Who says that effects pedals are reserved for guitarists and bassists?
Whether you’re a vocalist looking to recreate all the harmony layers you tracked in the studio on stage, or if you’re in a cover band that requires a wide range of vocal styles, effects pedals can help you expand your voice.
In this list, we’ll be looking at the best vocal effects pedals that you can have at your feet while performing live or recording in the studio.
Snapshot: Top 7 Vocal Effects Pedals in 2021
- TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2 – Best Budget Option
- Boss VE-500 – Best High End Option
- Boss VE-20
- Boss VE-8
- Radial Engineering Voco-Loco – Best Mic Preamp Pedal
- Digitech Live Harmony – Best for Live Performances
- Zoom V6 – Best Overall
Choosing a Great Vocal Effects Pedal for Any Singing Style
What often starts vocalists on their search for the best vocal effects pedal is to recreate harmonies on stage. If you don’t have backup singers then an effects pedal is a great option for expanding the possibilities of your voice.
But it doesn’t stop there. You may also want to consider other effects that are useful live or in the studio, such as compression, pitch correction, reverbs, and more.
In compiling this list I wanted to present a wide array of pedals that were designed to recreate studio effects for the stage, as this is the most practical and common use of these pedals. Some of these are specifically designed for singing, while others are designed to effect vocals along with effecting acoustic guitars for singer/songwriters.
Whatever the application, all of the effects on this list come in pedal form – no mixing consoles, plugins, or processors that attach to microphone stands will be reviewed on this list.
Finally, I made it a priority to present effects pedals that are accessible for a wide array of budgets. The fact of the matter is that because most vocal effects pedals are “multi-effects units”, even the cheapest models start at the boutique price range of guitar pedals.
With all that in mind, here are our top picks for vocal effects pedals to get you singing in 2021!
The 7 Best Vocal Effects Pedals in 2021
1. TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2 – Best Budget Vocal Effects Pedal
- Optional battery power operation lets you reduce cord clutter onstage and be extra mobile Adaptive Tone for perfect EQ compression de-essing and gating Intelligent mic input gain for quick and...
The TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2 is a great place to start when it comes to vocal effects pedals because it is one of the most accessible in terms of price, as well as in terms of functionality.
TC Helicon is a sister company to TC Electronics that specializes in vocal effects pedals. The Mic Mechanic 2 is the result of a humongous pool of customer surveys that allowed TC to develop a vocal effects pedal that is the size of a standard guitar pedal.
The effects are specifically voiced for vocals that include delay, reverb, pitch correction and EQ. While the original Mic Mechanic required 12V of power, this updated version can be powered by a standard 9V power supply like most guitar effects and the signal runs via XLR.
While most vocal effects pedals operate by scrolling through menus on an LED screen, the Mic Mechanic 2 functions with old school knobs, once again like a traditional guitar effects pedal. There are knobs for Echo (Delay), Reverb, and Correction, as well as a button for Tone.
The top of the pedal has XLR jacks for Mic (Input) and Out. There is also a USB port for connecting to TC’s editing software. You can turn the pedal on/off via the bypass switch, as well as with the switch on the top of the pedal.
Both the Echo and Reverb controls have multiple styles of each effect that you can choose from, including Tape, Digital, and Slap style delays and Room, Club, and Hall Reverbs. Each of these controls are divided into three sections that increase the effect as you turn the knob to the right.
These effects are up to the standard of TC and sound like studio grade effects. The Correction feature is auto chromatic and works by edging you to the nearest note to the one you’re singing. This can be a drastic effect like auto-tune when set to 100, or just a way to give you some extra confidence when set lower.
Finally, the Tone button cuts low end and boosts some highs to help you cut through the mix.
- Effect Type: Delay, Reverb, and Pitch Correction
- Signal: Digital
- Power Requirements: 9V or AA Batteries
- Dimensions: 5.31 x 2.4 x 3.46”
- Special Features: Tap Tempo, Auto-Gain, Tone setting
Final Thoughts on the TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2
The Mic Mechanic 2 is a simple and effective pedal that gives you the straightest possible road to great sounding vocals. If you’re a backup vocalist that doesn’t need harmonies, or a lead vocalist that sticks to traditional vocal tones, then this is all the pedal you need, and it comes in at a really solid price point.
