Best Vocal Effects Pedal / Processor Guide

The Highest Rated Vocal Effects Pedals

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Digital sound processing continues to change the musical landscape, and vocalists are not exempted, as more singers are employing sound effects on stage to enhance their performances. Here we feature the best vocal effects processors for live performance use, updated for 2020, covering pedals and mic-stand-mounted processors.

Vocal processors these days can do quite a lot, from adding subtle ambience effects, to correcting pitch, to adding harmonies and crafting phrase loops. Some can even totally transform your voice - be it robotic, alien like sounds, different age or gender, and more. They can be like having your own team of virtual sound engineers and backup singers, all packed in one unit.

List Of The Best Vocal Effects Pedals and Processors

The Best Vocal Processor Pedals and Processors

Below are the processors that garnered top ratings and recommendations from users and experts alike, covering everything from multi-featured processors to compact single pedal size units.

TC Helicon Ditto Mic Looper

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$139
TC Helicon Ditto Mic Looper - Vocal Effects Pedal

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Single Effect On Stage Vocal Processor.

With the success of the TC Electronic Ditto looper pedal for guitar, it's only natural for their sister company, TC Helicon, to cash in on the hype with their own take.

The TC Helicon Ditto Mic Looper follows after the original Ditto looper pedal, with its straightforward controls and compact profile. Sporting just a single loop level knob and two footswitches, it doesn't take long to master its controls, which include record, play, stop, erase, undo and overdub.

Key Features:

  • Profile: Pedal
  • Effects: Looper
  • Phantom Power: 48V
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR
  • USB Port: Updates
  • Power: Power Adapter

Pros
Ease of use and affordability are traits that make the TC Helicon Ditto Mic Looper ideal for those who want to test the waters of vocal mic looping. Paul White of Sound on Sound is just as impressed with its simplicity: "While there are more sophisticated loopers on the market, I like the way the Ditto Mic Looper sticks to the essentials — you’re so much less likely to get into a mess when using it! In addition, factoring its portability, makes it ideal even for experienced users who want a compact looper.

Cons
Not many complaints about existing features, but there are a few who are looking for more, specifically longer looping time. Ironically, limitation and simplicity are exactly what makes it appealing to others who want something that's efficient and practical.

Overall
For those who want an easy to use vocal looper, it doesn't get any simpler than this.

TC-Helicon VoiceTone H1

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$139
TC-Helicon VoiceTone H1

The TC Helicon VoiceTone H1 is a pedal that's meant to provide singers with smart harmonies in a compact stompbox form factor. And it does this by getting the pitch information from your guitar or by manually setting the key of the song on the pedal.

Being in a familiar pedal form factor makes the VoiceTone H1 ideal for solo singer-songwriters who want to add a bit more depth into his performance, while the manual key setting makes this pedal useful even for vocalists who do not play guitar.

Key Features:

  • Profile: Pedal
  • Effects: Harmony
  • Phantom Power: 48V
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" Guitar In
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" Guitar Out
  • USB Port: Firmware and Control
  • Power: 12V Power Supply included

Pros
Audio quality and good harmony is the main reason why most people recommend this pedal. It is often employed by solo singer/guitarists because of its compatibility with guitars, and it also gets a lot of thumbs up from vocalists for being easy to use. Some owners recommend using it sparingly to emphasize certain parts of a song, as opposed to leaving it always on.

Cons
If you're looking for harmony effect that you can fine tune, then this is not for you. There are a few who had to tape some of the knobs to avoid accidentally changing the settings.

Overall
If you're looking for an affordable and straightforward way to add vocal harmonies then check out the VoiceTone H1.

TC Helicon VoiceLive Play Acoustic

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$299
TC Helicon Play Acoustic Vocal Effects Processor

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Multi-Effect On Stage Vocal Processor along with the Boss VE-20.

The TC-Helicon VoiceLive Play Acoustic features both vocal and acoustic guitar effects in one stompbox, ideal for singers who play acoustic-electric guitar.

The vocal processor section has its own mic preamp and lets you utilize some of TC Helicon's popular vocal effects, including essentials like reverb and echo, along with dynamic processing, pitch correction, and smart harmony.

Popular TC Electronic effects make up the guitar section, including BodyRez (acoustic guitar sound enhancer), Corona Chorus, Flashback Delay, Hall of Fame Reverb, feedback suppression and EQ controls. To top it all off, VoiceLive Play Acoustic also comes with built-in looper functionality.

