DigiTech Obscura Altered Delay Review – Best Stereo Delay Pedal Under $150?

digitech-obscura-altered-delay-review-best-stereo-delay-pedal-under-150-01

DigiTech: we all know the name. It sounds like the kind of company you expect to be a front for a Captain Planet villain’s fishy operations, but to guitarists it is the name of a benevolent industry crux. Boasting the iconic Whammy, post-2013 DOD revival, and looping solutions like the JamMan and TRIO, DigiTech is a guitar effect pedal monolith.

Lately, DigiTech seems to have been leveraging their long history of gear wizardry to push their catalog even further into the boutique direction tonewise, and it shows in their latest releases. Today we’ll be taking a look at the Obscura Altered Delay.

Features:

  • Four Unique Delay Types:
    Analog – Classic sound of a vintage bucket brigade analog delay circuit
    Tape – Emulates a classic tube tape echo
    Lo-Fi – A low-fidelity delay that has limited bandwidth and reduced bit-depth to approximate the effects of low sample rate and 8-bit signal processing used in vintage digital delays
    Reverse – A delay where the repeats are played backwards. No dry signal is present when REVERSE is selected.
  • Tap Tempo with Beat Divisions
  • Repeat/Hold
  • Compact Size with Soft Click, Vacuum-Style Footswitch
  • Easy Access Delay Tails On/Off Switch – Enables buffered bypass which allows Delay signal to continue being heard after the effect is bypassed
  • True Stereo I/O
  • True Bypass circuitry preserves your tone in bypass
  • High-Voltage operation for uncompromised signal quality
  • Stomplock™ knob guard locks your tone in place and prevent tampering or accidental knob adjustments onstage
  • Custom-cut Hook and Loop Pedalboard Pad to attach and lock your pedals to your pedalboard

Upon opening the unassuming brown box that houses the Obscura, we are greeted by a gleefully sinister orange and brown screen print on a reflective pale yellow housing. The artfully foreboding Obscura is also artfully designed; a tiny and densely constructed enclosure sporting six knobs, two of which are dual-concentric for more available parameters to tweak. I’ve often said I’d like to see more stacked knobs on the market for the sake of conserving space, and it would seem DigiTech satisfied this urge preemptively. The stereo I/O jacks are side-mounted, and the soft-touch switch doubles as both your on/off and a tap tempo. There is also a Tails switch, handy for guitarists who’d like a choice between either muting the decay of the repeats or allowing them to subside naturally when the pedal is bypassed. For the plug-and-play types out there, the Obscura also comes with a neat little rubber block that keeps the knobs from being kicked accidentally onstage. I know it’s been said before, but what the hell; it looks like an angry little cube man, and I couldn’t be more tickled about it.

Visit DigiTech for more info about the Obscura.

Sound & Performance:

That skeleton on the Obscura? That’s an accurate representation of who I was shortly after playing with it for an hour or two, stripped of my insulating, preconceived notions as to what was possible coming from a digital unit in an enclosure smaller than a standard Hammond box. Most importantly, I no longer doubt that a digital delay can be as oven-fresh warm as any analog module it attempts to simulate.

In Analog mode, I was treated to smooth, gooey delay trails. With the degrade knob maxed your signal becomes a dirty wash of aliased repeats, made even more blendy with the tone dialed back to a darker setting. Play over this ad nauseam and you’ll never tire of the ambient simplicity you reap. The true stereo nature of the Obscura adds a dimensionality that’s lacking in many digital delays attempting to pull off analog tone. This makes it a win for those of us looking to upgrade from the familiar “black boxes” in our stereo rigs.

I love Tape. The Degrade knob adds a wow and flutter modulation, just like a real tape delay, and can get into some pretty warped chorus territory. So sweet.

Lo-Fi is a gritty mess of overdriven ambience floating on a bed of 8-bit repeats. The Degrade controls the distortion of the repeats via a bit-rate reducer. Great for simulating the dirty delays of days gone by.

The Reverse kills your dry signal completely and spits out backwards repeats. If you’re going for the whole psychedelia thing, this is a no-brainer. The key knob here is the Time knob, which sets the length of the signal being sampled. Dial it back for a choppy, clipped sound, and dime it for long, weird whines. Also worth noting is the degrade knob’s tape saturation function, which adds vintage-style harmonic distortion to your repeats.