2. Boss VE-500 – Best High-End Vocal Effects Pedal
- Advanced vocal multi-effects stompbox for singing guitarists
If you’re looking for the best vocal processor money can buy, then this pedal from Boss’ 500 series is the right pedal for you. Play guitar? This pedal has you covered with guitar effects as well.
Boss has a wide range of vocal effects pedals that they have created over the years, a few more of which have landed a spot on this list, but none are more powerful than the VE-500. Like the other pedals in Boss’ 500 series, the VE-500 gives you just about every imaginable vocal effect you can think of and does them at a no-compromise level of quality.
This pedal is built like a tank and can easily withstand long tours on the road. Key specs include stereo In/Out, MIDI functionality to use with guitars or keyboards, and the pedal is capable of working with both condenser and dynamic microphones.
The default controls for the VE-500 are centered around navigating presets. Footswitches 1 and 2 allow you to navigate up and down between patches, while the third footswitch lets you toggle on and off the harmonies.
These parameters are fully customizable through the LED screen. The knobs correlate to Patches, Harmony Level, and Reverb in the default setting, but these can be set up to control any parameter with any effect you choose. This is done using the sets of buttons below that let you move through the settings.
The top of the pedal has all your inputs/outputs, including instrument In/Thru, making this an ideal pedal to use with other instruments that can be sent to front of house. This also makes the VE-500 an easy pedal to integrate onto a pedalboard.
The VE-500 has essential effects that any vocalist can benefit from using such as Enhance, which helps with the EQ, Presence, Sparkle, and Compression. There is also a really effective De-Esser to help round off hard S’s, P’s, and F’s that a pop filter would otherwise be used for.
The pitch correction can go from subtle to stylistic, and is a great way to give yourself some extra confidence on stage. The VE-500 is specifically designed to integrate with guitars and as a result has an excellent sounding Vocoder effect if you ever need to cover “Jambi” or “Rocky Mountain Way”.
The Reverbs and Delays meet the standard of Boss effects in every way possible, making this a fantastic sounding pedal.
- Effect Type: Vocal Multi-Effects
- Signal: Digital
- Power Requirements: Boss Adaptor
- Dimensions: 6.7 x 5.4 x 2.4″
- Special Features: Programmable presets, Vocoder, multi-effects, MIDI
Final Thoughts on the Boss VE-500
There’s no denying that the VE-500 has a hefty price tag, but with that price comes every conceivable vocal effect with fully customizable parameters. This is a pedal that works the way you want it to. If you’re a lead singer that plays guitar, this will easily integrate into your pedalboard rig. Overall, this is a really well thought out and well-made pedal that is deserving of the “Best Vocal Effect Pedal” spot if not for being so expensive.
3. Boss VE-20
Boss is pretty much, well… the boss when it comes to vocal effects pedals so I’m going to continue down this list with another excellent offering in the VE-20. Much more streamlined than the VE-500, this pedal from Boss’ Twin series of pedals is a great option for beginners and pros alike.
While the VE-500 could take on an instrument, the VE-20 is made strictly for vocalists. It includes effects such as Harmony (up to three), Double-Track, Dynamics, Delay and Reverb just to name a few staples, but it also has experimental effects like Distortion, Radio, and Strobe.
In addition to being a great effects unit, the VE-20 is also a looper with up to 38 seconds of mono recording time. It can run on AA batteries or an AC Adaptor and has phantom power to power condenser microphones.
Like all pedals from the Twin Series, the Boss VE-20 has two large foot pedals to give you some added versatility while performing onstage. What separates it from the other Twin pedals is that it has an LED menu screen that lets you access presets and other internal effects.
Because of this, the controls are relatively simple with a rotary knob and two buttons that let you navigate the menus. The bypass switch on the left activates the Phrase Loop and has corresponding lights to let you know when you are recording.
The bypass on the right lets you switch on and off harmonies. The top of the pedal has a single input for your microphone and can be sent out in stereo.
