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This article was originally published in issue #26
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From the Nova and G systems to the Polytune, VoiceLive and TonePrint, it seems the guys at TC Electronic's only goal in life is to give guitarists things they never thought they'd see. So imagine our delight when a box showed up containing four new TC pedals, following the miniaturised path set by the Danish company's Hall of Fame Mini, Spark Mini and Polytune Mini (all previously reviewed in GI). Now there are four more of TC's pedals that have been given the miniaturisation treatment, all true bypass and all offering the same pedalboard friendly format. TC says it has done it without losing any features - an impressive feat. The question is, did the company's designer's pull it off?
TC Electronic Flashback Mini Delay (see above image)
After distortion I would bet that most guitarist consider delay one of the most essential effects units on the market, and TC's pedigree on the delay market speaks for itself. The algorithms created for its landmark 2290 Dynamic Digital Delay are industry standard and that's the basis of what we're presented with here.
On the surface we've got a three knob delay pedal modelled on the famed 2290 with controls for delay time, repeats and level. If I'm honest, if this pedal did nothing else it would get top marks already as we've got a wonderful delay in a tiny box and a price even the greedy can't argue with. From standard Rock solo sounds to luscious space echoes (with speeds ranging from 0 to an impressive 7 seconds!) to vintage slapbacks and dotted 8th note single repeat tricks (all aided by a very clever built in tap tempo feature!), the Flashback Mini has you covered.
So how does it stack up against the regular flashback? Well, due to the size we've certainly (at least on initial inspection) lost some features. You may remember the original pedal boasted a fourth knob allowing you to switch between nine delay types, a looper and a tone print. The looper doesn't feature in the Flashback Mini, but everything else is certainly here - you've just got to know where to look!
The pedal's most impressive feature is, without a doubt, the free TonePrint editor software (which all these minis have) which allows you to switch between these nine basic delay types and tailor them to your every need. Your song may call for a pristine digital delay with exact repeats of your signal, or you may require something more vintage, in which case you can pick out the analogue delay which features more organic degradation on your repeats. If that's not enough then you can go in and adjust the HiCut (anywhere from 20Hz to 20kHz) or depth etc. Maybe you want TC's renowned dynamic delay which adjusts the effect level based on the input signal, or perhaps you want something really out there like a reverse delay. It really is a case of the sky being the limit, if you can imagine it, you can probably create it here. If that wasn't enough you can also assign any three parameters you like to the knobs, so if you don't want a delay time knob, you could assign that knob to control modulation on the delay for example. Clever stuff!
Maybe you're not a producer extraordinaire though, and you don't really know how to create the sounds you want? TC still has you covered with an impressive array of tone prints created by their extensive lists of artists, which we've often discussed before in GI. Browse through the vast array of presets and send one to your pedal via USB or beam directly to your pedal via your phone by playing the sound from your phone into your pickup, it's as easy as that.
The TC Flashback mini is an incredible pedal, there's no doubt about that. The only thing we could say that could be considered a negative is that to really get the full potential of this pedal, it would help if you were into technology. If you're not one for computers, you're still getting a great delay worth the price of entry alone for its sheer size and innovate tap tempo, but if you want ease of access to digital, analogue, tape, ping pong and more, the original flashback may be more suited to your needs. If space is an issue though and you're on a budget, the Flashback Mini is a must own
TC Electronic Vortex Flanger
TC has a serious pedigree when it comes to the flanging effect, in fact, the first product created by the Rishøj brothers was a Stereo Chorus Modulator & Flanger when they formed the company way back in 1976 (I think I've still got one somehwere - Ed)
When it comes to flanging, the original Vortex flanger had just about all of your bases covered. From subtle pop flanging to Van Halen-esque absurdity and even all out take off sounds a la Paul Gilbert.
While TC's Flashback delay had nine different effects before it was shrunk to become a Mini version, the Vortex Mini only has to contend with a more basic big brother, so while you have options like “advanced” and “tape” to choose from in the tone print editor, it really feels like the basic sounds on the original are accessible here. The five unique styles are all different enough to feel like they'd all have different feels when used in the same context, that sort of variety should be applauded.
The main difference here is the obvious lack of a delay knob which is a shame as that really enabled you to fine tune your flanging on the original pedal. While you still have that unmatched level of adjustment via the TonePrint software, it's not as simple as just leaning over on a gig and giving it a tweak. As with the Flashback, this is only a negative if you're not technologically minded; if you really feel you need this control, you can assign the parameter to one of the knobs at the cost of something else. The bright side is that once you've got it perfect via the software there's absolutely no risk of someone accidentally knocking it and ruining your perfect tone!
