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Live Sound Distorted Vocals Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 23rd February 2006
Talking Live Sound Distorted Vocals

Alright, this one is truly stumping me. I had a great idea but in a real club environment it will prove to be a nightmare. So, here's what I'm looking at:

Mic = Beta87C (requires phantom power)
Vocal Processor (this needs to be on 100% of the show)
Vocal distortion effect (like The Killers gramaphone effect) - enabled only a small percentage of the time and needs to be able to be controlled via a footswitch at the front of the stage where the singer is standing

Now the band doesn't have a full time sound engineer on tour with them so the singer needs to have everything pretty much self-contained when he shows up for the gig. Basically being able to tell the sound guy, "here's where you plug in for the mic".

How on earth do you have this sort of setup without spending thousands of dollars? They've got the mic and they've got the vocal processor. They still need some sort of distortion box (or rack unit or whatever) to make the gramaphone effect happen, as well as the footswitch to bypass/enable it at the right portions of the show.

If possible they do not want to carry a green bullet and another amp with them.
Old 23rd February 2006
anyone? I know some of you out there must have dealt with this issue before.
Old 23rd February 2006
Gear Nut
Rmorph's Avatar


Something similar to what you describe:

I have a RAT pedal coming out of a TC Helicon Voicelive, as a secondary FX channel something like this:

Mic (KMS105) ---> Voicelive line out---> RAT ---> Mixer.

The RAT is true Bypass so you can't go wrong with it. I use just a little touch of distortion to give a bit of crunch, and roll off the volume to meet the bypassed signal. The rat filter control can shape a lot of high end hiss out of the picture, and is really well suited to this application I find.. I've even run this setup on a few tracks in studio, running the distortion to a second track, and rolling it off to add thickness to the main vocal. Excellent way to fatten up a skinny vocal, and Crunchy!

I think so long as your vocalist finds something that has
1. True Bypass
2. Sensible volume control
This is pretty easy to do. My guess is any similar distortion pedal will do this job, but RATs go for about 50 bucks on eBAY :-)

The voicelive kicks ass, but I was a bit surprised it didnt have a few more FX built in (Distortion, chorus etc). Fantastic verb tho.
Hope it helps,

Old 23rd February 2006
Lives for gear
andychamp's Avatar
Anybody correct me if I'm wrong on this one.

I think you should take your topic to on usenet.

The setup you describe and the fact that the band won't be taking their own soundguy along tells me you can expect some major monitoring/feedback issues.

The people on aapls will gladly help you find a solution.
Old 23rd February 2006
Lives for gear
JDN's Avatar

your biggest problem will be the distortion, It's nearly impossible to get good vocal distortion live without having major feedback problems. Your best chance is gating input and output and only hearing it in front of house, not monitors, but I'm assuming your all in 1 rack gear will be herd in the monitors and front of house.
Old 23rd February 2006
Rmorph, your suggestion is darn near identical to what I suggested except for the fact that I said to get a Boss DS-1 instead of the RAT. The problem seems to be the massive feedback, plus they have no pre right now (the mic would've had to go to the processor then to the pedal and then to the mic-pre).

I did take the suggestion and post this on this morning

Any other suggestions or ideas are more than welcome.
Old 23rd February 2006
Don't use "distortion". Try extreme high and low pass flitering.
Old 23rd February 2006
Lives for gear
max cooper's Avatar

or try sending the vocals to a small guitar amp
Old 23rd February 2006
Lives for gear
krs's Avatar

Originally Posted by max cooper
or try sending the vocals to a small guitar amp
...with a ripped speaker cone.
Old 23rd February 2006
Thanks all. Great suggestions. I ended up talking to the sound guy who did The Pixies and Tears for Fears and was told that an outboard mic-pre (like the Toft channel) to the vocal processor to a Roland guitar effects rack with the FC100 midi footswitch would allow this to work perfectly.

I was thinking of going with either a GP-8 or GP-16 and just setting up 1 patch to do the distorted vocal effect.