It’s all about presets with this pedal and the VE-20 has loads of great, genre-specific, factory presets available right out of the box that you can start with, but you can also create your own. The harmonizer works within a specific key and you can adjust the volumes of each of these voices within the menu.
The delay is a great, digital Boss delay that keeps your vocal clarity with all the repeats and has up to four seconds of delay time. The effects range from subtle to experimental. Combining these effects with the looper allows for a lot of great songwriting tools.
The one drawback is that if you want to loop instruments, you have to use your vocal mic to do so.
- Effect Type: Vocal Multi-Effect/Looper
- Signal: Digital
- Power Requirements: DC 9 V: Dry battery LR6/R6 (AA) type x 6, AC Adaptor (PSA series)
- Dimensions: 6-13/16 x 6-¼ x 2-¼”
- Special Features: Phrase Looper, Harmonizer, Multi-effects, battery powered optional
Final Thoughts on the Boss VE-20
If the Boss VE-500 is to expansive or intimidating, the VE-20 is a great alternative. It is more accessible in its design and its price, without compromising sound quality. This is a pedal meant just for vocalists, so if you are looking for an “all in one” busking pedal to incorporate with your acoustic guitar, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
4. Boss VE-8 Acoustic Singer
- Compact, all-in-one preamp and effects solution for singers who play acoustic guitarDial in rich, sophisticated BOSS sound processing with simple, intuitive controlsStudio-quality vocal processing...
The last Boss pedal to make it onto this list is designed specifically for singers that utilize the acoustic guitar. If you want a single pedal to work with on a gig that is easy to understand, then this is the one for you.
At first glance, the VE-8 Acoustic Singer looks simple and, honestly, a bit dated in its design, but don’t let it’s uninspired looks deter you. This pedal has everything that a serious singer/songwriter on an acoustic guitar will need for a gig as it includes must-have effects for both guitar and vocals as well as all the required signal routing options.
One of the most useful parts of this pedal is the 80 second looper that can independently control guitar and vocal recording/playback levels.
One aspect of this pedal that I really like is the large buttons. While this may seem like a minor detail, anyone who has played live on stage will know that you’re multitasking constantly, and knowing that you have more space to hit your effects accurately is a safety net that won’t go unnoticed.
The pedal is split into three sections: Guitar, Vocals, and Output (Looper), with individual controls for all of the effects in each section. The Output section includes level controls for your guitar and vocal, which can be controlled for your master volume while playing and while looping. There are also controls for Memory presets that can let you customize the pedal for a setlist.
The top of the pedal has plenty of signal routing options including Stereo Out via XLR or Line Out, Phantom Power, and USB for recording to your computer. It also has a Line in for headphones, making this a great practice/writing tool
The guitar section has effects including Reverb, Notch, Chorus, and Resonance – effects found on many of the best acoustic preamps and amplifiers. The Vocal controls include an Enhance feature (a subtle EQ and compression combo) as well as pitch correction, multiple reverbs, and Harmony levels.
The Harmony Type knob lets you choose up to two voices (resulting in 3 part harmonies) and also lets you choose extra effects like Radio and Distortion.
The preamp/effects in this pedal are at gig worthy level and are bound to improve your sound where some pedals can hinder. The harmonizer effect of this pedal tracks your guitar playing and automatically shifts to the proper key, meaning that you will never need to manually set the key – but you have that option too if you want it.
- Effect Type: Vocal/guitar multi-effect and looper
- Signal: Digital
- Power Requirements: AC Adaptor or 6 x AA Batteries
- Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.5 x 2.5”
- Special Features: Looper, Enhance, Reverb, Pitch correct, Harmonizer
Final Thoughts on the Boss VE-8 Acoustic Singer
Boss certainly knows how to target specific musicians and they prove that with the Acoustic Singer. This is the ideal pedal for singers that play acoustic guitar. While it’s not a very pretty pedal, it’s simple but expansive functionality and signal routing flexibility makes this a vocal effects pedal you don’t want to overlook.