I knew that the Obscura could pitch-shift (and boy, did I pitch-shift loudly and often,) but initially I had no clue as to the ambient possibilities inherent in the Repeat Hold feature. Crank the repeat knob past 3 o’clock and the Obscura will oscillate as loudly and as brightly as you please. With the tap tempo active, the time knob becomes a division control that switches between eighth, dotted eighth, and quarter notes, which will change the LED color from green to yellow to red, respectively. The tap is cool in the sense that the feature is there, but uncool in the sense that you have to tap the power switch twice to access it. What I’d like to see is a relay that memorizes not just the on/off status of the pedal, but also if the pedal was in Tap-Tempo mode, making use in an effects loop more convenient. I wouldn’t mention this if it weren’t particularly inconvenient for those of us who would only use it in a loop with tap tempo active.

digitech-obscura-altered-delay-review-best-stereo-delay-pedal-under-150-02

Overall-Rating-4.0

The Digitech Obscura is a great addition to any pedalboard missing a lil’ time-based juice. For those of us looking for a workhorse delay that fits a better-than-average range of singular niches the Obscura makes perfect sense for its price range; it executes the voices it aims to simulate better than most of the competition and it does it with a range of high-end features and inside of a footprint smaller than your iPhone. I think the tap tempo feature could have been better executed with a separate footswitch, but the size of the pedal makes this understandably difficult, if not impossible. Also as a matter of taste, I’d love to see optional ping-pong repeats in a stereo delay pedal. All these aside, DigiTech did a kickass job with this little guy, and you’d be remiss to ignore it.

That concludes our review of the DigiTech Obscura. Thanks for reading!

DigiTech Polara Reverb Review – Best Stereo Reverb Pedal Under $150?

digitech-polara-reverb-review-best-stereo-reverb-pedal-under-150-01

HARMAN is a pretty massive music gear conglomerate, stewarding music tech brand giants like Lexicon, AKG, and, most importantly to pedal loving guitarists, DigiTech. Where many companies have deflated and vanished into the inner workings of such superpowers, HARMAN seems to have encouraged the geniuses under their umbrella to flourish and continue doing what they do best. Occasionally, and in the case of DigiTech and Lexicon, that means teaming up in an intramural endeavor to make tasty effects for use in the studio and on stage.

The Polara Reverb is one such example of the possibilities inherent in the combined efforts of Lexicon (known for their Reverbs,) and DigiTech (known for their guitar pedals,) working together.

Features:

  • Three Parameters:
    Level controls the volume of the affected signal
    Liveliness controls the frequency response
    Decay determines the length of the reverb trail
  • Seven Lexicon Reverb voices:
    Room – Fast decaying reverb; great for a touch of ambience.
    Plate – Renowned studio reverb found on classic recordings.
    Reverse – Reverb in reverse; quietly crescendos to full volume.
    Modulated – Lush modulating reverb ideal for chords.
    Halo – Shimmering reverb with cascading octave shifts.
    Hall – Large encompassing reverb with warm decay.
    Spring – Classic “surf” reverb; great for Rockabilly too!
  • Tails On/Off Switch
  • True Stereo I/O
  • True Bypass circuitry preserves your tone in bypass
  • High-Voltage operation for uncompromised signal quality
  • Stomplock™ knob guard locks your tone in place and prevent tampering or accidental knob adjustments onstage
  • Custom-cut Hook and Loop Pedalboard Pad to attach and lock your pedals to your pedalboard

The Polara is solid and tiny, housed in the same enclosure as its ambient sibling, the DigiTech Obscura. It seems so tank-like that I feel like I could hurl this thing from a moving car and play a gig within the same hour. There are four appropriately sturdy, smoothly sliding knobs and a tails switch. Side-mounted switches are pretty standard on a stereo pedal like this. I would have liked to have seen the Polara made a little taller to fit a top-mounted I/O configuration to save space, but that complaint is really reaching; the Polara is larger than a Ditto but smaller than a Tube Screamer, making space a relative non-issue. The yellow and purple artwork display a dizzying psychedelia on the matte blue enclosure, inviting the viewer to bathe in its hypnotic guile. A neat touch is the included Stomplock knob guard to keep your favorite settings spared from accidental movement when onstage. And they look like grumpy blockheads to boot!

digitech-obscura-altered-delay-polara-reverb-stomplock-01

Visit DigiTech for more info about the Polara.

Sound & Performance:

The big draw here is the ability to wield seven powerful Lexicon reverbs in a live scenario without lugging a rack around or running a laptop, especially for musicians who’ve been using Lexicon’s DSP in the studio. Each reverb is a neatly orchestrated instrument, distilled down to the essence of its rack/plugin counterpart.

Starting at 7 o’clock on the Reverb type knob, we have a vanilla Room reverb, emulating the tone of a medium-sized, reflective room.

