Best Vocal Effects Processors – Buyer’s Guide and Reviews

Vocalists are what most people notice first in a band. However, unlike guitarists and bassists who use their own amps and pedals to ensure they sound their best, vocalists often carry nothing more than their voice.

There’s another downside as well: when you’re a singer, you often put yourself at the mercy of sound engineers’ hands! Inevitably, this can lead to frustration as you gig from venue to venue. Sometimes, you sound great, but at other times there might be a lack of reverb, the presence of feedback or an absence of stage volume.

Vocal effects

Luckily, vocalists can now get their hands on vocal effects processors which allow on stage control over reverb, echo effects and even pitch correction. Here we will take a look at what Vocal Effects Processors are, why you might want one, and which features you should look out for.

At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best Vocal Effects Processors To Get Your Hands On

PREVIEW PRODUCT FEATURES

TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2 Vocal Effects Processor -INCLUDES- Blucoil Power Supply Slim AC/DC Adapter 9V DC 670mA with US Plug AND Blucoil Audio 20’ Balanced XLR Cable

TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2
  • Compact
  • Easy to use
  • Good value
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dbx 286s Microphone Preamp & Channel Strip Processor

DBX 286s Microphone Preamp Processor
  • Removes unwanted noise
  • Studio and stage use
  • Control EQ, gain and sibilance,
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Tascam TA1VP Rackmount Vocal Producer Processor With Antares Autotune

Tascam TA1VP Vocal Producer Processor With Antares Autotune
  • Controllable using a footswitch
  • Features autotune and a doubling effect
  • EQ controls
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Roland Tabletop Synthesizer (VT-3)

Roland AIRA Series VT-3 Voice Transformer
  • Tons of effects
  • Doubles as an audio interface
  • Voice sounds like a synth, a bass or even a robot!
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TC Electronic Singles VoiceTone E1 Vocal Effects Processor

TC Electronic Singles VoiceTone E1
  • Super simple
  • No compression, gate or EQ here – just delay
  • Looks like a guitar pedal
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Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.

In this article we’re going to deep dive into vocal effects processors and help you navigate the choppy waters that is choosing which one to buy. First we’ll look at what they do, and which features you’ll want to look out for. Then we’ll look at a few products that fit the bill. Sound good? Cool, let’s get to it.

What Is a Vocal Effects Processor?

A vocal effects processor is a device which provides a quick and easy way of applying processing and effects to your voice. They often come as foot pedals – which are great for on stage – or as dedicated rack mount units. The latter are especially suited to the studio.

They can contain everything from essential reverb, to pitch correction to electronic vocal effects to loopers. They also often contain EQ controls, which gives you a reassuring amount of control over your sound.

As all of these features are combined into one device, they’re excellent for vocalists who experiment with their sound and/or like to use an array of effects in their performances.

What Do They Do?

Whether you require a vocal effects processor for on the stage or in the studio, the result will be the same: a better sounding voice. Many of these processors have multiple effects, the most common of which are:

  • Reverberation
  • Pitch Correction
  • EQ Controllability
  • Harmonising

Reverberation

Reverb is a biggy. 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, who – as we established earlier – is unlikely to know your preferences or requirements.

Vocal Effects Processors invariably contain this feature, so you can make your words ring out consistently each time you sing. Delay, doubling and vocoder are just some of the other effects you can find in vocal effects processors. If you’re an electronic or psychedelic singer, these can be an important part of your sound.

Pitch Correction

This one can rub a few people up the wrong way. But, isn’t it cheating?

Well, as it’s not a sport, you can’t really ‘cheat’ in a musical performance. However, I can understand the unease it can make some people feel. Not quite hitting the right notes can also make people feel uneasy, though, and if there’s any risk of that then this could be just what you need.

EQ Controllability

Some people sing high, some people sing low. Often, at gigs, there’s a whole bunch of different people singing.

Do you think that the sound engineer puts that much thought into the EQ for every individual vocal? Sadly, they often don’t. This can mean that your voice sounds 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.

