Superbeat frontman Kieron Allen tests the latest in vocal effects, looping and acoustic guitar processing to arrive in one box
he temptation to turn up at a gig with a mountain of pedals and miles of leads is a big one, but we all know that spending hours fiddling about with your setup not only turns the soundman’s face ruby – it looks a bit silly, too. Enter the TC Helicon Play Acoustic. Designed for acoustic musicians who like to experiment and are ready to embrace technology that gives their performances a more professional edge, this compact piece of kit offers all the vocal and guitar effects you could need. There’s even a harmony function to keep you and your instrument perfectly in tune (is that cheating? We’re yet to decide). The manufacturer also offering an equivalent for rockers, the Play Electric.
But back in acoustic land, the Play Acoustic really does offer everything you could need in a neat, LED-littered package. On the back of the unit you’ll find XLR inputs and outputs, so connecting your trusty SM-58 to a PA is a doddle. The Play Acoustic also has up-to-date USB connectivity and phantom power, offering additional flexibility.
Be warned, though – this advanced piece of kit is not for beginners. It takes work to discover the many effects and functions the pedal offers and if you’re unused to dealing with such mechanics, it’s perhaps not for you – there’s a danger that when you go and try this in a live setting you’ll suffer a humiliating defeat. But for those of you in the know, the Play Acoustic is functional and minimal in design, offering a staggering number of guitar and vocal effects including all the basics (reverb, delay etc) along with numerous presets from Distorted Vox to Practice Room.
As a vocal enhancer this piece of kit is up there with the best. The sound is full and clean, and the harmonies realistic. There’s the option to harmonise your guitar with your vocals, but we found the fact that both instrument and voice could be controlled separately more of an advantage. The more you fiddle, the more you get from this packed piece of gear – take the option for looping as an example. But even if you just stick to simple vocal/guitar tonality FX the Play Acoustic stands out.
In the end, it really comes down to style. Do you want to add body and depth to your acoustic performances, or are you a dedicated follower of lo-fi? If the latter is you then you don’t need the Play Acoustic, but if you want to embrace the greater range of sonic possibilities that kit like the Play Acoustic represents, then I’d suggest you go and purchase one.
Verdict: An advanced piece of kit that’s up there with the best
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- Construction: Dual die-cast clamshell design, acrylic lens, punch-cut metal connection panel and rubberized footings
- Presets: 100+ song & artist presets, memory for 500 user-generated
- Inputs: Balanced XLR (mic), unbalanced 1/4″ TS (guitar) and 1/8″ stereo mini jack (aux)
- Display: Backlit graphic LCD
- Weight: 2.2lb (1 kg)