Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #31
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
The VoiceSolo FX150 is essentially an all-in-one monitor/PA system in one (very) compact package. And compact it is - TC Helicon has managed to cram a 6½” speaker and a 3-channel mixer with FX into a rigid, high impact polystyrene cabinet measuring just 210mm x 286mm x 184 mm and weighing in at just 3 kg!
Occupying most of the front of the unit behind a rugged steel mesh grille is the Tannoy dual-concentric driver, powered by a 150W class D power amplifier and more than loud enough to work as a personal monitor on a live stage. There’s an adapter for mounting onto a standard tripod stand, should you wish to use it as a small PA system. The angled cabinet also lets you use it on the floor as a monitor, or by using the integral ‘easy clip’ design, it can be positioned on the upper section of a mic stand. When using a boom type stand, the monitor is placed in the perfect position pointing up at the performer, with all controls within arm’s reach.
To the right of the speaker are 18 backlit buttons that give you access to all controls for the 3-channel mixer and effects, a continuous ‘EDIT’ controller and finally, a master volume control. Channels 1 and 2 are identical, with control over Level, ‘Vocal Tone’ (more on that later), 3-band EQ and Reverb level. The Aux section is fed by a mini jack input on the rear and has controls for Level, 3-band EQ and a voice-cancelling feature to let you sing, or play along with your favourite tracks.
All editing of parameters is done via the EDIT knob and a press of the desired function button, which helpfully changes colour to confirm what you’re adjusting. Once a button is pressed, the current value is displayed via the nine blue LEDs around the EDIT knob - this isn’t as limited as it seems, as rather than being restricted to nine steps, the LEDs light up adjacent to each other and grow brighter, the further you turn the notched dial until the next one starts to glow.
The reverb section comprises nine different styles (taken from the flagship VoiceLive 3 - see our review in issue 27 - Ed) and are accessed via the STYLE button and selected by the EDIT knob. These are a selection of Halls, Rooms, Plates etc. with dark and light versions of various lengths - I gravitated to one or two choices, but there’s something for every style here. A press of the ‘Vocal Tone’ button on channels 1 and 2 activates the “Adaptive Tone” circuit, which comprises of an enhanced EQ curve, compressor, de-esser and gate. This is a one stop shop setting and quickly gets you up and running with minimal fuss - this would generally be used if the FX150is being run as a small PA system, as when in monitor mode, one would normally want to hear the vocal sound exactly as it is going out of the main PA.
I should add, by the way, that the VoiceSolo 150 is fully compatible with the innovative mic control system fitted into the Sennheiser e835 mic which I reviewed back in GI issue 21. Used together, the mic and this monitor could be a very handy combination.
To the rear, channel 1 and 2 inputs are on a combi XLR/jack, with a Hi-Z instrument switch on channel 1. The input of channel 2 is true bypassed to an XLR THRU output for use when daisy-chaining several units together for stage monitoring (which would in turn go into input 2 on the next FX150 and so on). Next up is a switchable XLR output. This has a dual function, allowing it to be used as a conventional ‘FULL MIX’ output (Ch. 1, 2 Aux and reverb), or just Channel 1. This is used in foldback mode, where the performer can plug a mic/instrument directly into the FX150 and then send the dry signal on to the mixing desk, while a band monitor mix is fed to input 2. This then gives you independent control over the individual voice/instrument, relative to the band monitor mix - effectively giving each artist more of themselves in their own monitor. This works extremely well and would save a lot of time in sound checks, where band members may end up having to compromise their own level for the sake of others.
Along with the mini jack aux input is a +48v Phantom power switch, a mini USB connector for firmware updates etc. (no audio, I’m afraid) and the power adapter connector (the adapter is in-line and has more than enough cable length to reach the floor without straining the connector).
I have used this recently for on stage monitoring at several acoustic gigs and found it invaluable - I ran it purely as a foldback monitor and due to the mic stand positioning, it didn’t need to be very loud to be effective. The EQ is more than adequate to get a great sound on vocals and acoustic guitar and, coupled with the TC-quality effects, I’d be more than happy to run this as the main mixer for a small PA system, along with two powered cabinets fed from the mix output.
A very flexible and great sounding piece of kit, the VoiceSolo FX150 would be very effective in the corner of a small bar/club as a PA for a solo performer, either on its own, or with an extension speaker. For me though, I’d want to keep this in my bag as ‘safety-net’ monitoring solution that would get me out of trouble on a live stage, whatever the size of venue!