Key Features:

  • Harmony: Smart Guitar-Controlled Harmony
  • Harmony Voices: Up to 2
  • Pitch Correction: Auto Chromatic, Hard Tune
  • Looper: Up to 30 seconds
  • Effects: µMod (Modulation), Transducer (Synth), Doubler, Reverb, Delay, Adaptive Tone (Smart EQ, De-essing and Compression)
  • Phantom Power: 48V
  • Guitar Effects: Hall of Fame Reverb, Corona Chorus, BodyRez (Acoustic Guitar Tone Enhancer), Feedback Suppressor, EQ,
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Aux)
  • Outputs: 2 x XLR, 1 x 1/8" (Headphones), 1 x 1/4" (Footswitch),
  • USB Port: Direct Recording, Update and Control
  • Power: DC Power Supply

Pros

Owners of the TC-Helicon VoiceLive Play Acoustic describe it as a nice compact all-in-one stompbox for singer/musicians. Many are impressed with the sound quality of both its vocal and acoustic guitar effects, especially when considering its portability.

Cons

There are a few who caution that the controls will need some time to get used to.

Overall

Given its vocal and guitar friendly features, and ability to be used with a condenser mic, the TC Helicon VoiceLive Play Acoustic is a vocal processor that will meet the demands of many solo performers.

Boss VE-20

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 900+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$300
Boss VE-20 Vocal Processor

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Multi-Effect On Stage Vocal Processor along with the TC Helicon VoiceLive Play Acoustic.

The VE-20 showcases what Boss is all about, packing as much sound quality and as many features inside a compact and robust metal enclosure as they can. This unit follows Boss' dual-pedal multi-effect profile, which they implement on many of their guitar effects, only this one is meant for vocalists.

As expected, basic delay and reverb effects are included for adding subtle ambience to your voice. But you can also use it to go all out with pitch-correction and modern auto-tune effects as used by artists like Black-Eyed Peas and will.i.am.

Other effects include a programmable harmony, that follows after specific keys and scales, and a 38 second looper that can let you craft your own vocal blending.

Finally, Boss incorporated cool extra effects that include chorus, distortion robot, strobe and more.

Key Features:

  • Harmony: Key/Scale Based Harmonies (Not Smart Guitar Based)
  • Harmony Voices: Up to 2
  • Pitch Correction: Auto Chromatic, Hard Tune
  • Looper: 38-Second, Single Track
  • Effects: Dynamics, Doubling, Reverb, Delay, Distortion, Radio, Strobe, Chorus, Flanger, Robot
  • Phantom Power: 48V
  • Inputs: 1 x TRS/XLR Combo
  • Outputs: 1 x TRS/XLR Combo (Line), 1 x Mono
  • USB Port: None
  • Power: DC Power Supply or 6 x AA Batteries

Pros
There's just no denying the success of the VE-20 as a compact multi-effect solution for vocalists. To this day, it continues to gather positive reviews and ratings, with reviewers agreeing on two important things - that it sounds great and that it is built like a tank. Having been made by Boss, this effect can handle the rigors of the road and could well last you a lifetime.

Cons
One minor concern is the short optional power cord that you need to buy separately, a quick solution to this is to get it on purchase of the effect and have an extension cord ready.

Overall
Get the Boss VE-20 if you're looking for a compact and reliable vocal multi-effect pedal.

Boss VE-5 Vocal Performer

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$300
Boss VE-5

The Boss VE-5 is a compact yet feature-packed vocal processor for different applications, with pitch correction, smart harmony, distortion, radio, strobe and other vocal effects.

It comes in a portable desktop / mic-stand-mountable profile that's meant for hands-on use, with phantom power support for condenser microphones, and it even has a built-in microphone for convenient practice or recording without the need for a mic.

It also comes with a phrase looper for setting up your own harmonies or for creating vocal percussion or ambience.

Finally, this vocal processor can run on 4 AA batteries for up to 9 hours, making this a truly portable piece of gear for vocalists.

Key Features:

  • Harmony: Key/Scale Based Harmonies (Not Smart Guitar Based)
  • Harmony Voices: Up to 2
  • Pitch Correction: Natural Pitch Correction, Chromatic, Robot, ElectricTune
  • Looper: 38-Second, Single Track
  • Effects: Dynamics, Doubling, Reverb, Delay, Distortion, Radio, Strobe, Chorus, Flanger, Robot
  • Phantom Power: 48V
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR-1/4" Combo, 1 x 1/8" (Aux in)
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/8" (Stereo line/Headphones)
  • USB Port: None
  • Power: DC Power Supply or 4 x AA Batteries

Pros
Users are impressed with the sound quality they are getting from this compact processor. Portability is another key factor as to why the VE-5 continues to get good ratings. While many of the high ratings are using the VE-5's to color, if not transform, their sound, there are some who are satisfied with how it performs when applying subtle effects.

Cons
Even with the many features it carries, there are still a few who wish for more features and real-time control options, like holding a button to hold the effect instead of having to push for engage and push for disengage.

Overall
When it comes to portability, the Boss VE-5 is hard to beat. Highly recommended for vocalists who want a versatile mobile vocal processor.