Harmonising

A lot of vocal effects 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 harmonised vocal line at the switch of a button can remove all of the pressure. Solo performances can also be massively enhanced by harmonising effects, to bring out choruses or just to make the act more interesting.

While dedicated vocal harmonizer pedals are available, having a harmonizer function as part of a vocal effects processor is handy too.

Which Artists Use Vocal Effects Processors?

In recorded music, pretty much all artists use vocal effects processors. Some uses are more noticeable than others, like the heavily effected vocal in Cher’s ‘Believe’.

Usually, though, the vocal processing you hear is more subtle. You’d struggle to find a piece of recorded music that didn’t use at least reverb and EQ on the vocals.

Buyers Guide: Vocal Effects Processors

Now we’ll look at what you need to consider when you’re going to buy one of these units.

What Types Of Vocal Effects Processors Are There?

Vocal effects processors come in three main formats: pedals, mountable or tabletop.

Pedals

Pedals are the most handy 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.

Mountable

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

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.

What To Look For When Buying Vocal Effects Processors

There are a few to be sure of before you commit to buying a processor.

These devices are designed as multi-effects units, so you’d expect reverb, delay and harmoniser effects, as well as pitch correctors, in a vocal processor. 

In addition look out for a noise gate function. They can stop any unwanted sounds coming through your mic and give your voice next-level clarity.

Many processors support multiple instruments which can also be really handy. An added bonus here is that the pedals often pick up on what key the instrument is being played in, and either pitch correct or harmonise your vocal accordingly.

Finally, these units often include loopers. Not a bad toy to play around with.

Things Most Vocal Effects Processors Can Do Without

Talking of toys, the silly voice effects included in many processors also give off that vibe. They’re fun, they’re funny, but they’re not very functional. It’s very rare that anyone makes any legitimate use of them.

So, now you know what you’re looking for, and what you’re not looking for, how do you actually start using these things?

How Do You Use A Vocal Effects Processor?

Setting It Up

The pedal-type processors go by your feet on stage, and can usually be plugged in where you’d have guitar pedals plugged in.

Your mic can go into it and the output can lead to the PA system or mixing desk. From then, the pedal should be ready to go. The devices that you clip onto mic stands are largely the same, and the tabletop devices are also similar. Those that you find in a recording studio may be connected to more processors and maybe noise gates, before they reach a mixing desk.

Any Other Specific Gear You Need

You’ll need XLR leads to plug your mics into the pedals and possible XLR-jack leads when you’re dealing with your outputs, depending on what you’re plugging into.

It would be worth getting a couple of XLR to XLR and a couple of XLR to Jack leads, so that you’re prepared for different kinds of equipment.

If you’re using it to record in a studio, you may also require a pop shield. Although processors can give your voice instant studio quality, they can’t do much about sibilance.

So, now you know what you’re doing, it’s time to find the exact model that suits you!

Here are our top picks of the best ones you can buy.

The Best Vocal Effects Processors – Mini Reviews

Best Vocal Effects Processors

TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2

TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2 Vocal Effects Processor -INCLUDES- Blucoil Power Supply Slim AC/DC Adapter 9V DC 670mA with US Plug AND Blucoil Audio 20’ Balanced XLR Cable

The Mic Mechanic is a versatile little stomp box with an amazing amount of features. There are reverbs, delays, autotune options and you can also apply compression, a noise gate and EQ settings.

It’s really effective and easy to use, and you can have it right there by your feet while you’re on stage!

Pros:
– 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

Cons:
– Some users may prefer something that gives them control over the EQ and/or reverb tail length
– The simplicity of the model may prove to be limiting for some people
– There are no doubling or harmonising options here

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DBX 286s Microphone Preamp Processor

dbx 286s Microphone Preamp & Channel Strip Processor

The DBX 286s is a handy pre-amp which is perfect for the musician who wants something to cancel out unwanted sounds such as sibilance or background noise.

