It’s tough to argue that talkboxes and vocoders don’t have a special place in music. Though sometimes considered “niche” or “specialist” tools by many guitarists, the effects and technology themselves have managed to cut a wide swath throughout popular music genres of all stripes; from Peter Frampton and Joe Walsh, to Daft Punk and Imogen Heap.
If you don’t like ‘em at all, feel free to ignore everything I’m saying from here on out (although, you might be interested in subscribing to hear me rant about other things you might like). But for those of you who like to have a little extra fun with your music, talkboxes and vocoders are great creative tools to explore.
It’s no secret that managing some of the…uh…more antiquated bits and pieces involved in a classic talkbox setup can be awkward and/or pain in the…teeth. From chewing on that dang hose. You know the one. That thing that looks like it should be hooked up intravenously to your dehydrated bassplayer rather than wrestling with the side of your mouth like a fishhook.
And as far as classic vocoders go, not everyone wants to tote around a big synthesizer rig to each and every gig, or have to drag it out of the garage to play with the fun robo-voices for one little recording project.
Pictured: Convenience ala 1981
Luckily, the good people at Boss have solved a significant portion of that tech-bulk and hassle by managing to cram a pretty dang sophisticated synth engine into a pedal the size of a gas station pie. Or, more accurately, the size of any other Boss stompbox. And it’s great!
The Boss VO-1 Vocoder pedal takes the hose out of your mouth, the synth and vocal effects off their giant, cumbersome racks and staging, and puts it on your pedal board, making it one of the more innovative little stompboxes we’ve seen on the market in a while. The simple, no-nonsense interface gives you a surprising amount of vocal and instrumental creative possibility, allowing you to play with different effects, tones, and “colors”.
The VO-1 is compatible with guitar, bass, keyboards, or pretty much any instrument with a ¼” output, as well as a handy XLR input on the side to directly hook up a vocal microphone. Simply stomp to activate the effect, and stomp again to bring your vocals back to normal. No hose! No more drooling on your guitar by accident! Yay! Use the Mode knob to toggle through different vocalizing effects such as “Talk Box”, “Advanced” and “Vintage” vocoders, or if you don’t have a microphone handy, a “Choir” effect for your instrument of choice.
Once you pick your effect, use the Tone and Color knobs to find the right sort of sound for your music: be it a masculine terminator robot from hell, or an angelic feminine choir from heaven. You can also make use of the Blend controls to blend between dry and wet signals for a fuller sound or a different dynamic.
Further features include:
- Built-in FX loop for extra vocal effects (i.e. delay, echo, reverb)
- Buffered bypass for clean integration with other pedals
- Boss' 5-year warranty
Now, the problem with just writing about a pedal like this is that it’s hard to capture just how much fun you can have without playing with it yourself. Well, the best thing I can recommend is stopping by the shop this…oh, wow…holiday season (already!) and having one of us give you a demo of the VO-1 or trying it out for yourself. There are also several highly entertaining and informative videos out there on the interwebs for you to check out. Like this one...
Speaking personally, the VO-1 is one of the most fun and expressive musical tools I’ve played with and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re looking for a convenient, hassle-free way to access and make the most of some of music technology’s most creative effects! Or, at the very least, eternally impress your dead-head buddies by totally making your guitar talk, maaaannn.
Also…did I mention it’s almost the holidays already? Weird…someone should probably blog about some neat, musical gift ideas…
Stay excellent and have a good week!