The VE-20 Vocal Performer by Boss is one of the more recent entries in the company’s wildly popular line of effects pedals designed specifically for singers. It’s a simple yet powerful processor with big-time user appeal that’s up for just about any sort of vocal challenge you might throw at it, whether you’re a touring musician or just messing around in your home studio.
The good people at Boss, who have been one of the foremost suppliers of quality audio effects equipment since the early 70s, know a thing or two about what consumers want. With products like the VE-20, they’re only continuing to strengthen their grip on the market.
Like other vocal effects processors, the VE-20 offers several versatile voice-manipulation tools, including layered vocals and far-out special effects. Unlike many processors, however, it also affords users an enjoyably intuitive plug-and-play experience and a level of ruggedness and adaptability that promises to make it an asset to even the most demanding audiophiles.
This Boss VE-20 review will explore several of the unit’s main features, both open-ended and refreshingly un extravagant.
- Intuitive, user-friendly interface
- Wide range of customizable effects
- Highly portable compact design
- Durable all-metal outer construction
- Runs on AA batteries or standard AC adapter (not included)
- Limited effects-editing capabilities
- Instructions are brief and may be hard to understand (unless you read Japanese)
Things to Consider Before Buying the Boss VE-20
Let’s be clear—Boss’s VE-20 Vocal Performer is not a toy. It’s a sophisticated piece of technology intended to expand solo vocalists’ sonic repertoire in a performance setting. If you’re just looking for a way to add fun effects to pre-recorded audio at home, there are all sorts of free programs and plugins that you can play with on the internet.
That said, the VE-20 is affordable and easy enough to figure out to make a gratifying buy for serious singers of all schools, styles, and skill levels.
Before you drop a wad on the VE-20, you should have an idea of:
- How you plan on employing it
- How much you have to spend
- Whether your intended use justifies the cost
- Whether another product might better suit your needs
Features & Benefits
The VE-20 Vocal Performer boasts an array of impressive features, but the ones that users will likely get the most mileage out of are the following:
One of the VE-20’s most basic yet flexible features is its ability to seamlessly layer multiple vocal tracks on top of one another. This one feature presents users with a virtually limitless selection of vocal enhancement options.
In its most straightforward application, the unit can sync up tracks with different pitches, allowing users to harmonize with themselves in real-time, or compound a single track to lend their voice a thicker, fuller quality. With only slightly more input, you can use it to create complex multi-track stacks or weave dreamy soundscapes.
Real-Time Pitch Correction
Another notable feature of the VE-20 is its variable pitch correction functions, which serve to smooth out deviations in pitch and give the user’s voice a more polished sound.
On its “Soft” setting, it forgives the kind of minor mistakes you often make during live vocal performances; on its “Hard” setting, it can practically sing for you. It’s possible to adjust the scale, key, and even the octave of both primary settings, and the resulting effects are applied instantly and fairly convincingly.
The VE-20 also includes a pair of novelty pitch correction effects, “Electric” and “Robot,” which let users transform themselves into overproduced pop idols or droning automatons with the touch of a button.
If you take a more avant-garde approach to your vocal stylings, you’ll no doubt be excited by the VE-20’s specialized audio effects presets. Among these are bread-and-butter effects like “Harmony,” “Delay,” and “Reverb,” as well as more playful trickery like “Strobe,” “Radio,” and “Distortion.”
All of these sound pretty good for what they are. While most vocalists probably won’t spend much time with the kookier settings, you may find it useful to have them on hand if you aim to capture your listeners’ attention with unusual sounds.
I conducted a thorough review of user testimonials to get a sense of what people do and don’t like about the Boss VE-20. What I found was overwhelmingly positive:
Here are a few of the best vocal processor options that are worth a look if we haven’t yet sold you on the VE-20:
TC Helicon’s Play is a handy vocal effects processor that provides a slew of pro-grade effects, chief among them being the natural-sounding harmonies, which some users consider superior to those generated by the VE-20. It is also compatible with guitars, undoubtedly an attractive extra for instrumentalist singer-songwriters.
Comparison to Boss VE-20:
- Extensive library of high-quality effects
- Large, easy-to-read digital display
- Similar price to the Boss VE-20
- Can be used with guitars
Check out the TC Helicon Play if harmonies play a large role in your music, or if you think you might want to bring a six-string into the mix.
Another compact pedal comparable to the VE-20, the Zoom V3 packs less punch overall but makes up for its programming limitations by being extremely economical. It’s powerful enough to handle all of the most-used effects, such as delay, reverb, and two- and three-part harmonies, but inexpensive enough not to set you back too much if you’re buying on a budget.
What’s more, you can use it to record and stream audio, effectively making it a self-contained studio.
Comparison to Boss VE-20:
- 16 built-in effects
- Up to 3-part harmony stacking
- Recording and streaming capabilities
- $80-90 cheaper than the VE-20 on average
Take a look at the Zoom V3 if we’ve enticed you by the notion of being able to record your performances or if you just want to save a few bucks.
Though it’s not technically a pedal, Roland’s VT-4 Vocal Transformer has quickly gained a glowing reputation among audio enthusiasts, and for a good reason.
This small-scale effects station is a processing wizard that prioritizes precision and fine-tuned control over gimmicky effects presets. But it comes loaded with plenty of those, as well, and even gives users the option of layering multiple effects into a single channel, a rare feat where effects pedals are concerned.
Comparison to Boss VE-20:
- Unmatched power and control
- Real-time pitch and formant tweaking
- Single-channel effects layering
- Tons of modern and retro effects presets
If you want to lend your performances a professional production edge, check out the Vocal Transformer as it could make a worthwhile investment.
Of course, another vocal harmonizer might be a better fit, and fortunately, there are plenty of options.
Suppose you’re looking for a reliable multi-purpose vocal effects processor that can deftly accommodate all of your creative needs without a lot of technical to-dos. In that case, you can’t do much better than the Boss VE-20 Vocal Performer.
It’s powerful, rugged, reasonably priced, and comes with a shallow learning curve that makes it accessible to just about anyone with a voice. Perhaps most importantly, it enhances the pleasure of singing, which at the end of the day is what it’s all about.
Click here to take a closer look at the Boss VE-20 Vocal Performer and everything it can do.