The Electro Harmonix V256 Vocoder is a unique and versatile vocal effect pedal that allows musicians to create robotic, voice-like sounds. This pedal made its debut in 2009 as an advanced iteration of Electro Harmonix’s Voice Box.
The V256 uses advanced digital technology to deliver 256 vocoder bands. This allows for much more nuanced and precise vocal articulations. The pedal can make an electric guitar or synthesizer sound uncannily like a “talking” robot or chorus of vocalists.
Special Features of the V256:
▪ 3 VOX-ROBO vocoder modes that feature a robotic synthesizer
▪ Single, Major, and Minor modes feature a drone synthesizer
* Blend control
▪ 3 vocal transposition modes, TRANSPOSITION, INSTRUMENT CTRL, and
REFLEX-TUNE (basically Auto-Tune in EHX lingo)
▪ Vocoder bands adjustable from a vintage sounding 8 bands to a smooth sounding 256 bands
▪ TONE, GENDER BENDER, and PITCH controls
▪ Save and load up to 9 presets: 1 preset for each mode.
▪ Scroll through the presets using the MODE knob or PRESET footswitch.
▪ Built-In balanced Mic Pre-Amp with switchable Phantom Power and Gain adjustment.
▪ Effect output on balanced XLR line output and 1/4” unbalanced instrument output
EHX V256 With Synths?
If you’re wondering whether the v256 plays well with synthesizers and keyboards, the answer is a resounding yes!
While EHX is mostly known to be a guitar-focused brand, the V256 pedal works great with synths, and can compete even with much more expensive vocoders.
Check out the video below, showing the EHX V256 in use with a Korg Minilogue.
And here’s another exhaustive video showing the potential of this brilliant effect unit in a synth-related context.
Reviews from guitar and music tech sites have been glowing. The consensus is that the V256 far surpasses most other vocoders on the market in terms of sound quality and flexibility. The large number of bands combined with the formant filter results in unparalleled vocal clarity.
This is also my experience. Having used a good number of vocoders over the years, I really appreciate how ‘clear’ and intelligible the V256 is.
Ease Of Use
Well, this is not exactly one of the best qualities of the V256. It might look like a straightforward effect unit, but it’s not. You WILL need to read the manual, but even after doing that, you might have some doubts about the workflow.
This is why I added those videos above, as they might provide some extra guidance. Also, make sure you have the right cables at hand, especially if you want to make full use of all the effect’s features.
In short, don’t expect the (almost) instant gratification of classic synths such as the Roland VP-330 and the like. The EHX V256, especially at first, can be quite puzzling and involves a bit of trial and error. Don’t despair though, it’s not rocket science. It might take some time, but after a while you will be happily singing like a robot!
- Have a decent-quality microphone (the unit has a low/hi gain switch, but the stronger the output of your mic is, the better your voice will sound)
- Have all the XLR, instrument and MIDI cables at hand before you start plugging things in
- Try to lower the Bands knob first, as it will give a more lo-fi, vintage feel
- Make sure you turn the Pitch knob all the way left or right if you’re using the Robo modes. Only then you will be able to use the Input’s audio signal as the Carrier.
- Experiment with the hands-on control of the synthesizer you will use for the instrument input. Even just playing with the mod wheel can lead to interesting variations.
- Try to use the pedal even without plugging an external instrument in, as there’s a great-sounding internal synth voice that can be controlled via MIDI (channel 16).
The Electro Harmonix V256 Vocoder is definitely a gem worth rediscovering.
It sounds really good, it’s versatile, compact and well-built, and it can inspire electronic music producers as well as keyboard and guitar players.
While it’s not the most intuitive piece of gear you’ll have in your arsenal, it can be very fun and rewarding. Last but not least, at the average current price of $/€250 it’s quite affordable!
Vocoder fans and creative musicians looking to add unique robot-like effects would be wise to check out this clever pedal.
Learn more on the V256 Vocoder pedal on the Electro Harmonix website.
If you’re into software vocoders instead, check out the recently updated Orange Vocoder IV.
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