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This article was originally published in issue #29
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For pedal designers, the challenge of recreating some of the classic analogue delay and echo sounds produced by units that have graced some of the most popular recordings of our time has become somewhat of an obsession, and understandably so. With the advent of digital modelling technology, the market has become pretty saturated with products purporting to be perfect recreations of those classic units and although there are some excellent products on the market, many have struggled to achieve that elusive balance of quality and practicality at an affordable price. Having already created a hugely successful unit in the Flashback x4 and the original Alter Ego pedals, TC Electronic has decided to delve further into the depths of Delay and Echo, the fruits of which have been realised in the form of a brand new product: The Alter Ego x4 Vintage Echo pedal. At the heart of this unit lies no less than than twelve selected sounds, some of which have been modelled on various classic units from yesteryear including: a Watkins Copicat, a Roland Space Echo, an Electro-Harmonix Echoflanger, two Echoplex and Binson Echorec models, an Ibanez DM 2 and various others. Let's take a closer look at this unit to see what it has to offer.
The Vintage Echo x4 is very simply laid out with everything clearly labelled, making it an absolute breeze to use. On the very front of the pedal, from left to right, you'll find a rotary control knob to select the 16 different effects types, a time control with a rhythmic variant including dotted delay settings, a feedback control and a delay level control.
Each of former three controls allow you to shape the range and characteristics of each delay effect to wherever your inspiration takes you. There are four footswitches on the front of the pedal, three of which contain the factory presets, with the fourth providing a tap tempo function.
The Alter Ego x4 isn't just limited to providing echo and delay either, as it also comes loaded with a very useful looper function easily accessed via a toggle switch situated on the front of the pedal. Once the looper mode is engaged, the four footswitches on the front of the pedal operate the looper. The first operates the looper record function, the second is the play function, the third offers a very useful 'once' function and the fourth allows you to undo the recorded parts that you have made on the fly.
The Alter Ego x4 also features ample I/O options too including MIDI in and out, MIDI expression pedal connectivity, USB, and mono and stereo input and output options.
The sheer depth of options available on tap with the Alter Ego X4 is mightily impressive and each of the delay settings offers something extremely usable. I couldn't help but be impressed with the authenticity of the some of the delays. The Copycat captures the warmth and personality of the original unit very well indeed, which is no mean feat, with a vibe immediately reminiscent of those classic 'Shadows' sounds. The delays are not this unit's only strength though, and players that have leanings towards those classic psychedelic Rock sounds will no doubt find great inspiration from the Echoflange and Echorec settings. The TR Organ setting offers some great Jazz comping effects which can be taken to extreme levels for some very unusual but fun sounds.
The looper function will prove to be a great addition for a lot of players too. It's a ton of fun, is an absolute breeze to use and will no doubt have you coming up with lots of cool layers to experiment with in no time at all.
As if all that wasn't enough, the TC, shares the company's excellent Toneprint facility, which means you can download custom programmed settinsg to your phone and drop them straight into the pedal to use.
The Alter Ego x4 is an exceptionally good pedal. Not only does it recreate those classic retro sounds remarkably well, it's great fun to use and is a perfect companion for the mobile musician looking for great quality and versatility at a manageable price point.