looping capabilities may not suit more experienced players
- While many will love the simplicity of this pedal, others may fear it holds them back
Boss VE-500 Vocal Performer
If versatility is top of your list of priorities, then you should give some serious consideration to the Boss VE-500.
It doubles up as a vocal and guitar processor, but doesn’t compromise in quality on either one bit.
With 99 presets waiting for you after set up, there is a sound for pretty much every user. On the off chance that you don’t find the sound that you are looking for, you can easily edit your own using the effects library and parameters. That’s what makes the VE-500 a thing of beauty, it really is for everyone, no matter their experience as a performer.
Released in late 2008, please don’t be fooled into thinking that this newcomer to the market lacks in user experience. Boss have built this unit with the latest technology and state-of-the-art software. What it lacks in age, it more than makes up for in quality.
Not many processors feature reverb, delay, EQ, looper, pitch correction, vocal harmony, compressor and filtering capabilities. Yep, you guessed it, the VE-500 does. The best part? There has been no compromise in quality across any of the above functionalities.
This sturdy unit contains more traditional effects such as chorus, tremolo and flanger, while also offering more extreme options such as distortion, slicer, radio voice and more.
It’s little, but the sound on offer is anything but. The metal finish offers peace of mind to users, the VE-500 isn’t afraid of the more rock ‘n’ roll gigs.
- One of the more versatile autotune processors on the market
- Designed and built by Boss, the build quality is unquestionable
- Contains pitch correction, EQ, delay, harmony, compressions, reverb and more
- Pitch correction can range from minor tweaks to a complete change in sound
- The menu face is a little small, making it difficult for those with lesser vision to see the settings
- The many options on offer can be a little overbearing for inexperienced performers
TC Helicon VoiceTone Single C1
Does a vocal processor that allows you to move around the stage while you sing immediately grab your attention? Then the VoiceTone C1 from the guys at TC Helicon may have the perfect unit for you.
Built with an ability to integrate MP-75 or MP-76 mics, you can move away from your pedalboard while performing. For many, that is a real positive, and we tend to agree.
Another selling point of the VoiceTone C1 is its ease of use. The more experienced performer may want to explore its capabilities, of which it has many. However, if you’re wanting to simply plug in and play, then you can do exactly that – not many pedals can claim to be that simple to set up.
We adore the aesthetics on offer. The black background with sharp blue design makes for a brilliant futuristic feel, and the sound that it provides compliments such a look.
It is as sturdy as you could possibly hope for, with an overall metal casing and rubber base meaning that it won’t break nor slide during your gig or on the road.
Lastly, the price is quite incredible. We’d expect to pay an awful lot more than what TC Helicon are charging for such a brilliant unit. Still, who are we to complain. We’ll take this for what it is – a bargain.
- Plug in and go simple set up
- One of the more affordable units of its quality
- Versatile in sound created and usability on stage
- Built to last, meaning it won’t need replacing for a long period of time
- Just three knobs on the front may be quite limiting for some performers
TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2
The Mic Mechanic is a versatile vocal processor with an amazing amount of features. As well as the auto tune functionality, you get reverb and delay settings, as well as compression, EQ and even a noise gate.
It’s perfect for singer-songwriters who play guitar, as it looks and functions as a stompbox. This pedal gently nudges any flat or sharp notes to their nearest chromatic pitch, so it will suit the singer who wants to keep it as natural as possible.
It won’t suit the electro artists who want to Robotify themselves, but there are some cool delay and reverb settings here to further enhance your vocal.
- Compact, easy to use, and can be controlled with your foot
- Offers studio-level reverb and delay
- Includes a pitch corrector, and ‘adaptive tone’ for a quick fix of compression, EQ and a noise gate
- Affordable and easy to use live
- Some singers may prefer a pedal that offers controllability of EQ or reverb tail length
- The simplicity of the model may prove to be limiting for some people
- There are no doubling or harmonizing options here
The Boss VE-20 will fix your pitch in a way that’s either subtle or in-your-face, depending on your requirements. It’s easy to use and control and, like the Mic Mechanic, you switch it on with a stamp. As well as pitch-correction, this pedal has the ability to create harmonies, add reverb and even loop. It’s a great toy for the creative singer.
- Fixes the pitch in real-time and can sound natural or artificial, according to your preferences/style
- Includes a looper, harmoniser and lots of other cool effects to get creative with
- Durable, and pretty easy to get to grips with
- There’s no guitar input, so you can’t do that cool harmonise-to-the-chords thing
- Not as easy to use as some other devices
- May not always tune to your desired note – the scales you can set it to are limited
This advanced and professional product is for the singer who isn’t tech-shy, and wants top results. It’s great in the studio as well as on stage and features a gate, compressor, EQ and a de-esser, and it also has a built-in doubling effect. It also has a microphone modeling function that simulates a variety of high-quality microphones, and there are also MIDI options. This model is for the singer who is also tech-mad, and keen to get the best possible results.
- Features auto tune, a doubling effect, a gate, compressor, de-esser, and EQ controls
- Auto tune can sound natural or artificial, depending on your preferences
- Scales can be customized to fit your song’s requirements
- Suitable for studio and stage use
- Not as easy to use on stage as a foot pedal – the auto tune settings aren’t practical to adjust on stage
- There are no reverb or delay effects included
- It’s time-consuming to set up and to alter the key you’re singing in
Roland VT-4 Vocal Transformer
The Roland AIRA is perfect for electronic musicians who want heavily processed vocals. There are reverb, auto tune, vocoder and harmonizing options, and you can make your voice sound like a synth, bass or the classic robot voice feature. It can also be used as an audio interface, so is great for home recording projects.
All of the sounds you exhibit through this little box are of exceptional quality, this is a truly professional piece of kit. If you’re looking for a more natural ‘fix’, this won’t be right for you, but electro-musicians…go wild!
There aren’t functions like gates or compressors here, so if you require those then you’ll have to combine this with another processor.
- Achieves a retro pop/electro ‘auto tune’ sound easily with its presets; includes reverb, auto tune, synth, and bass effects and special vocal effects including harmonizing
- Affordable, portable and easy to use live
- Can also be used as an audio interface
- This is more suited to electro style performers, and wouldn’t suit the singer who just wanted a subtle correction in pitch here and there
- The auto tune and vocoder effects work only if an in-tune instrument is going through the system alongside the vocals
- It may not be that simple to use for those who are new to voice transforming technology
- Doesn’t include features like compression, a noise gate or a de-esser, and there is no option to control this with a pedal or footswitch