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This article was originally published in issue #7
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Review of TC Electronic TonePrint Pedals -
TC Electronic certainly hit a winner when it came up with its TonePrint series of pedals. The range has been selling strongly at a very competitive prices since their launch and the ever-growing roster of artists who have created easily downloadable presets is impressive - from Paul Gilbert, Steve Morse, Steve Vai and John Petrucci, to Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal and Steve Stevens. It reads like a who's who of legendary guitarists! But all of this means nothing if the pedals themselves don't sound and feel great. Luckily they do but before I look at them each individually, let's look at some of the features they have in common.
The first thing you notice when picking up the pedals is the solid construction and very compact footprint. These are small pedals and very roadworthy, clearly able to cope with a great deal of foot-delivered abuse. The knobs and switches are satisfyingly solid and feel expensive. Each pedal has a quick access back plate that only requires the release of one large screw as opposed to four. The inside is similarly solid and tidy with no extraneous wires or components that could be easily damaged during battery changes. Each pedal can be run from a single 9v battery or by a standard 9v power supply. A mini USB port on the back of each pedal allows for TonePrint uploads and firmware updates. True analogue bypass is featured across the range with no analogue to digital conversion happening with the pedals bypassed, thus preserving your tone. You can choose buffered operation for long cable runs if so desired though and that flexibility is a superb addition.
Recently TC announced the addition of bass TonePrints making the range even more versatile and a recent app for iOS and Android allows users to beam TonePrints to the pedals via their guitar pickups for the ultimate in portable preset management!
Flashback Delay & Looper
The Flashback is the delay pedal in the range and features 11 delay types including a great looping function with 40 seconds of sampling time. Delay times can go up to an insane 6 seconds and range from super clean digital recreations of the famed 2290 to grungy Lo-Fi sounds and modulated soundscapes. For such a small pedal it's amazing that TC has managed to squeeze so much into the unit. Delay time and feedback are controlled in the usual fashion and can be mixed with the analogue dry signal via the FX Level dial. A small toggle switch selects between a quarter note delay and dotted 8th notes for your U2 moments. You can even select a combination of the two with the switch in the downward position. Stereo ins and outs allow for a stereo set-up, or for studio use and the delays are so clean and noiseless that even pro users should be excited by the options on offer. The looper function is the icing on the cake and allows as many overdubs as you need and very easy operation. TC has included the ability to hold down the pedal switch and physically play a tempo using the audio tap function. It's very effective and probably more accurate than the standard tap tempo approach. There is even a dry kill mode for use with parallel effects loops.
When all of these features combine with the flexibility to download new presets to the TonePrint function, it's a no-brainer. If you're after a delay pedal and don't need a super high-end boutique analogue unit then you'd be mad not to check out the TC. At this price there's very little to touch it.
Hall of Fame Reverb
The Hall of Fame features ten reverb types plus the TonePrint function, allowing for 11 different reverbs in one tiny unit. Reverb types include the standard Room, Hall and Cathedral affairs but with the additions of more creative sounds such as modulated reverbs, Lo-Fi sounds and gated reverbs to inspire you. Decay time and tone can be controlled via the top two dials and FX level can be adjusted with the dry signal remaining analogue right through the signal chain to preserve your tone.
Reverbs range from short slap back style sounds to infinite decays that are perfect for those ambient moments, especially when using the modulated mode. Pre-delay can be switched between short and long via a toggle switch and the unit features the same kill dry mode as the Flashback. Stereo ins and outs are provided and the sounds are easily good enough for studio use as well as in a guitar rig. Operation is whisper quiet and the Reverbs sound full and very realistic, a particular favourite being the great Lo-Fi mode that had a really gnarly quality for overdriven sounds. Again, the TonePrint mode adds even more flexibility for almost any reverb you could ever desire. Priced very competitively and with high end sounds on board this is a stunning reverb pedal that should be ignored at your peril!
