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Digitech Vocal Harmony Processors (part 1)

Pitch shifting was once considered to be an unattainable effect. Something that everyone wanted, but wasn't really practical to any usable level of quality. Then came a company called Eventide with their famous Harmonizer which changed all that for good...

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Pitch shifting was once considered to be an unattainable effect. Something that everyone wanted, but wasn't really practical to any usable level of quality. Then came a company called Eventide with their famous Harmonizer which changed all that for good. True, the original product didn't give perfect pitch shifting, and even now with modern technology you can't expect a pitch shifted sound to be every bit as good as the original. There will always be some glitching, warbling, or other artifact to give the game away. Even so, there are many occasions where these side effects are not noticeable, don't matter, or can be consciously traded against the advantage pitch shifting can offer. Subtle pitch shifting is great for thickening a sound, and small amounts of pitch shifting can bring a persistently flat vocalist into correct tune, or at least they will waver up and down around the correct pitch rather than always being below it. If these problems with pitch shifting have been all too evident in the past, particularly with lower cost devices or multi-effects units that incorporate pitch shifting, then perhaps it has been because each unit has tried to address all pitch shifting applications. Digitech have broken away from that idea and are offering units tailored to particular types of use. Here we have the Studio 5000 Five Part Digital Harmony Processor - I think I'll call it the Studio 5000 for short - which is tailored for instrumental sounds, and the Studio Vocalist Vocal Harmony Processor, which obviously is mainly intended for vocals. You can of course break the rules if you wish and use either unit for any purpose, but I think Digitech's intentions are clear, and judging by results they are heading along the right lines.

The Digitech Studio 5000 has all the appearance of a multi-effects unit rather than a dedicated pitch shifter. This goes against the trend towards single effects units that seems slowly to be gathering momentum. It would be a mistake however to assume that this is all it is. Multi-effects units, if they are not quite ten a penny yet, are certainly not nearly as exciting as they once were. When you listen carefully to what this unit can do, you will understand that this is a multi-effects unit with a certain degree of class. Digitech of course describe the Studio 5000 neither as a multi-effects unit nor pitch shifter. 'Harmony Processor' is their term, which would imply that the Studio 5000 can take a single note input and turn it into a chorus, with harmonies that fit in with a particular key. This is true, and since it isn't necessary to stick to particular keys, or even harmonise in musical steps, then a whole range of thickening effects, and also weird effects, can be achieved along with the standard Brian May imitations that you would expect. The Studio 5000 can take a single note and make four harmony parts from it, which adds up to five part harmony. If four harmonies are too rich for your taste, then two-voice programs are available. Some of the programs are better adapted to chordal rather than single note inputs, there is obviously a great deal of difference in recognising the pitch of a single note and applying harmonies to it, and working with a combination of notes, each note having a whole spectrum of harmonics.

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By David Mellor Monday May 21, 2012
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