DigiTech Vocalist Live 2

DigiTech Vocalist Live 2 is a vocal harmonizer that analyzes guitar chords for key and scale.
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Web Clips: hear an audio clip that demonstrates how Vocalist Live 2 can harmonize with your voice by analyzing your guitar chords

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The DigiTech Vocalist Live 2 analyzes your guitar notes and chords to generate as many as two vocal harmonies for your lead vocal.

DigiTech Vocalist Live 2 ($349) brings a new twist to vocal harmonizing: you don't have to set the scale and key manually. Instead, it tracks guitar chords and uses that information to generate as many as two vocal harmonies. Built-in compression, reverb, and an EQ-and-filtering effect called Enhance round out the unit's bag of tricks.

The Vocalist Live 2 is aimed squarely at the performing singer-guitarist. The back of the unit houses a 48V phantom-powered XLR mic input and alternative ¼-inch line input along with an input-level trim knob. A ¼-inch Guitar In jack connects your guitar for analysis, and a Guitar Thru jack relays the signal to an amplifier or P.A. The device offers stereo balanced or unbalanced ¼-inch line outputs and an XLR Mono Out. The guitar signal is present only at the Guitar Thru jack. You also have buttons for ground lift and phantom power.

Step on It

The guitar input has an input impedance of 3 M. Because some passive acoustic-guitar pickups require 5 M or greater, you may need a preamp. When I plugged my 12-string acoustic equipped with a passive undersaddle transducer pickup directly into the Vocalist Live 2, I couldn't get a strong-enough signal for the harmonies to track my chords accurately.

LEDs on the top of the unit indicate guitar signal, vocal signal, and phantom power. The guitar and vocal signal LEDs change from green to amber to red to indicate when a signal is present, is approaching clipping, and is clipped. The tuner display panel is located directly under the indicator LEDs. Four knobs adjust the amount of the three effects (compressor, reverb, and Enhance) as well as the Harmony Mix level. Twelve buttons, arranged in three rows under the knobs, select effect and harmony setups. Each button has an LED to indicate if it has been selected.

Two built-in footswitches toggle the effects, tuner, and harmony functions. A quick tap on the left footswitch toggles all active effects. (You can't toggle individual effects from the footswitch; you use the buttons for that.) Holding the left footswitch activates the guitar tuner. The right footswitch enables and disables both vocal harmony voices. As with the effects, you use the buttons to toggle individual harmony voices.

IQ Test

The Vocalist Live 2 uses a patent-pending technology called musIQ developed by 3dB Research Ltd. to analyze guitar notes and chords for key and scale. It then generates vocal harmonies to complement the lead vocal. You can use alternate guitar tunings as long as the tuning system is 12-tone equal temperament pitched at A 440 Hz. The tracking source need not be a guitar. I tried my Mono Evolver Keyboard and my Yamaha bass, and in each case, the device created accurate harmonies.

The unit generates one or two vocal harmony parts. The first harmony is a third higher, a third lower, or unison. The second is a fifth higher, a fifth lower, or unison. When Unison is selected for both, the harmonies are slightly detuned to create a very thick vocal background.

Living in Harmony

Thanks to its uncluttered control panel with no menus to dig through, the Vocalist Live 2 is very simple to operate. I found the tuner accurate and easy to read. Ground lift and phantom power worked as advertised.

Most important, the sound quality is good. The effects are all usable, though none are exceptional sounding. The unit tracks quickly and accurately, thickening vocals and sounding reasonably like harmonizing singers (see Web Clip 1). I did find that on high notes, the harmonies sounded a bit chipmunklike.

I would have liked guitar input and output level controls as well as additional footswitches to toggle individual effects and harmonies. Nevertheless, with its intelligent layout and the accuracy of musIQ chord analysis, the Vocalist Live 2 is a no-brainer to operate. Its sound quality and features make it a compelling option for singer-guitarists looking to beef up their vocal performance.

Value (1 through 5): 4

Web Clips: hear an audio clip that demonstrates how Vocalist Live 2 can harmonize with your voice by analyzing your guitar chords