At this point I'd come to understand that with these pedals there really was no compromise on tone, and any review would only need to pick up on how well the pedals features function in this smaller form, because the sound quality really in impeccable.
The Vortex Mini still features all the versatility you'd need for smooth to insane depending on how much you toy with the depth, speed and feedback controls and while the bigger brother may be better suited to a flanging aficionado, the little sister mini pedal offers a fantastic inroad to the effect for anyone who just needs a sound they can set and forget, especially when you consider that you can easily load in TonePrints from Steve Stevens, Orianthi, Bumblefoot and more to get you started with the possibilities of flange.
TC Electronic Shaker Vibrato
The Shaker vibrato is an amazing pedal in that you don't know how much you need it until you sit and play with it. Of all four of these mini TC pedals, it's the one that stays truest to the bigger version, to the point where you might argue that the original is now obsolete.
Not to be confused with a tremolo pedal (which is rapid changes in volume) a vibrato pedal is a rapid change in pitch, as you get when you apply vibrato with the fingers. So a vibrato pedal can be used to apply a balanced vibrato to individual notes, or whole chords for some real Leslie-esque sounds.
As with the other mini pedals we've lost a knob here, but it's just the tone knob. This doesn't feel like so much of a loss as the original seemed unnecessary if you had a tone knob on your guitar, and even then the best sounds always came from the tone knob being on full, so the Mini really feels like a refinement rather than a pedal lacking features.
The real selling point for this effect is the ramp knob, when on 0 the effect is instant, but as you gradually turn it up the effect is delayed when you engage the switch. This has an incredibly natural feel to it, like a Leslie rotating speaker gradually coming up to speed, when you combine this with the latching function (where the effect is only active while to switch is depressed) you can easily apply a subtle vibrato to chords which doesn't feel forced.
I was so impressed with this pedal out of the box that I couldn't find any reason to dig around in the TonePrint editor software or beam over any artist patches, though with sounds from names like Brent Hinds, Doug Aldrich and Richard Fortus you'll very quickly find some uses for the pedal even if it's not apparent from the get go.
An astonishingly cool pedal, the only downside being that it's an effect that has uses that aren't overly obvious and as such it may be a stretch to buy an effect you may not use, but if you like to add a little shimmer to your playing, I can't see a better way to spend some money!
TC Electronic Corona Mini Chorus
Finally, we have the Corona Mini chorus, the perfect pedal for adding a little shimmer to your clean guitar parts or a bit of thickness to an overdriven tone!
Based no the iconic SCF Stereo Chorus Flanger, now you can get the sounds favoured by names like Eric Johnson and Brian May. The default effect features depth speed and level controls as on the original, though we don't have the stereo out options like on the SCF or the Corona which is certainly a shame, but there's only so much you could fit in a pedal this size.
As with the Shaker, the Corona chorus differs from its bigger sibling by removing the tone knob, though in this instance that really does take a little something away from the pedal as the tone knob on the original Corona controlled the wet signal, leaving your dry tone untouched. This can be adjusted in the TonePrint editor, but not on the fly.
Aside from those few points, we've got an exceptional chorus with enough variety in speed and depth to find something of use no matter what you're after, things really get interesting in the tone print editor as you're given an impressive 17 parameters to play around with and create that perfect chorus, along with four basic models (Classic, Advanced, TriChorus and TriChorus2). As with the other pedals we've looked at, if you are struggling to find a good tone there's a crazy amount of TonePrints from names like Guthrie Govan, John 5 and Paul Gilbert to get you started. The quality of the chorus is what stands out here, I've tried other choruses from budget companies and while they do the trick they have that “fake” low fi sound, but the Corona manages to swing with the heavy hitters for which you'd expect to spend upwards of £150/$200.
All in all, the Corona was easy enough to operate and I quickly found myself dialling up Eric Johnson sounds for cleans, Scofield sounds for some quirky jazz soloing and Zakk Wylde style wobbles for thicker riffs, very rarely did I come across any sound that you could deem unusable, and that says a lot for the basic algorithms inside the unit. One thing I did think worth mentioning was the very cool “Kill dry” ability which allows you to just hear the wet signal, this was perfect for laying down clean guitars for ambiance, check it out in the review!
All four of these new pedals are to the very high standard we've come to expect from TC Electronic and any (or all!) of them would grace any guitarist's pedalboard. And the bonus news? Check out the prices!