Boss VE-500 Vocal Performer

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 50+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$400
Boss VE-500 Vocal Performer

The Boss VE-500 is an all-in-one pedal solution for vocalists, packed with multiple effect types, an intelligent harmonizer and it even has a looper.

As expected from Boss, this vocal processor lets you use up to 9 different effects at once, from a selection that includes modulation, distortion, filter, EQ, reverb, delay and more.

Another cool feature of this pedal is its built-in intelligent harmonizer, which automatically generates 2 or 3 party harmonies in realtime as you play your instrument. And if that's not enough, you can also build your own harmonies via the VE-500's built-in looper, which allows for up to 30 sec of stereo recording.

Key Features:

  • Profile: Pedal
  • Effects: 9 different effects (Reverb, Delay, EQ, Filter, Distortion, Vocoder, Modulation and more) Looper, Harmonizer
  • Phantom Power: 48V
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR (mic), 1 x 1/4" (instrument)
  • Outputs: 2 x XLR (L/R), 1 x 1/4" (instrument thru)
  • USB Port: Updates / Librarian
  • Power: 9V DC Power Adapter (Included)

Pros
Versatility is the name of the game for the Boss VE-500, and this is reflected on many of its reviews. It is more akin to a multi-effects processor in that it allows for a wide variety of sounds, and the majority of users appreciate it. Good build quality is a given, especially since this is from Boss, and it has been put to good use by many of its users without any hiccups.

Cons
There are a few who are not too happy with its interface, stating that it's a bit hard to learn, especially for vocalists who have zero experience with pedals.

Overall
Still, the Boss VE-500 should be a great pick for those who are looking to expand their musical vocal palette.

Things to Consider when Buying Vocal Effects Pedals / Processors

  • Harmonies

    One of the most prominent features of many vocal processors is the ability to add one or more harmonies to a part being sung. Many of these can use guitar or instrument inputs to automatically change the harmonies to fit the chords being played and the note you're singing - a feature we are calling 'Smart Guitar-Controlled Harmony'. Without this feature you need to manually set the key for each song and change patches if you want to adjust the interval of the harmonies within that key. The number of simultaneous harmonies varies between pedals, offering between 1 and 4 additional voices. Some units have enough processing power to let you tweak the character of the harmonized voices in various ways including pitch and timing variations and even gender.

  • Pitch Correction (AutoTune)

    Pitch correction has taken some genre's of music by storm and it's not just being used to fix tuning problems but also for its own distinctive sound. It can be handy if you're looking for some discreet help with a few tough songs or want to sound like T-Pain, Kayne West or any number of popular artists. You can usually control how pronounced the effect is of pulling the pitch of your voice toward to the desired note. If you're looking for a natural sound then a lower speed and amount of correction is usually better. The 'Hard Tune' effect locks the pitch to a target note very quickly which produces that artificial sound and can result in a rapid warbling if you drift between notes. Most vocal processors allow you to set a scale to tune to but generally, chromatic mode should be sufficient if you are getting anywhere near the note. However the scale setting can be useful for that pronounced hard tune warbling effect to control which notes it warbles between.

  • Vocal Effects and Looping

    A big part of the reason many people use vocal effects pedals is to be able to have consistent control of the basic vocal effects such as compression, EQ and delay/reverb rather than be at the mercy of the mixing desk. To that end some pedals only offer these core effects. Others who are in more experimental styles of music will appreciate vocoder, synth, alien, robot and other out-of-this world voicings. Many of these processors also allow changing the character of the voice using "formant shifting" effects to deepen or lighten the character of the sound and go as far as to artificially change the apparent gender and/or age of the singer. These effects have become common in popular music and are often being used for their tonal character rather than just keeping the singer in tune. They can also be used in conjunction with harmony for male/female voice style backups.

  • Guitar Effects

    Since many vocal processors use guitar input for their smart chord-based harmonies, manufacturers have been adding guitar effects so singer/guitarists can use them as an 'all in one' performance unit. Generally, these effects are tailored towards acoustic players offering the basic reverb, delay and possibly modulation, EQ/Filters and more. You'll want these features if you're a singer who also plays guitar, and want to keep your rig simple.

  • Input/Output and USB Recording

    While most vocalists will use just a basic XLR connection into a PA or mixing console, those that sing and play guitar at the same time may need dedicated outputs for guitar and vocals. That way the guitar can be routed separately to the guitar effects/amp while the vocals can go straight to the PA. Direct USB recording capability is another nifty feature in this age where live streaming and online video/audio platforms are widely used.

Best Vocal Effects Pedal Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in February, 2016 written by Alexander Briones who also wrote the latest edition published on November 4, 2020.

