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This article was originally published in issue #41
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TC Electronic has a fantastic track record in audio processing and it's easy to forget just how long the Danish company has been at the top of its game. For example, I bought my first TC kit, a G-Force rack effects, over 15 years ago I think and it is still in a class with very few other top end processors available today.
Back in 2009, TC raised the bar and delivered ‘Bass 2.0’ in the form of the RH series that dealt up an organic playing experience with super light amplification and top end DSP. Up to date and more recently we have reviewed the newer BH series of amplifiers that feature onboard effects in the form of user downloadable and shareable ‘TonePrints’ too. Then there are those TC pedals, too, the latest of which for we bass players is the brand new, and rather cool looking, single control knob SpectraComp compressor.
On first look, it wouldn't seem like this review is going to be that long, given the SpectraComp's simple exterior., but I can assure you that it's looks are very deceptive - so much so that if I were fishing for section titles for this review, they'd be ‘simple’, ‘user friendly’ and ‘jaw drop mode’!
As I understand it, the actual algorithms used in the pedal are based on TC's highly regarded studio rack systems .What makes SpectraComp different then? Many, but not all pedal compressors are known as ‘full band’. This means that the ‘dynamic reduction’ carried out by the unit is applied to the input signal as a whole. This is fine, but as I describe in my video, it can have consequences for bass players if we are trying to get a balance between energy hungry bass notes and delicate high frequency chords, harmonics or indeed, just clarity!
The SpectraComp totally gets around the problem (not to mention some other bass related compression side effects) by not having just a single ‘tap’ for audio. It features a true 3-band ‘multi-band compressor’. What this means is that your low end thunder is left intact whilst mid-range frequencies and clear top end are treated separately. The benefits are great as there’s no need for extra EQ and filters externally to regain missing clarity under high compression settings. Furthermore, the higher compression settings on the SpectraComp sound actually less compressed and more natural, which has to be a good thing.
The first thing to note about the SpectraComp is that it's totally programmable. It comes with a default ‘sound setting' known as a 'TonePrint' loaded, which I think is very good indeed - the lower settings giving your bass tone tightness, punch and control with a nice clarity on top, higher settings tightening up the overall bass sound as we head off to some squished tones.
But the SpectraComp doesn’t have a baked-in sound or settings - no, you can choose to reconfigure it completely with TC's well regarded, downloadable, TonePrints. In short, using a smart phone application or your computer, you can load onto your pedal, ‘patches’ that have been created by your favourite bass players. This will dramatically change the way it operates - big subby low end bass, full band guitar comp, squishy compression for your '80s hi-fi bass impressions or, in my case, multi-band with NewYork style ‘parallel’ compression! Yes, it’s all available! Check out the TC website to see how this works, or of course have a look at my previous TC gear reviews to hear what TonePrints are all about.
The use of TC's TonePrint technology doesn't just mean that this is a very versatile compressor - it also means that it can be incredibly simple to use. Want a new sound? Just download the appropriate TonePrint and away you go. If, however you are like me and enjoy a veritable cognitive banquet then ‘jaw drop mode’ is for you!
In the video I brought in my own iPad and plugged it directly in to the pedal via USB. I had installed the free TC Electronic TonePrint application and editor software. Using the editor I now have a user interface that opens access to more parameters than you’d ever get on any other pedal or in many cases, even on a rack processor! To be honest there is so much detail on the small screen I’d have been unable to cover it all, but it really is a tweaker's delight. Want to change the crossover frequencies for the three compressor bands? Change one band from hard knee to soft knee? Disable auto-gain make up? Make the control knob adjust the wet/dry mix rather than thresholds? Fix the compressor to one setting and disable the control knob altogether? Done! You can save your settings as your own patches then reload them per gig or session.
By tweaking the bands you can not only adjust the compression algorithms and dry blend, but by boosting or cutting the outputs of each band, you can also add EQ settings too. Often people talk about compressors having a ‘tone’ too them, well you can adjust that, too! I set up a patch that bumped the low end by moving the crossover points of the low and mid compressors. It did a great job of adding ‘heft’ or ‘low end weight’ to an amplifier. Handy if your lightweight head of choice is lacking in low end girth maybe?
Rounding up, it’s a 5/5 review. Yes, really. Despite seeming so simple it's capable of some of the most advanced compression parameters from any pedal on the market right now - bar TC Electronic’s own Hyper Gravity pedal. And the clincher? Just look at the price! So much versatility at such a low cost.