The Corona is the first of the simpler TonePrint pedals, with fewer options than the Flashback and Hall of Fame. The pedal features Speed, Depth, Tone and FX level controls with a toggle switch to select between Chorus, TonePrint and TriChorus operation. Chorus operation (based on TC's own legendary SCF pedal) offers lush, digital choruses ranging from subtle and smooth doubling sounds to warm and round chorusing all the way up to Leslie-type sounds or crazy modulated madness should you desire it. Engaging the TriChorus mode adds two more independent choruses to the signal and thickens things up greatly, allowing for some truly huge sounds. Even at the extremes of the controls things remained very quiet indeed with no loss of tone, thanks to the dry signal remaining in the analogue domain throughout. It's not the warmest or most analogue sounding unit I've ever tried but for the cost and with the versatility of the TonePrint function, this chorus pedal should rightfully make it onto many pedal boards. If you need a great chorus and value the space on your board then check this pedal out now.
The Shaker Vibrato gives subtle - or not so subtle! - pitch vibrato effects with two modes of operation - Vibrato and Latch. Speed, depth and tone can be dialled in as required, allowing for small pitch changes or larger shifts for Leslie-type sounds at higher speed settings. Latch mode allows the user to press and hold the pedal allowing the vibrato to activate and let go again to deactivate it. This control allows for the vibrato to be brought it at the end of a note or chord instead of always being on. A rise time control adjusts the time it takes for the effect to swell in after the pedal is depressed. The effect is very high quality and clean, with no degradation of signal due to the analogue-dry-through integration. We also heard no addition of noise, even at extreme settings. This isn't an effect that you're going to use on a regular basis and doesn't represent the pinnacle of versatility but if it is something that you might use in your set-up you should check out the Shaker Vibrato. Don't forget that TonePrint function too. It's superbly built and sounds great.
The Vortex is a digital flanger designed to give a range of flange effects from subtle modulations to jet plane extremes. It features Speed, Depth, delay time and Feedback controls with two different modes - Flanger and Tape. Flange mode offers up a through-zero mode allowing for a positive or negative effect for your flanging sounds, whilst tape mode allows for a softer sounding flange. The TonePrint function is available for uploading presets to the pedal too. You can get a huge variety of quality flange sounds from this unit and it whilst they are firmly in the digital domain, the unit costs a third of the price of some boutique analogue units that will take up three times the space on your pedal board.
Again, we heard no extraneous noise being added to the signal and there were no pops or clicks whilst switching the pedal on and off. Stereo operation is provided for studio use or more complex guitar set-ups and the analogue-dry-through operation means no loss of tone even when the pedal is switched on. If you're looking for a flanger that can recreate all the classic sounds, need quality but don't want to break the back with boutique gear, then this is the pedal for you!
TC Electronic Tone Print FX pedals
MSRP £109 each except Flashback: £125. US MSRP: $129 - Flashback: $149
Flashback Delay & Looper
Made in: Unknown
Die-cast aluminium casing
72 mm x 122 mm x 50 mm - 300 g (excl. battery)
9 delay effects with up to 7000 ms delay time
40 seconds Looper (20 seconds in stereo)
Dual Supply Rails technology ensures headroom for line level effect loops from a single 9Vbattery. Battery failure circuit automatically puts Flashback Delay into true bypass mode if the battery runs out
Stereo inputs with automatic mono/stereo sensing
Mini USB connector for uploading custom TonePrints and software updates
Delay, Feedback, FX Level and Delay Mode knobs
Hall of Fame Reverb
10 reverb effects including the TC Classic Hall
Decay, Tone, FX Level and Reverb Mode knobs with high-quality, metal-shaft potentiometers
Others - as above
True pitch vibrato with RiseTime control for fading the effect in and out
Speed, Depth, RiseTime and Tone knobs with high-quality, metal-shaft potentiometers
Others - as above
Two chorus effects: A 1:1 recreation of the TC Electronic Chorus/Flanger pedal
Speed, Depth, FX Level and Tone knobs with high-quality, metal-shaft potentiometers
Even if TC hadn't invented the TonePrint facility, these are really well made pedals, producing fabulous quality effects, selling at extremely competitive prices. TonePrint, however, elevates them from the merely great to the excellent because it means your purchase isn't going to be outdated - TC is offering its customers not just the chance to copy their favourite artists' settings but to include them inside the box, via a simple download. You can even modify the downloads, making the system even more future-proof and versatile. These are pedals you'll want to own and cherish for years.