5. Radial Engineering Voco-Loco – Best Mic Preamp Pedal
- Add guitar effects pedals to vocals or instrumentsCreate exciting and unique effects as you performTurn on multiple effects using one footswitchWorks with either dynamic or condenser microphones
While multi-effects pedals designed for vocalists are often the ideal choice for performers, few give you the option of an effects loop. The Radial Engineering Voco-Loco takes a simpler approach that allows you to customize your own effects not only for vocals, but any instrument that requires a microphone.
This pedal is different from most on the list in that it doesn’t include any onboard effects so to speak. At its core, the Voco-Loco is a mic preamp and an effects loop. The beauty of this design concept is that you can incorporate any effects pedal you want into the effects loop and then modify it using the onboard EQ and preamp gain.
Because it isn’t tailored for any specific kind of instrument, you can use this is if you are a vocalist that plays wind instruments or any other kind of instrument that requires a microphone. It is dynamic and condenser microphone friendly, making it a great option for the stage or in the studio.
The controls on the Voco-Loco are split into two sections: Preamp/EQ and Effects Loop. The Preamp/EQ section of the pedal has a Mic-In control that adjusts the input level for the preamp section. This allows you to accurately dial in any microphone for any singer. There is also a dual EQ section so that you can tailor the mic to the vocalist further.
The FX Loop section of the pedal has a Send/Return function to reduce the noise floor as well as avoid distortion, while the EQ controls the tonality and can be used to tame the harsh high end frequencies some pedals create. The most useful control of this pedal is the Mix knob, which allows you to mix in the amount of effect you want, which often isn’t possible when you plug straight into effects pedals.
The Lefthand switch can be set for either Mute or All Wet depending on how you set the recessed Mute Loop switch. The Loop/Wet Dry switch activates the FX Loop.
The sounds that this pedal can create for you depend heavily on the instrument/vocals you are putting through it and the effects pedals you decide to route into the Loop. Whether you decide to use a modulation pedal, reverb pedal, or any other kind of effect, the effects loop is quiet and will accurately reflect your pedals’ natural sounds.
The preamp has up to 52 dB of gain on deck, so you can even use this pedal to push the limits of microphone gain and get some distorted, experimental sounds. The sounds can also change heavily depending on your signal routing choices, which are fully explained in the user manual.
- Effect Type: Microphone Effects Loop/Preamp
- Signal: Analog
- Power Requirements: 15V DC, 400 mA
- Dimensions: Box: 11.7 x 4.9 x 2.7”
- Special Features: Mic Preamp, FX Loop, Condenser/Dynamic Mic Friendly
Final Thoughts on the Radial Engineering Voco-Loco
I’m a huge fan of simple effects pedals that are built with a clear focus in mind and this is one of those pedals. The simplicity in its design gives singers limitless potential for sound effects, all dependent upon the pedals they decide to incorporate. This pedal simply serves as a great pedalboard platform.
6. Digitech Live Harmony (VLFX) – Best Vocal Effects Pedal For Live Performances
Most vocalists are looking to recreate studio effects for the stage, and the Digitech Live Harmony is a pedal that can do them all.
When you first look at the Digitech Live Harmony, you might think that it belongs inside a vintage car playing songs from the 50’s. However, this effects unit goes way beyond the technology that it’s aesthetics are based on. The Live Harmony features a DBX preamp and compressor, giving you top notch gain and compression control.
It also includes a built in Lexacon Reverb that was once reserved just for the studio. It’s a rather large pedal, but it has enough fire power to be the only vocal effects pedal that you need.
The Live Harmony has multiple clever features and presets inside of it. One button worth mentioning is the Live Adapt button, which uses an internal microphone to set the tempo of your effects by listening to the music around you.
It also has a Gold Channel button that can be used to set a foundation for your effects based on musical genres, as well as an Anti-Feedback button that fights feedback that can occur on stage.
Beyond this, there are a number of controls that let you create your own presets like the Setlists option, meaning you can set up effects for up to 5 different setlists.
Like many vocal effects pedals, the Live Harmony works off of what you feed it. It’s not going to be a cure for bad singing, but it will make good singing even better. The presets are really well thought out and require minimal tweaking from its user.