The Plate is the fizzy, vintage wash that has seen somewhat of a revival in the boutique scene. With the liveliness turned low you can play over a soft, dark base that adds a gorgeous creepy element, and in the higher frequency ranges, becomes an all-encompassing sizzle.

The Reverse reverb kills the dry signal of your guitar and replaces it with an all-wet reversed reverb trail. I probably spent the most time messing with this one. It sounds like a ghost walking through you. This is great for spooky swells and ambient excursions and transitions near seamlessly from reversed to unaffected when you deactivate the effect.

Modulated ‘verb adds a flange-flavored reverb to the signal and helps to pop your tone out of a mix without too much of the mud commonly coupled with reverb. This is another effect that’s easy to get lost in, particularly in stereo.

I thought going into this review that Halo would be my favorite; I am naturally biased in favor of octave-affected reverb. While I liked this voicing an awful lot, I thought it was surprisingly tame. I was hoping to see the liveliness knob take on a more active role in bringing out the lower octaves in the reverb when dialed back, but it simply muffled the higher octaves. It is pretty with the liveliness set anywhere past 11 o’clock, though.

The Hall reverb adds that cathedral warmth we all know and love, fading out into a cozy, vocal decay.

Last but not least is a particularly splattery Spring tone, which is precisely what you think it is. My tone ended up kind of harsh with the Liveliness turned up, but in the mid-range the Spring was tight over single-coils and a tube-screamer. It won’t make you sell your vintage tube spring reverb unit, but it’s fun and adds more versatility to the pedal.

digitech-polara-reverb-review-best-stereo-reverb-pedal-under-150-02

Overall-Rating-4.0

The DigiTech Polara sports simplicity and clarity that make it a fine addition to any pedalboard. The range of simple sounds it can pull off make it an easy replacement for a whole market of dedicated units, and the stereo spaces it conjures are glorious emulations that will transport your listeners to as spacious a paradise as you can dream. The only thing that really bothers me about the Polara is the reasonless shortage of knobs. With some of Lexicon’s studio plugins coming packed with as many as seven tweakable parameters, and some of DigiTech’s other products featuring dual-concentric knobs (I’m looking at you, Obscura,) the three-parameter configuration from an all-star crossover like this one just seems sort of… stingy. This is no doubt the product of a levelheaded studio mindset molded around the K.I.S.S. method, and while the Polara lacks the “crazy” to make it a game-changer for those looking to dig in and experiment, it does make for a great reverb, particularly for its reasonably asking price which is what it’s supposed to be. What DigiTech and Lexicon have done for us here is taken the brainwork out of establishing a great baseline reverb ambience for our guitar tone.

That concludes our review of the DigiTech Polara. Thanks for reading!

TC Electronic Sentry Review – Best Noise Gate Pedal?

tc-electronic-sentry-review-best-noise-gate-pedal-01

I probably shouldn’t open an article about guitar pedals this way, but tone be damned: silence is perhaps the most important tool in music. When I was in High School I had a choir teacher who would steel the more talkative singers’ resolve every concert by reminding us of her favorite metaphor: that each song was a painting framed in silence, made worthwhile by both its merit as a song and its appearance where there was once nothing. This assertion carried over into my guitar and band career, evolving into a scholarly appreciation for silence (and relative silence) in songwriting as well.

I don’t think anything illustrates the veracity of this assertion as much as a pause after a powerful phrase soiled by a persistent, unmusical hum. In a live situation this is tolerable to some but absolutely maddening to me, so purchasing a noise gate early on was an absolute must. While they are not the flashiest or most entertaining pedals by any stretch, you’ll be satisfied you held off on that crazy delay and opted for a gate if noise is an issue in your guitar rig.

Myriad builders have thrown their hat in the gating ring, each new challenger trumping its competition in size, functionality, and/or overall approach in some way. In 2015 TC Electronic released their take on a Gate in pedal form, the ominously named Sentry Noise Gate. As is the trend, it surpasses the silent underfoot tools on the current market and stands out as perhaps the best gating option this side of your pedalboard.

Features:

  • Three Customizable knobs
  • State-of-the-art Multi-band Noise Gate
  • Hard-Gate mode for instant noise removal
  • TonePrint Enabled
  • Send/Return Loop
  • True Bypass
  • Compact design
  • 9V/100mA
  • High quality components
  • Road-ready construction

Visit TC Electronic for more info about the Sentry Noise Gate.

