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TC HELICON VOICESOLO VSM300

TC HELICON VOICESOLO VSM300
June 14, 2007 | Reviewer: Dom Italiano
Distributor: AMBER TECHNOLOGY (02) 9452 8600

tcvoicesoloIn an age where residents and noise restrictions are limiting what type of acts can perform in venues, where bands are being replaced by cheaper acoustic/sequenced duos and, singers are more aware that hearing themselves on stage in good for everyone, in the VSM-300 TC Electronics have delivered a very handy product indeed.

So, what is it? It’s a monitor speaker, yeah? Big deal? Yes, very big deal indeed! In an average month, I’ll do 5 different types of gig where my role changes as vocalist/guitarist: Solo Original acoustic (Lead Vox), Acoustic Cover Duo (Lead & Backing Vox),  Rock Cover Band (Lead & Backing Vox), Wedding with Backing Tracks (Backing Vox), Corporate Show Band (Backing Vox).

Each gig will be in a different type of venue, with different PA/foldback sizes, quality and operators, so I need to be flexible. Any vocalist, who performs in any of the above situations is aware that getting the right onstage vocal mix is always a struggle. This is mainly due to the fact that someone else is setting your monitor mix from the other side of the room and most vocalists can’t pinpoint which frequencies they want more or less of – we just want it louder! (It is the rare soundcheck where the Singer will ask for a 2db boost in 2k and a 3 db cut at 600Hz! But they do happen occasionally.)

The main advantage of the VoiceSolo VCM-300 series is that it allows the singer to control their own Monitor EQ and Volume. Housed within a sturdy aluminium casing that weighs under 5 kgs it’s about the size of a bowling ball. It also mounts to the singer’s mic stand, which works to reduce the amount of stage space needed, and brings the sound source closer to the singer’s ears (which actually means your foldback doesn’t need to be as loud ). This unit is great for anyone who stays in the same spot when singing, so probably won’t be good for the hyperactive Lead Singer, but it’s perfect for Backing Vocalists and Singing Guitarists, Bassists, Keys, etc.
The VSM-300 is dead easy to use, it sounds good (Frequency Response = 75Hz – 20kHz) and at 150 Watts it’s LOUD. As the most feature laden unit in a 3 model series, this particular unit is versatile and I would recommend you visit  www.TC-Helcion.com to download the manual to check out the variety of setups available. It’s is a good read and will probably convince you to get one, before you’ve even heard it!

The Back Panel: You can plug in a Mic (it has phantom power, so condenser mics are welcome) and it has a line input too, for your guitar etc. There’s also a +20db switch, which you’ll find handy if you have a low output dynamic mic (but I didn’t use it, as the unit was loud enough without it). Then, there’s the input for the I/O Box, but more on that later.

The Front Panel = Very simple: Mic In Volume. Line In Volume. LOW EQ. High EQ & Master Output control. An interesting feature is the ‘Shape’ control, which is designed to add a bit of sparkle to your Dynamic Mic to make it sound more like a Condenser Mic. This is a nice effect that you’ll use on your SM58, but won’t fuss with on your Beta 87, (I used both in this test). The EQ controls are simple but subtle. A small tweak on either knob changes the sound a lot, so you actually have a significant amount of EQ control, especially if you use them in conjunction with one another.

The Low Cut (75Hz or 150Hz) is handy, and I suggest it’s there as an option for Male/Female High/Low voices. There is a Mono/Stereo button that is only effective when you’re using 2 or more VoiceLive products. I didn’t get to use 2 unfortunately, but as I mentioned, download the manual to peruse various options…
Which leads me to the I/O Box.

This particular part of the product is what seals the deal for me. The I/O box allows you, in addition to plugging in a Mic, to expand your Line Input to a Stereo Input whilst providing an additional AUX input for lets say, an ipod or Mini Disc (handy for those backing track wedding gigs). What is also great is that the I/O box has individual ‘Pass Thru’ Outputs for each of the aforementioned ‘inputs’. This passive splitter enables you to send the unaffected signals from the VSM-300 to the FOH desk, meaning you get to control your onstage levels and EQ without affecting the Levels and EQ the Sound Dude is working with. This gives you great flexibility and cancels any tension between Performers and Sound Techs. Peace!

I used the unit at an Acoustic Duo gig and a Wedding with backing tracks. It was great at the duo gig (we ran both vocal mics stereo from the desk so we both had some extra foldback). This made the gig so much more fun than usual, as we were both able to sing more dynamically than usual, where we would run a small PA with no foldback. The wedding also proved to be much easier, as I was employed as the ‘high vocal harmony’ guitarist, which usually leaves me a little hoarse, but not this time. Having control of the MD volume in the VSM-300 was a joy, as the 2 singers I worked with had considerably different mastering levels on the tracks they were singing to. In both scenarios, I didn’t have a problem with feedback and there was still plenty of headroom. Awesome!

The Tuned Bass Port on the front of the unit makes for a comfy carry handle, and the only thing I would like to see added is a reverb and some kind of padded carry case. Original Artists take note: This is great for you. Most original venues have poor/rundown PA Systems and terrible Monitor setups, so having your own will make gigs so much more pleasurable, and you can carry it in one hand.

At $995, it might seem like an unnecessary expense, but if you want to sing more freely I reckon, give one a test drive. It’s cheaper than a good set of in-ear monitors (which are too isolating for singing musicians who still like to hear the rest of the band!) and half the price of my current system, which sounds as good but has fewer features. You can buy the VSM-200 model for $750, but minus the I/O Box, EQ and vocal shaping controls, but still have yourself a nice little loud rehearsal/café PA/foldback rig for under $1800 and under 10kgs!

So, I’m gonna put my old gear on Ebay, and buy one of these instead. And, with the money I have left over I’ll take the Missus away for a weekend… or buy a second VSM-300!

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