It is equally at home on stage or in the studio, and just as effective in either environment. That said, it doesn’t include effects per se, so if you want reverb or delay, you’ll need to add those separately.

Pros:
– You can control EQ, gain and sibilance, and remove unwanted sounds using the gate
– Excellent value for money
– Suitable for studio and stage use

Cons:
– No power switch
– There aren’t any effects like reverb or delay
– Once it’s set up on stage, it will be less easy to adjust than a pedal would

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Tascam TA1VP Vocal Producer Processor With Antares Autotune

Tascam TA1VP Rackmount Vocal Producer Processor With Antares Autotune

The Tascam is similar to the DBX in both appearance and features.

It’s great in the studio as well as on stage, and features a gate, compressor, EQ and a de-esser. This one has the added benefit of being controllable using a footswitch, and it also has a built in doubling effect.

Pros:
– Features autotune, a doubling effect, a gate, compressor, de-esser and EQ controls
– Can be switched on and off using a footswitch
– Suitable for studio and stage use

Cons:
– The autotune settings aren’t practical to adjust on stage
– There aren’t any effects like reverb or delay
– Once it’s set up on stage, it will be less easy to adjust than a pedal would

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Roland AIRA Series VT-3 Voice Transformer

Roland Tabletop Synthesizer (VT-3)

The Roland AIRA is a brilliant piece of kit for the vocalist looking for effects options. There are reverb, autotune and harmonising options, and you can make your voice sound like a synth, a bass or even a robot. It can also be used as an audio interface, so is great for home recording projects.

There aren’t functions like gates, compressors or de-essers here, so if you require those then you’ll have to combine this with another processor.

Pros:
– Includes reverb, autotune, synth and bass effects and special vocal effects including harmonising
– Portable and easy to use
– Can also be used as an audio interface

Cons:
– Doesn’t include features like compression, a noise gate or a de-esser
– The autotune doesn’t seem to like out-of-tune voices, which is quite limiting
– There’s no option to control this with a pedal or footswitch

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TC Electronic Singles VoiceTone E1

TC Electronic Singles VoiceTone E1 Vocal Effects Processor

TC Electronic are offering these cool, compact little pedals at the moment which work like guitar pedals in that they have just one function.

The one we’ve chosen here is the E1 – the Echo pedal – but there also exists the R1, H1, X1 and D1. These little models are easy to use, offer excellent quality and can be controlled with the tap of a foot. Perfect for the singer who loves guitar pedals and the options they provide.

Pros:
– Portable, easy to use and can be switched on with the tap of a foot
– The echo possibilities are endless (endless, endless, endless…)
– Great if you know exactly what you want, and that’s delay!

Cons:
– Limited to one kind of effect, but there are other pedals by TC Helicon in the same style which offer different effects
– There is no compression, gate or EQ here
– Its simplicity won’t suit everybody

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And The Winner Is…

As we said earlier, the processor that’s right for you will largely depend on what you want to use if for.

However, there is one that ticks all the boxes! The TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2 Vocal Effects Processor has the benefits of reverb, delay and autotune, as well as a compressor, noise gate and EQ. Whilst it’s less controllable than some of the others, it’s also the easiest to control as you can do so using your foot on stage.

If you’re looking for something which is more suitable for the studio, the DBX 286s Microphone Preamp Processor or the Tascam TA1VP Vocal Producer Processor With Antares Autotune might be more appropriate for your needs.

The TC Electronic Singles VoiceTone E1 Vocal Effects Processor is extremely simple but perfect for the person who knows exactly what they want, and it’s also available with different effects including reverb and harmoniser.

If you’re looking for something which doubles up as an audio interface, and offers cool robot voice effects, the Roland AIRA Series VT-3 Voice Transformer is the one for you.

Whichever one you go for, we hope that it will help you to achieve the sound you want and deserve!  🙂

Roz is a music teacher and our go-to person for anything music theory! When she’s not teaching or writing for Zing, Roz writes and plays in alternative/ psyche /art rock band The Roz Bruce Infusion.

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