Sound & Performance:

The Sentry shares its shape and size with the other compact TonePrint enabled pedals in TC Electronic’s library, sporting a sparkly granite finish on its aluminum enclosure. The face panel has a soft-touch footswitch and a voice switch to toggle between a traditional gate to remove hum indiscriminately, a hiss gate for taming high-frequency nonsense, and a user-generated TonePrint, which can be tweaked via the USB port on the top panel to be as sensitive or unforgiving as you please. The LED on the faceplate turns from green to red when the gate is closed for a truly responsive indication of whether your signal is being imperceptibly eaten alive or allowed to flourish. Three customizable knobs are factory-set to control the Threshold, Damping and Decay of the gate, but can be programmed to control any of the 30 parameters in the Sentry’s arsenal. There is also a set of loop in/outputs, for gating high-gain pedals without eating the sound of cleaner delays, reverbs, etc. Alternatively, you can use the loop to sidechain a different instrument to great creative effect.

After spending some quality time with the Sentry, I can readily say that you’ll be hard pressed to find a Gate closer to studio quality in a pedal format. TC Electronic really pulled out all the stops to approximate a studio gate. The Sentry is based on TC’s MD3 multi-band dynamic processing technology, which, perhaps most importantly, allows you to gate segments of the frequency spectrum as opposed to relying on the buckshot method of gating based on a broadband. This is something completely unique to the Sentry as far as pedals go, and has allowed me tighter control over my tone than any of my past gating solutions. Obvious problems like the hum of single coils are quickly dispatched with ease; in my case without ever needing to touch the TonePrint Editor software. However, particularly gross power-based hums or high-gain rigs will require use of TC’s TonePrint Editor to perfectly fine-tune the Sentry’s response to your audio signal.

While the three controls on the faceplate give quick access to a standard parameter set found on most Noise Gates, the TonePrint Editor contains 3 sets of EQ band controls for Threshold, Attack, Ratio, Damping, Hold, Release, and Knee, which makes narrowing down where in the frequency spectrum you’re hearing hum and how the gate handles that hum easier and more intuitive than any other Gate pedal. That said, I’d love to see a more parametric approach as opposed to the 3-band methodology; such vagaries as Low, Mid and High seem dated, and oftentimes required more work to get a clean Gated tone than I thought was necessary. While the 3-band approach is a step in the right direction, a hypothetical (and potentially unsupported by the current hardware) firmware update could see the Sentry utilized as both a parametric Gate and a well-lit path into many wallets. Imagine finding the exact frequency of that terrible hum, setting the threshold just low enough that it doesn’t cut into that frequency in your actual playing, then using a Q parameter to clean up anything you missed. The Sentry is already more than halfway there. Still, creating a custom user TonePrint with assigned knob parameters and response ranges gives you a level of noise gate control you won’t find in any other pedal.

tc-electronic-sentry-review-best-noise-gate-pedal-02

Overall-Rating-5.0

The TC Electronic Sentry Noise Gate has earned my recognition as the most intuitive gating solution in its price range. The gassier guitarists out there may not feel obliged to entertain the thought of a non-effect pedal taking up space on their ‘boards, but I would quell that reservation by pointing to the Sentry’s status as the current King of the Silent Hill. Coupled with out-of-the-box functionality and TC’s already familiar-to-most TonePrint Editor software, the plethora of parameters in the Sentry are easily tweaked to yield studio-ready silence where you need it and seamless re-entry where you don’t. The Sentry stands out as an essential addition to every rig, made only more alluring by its speculative potential to grow if TC Electronic decides to release future firmware updates.

That concludes our review of the TC Electronic Sentry Noise Gate. Thanks for reading!

Electro Harmonix The Silencer Review – Best Noise Gate Pedal?

electro-harmonix-the-silencer-review-best-noise-gate-pedal-01

Electro-Harmonix is well-known for their affordable, industry-leading effects pedals. The sounds for which they are indirectly responsible are ubiquitous. The Big Muff Pi, The Memory Man, The Electric Mistress – All borne from EHX’s seemingly indelible drive to innovate and reimagine.

The Silencer… is less indicative of that drive but still stands out as a necessity. Noise gates are effective at eliminating hum, hiss, and string noise by filtering out any sound beneath a certain volume threshold. If you have a high-gain amp or pedal, or even if you’re getting hum from a poor power source, a noise gate should be part of your rig, end of story. While The Silencer functions exactly as any other noise gate does, it is one of the best noise gates out there at this price point: it’s smaller, lighter, and just plain prettier than most of its competitors.

