This is the TC-Helicon Voicetone C1 Auto-Tune Review.
Within the Voicetone series by TC Helicon is the C1 “Hardtune and Voice Correction” pedal. This is a stomp box pedal, which can be used as a foot switch on the floor, but I keep it up on my table with my other machines and use it by hand.
You can also check out my rig rundown, where I incorporate the C1 auto-tune pedal into my live set up!
This is most easily described as an auto-tune pedal. Like many other Voicetone products, it falls within an affordable price range. There’s not a ton of flexibility in features with this pedal, but what it does, it does well. You can adjust the pedal to correct to specific musical key signatures, meaning that if you’re singing in the key of C, you can set the C1 to “C” so that all of your vocal notes are auto-corrected to the closest note within that given scale. Alternately, you can set the pedal to Chromatic, meaning that it will not adhere to specific scales, but will still correct your vocal notes to the closest note exactly – and this is done in real time, not to your recordings but to your live performances! (Although you can do either: use this pedal for live performances, or use it to re-amp recorded tracks through this pedal and re-record them with effects.)
The C1 offers a single 1/4″ Instrument Input, as well as a single 1/4″ Instrument Thru line. It also can accept XLR as its input and/or output. Finally, there is a gain control knob to control the microphone gain.
Personally, I run a hand-made rotary telephone microphone through this auto-tuner. This is a real rotary telephone that I have hard-wired to an XLR chassis so that you can plug a mic cable into it and the telephone receiver acts as a microphone. When you put the receiver back on its cradle, the phone “hangs up” and the mic turns off. I think that adding a newer effect such as auto-tune to an outdated piece of microphone machinery creates a playful and interesting contrast between eras. You can hear the lo-fi tin of the telephone receiver, and at the same time it’s being auto-tuned – which reflects the current sounds of today. Auto-tune is kind of funny, let’s be honest, so I don’t mind taking advantage of this technology as a gimmick and really playing with it in any way I think could be interesting! I think the worst thing you could do with an auto-tuner is try to use it sincerely, so just have fun instead! Music can be a playground.
Beyond its most obvious function, and the fact that you can set the key signature for your voice, there are a couple more controllable functions to the C1. First, you can control the effect send level with a gradient knob. So you can go anywhere from 0% auto-tune effect up to 100% hard-tuned. Finally, the last gradient knob controls a feature they call “Gender”. As you may guess, the low end of the scale is a low end bass-y voice, while the high end creates a high-pitched voice instead, but keeping within the musical key signature regardless.
I usually just keep this knob at Centre, showcasing my real voice’s pitch and only utilizing the pedal for its auto-tuning capabilities. But the extreme low and high pitch effects can be fun too, and help to exasperate the artificial quality of hard-tuned vocals by further dehumanizing them into unusual pitches, creating monstrous or cartoonish results. Like I said, just have fun!
Here’s a music video for a song I recorded, where you can hear my voice through the C1 pedal right from the beginning of the song:
If live vocal processing is right up your alley, TC Helicon has a good array of transformer effects that you should dive into. You can also check out other vocal transformers such as the Roland VT-3 which I am currently using in my set with a separate microphone. Transform yourself!