The right accompanist singers can be difficult to locate. Also, getting a bunch of singers on stage with you might not fit your act! However, along with rhythm and melody, musicians often hear harmonies in their heads. Singers, do you daydream about how good it would sound if only someone sang that fifth that you can hear so vividly in your imagination when you perform?
Maybe you’re an electro-performer, and you crave low pitched or robotic voices in your performances, which come from your mouth instead of samples.
Well, thanks to modern technology, you can recreate these sounds, without having to rehearse with other people!
At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 8 Best Vocal Harmonizer Pedals On The Market
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Buyer's Tips: What to look for when choosing a vocal harmonizer pedal
- First thing you’ll want to make sure is that your vocal harmonizer pedal actually focuses on harmonizing! This might sound stupidly obvious, but getting a vocal processor with a harmonizing feature (rather than it being the main function) can end up being unable to fulfill the role you need it to play. What you’re listening for is a natural tone in every layer.
- Since you’re likely looking to get a chorus effect, it’s worth looking into how effective your harmonizer is at ‘gender-shifting’ your vocals. This is when the extra vocal layer created by the harmonizer is able to sound like a female or male singer is accompanying the original voice.
- Tied in with this is the ability to pitch shift your voice. Going too far with this can make you sound like a crappy Darth Vader clone, but done right it can really kick some more extra range to your singing abilities.
- Finally, have a look at how easy it is to program. Will it take the key from a guitar being played? Does it have easy to use presets? If it’s not going to be a joy to use, find one that is!
8 Best Vocal Harmonizer Pedals
1. TC-Helicon Harmony Singer (Budget Choice)
One of the easiest to use and most versatile of the list, the TC-Helicon is a very good starting point if you’ve never used a harmonizer before.
When used sparingly, it can come across as really realistic, so it’s perfect for the singer who just wants to sound like they’re singing with another, in the odd chorus here and there.
One *key* feature is that, if you plug it in after the guitar, it picks up on the key from the guitar and ensures that the harmonies it creates fit in with it. Neat, eh?
- Very intuitive interface makes using it without instructions very simple.
- Harmony layers can be adjusted to control exactly how they accompany your vocals.
- Three reverb settings and additional tone adjustment can help you to nail exactly the right power you want the vocals to have, whether it’s filling a hall or a cozy club.
- Can add a ‘robotic’ sound that shatters the illusion of having back-up singers by making it obviously digital, but this can be mitigated by choosing the right settings for your organic vocals.
- Not cheap, but if you view it as an investment then you might not be as concerned with this factor.
- Will struggle to keep up with ‘interesting’ chords, so you might have to take a hard look at the guitar chords used in any original songs if you plan on relying on this harmonizer for your performances.
2. Digitech VLFX
A little more complex than a harmonizer stompbox, this one has a few extra features to play with so you can really start to play with the vocals in your live performances.
The harmonizer feature uses the highly advanced musIQ, which allows for superior pitch detection. There’s also a pitch shifter, a delay effect and a reverb option!
As well as these features, the pedal features a looper, and a guitar tuner. What more could you ask for?
- It has a huge range of different effects besides harmony and reverb, which makes it a good option for experimenting.
- Has a 70-second looper for adding backing vocals when you’ve only got one singer.
- Loaded with presets for instant use.
- Not great for the budget conscious.
- Although it’s not the most complex piece of gear you’ll buy in your music career, the manual is frustratingly opaque for non techies or for those just beginning their journey.
- Multiple buttons spaced closely together makes it easy to accidentally press the wrong one with your foot.
3. TC Helicon VoiceTone Harmony-G XT
A vocal processor that’s got an emphasis on getting harmony done properly thanks to TC Helicon putting in the technological know-how. It’s a little more sophisticated than the Harmony Singer, but that doesn’t mean one is inherently better than the other.
There are inputs for both guitar and vocals, and this clever box ensures that the vocal harmonies it creates fit well with the chords you play on the guitar.
There are also a variety of effects including echo and reverb, so you really can have fun multiplying your voice in a style of your choice!
- Takes input from both the vocals and the guitar chords to generate a strong harmony.
- Allows selection of up to 2 harmony layers.
- Has a bunch of presets (that need a little tweaking to get away from the gimmicky effect) that can add flair to your performance.
- In crowded venues with no room to keep the audience, amps and other noisy things at a distance from the mic, the VoiceTone will start to apply some very weird sounding distortions as all of the input is mixed in with your singing, and not in a good ‘experimental’ way either.
- Really complex chords will throw this thing off, meaning it might not be the best vocal harmonizer pedal for you if you prefer to play jazz.
- For the same price as the Digitech, it lacks a lot of the extra features.
4. Boss VE-2 (Editor's Choice)
For a singer looking to improve on natural talent, this is a great little kit. If you’re looking to recreate the sound of multiple singers, or give your tone a different ‘feel’ or even just to give it some extra depth through a little reverb, this is a superb choice. On the other hand, if you like playing with effects and want to push past what a natural voice sounds like, this isn’t the way to go.
