Stompboxes are back! Yes, software is great, but the gigging musician still loves something you can plug in and step on. The Messe show saw some traditionally rack-mounted gear reborn in stomp form.

Sure to be a huge hit, Roland’s BOSS RE-20 takes the beloved RE-201 Roland Space Echo and recreates it as a stompbox. It emulates all the major features of the RE-201, down to placement presets and tape flutter and magnetic head sound saturation, and adds a longer delay time — plus the ability to tap in delays with your foot. No pricing or availability yet that I’ve seen.

BOSS RE-20 Space Echo Product Page
Music thing weighs in with some thoughts.

At the other end of the spectrum, vocal processor maker TC-Helicon is best known for making big, do-everything racks. They’ve now taken the most popular features there, and repackaged as stomp boxes called VOICE|TONE. The idea is to perform all of the sweetening you’d normally apply in the studio onstage.

VoiceTone Create is a multi-effects processor in stomp form, with reverb, delay, thickening/microtuning, distortion and telephone/megaphone effects.

VoiceTone Correct performs pitch correction with tone (EQ, mainly) and dynamic shaping, and de-essing. On top of that, it has some sort of “dynamic sensing” algorithm that adjusts this for you. I’m not entirely sure what that means or how it works, but it sounds interesting.

TC’s vocal effects sound really terrific. You could easily abuse them, of course, but for some subtle processing, they could also make you sound a lot better — if you can just use a little restraint. I’m not entirely sure that splitting multi-effects from dynamics/EQ/de-essing makes sense, but on the other hand, even if you get both of these, they’re quite compact. And TC is one of the only companies I’ve seen that does high-quality vocal processing with some thought into how you’d actually use it onstage, in terms of easy controls, A/B switching, and so on.

Also from TC at Messe: control via guitar, harmony for Pro Tools, a new flagship vocal processor, and new editors with enhanced features and Vista/Universal Mac readiness. The editors will be out in May, and since I have a VoiceLive, Intel Mac, and Vista PC, you’ll be sure to hear more about them.