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Digitech Vocalist 2

Article from The Mix, January 1995

Ingenious harmony processor

An effects unit that offers vocal harmonising, pitch correction and a vocoder? Roger Brown couldn't wait to start warbling with the Digitech Vocalist II

Vocal harmonies add that certain je ne sais quoi to many a chorus, and can be likened to intelligent reverb in the way they flesh out vocal choruses, whether human or synthesiser-generated.

Not all of us can afford to hire The Ladybirds or The Mormon Tabernacle Choir however, to add that extra bit of flair to our vocal hooks. Enter the Digitech Vocalist II, a 16 bit-sampling, 24 bit-processing digital processor which offers the same facilities of pitch shifting and chorus as the chorus patch on your reverb or multi-effects unit, to produce natural-sounding harmonies.

Having a dedicated box of chips to do this makes perfect sense. Producing custom chips to handle various chord options, and 16 bit sampling to provide hi-fidelity source material for the processor, the Digitech II is able to produce stunning-sounding harmonies in a variety of styles.

Its repertoire of chordings is a producer's dream. And the added attraction of MIDI or footswitch control (provided as part of the kit) means real-time playing of your harmonies need no longer be a nightmare. The Digitech II can read incoming MIDI chords through its MIDI In port, analyse them, and automatically shift the harmonies to whatever key you or your synth is singing in.

Ever fancied hearing the Carpenters duetting with the Pet Shop Boys? No? That's how Pachelbel's Canon comes out, after the Vocalist II treatment!

Using this method, a player could generate the chords of each change in time with a vocalist, or a sequencer could run a dummy track to the Vocalist II for the same effect. Alternatively, the footswitch can be used to step through the 99 different programs or synchronise the unit to a drum machine. Chord changes may be sequenced together and saved as a song, and these too can be stepped through from the footswitch, or synched to your drum machine or sequencer patterns. Using any or all of these functions truly makes the Vocalist II an instrument in its own right, and not just a glorified reverb unit.

As well as all this, the Vocalist II incorporates a simulation of a vocoder, where the unit reads up to four note incoming chords via MIDI, and shifts the incoming vocals to those four notes. Then there's Pitch Correction, which uses incoming MIDI note to correct the pitch of your vocals to the incoming key, and Scalic harmony, which generates diatonically correct harmonies from one of four selectable scale types (major, minor, wholetone or diminished). Detune, Portamento and Vibrato may all be added in varying degrees to provide full resonance for your generated harmonies.

Naturally the speed, depth and delay of the latter two may be altered from the front panel to suit the piece. To hear the 4 Voice Vocoder in full effect, have a listen to the 'Mix It!' sample at the end of the sequencing tutorial on this month's Re:Mix. That utilises this patch, plus a few other tricks of mine for that robotic effect.

Man or Machine?

But robotic effects is actually the antithesis of what the Vocalist is all about. Its 16 bit sampling chip, coupled with its 24 bit processors are intelligent enough to produce four note harmonies at any of the scales chosen by you from the above-mentioned four. It can then adjust each note individually for pitch above or below the root note, and even add the kind of pitch uncertainty which gives human voices their warmth, by means of a randomize function. This function can also be individually applied to each note at differing speeds, to truly fatten up a human-sounding chorus.

Alternatively, the Pitch Correct function may be controlled by pitch bend, to renaturalise its output and set for a split part of the keyboard, so that a player is free to solo on the top half, with chord or pitch changes only taken from the root notes. There's a choice of up to ten chord types to choose from on the Chordal harmony effects; major, major seventh, dominant seventh, diminished and suspended, minor, minor seventh, minor seventh flat five, augmented and suspended seventh.

All of this is easily programmed from the front panel with a simple LCD display and a four arrow button and menu system which is no trouble to navigate. Digitech haven't told me of any editing software, but SysEx is recognised and transmitted, so I expect there'll be a mixer map and other such computer access around.

Not that it's needed; I found no difficulties at all and fathomed the whole thing out without recourse to the manual. It proved to be very well written when I did chance to check my findings out, as well as a source of many a useful tip. Full marks for this, providing a manual that is more than just an instruction booklet. It sums up what the Vocalist II is all about, making digitally-generated harmonies easy and understandable for the average musician or producer.

I didn't have a vocalist handy to get the full flavour of Digitech's chips, and while the 'Beach Boys' patch worked wonders with my impromptu rendering of 'I Get Around', I'm not sure the world (or even the Re:Mix CD) is ready for it. Wiser counsel prevailed, and for the cover CD I opted instead for a synth choir patch, utilising as much of the random pitch, portamento and vibrato as necessary to generate 'humanoid' harmonies.

Using the Vocalist like this, as a sequencist's tool, is a dream. By electing to have the unit generating harmonies according to key changes provided by MIDI chords, your harmonies are under full MIDI control, with degrees of authenticity programmable by you. Have a listen to the demo tune on Re:Mix, and hear for yourself how realistic and warm the harmonies really are. To my ears they really add a human depth and warmth to the choir sound.


To say I was impressed by the Vocalist would be an understatement. I have always said effects units were instruments in their own right, and this is truly more than just a chorus unit. Its playability and programmability make it a joy to use, and any vocalist trying it out would be sure to spend hours trying all the different effects this little baby is capable of.

While it does tend toward honeyed, Carpenter-type vocals, the option of shifting your voice down an octave for deep gravelly effects means it can even transform you into Barry White, with the Supremes cooing in the background. The creative possibilities afforded by this unit are enormous, and it should not be overlooked by anyone searching for realistic harmonies for live or studio use.

Indeed, techno boffins in search of weirder and more ethereal pads would also find the Digitech a tantalising unit. If I get any more carried away with the way the vocal harmonies make my cracked warbling sound like music, then all I can say is, watch out Phil Collins! How does it go now, "You can't hurry love..."

The essentials...

Price inc VAT: £629.95 VHM5 £679.95
More from: Arbiters, (Contact Details)

Spec check

Signal to Noise Ratio >88dB (A weighted)
THD <.03 (unweighted)
Sampling 16 bit linear at 31.25 kHz
Bandwidth 30 Hz to 12 Hz (+0dB -3dB)
Dry Bandwidth 30 Hz to 30 kHz (+0dB -3dB)
Max Input +12dBm
Max Output +8dBm (5 part harmony)
Mio input XLR 2.2 kQ input impedance, balanced
Line input 1/4" jack 24 kΩ input impedance, unbalanced
Connections Mic in, Line in, Line out, Harmony out Left (or mono), Harmony out Right, Headphone out, footswitch in, MIDI in, MIDI out, MIDI thru, Power in.
Indicators Input level, Program number, Signal Lock indicator, 32 character display for editing, Bypass LED.

Also featuring gear in this article

Featuring related gear

Previous Article in this issue

Vision on

Next article in this issue

Painting by numbers

Publisher: The Mix - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

The current copyright owner/s of this content may differ from the originally published copyright notice.
More details on copyright ownership...


The Mix - Jan 1995

Donated by: Colin Potter, Chris Moore

Coverdisc: Mike Gorman

Control Room

Gear in this article:

Studio/Rack FX > Digitech > Vocalist II

Gear Tags:

Digital FX
Pitch Shifter

Re:Mix #7 Tracklisting:

26 Digitec Vocalist demo

This disk has been archived in full and disk images and further downloads are available at - Re:Mix #7.

Review by Roger Brown

Previous article in this issue:

> Vision on

Next article in this issue:

> Painting by numbers

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