Like some of the other pedals, this Boss box has a key-keeping function, so you can sing with the confidence that it will harmonise in tune (as long as your guitar is in tune!).
It’s easy to use and not too wild.
- One of the most natural sounding harmony voices on a pedal.
- Easily adjustable reverb and delay with simple knobs for dialing to the perfect point.
- Keeps harmony without needing to constantly play a chord, as it ‘remembers’ the last chord used.
- More expensive harmonizers have a lot of extra capability, which limits the use of a Boss VE-2 to those who are really just starting out and want the best of a limited budget. Having said that, it is great for the price!
- It’s easy to overshoot with the reverb setting, as the range is much higher than the size of the knob would suggest. You’ll have to be careful when using it to make small adjustments or make sure you’ve already set it up properly in advance
- Not ideal for use with keyboards, although if you’re only wanting something that can work alongside a guitar this won’t be a problem.
5. TC Helicon VoiceLive 3
A high end harmonizer built for professional usage, this is going to be out of reach for hobbyist musicians. If you aren’t already playing music for a living, you’ll probably want to wait until that point before considering this one.
It’s impressive amount of features mean you’ll need to spend some time with the manual before you can get what you want from this pedal, but boy will it be worth it!
- Multi-track looping.
- 11 vocal effects and has the ability to add effects to a guitar too, making it a good multi effects pedal.
- Dedicated outputs for vocal and guitar tracks, letting you separate what happens to each channel, and even enabling a whole band’s worth of music in a track to be created by one musician in a live setting.
- You’ll need to be serious before getting this, as it’s nowhere near as cheap as the basic models.
- Can suffer from feedback issues, so you’ll need to take the time setting up and testing in venues to smooth these out. Unfortunately, they’re not always the easiest thing to fix and require multiple solutions.
- Because it’s so sophisticated and can handle so much, you’ll need to take the time to properly learn how to use it. If you lack proper understanding of the nuances, you won’t be able to get the best out of it.
6. Roland AIRA Series VT-3 Voice Transformer
The Roland AIRA VT-3 is great for those who are after weird and wonderful sounds.
It can easily make your voice sound alien-like or robotic, but it might not be the pedal to go for for those looking for a more subtle harmony.
You can turn your voice into a synth or a bass easily, too, which is fun as well as liberating for the person who has sounds in their head but isn’t an instrumentalist.
Definitely one for the more ‘out there’ musician.
- Easy to use live
- Great for electronic musicians who want Robot voices, synth sounds and anything out-of-this-world
- You can save your 3 favourite settings for instant recall
- Wet and dry signals get mixed, so your original voice will always be there as well as the affected voice
- Can make sound quality muddy, so it’s not ideal for use when recording
- The ‘Lead’ and ‘Bass’ controls don’t seem to make much difference however you alter them, which can prove to be misleading and disappointing
7. Boss VE-8 Acoustic Singer
This pedal is perfect for the singer who wants ultimate control over their vocal, as well as the option to add harmonising voices.
There are lots of presets to choose from - all the way from double track vocals to robotic or radio voices, and this pedal also benefits from an enhance effect which improves the clarity of your voice.
Once again, there is the function to harmonise along with the key of your guitar, or you can set the pedal to a specific key.
There’s also a looper function on this one!
- Multi-track looping
- Includes a pitch corrector for a worry-free live performance
- Dedicated outputs for vocal and guitar tracks, letting you separate what happens to each channel, and even enabling a whole band’s worth of music in a track to be created by one musician in a live setting
- It’s not as simple to use as some of the other pedals, so it may take a bit of time to get the hang of using it
- There’s no option to delete the last loop, so if one loop doesn’t go to plan, you have to start over
- To stop the looper, you have to double tap, which can take some getting used to!
8. EarthQuaker Devices Pitch Bay Polyphonic Harmonizer and Distortion Generator Effects Pedal
As it’s advertised as appropriate for “anything you can plug in,” it’s hard to say who this pedal was designed for: guitarists, keyboardists, singers… However, if we had to guess, we’d say guitarists. Largely due to the stomp-box style appearance!
That said, you can really have a blast through this pedal if you’re a vocalist. Sure, it’s nowhere near as hi-tech as some of the other ones, but if you are looking for a small, simple, pedal-board friendly harmoniser, look no further!
- Designed to suit a multitude of instruments
- Easy to use and to make adjustments
- Capable of some really unique, original sounds
- The retro look and sounds of this pedal might not be to everyone’s taste
- May be better suited to instruments like guitar and keyboard than vocals
- There aren’t presets: you have to control the sounds yourself!
For its exceedingly natural tone, the Boss VE-2 takes the cake. It’s one of the easiest to use in the market, and does exactly what you want it to be able to. It does lack some of the crazier effects of other pedals, but if that’s what you’re looking for then perhaps the Digitech or the Roland models will suit your needs better.
As we’ve seen, the Digitech VLFX, The Boss VE-8 and the TC Helicon Voicelive 3 all have a looping function. If you think you might require this, then the choice has to be between those three. You’ll only kick yourself afterwards if you end up buying two separate pedals which could have been combined into one!