Today I’ll review the TC Helicon Harmony Singer 2 pedal. American Musical Supply This second generation pedal is a great compliment to TC’s Mic Mechanic (to be reviewed), just like the original Harmony Singer, introduced with much acclaim several years ago. Canadian based TC Helicon has been a leader in digital technology for many years and is the sister company of Danish TC Electronic, which are both owned by the Music Group of companies that include: Behringer, Midas, DDA, Bugera, Lake, Tannoy and a few others. Chances are you’ve used a TC product in a live sound rig or studio without knowing it. But for now, we’ll discuss the Harmony Singer 2.
So what is it…? In short, the unit generates a vocal harmony(s) that can be changed and dynamically controlled by an input signal from a guitar, keyboard or other line level instrument. The really cool part is that the harmonies will follow the melody you sing and are adapted in real time by the input chords that you play. This means no wrong notes from the pedal. But if you play a wrong chord or sing the wrong note, then things can get ugly. A simple set of connectors for guitar (in/out) and microphone (in/out) allow the pedal to be inserted into your rig’s signal path to your amp, mixer or PA. This makes connections quick and simple. But remember, while this product looks like a guitar stomp box, it’s a vocal pedal. The guitar portion of the pedal is only used to help generate and control an accurate vocal harmony at its output.
This second version of the pedal has most all of the features found in the original, but has some internal software design changes and allows battery operation. It does not include the AC power adaptor, as it is now optional (which I think kinda sucks). But before I get to the hands-on portion of this review, let me list some of the operational parameters and features of the product.
- Adaptive Tone automatically controls the amount of EQ, compression and de-essing
- Harmony notes are analyzed & generated from your guitar or keyboard input signal
- 8 different user-selectable harmony arrangements
- 3 Adjustable TC Electronic reverbs (room, hall, club)
- Adjustable mix level for harmonies
- Microphone Input gain
- ON/OFF Footswitch
- Always On, 24v Phantom Power
- Battery powered (AC adaptor optional)
Besides the harmony generating capabilities of the pedal, the other unique feature listed above is the Adaptive Tone button. When engaged, this button fires up a really useful circuit that ads just the right amount of microphone EQ, compression and de-essing. This means your singing just got a little smoother, less hissy, so you sound better! And one of the best features of many TC products is the ability to connect the pedal to your computer (via its usb port) with TC’s VoiceSupport software. This allows easy firmware updates, an online user manual, product announcements and more. Just follow the steps on the TC site, download the software and you’re ready to go. The system is compatible for both mac and pc.
After anxiously waiting for the arrival of the HS2, I was immediately impressed. The pedal is housed in a very strong metal enclosure and its jacks and switches are silent but robust. No squirmy or noisy switches here. Frankly, I was expecting nothing less from a TC product. They are all built like tanks but with smooth operation. Connection was a breeze and took all but a couple of minutes to complete. The control layout is intuitive and easy to figure out. For those of you that enjoy reading owner’s manuals, there is an included guide to get you started; but I’d suggest using VoiceSupport to get the most out of the unit.
I connected my Taylor 210e acoustic with a ¼” guitar cable to the unit’s input and did the same to the output with it going into my guitar amp. Remember, this connection is the key, as the HS2 uses this signal and the chords you play to determine what notes to provide as harmonies for the vocals. Microphone connection was simple as well. I ran a standard 3-pin, XLR mic cable from my Shure beta58 mic to the input, and another similar cable from the unit’s output to the PA system’s mixer or connection panel. Those of you, who use a condenser mic, will have no worries, as the HS2 has built-in 24volt phantom power that’s always on. All I had to do next was fire everything up and start messing around with things. But I had one problem…. I foolishly forgot to insert a standard 9-volt battery into the unit, which sorta helps make it work…. Oops!
For all you purists regarding true bypass and guitar signal sound quality, I can tell you that there’s nothing to be concerned with here. The inclusion of the pedal to my guitar rig’s signal path was invisible, with no audible signal degradation or artifacts. This was the case for my Taylor acoustic and my Telecaster electric. Without getting into all of the how-2’s, this thing was easy to figure out. I simply turned the harmony level to 12 o’clock, picked a harmony type, and started playing. When it was time for harmony, I just hit the switch and WOW…! I had in-tune, background singers. The HS2 was fantastic at following my guitar chord patterns by outputting the correct harmony note(s). I selected different harmony types such as a 3rd above (what I was singing), 6th below and combinations of those and more. All sound great and provided a missing element to my playing, especially as a solo performer. To thicken things up, the unit comes with digital Reverb processing. This adjustable feature has settings for Hall, Room & Club. Furthermore, the Adaptive Tone button added a nice, studio-quality smoothness to my voice. Before the HS2, I would have had to use a bunch of rack gear to achieve the same results. Ya gotta love technology!!
I was initially concerned that between songs and while I was talking, my audience would be hearing all of this reverb and processing. Well, TC did their homework here. Just step-on and hold the harmony switch and talk. Everything was dry as a desert with no harmonies or reverb. Release the switch and you’re ready for the next tune. Battery life is good with no resulting problem or issues during a 4-set gig. I’m guessing if you’re cheap, you “could” get a couple gigs from using just one battery, but for me that’s a gamble. Because the unit runs on 9volts DC, powering it from your pedal board supply is a snap. Though I do wish TC had included a universal power supply with the unit as they did with the company’s first unit released.
While there are other similar pedals from manufacturers like Digitech and Boss, they fail in comparison to the feature set and sonic ability of the Harmony Singer 2. So give it a test drive. I’m sure you’ll be impressed with what it does. As of the writing of this blog, the street price seems to be holding at about $199. American Musical Supply