My revised review of the Digitech Vocalist Live 3
On Monday, after grabbing a Digitech Vocal Live 3 from my local big-box music store, I wrote about my initial experience with it. It can add a rich vocal harmony to your vocals, but it doesn’t read suspended chords very well, and it grabs your guitar sound from the mic and even harmonises that.
And also, the vocal signal is missing any real dynamic frequency range. I absolutely hated the sound I was getting out of the “unprocessed” signal, even when dialling the high and low cut levels to flat.
So, when I did the initial recording tests, I used the MXL 990 (left), which captures both my guitar and vocals very beautifully in one go. But it clearly was the wrong mic to use with the VL3. I promptly trashed those recordings. And then I fished out my old, trusty, Senheiser E835 and plugged it in.
The Senheiser mic is actually quite comparable to Shure’s flagship vocal microphone. When I need to replace this, it’ll be a tough call between this and a Shure SM58. But for now, I have this little guy to give the pedal one last chance to prove itself. And so how did the Digitech Vocal Live 3 fare this time around?
A quick primer on how to set this up.
- Plug your microphone into the XLR or line-in input.
- Plug an XLR out (or two, for stereo?) to your mixer.
- Grab two guitar cables and plug them in to patch the guitar sound through this and then back to your mixer.
- Warmth adds a tube-like preamp. EQ are low and hi boost/cut knobs. The guitar level knob controls how much guitar is output through this little bad boy.
- Humanise slightly randomises the pitch and delay of the harmony vocalists, and you can control their level relative to yours. I hear you can turn that knob all the way up and effectively cut out your own voice, leaving only the harmony parts.
- Then there are the harmony buttons at the top. You can set a ‘gender’ for the voices as well as how they sing relative to you.
- At the bottom are the footswitches to switch between A and B; turn on the pitch correction, reverb, chorus (guitar only), and delays; and of course, sing harmony.
- Easy as pie, right? Sure.
So, I set up on the A/B two different harmony patterns. A> is set to a voice about a 3rd above mine and a 4th below, and B> is set to double my vocals and then do one an octave down. I only set Bank 1 for this test, because I am not seeing how many different vocal harmonies I can get out of the VL3. I just want it to work properly.
The rest of the settings you can see in the photo at the very top, in case you care. EQ settings have more high-end, less low. Pitch correct isn’t even on, and the warmth is just about in the middle.
So with these settings I tried out two old songs of mine. You can hear the results below.
First off, any mumbly sounds you may hear coming from me are just me forgetting the words. However, any weird pitch issues aside from me being flat are indeed the VL3 being literally unable to even fathom what notes it should be singing.
Also on this track, I would think that the harmony is turned off, but it’s still turned on, and I’d think that I’m on the A patch, but I’m actually on the B. Basically, the footswitches are a little hard to hit with any degree of accuracy. I previous take of this song had me somehow playing from bank 6, and I don’t even know what was coming out of the mic at that point.
Anyway, with the Senheiser, the VL3 doesn’t try to tune the guitar. It’s all in the microphone choice. I’m glad I gave it a second chance because I’d hate to hate this thing off of a first impression. A microphone that is a bit more unidirectional works wonders when playing through this vocal pedal.
But still, the VL3 is a bit (a lot) flubby with the harmonies. In this song, I use a lot of suspended chords. My A shape is an A(sus2), and the B-major chord is alternately a B(sus4) or a B(add13)/F#. They do a great job to throw off the VL3’s ability to guess what chord is playing, apparently. My favourite part is after the bridge of the song, the pedal decides to perform a sound not unlike I’m being drowned.
This song is a straight up rocker in B-minor. I thought I was gonna confuse the VL3 a lot more with my locrian F-major (augmented 4th), but that chord actually only gets played during the instrumentals.
I got a better feel for foot placement with this one, and also made sure to look down to make sure the proper lights are lit. What occurs are harmonies exactly where I want them, and no flubby harmonies.
At the end, I hold out the final note as long as I can so you can more clearly hear the distortion on the vocal signal. There’s more mids on that then there should be. Mids all the way. Mids 4EVR!!!
So. I was a little harsh on the Digitech last night. Maybe I was just a little cranky. Maybe I just stupidly thought microphones don’t matte. At any rate, this is not a one-star item.
Other musicians have bought the VL3 and given it wonderful reviews. My rating yesterday was basically, good on them, I think this is crap.
Today, I’m giving it a 3. Maybe I’ll keep it a week and see if I can’t get that score up to a 4. Stay tuned to this spot to see what other little musical gems I try this on.