Anyone disagree with this idea?
Old 23rd February 2006
Gear Nut
Rmorph's Avatar

Muahahahaha To hell with usenet! If you can't get an answer on Gearslutz it wasnt worth asking the question ;-)

To clarify my setup:

I had to do some trial and error through a PA before I was satisfied with what I was getting, but eventually found something that worked with practice room PA and with minimal fuss it worked onstage as well.

Its easy to overestimate the amount of distortion it takes to make the vocal sound a whole different beast... but it's not an electric guitar - a modest touch will work more effectively than shredder settings.

I dial the RAT (IIRC) at distortion: 4, filter: 6 and match the volume to the bypass volume by checking level meter during soundcheck.. If you dont think your vocalist friend has the skill to do this himself them just warn the FOH guy to ride the faders at that point.

Responding to some of the other posts:
Feedback is a concern with any FX you stick on a vocal, simply cos the vocal is the most volatile gain versus frequency source. but its in frequency shaping (more with EQ shaping or modulations than distortion, I found) that the problems start:

Before ending up with the RAT, I had tried drastic EQ shaping, as Mike Caffrey suggested - but whether dialling down the Bass and treble, or dialling up the mids, you end up with the same problem: to keep the level consistent with the primary (unadulterated) vocal level, you are basically adding gain in a specific frequency area, and you really need to drastically shape (10-15dB) to get "grit", which is what I understand you are looking for (as opposed to a simple telephone sound).

Distortion allows you to crush the signal without increasing gain at a specific frequency: that is if the Distortion pedal has a contour dial which can roll off the buzz. The RAT filter control is great for dialling off the problem freqeuncies, as I said: but its much more mellow than some other pedals I have tried. I cant give an opinion on the DS1 but I know that has a tone control. If that works as a HF rolloff then you are set I think.

One thing: make sure it is true bypass (will send a clean signal even if the battery dies). Vocalists tend to be forgetful about battery related stuff :-)

..speaking as one ;-)
Old 23rd February 2006
Gear Nut
Rmorph's Avatar

If you have the Voicelive already then you dont need another preamp: the VL mic Preamp is a burr-brown based affair which I understand is the same as the TC Gold channel: Top notch in other words. Hence the line outs. You could send to (for example) Midas FOH line ins from it if you wished and not lose anything in the translation. Been there.

At the end of the day, K.I.S.S really works best onstage. Imho a simple distortion pedal is best bang for buck, assuming you can trust your vocalist to remember to switch it on and off. Keep it simple and modest and feedback wont be an issue, but anything involving exaggerated EQs will get you into trouble down the road.

Hope it helps.
Old 2nd December 2006
Gear Head

But how is the VoiceLive holding up in a live rock n roll situation? Naturally of course used with a hyperkidney mic like for example the Sennheiser e 935.

Doesn’t the background noise make the unit more or less worthless?
I’ve just gotten the impression the unit is produced to be used more for soft kind of music or a singer/songwriter kind of live situation.
Old 3rd December 2006
Here for the gear

You could also use a Sans Amp rackmount as an insert on the vocal pre channel strip. Less to fiddle with in terms of midi, but you'd still have the ability to use the presets (and if you did want to be able to scroll through the presets via midi, you can on the PSA-1). Of course, it is footswithable.

The Sans Amps does line level, so you won't have any of the impedence mismatch problems of a Rat or Boss pedal, and the tones are infinately more tweakable.

mic>preamp/ channel strip >insert sans amp and vocal processor in series>preamp/channel strip out to house.

It should work great.

That said, you might want to try running a low-bandwith mic like the bullet (or way better, the Copperphone) on it's own. You wouldn't need a guitar amp, just run the bullet to a di to the house desk, or the Copperphone like a regular second mic.

Check out the website for the Copperphone as I think this does a better job of getting that lo-fi gramophone / am radio sound that any processor or other mic. And it wont break the bank or compromise the main vocal chain in any way. Did I mention the mic looks cool as hell? You'd solve any feedback problems as well.

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