For this November 2020 update, we ended up with a short list of 25 vocal effects processors. And these required us to gather and analyze over 7,400 reviews and ratings sources, which include reviews from retail stores, expert reviews, forum discussions, video reviews and more. All these data were then processed using the Gearank Algorithm, which gave us the rating scores out of 100 that we used to come up with our recommendations that reflect market sentiment, as well as being used to report on the notable pros and cons of each one recommended above. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

Comments

Thanx for all the info.

Thanx for all the info.
One question .. Can I trigger the abilities of the TC voice live 3 with a bamboo flute ?

Hi! Great guide. About TC

Hi! Great guide. About TC Helicon Perform VG, it has Phantom power (can't be phantom powered, but you can power a condenser mic with it). Also the USB port is just for firmware update, not able to direct recording or control.

Thanks for that, you are

Thanks for that, you are entirely correct!

There were some confusing phantom power specifications on the TC-Helicon website so I checked the manual and have updated the Phantom Power and USB specifications above.

With a lot of the best

With a lot of the best processors being taken off of the recommended list, what processor is currently the the best and is a available?

Hey.. Thnx for all this great

Hey.. Thnx for all this great info! Still playing every day with the Roland 501. ( sultry and melodic type of improv flute ) The pre on this Roland is special. Which one comes close in quality to the Re 501? Just need the basic effects / delay /reverb.

Trying to look for a compact

Trying to look for a compact alternative to the Roland RE-501 is a tall order. So if you're looking for a vocal effects pedal with RE-501 like quality delay/reverb, you may have to lower your expectations.

And If you do, you'll find that many of the pedals listed here can provide workable, if not good reverb and delay.

Thank you for the article! I

Thank you for the article! I am less after effects and more after intuitive and easy to use sampler for vocals and speech. Do you know which direction I should look?

If what you mean by sampler

If what you mean by sampler is looping vocals, then you can go for any of the compact ones with built-in looper, like the Boss VE-20. But if you want an easy-to-use pedal to improve your overall sound, then get the Mic Mechanic from TC-Electronic.

Is there any pedal that you

Is there any pedal that you can choose a specific mode and not just major/minor? I perform lots of folk songs and would love a pedal I could set to the pentatonic scale.

Many harmony pedals allow for

Many harmony pedals allow for either automatic and manual key/scale mode, but I have yet to see one that specifically limits harmonies to the note of the pentatonic scale.

In any case, the pentatonic scale is just a few notes less than the major and minor scale setting, so you can achieve a similar effect with them - albeit with some of the harmonies going outside the pentatonic scale.

I’m trying to get a late 70’s

I’m trying to get a late 70’s early 80’s stereo effect. Does anyone know if one of these can achieve that?

Most likely they were using a

Most likely they were using a rackmount studio chorus effect. This can be achieved via the average chorus effect, which is included in many vocal and looper pedals.

Now if you want to really capture the flavor of the classic chorus, you'll have to research on the actual gear that was used on the recording that you're trying to replicate - and utilize something that's similar sounding, be it actual hardware or digital effects.

Hi,

Hi,
I have seen many reviews on the above effects, but the one thing that no one has mentioned so far, is, if you can patch one of these effects into a mixer to be used by more than one vocalist , e.g on several channels of a mixer or does each vocalist has to have their own effects unit?

These types of foot pedal

These types of foot pedal effects are primarily designed to be used by a single performer on stage rather than be used as outboard effects with a mixing console.

You could conceivably use some of them with the effects loop on a mixing console, however only the ones with 1/4" ins and outs would be usable, and the person mixing might find it awkward using the switches that are meant to be foot operated.

Typically, with mixing consoles, you would use rack mount effects units instead.

Are there any that can get

Are there any that can get chords for harmonies direct from tracks instead of guitar or keys?

The pedals don't specify this

The pedals don't specify this feature, but it can probably be done if you route pre-recorded tracks to the guitar input. There are other many apps that can do this though, but you'll have to figure out how to get them to trigger the harmonies off of your pedal.

I am looking for a small unit

I am looking for a small unit similar to BOSS VE20 that can be connected to a keyboard via midi to get the exact key changes for harmony and pitch correction. HELP!

Roland VT-3

Roland VT-3

Thanks for the to the point

Thanks for the to the point and easy to take in reviews. This did help me make a purchase decision. Roland Vocal GTX.
Thanks again.

Glad we could help!

Glad we could help!

BTW - The G XT is made by TC-Helicon rather than Roland.

I haven't seen the term

I haven't seen the term 'vocal vibrato' used in relation to any of these effects units, but the Boss VE-8 does have Tremolo if that helps.

Recommend me a best iOS smile

Recommend me a best iOS Smule sing interface setup . I'm using a Tascam iXZ right now. A vocal mixer will be good to go.

Hey! Thanks a lot for these

Hey! Thanks a lot for these great lists. I was wondering about the TC-Helicon VoiceLive Play GTX. Do you have an opinion about it?

thanks again

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