Dial in Crazy and Fun Vocal Effects – the Right Way – Voco Loco

By: Rock N Roll Rentals, William Golsup

Over the last few years, I have tried many different methods of using vocal effects in a live setting, from using basic impedance converters with guitar pedals, to plugging mics into guitar amplifiers. Some of these methods would sound good enough to keep using, but many were very problematic, and none of them were able to accomplish the type of effects I can get when I’m recording. Using vocal effects in a live setting is always complicated by gain structure, impedance issues, signal quality and lots, and lots of feedback. Over the years I kept seeing expensive, rack-mountable vocal effect processors out at gigs, and I was starting to think that purchasing one of those would be the only way I could get decent sounding saturation without losing clarity in my vocals…that was until Radial came out with the VOCO LOCO!

Radial Engineering describes the VOCO LOCO as an “Effects Switcher for Vocals or Instruments”, but this little magic box is SO MUCH MORE. Firstly, it is a very clean vocal pre-amp that is capable of providing phantom power (which is awesome if you are prefer using your own condenser mic, or if you just like to run your mic gain a little bit hotter than the sound guy would). Secondly, there is a two band EQ with a high and low shelf, which can make your typical dynamic mic have crisp highs, or more depth in low frequency. Thirdly, it has a transformer isolated hi-Z effect loop, where you can send your vocals through a series of guitar effect pedals without having impedance issues. Radial also provides you with parameters for how hot you send or receive your vocal signal into the loop, in addition to parameters controlling the tone and depth of the effects used with your vocal. These parameters are so useful for dialing in how the way you use the effect to saturate or color your vocal. For instance, say you have a Holy Grail reverb pedal that sounds great when you hit it with a really hot signal, but you wish it was brighter. The VOCO LOCO allows you to send a very hot signal to the pedal, take a lower signal back on return, and then you can change how the tone of mix that you are looping through the pedal!

Not only does the VOCO LOCO allow you to take total control over how your vocal interacts with different effects, it virtually eliminates feedback, impedance, and signal quality issues. Additionally, It also has two stomp buttons which allow you to control either MUTE/ALL WET, or DRY/WET signal. These can both be very handy for the live setting for a few different reasons. For instance, say you have a song where you only need vocal tremolo and reverb in the chorus. The stomp buttons would allow you to turn multiple effects on and off at once, or allow you to control how much of those effects are being implemented into the signal at once, or if you want your vocal to come throughs at all!

When I used the VOCO LOCO with my band, Shivery Shakes, I used a TC Electronics Hall of Fame Reverb (using the spring reverb setting), with a MXR Carbon Copy Delay for slapback, and occasionally I’ll punch of a Maxon 808 Overdrive pedal for a little bit of grit. In my experience, using the VOCO LOCO is the only way to achieve vocal overdrive/distortion without crazy issues with gain structure and feedback. Being able to control my own vocal effects on stage adds a whole new element to putting on a live show, where previously I have felt like that was the one way the sound of the venue limited us.

For anyone who has experimented with using guitar pedals on your vocals, or anyone who is interested having some more control over how your vocals sound live, I couldn’t recommend this pedal more. Additionally, this product has the same terrific build quality and components that Radial is renowned for (this pedal will still work when your grandkids start a band!!!!!). Come get LOCO on it for only $8/weekend or $15/month, and if you want to rent some guitar effect pedals to use with it, try out our pedal of the month club ($9/1 pedal, $15/2 pedals, $20/3 pedals).

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