The tracking on the harmonizer works incredibly well and you can adjust the levels for each of the harmonies, which not every pedal can do. You can also plug in a guitar or keyboard to further guide the accuracy of the harmonies.
- Effect Type: Vocal Multi-Effects
- Signal: Digital
- Power Requirements: 9V DC (1.3 Amps)
- Dimensions:11.5 x 11.38 x 2.44”
- Special Features: 70 second Looper, 2 harmonies, Guitar In/Thru, Anti-Feedback, Phantom Power
Final Thoughts on the Digitech Live Harmony
The Digitech Live Harmony is the best pedal for live performances because if gives vocalists every option they need in terms of effects and presets, as well as tools like Anti-Feedback and the Live-Adapt function that are sure to come in handy on stage. It is designed for vocalists, while allowing guitars and keys to adapt within its functionality. Digitech really knocked it out of the park with this one.
7. Zoom V6 – Best Vocal Effects Pedal Overall
- Simultaneously use up to three vocal processors from the voice, harmony and effect sections
If you’re a singer through and through, you may need an effects pedal that skips over the guitar/side features for more vocal effects and expression options. The first ever vocal processor from Zoom in pedal form is going to do that and more.
The V6 is an incredibly powerful, yet intuitive vocal processor in pedal format. It has up to 99 presets available so that you can store your favorite sounds to be used for specific songs in a setlist or in the studio. It has phantom power, meaning you can use condenser or dynamic microphones, but it also comes with an SGV6 Shotgun style microphone.
This mic is extremely focused and is great for use in live situations, which allows the V6 to work optimally. The Looper works up to 3:30, more than enough time to record a full pop song.
This pedal is split into three sections across the top tier: Voice, Harmony, and Effects. The Lower tier has three pedals to control the onboard looper. The Harmony section of the pedal allows you up to five harmonies where most vocal effects pedals only allow two or three.
The bottom left of the pedal has a Bypass function, which is really handy when you want to turn off your vocal effects when talking to the crowd. Most notable is the Formant pedal, which works as an expression pedal to really push the limits of what vocal effects pedals have been capable of.
The effects on the V6 run from classic staples like reverb, delay, and octave, to futuristic like Robot, whistle, vocoder, and Talkbox. The 5 part harmonies can turn a single vocalist into a choir, and tracks especially well when using the included shotgun microphone.
The Formant pedal is what really cracks this box wide open, allowing vocalists to pitch shift on the fly or to blend in effects using their foot. Be sure to check out the demo video to hear all the sounds that this pedal is capable of, as there are too many to list here.
- Effect Type: Vocal Multi-Effects
- Signal: Digital
- Power Requirements: DC 9V via Zoom Adaptor
- Dimensions: 12.6 x 7 x 3”
- Special Features: SGV6 Microphone included, Formant pedal, Multi-harmony
Final Thoughts on the Zoom V6
Whether you want to sound like Daft Punk or Elvis Presley, the Zoom V6 has all the tools you need for the stage or in the studio, and then some. The included microphone is a nice touch, especially for beginners that don’t have an extensive microphone selection.
Even with all the crazy sounds that are possible from this unit, the controls are understandable and won’t require you to crack open a menu. The price is right, and the sounds are tight, making this easily the best vocal effects pedal available on the market today.
Bring Studio Sound to the Stage
These days, pedals seem to go hand in hand with guitars, but effects are more common place with vocalists than you may have initially thought. The best studio vocal performances can be difficult to pull off in live situations, and pedals like the ones on this list can make replicating your own recordings or the recordings of your favorite artists that much more of a reality.
They are also practical and can make your workflow on stage that much easier, especially if you are playing an instrument like the acoustic guitar in addition to singing. Whatever your style of singing, if you have never played with vocal effects before I highly recommend it.
It is my hope that this article helps you pick out the best vocal effects pedal for your performance, no matter what your budget or the sounds you need. I would normally sign off by saying “happy guitar playing”, but in this case I will say “happy singing!”
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Davis Wilton Bader is a professional guitarist/writer based out of St. Louis, MO. He plays in the bands Lumet and The Outskirts.