Gear Review: LR Baggs Voiceprint® D.I. Pedal

Acoustic-electric guitarists have come to accept the idea that plugging a guitar into an acoustic amp or a P.A. system is a compromise. We buy acoustic-electrics primarily on characteristic tones, but they can lose something when plugged in. Resonant acoustics can be feedback-prone and nearly unusable with sound reinforcement. L.R. Baggs’ Voiceprint DI is designed to bring an acoustic’s inherent tone to the electrical output of the instrument.

I’ll start with the same disclaimer I made when I reviewed the Baggs Align Series Chorus and Delay a couple of years back. I’m a Baggs fan, and my trusty Para DI has served me well for years. As with other Baggs pedals, the Voiceprint’s fit and finish seemed top-notch. Jacks, dials and switches on the review unit felt solid and smooth.

LR Baggs VoicePrint DI Pedal side view

Up on top are two footswitches: a mute and a “next” switch that lets the user select from up to 99 saved presets. An anti-feedback knob is based on characteristics captured in setup and has proved handy already. The “voice” knob blends pickup output with the voice-printed signal, and the “select” knob is a second way to select a saved preset. A “pad” button provides input gain attenuation in 3 dB increments (0, 3, 6, or 9 dB).

Inputs and outputs are thoughtfully located on the side of the unit rather than the top. A ground lift and effects loop are nice and useful touches. Finally, there’s a USB port in case firmware needs to be updated.

LR Baggs Voiceprint DI

The Theory

The Voiceprint DI uses Impulse Responses (IRs) to make a plugged-in acoustic electric sound more like it does acoustically. For those unfamiliar, IRs have become popular in recording and in a lot of electric guitarists’ rigs. The idea is that a signal can be played into a piece of gear or in a specific sonic space and the output recorded. A mathematical process called “deconvolution” calculates the difference between the desired signal and the signal “seen” by the circuitry and saves that difference as an IR that can be applied to recreate the desired tone.

For example, an IR might be captured in a chapel so the room’s natural reverb can be applied in the studio. Electric guitarists use IRs to recreate the sounds of specific speaker cabinets or amps. The Voiceprint DI uses the same theory and “convolves” the pickup signal with the IR to make it sound more like the guitar’s natural acoustic tone.

The Setup

Don’t expect to pick up your Voiceprint on the way to the gig and use it that night. First, you have to go through the short process of capturing your guitar’s sonic signature.

As of the writing of this review, the capture process requires an iPhone or iPad with LR Baggs’ free AcousticLive app installed. Note that while the setup requires an iPhone, you don’t need one to use the pedal once it’s been set up. AcousticLive provides step-by-step directions that include tapping the bridge, then playing chords, and finally picking single notes into the phone mic. The entire setup process should take no more than a couple of minutes per preset.

The app also includes Level and EQ settings so you can create multiple usage-specific presets for each guitar (e.g. one for a jazz gig and another for bluegrass).

LR Baggs VoicePrint DI with iPhone app

On the Gig

I got the pedal in time for a couple of gigs using my “daily driver” Taylor 214ce DLX. My Friday night gig was with my acoustic duo, a gig where my acoustic is the main instrumentation. On this medium-volume outdoor gig I was able to step out into the sound field and compare the VoicePrint DI in and out of bypass mode. The results were impressive… I heard a lot more of the balanced tone and jangly highs that made me pick this guitar in the store, and the difference coming from the P.A. was both audible and more representative of the guitar’s acoustic tone.

The next night I was subbing for the guitar player for one of the Jersey shore’s more popular cover bands. The band was big and loud (hard-hitting drummer, bass, keys and a 3-piece horn section), and a few tunes required me on acoustic.

That was where I got to test the anti-feedback feature. Unlike the Para’s feedback-fighting notch filter, the Voiceprint took care of everything with just a nudge of the “anti-fb” knob. The torture test was when the guy I subbed for showed up later in the night and plugged in for a few, leaving me right in front of some loud wedges. The Voiceprint did the trick and clearly sounded more “acoustic” than usual.

However, the real torture test was still waiting at home… my very resonant old Guild JF-65. While the 12-string version of this maple-backed jumbo guitar is well-known, this 6-string is one of the nicest-sounding guitars I’ve ever heard, and others who’ve heard it will back me up.

However, the natural resonance that makes the guitar sound so good acoustically turns it into a feedback monster when plugged in. In addition, the installation of an aftermarket pickup may have been done less than optimally, leading to poorly balanced output.

I ran through the setup process again (including the feedback setup), then A/Bed the voiceprint on and in bypass. Not only did the voiceprint again sound noticeably more like my guitar, but with it on I got none of the howling feedback that immediately started when I bypassed the pedal.

Summary

It was only a matter of time before IRs made their way into the acoustic-electric guitar field. If you spend a lot of time plugging your acoustic in and wishing that what went into the P.A. sounded more like what came out of the soundhole, and you have access to a relatively new iPhone or iPad, the Voiceprint DI is well worth checking out.

FEATURES

  • Master Volume level control
  • Voice blends your instrument’s custom Voiceprint with your pickup signal for enhanced accuracy
  • Anti•fb applies your anti-feedback profile for effective feedback control. Short press for phase inversion
  • Select scrolls through up to 99 instrument presets
  • Pad attenuates input by 0dB, -3dB, -6dB, or -9dB to accommodate a wide-range of input levels
  • Mute footswitch for ¼” and XLR outs. Long press for bypass
  • Next footswitch selects the next instrument preset
  • Series FX loop (separate jacks for send and return)
  • Ground lift switch effectively eliminates ground-loop noise
  • ¼” input
  • XLR and ¼” outputs
  • 9V DC power
  • iPhone Version: iPhone 6 and later

LR Baggs website: https://www.lrbaggs.com/voiceprint-di-acoustic-guitar-impulse-response-pedal

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