FEATURES:

  • Noise gate with built-in effects loop
  • 3 knobs- Threshold, Reduction, and Release
  • Noise reduction is variable from -70dB to +4dB
  • Release time can be set between 8ms and 4 seconds
  • Built in loop- Send and Return to filter out hum from guitar and effects in two separate loops
  • Buffered output (via Send)/buffered bypass keeps your signal strong and clean
  • Powered by a single 9-volt battery or optional AC adaptor

When you take The Silencer (and included EHX sticker- woo!) out of its handsome, art-deco inspired box you’re regaled with a lightweight, rugged little unit. And when I say lightweight and rugged, I mean it. To the uninitiated it appears to be made out of some otherworldly alloy with the density of balsa wood and the durability and look of pig-iron. The front is a silver and white screenprint, and the footswitch latches with that satisfying click-clack we all know and love.

The three knobs control the following parameters:

Threshold: Determines the level at which the volume is attenuated. I’ve found this works best at around noon for most general purposes.

Release: Shortens or extends the decay of the signal for either a more natural fade at higher settings or a punchy cutoff at its lowest.

Reduction: Controls how much the overall signal is reduced. This setting might seem counter-intuitive to some, as the higher you go, the less signal you get.

Visit Electro Harmonix for more info about The Silencer.

SOUND & PERFORMANCE:

With my amp cranked to its highest-gain setting there is almost always a very unmusical hum that renders my tone muddy in any mix. Almost all reverbs modulate it into an instrument all its own, and pitch-shifters try to track it.

When I picked up The Silencer and used it right after my effects chain, the first thing I noticed was that this hum was almost immediately eliminated as if Electro-Harmonix had exorcised a phantom from my amp with this unassuming noise-gate as a proxy. Upon a closer listen, I noticed that the hum was still technically there, just attenuated out entirely between notes.

Even with its threshold at its peak, your playing comes through loud and clear; you do have to dial in a sweet spot to hear your gentle notes in the same phrases as your heavy ones. I’ve found that this is at around 12-1 o’clock. With the threshold at around 2 to 3 o’clock, the Silencer even rids you of obtrusive string noise. Those of us who embrace that noise may not have as much of a use for that function, but for those of you who think that dragging your fingers on the strings sounds particularly awful behind a delay, this is a godsend.
I noticed that at its lowest setting, the release knob doesn’t cut the signal off immediately. There’s a bit of latency there that is a function of the minimum 8ms release time. Not a huge loss, especially at low gain settings but still worth mentioning. I’ve also seen noise gates that execute other utilities, in particular offering the option to power other pedals via daisy-chain- but if that ability doesn’t concern you as much as size and build do, The Silencer is the way to go.

The way I use this pedal now, I plug my guitar into The Silencer’s input and run that signal through all of my pre-effects loop pedals, then in and out of my amp’s effects loop and back through The Silencer via the return and output to cancel all of the hum from my guitar, my overdrives and my amp. If your signal chain is a little simpler, it works just fine at the end- just make sure you’re putting it before any reverbs or delays. In my experience, you lose some of the more subtle and quieter nuances of your delay or reverb using any one noise gate as a panacea. In other words, you don’t want a high-threshold noise gate getting rid of the hum from your Electro Harmonix Metal Muff but also squashing out the trails of your EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath. Legends tell of an age long past when Periphery’s Misha Mansoor used 3 noise gates to get beautiful high-gain tone without sacrificing any subtleties, a convoluted solution to be sure, but an effective one!

electro-harmonix-the-silencer-review-best-noise-gate-pedal-02

Overall-Rating-5.0

The Silencer from Electro Harmonix is an exceptional solution for cutting out signal noise and tightening up your sound. Noise gates have always been an invaluable staple in the world of guitar, and while tons of other companies are offering circuits that do what The Silencer does just as well, if you a want a noise gate that’s reliable, very effective at eliminating noise, and looks nice on your board, too, The Silencer is the absolute best choice in its price range.

That concludes our review of The Silencer from Electro-Harmonix. Thanks for reading!

TC Electronic Triple Delay Review – Best Multi-Engine Delay Pedal?

tc-electronic-flashback-triple-delay-review-best-multi-engine-delay-pedal-01

At a glance you may believe that you are experiencing Déjà vu: we already covered the TC Electronic Flashback X4 Delay and Looper, so why review what must certainly be the same thing? Your confusion is valid: today we’ll be covering a pedal whose birth stemmed from the worldwide success of the Flashback X4, but I assure you without hyperbole that the TC Electronic Flashback Triple Delay is a horse of a different color.

I like ambient tones. Since my first marathon viewing of Andy Othling’s Ambient Tips series on Youtube, I’ve been obsessed with the technical skills behind achieving beautiful, cascading soundscapes. Obviously, the most basic core effects in this school of guitar are 1) Reverb, and 2) Delay. Stacked delays in particular have been utilized in the studio and onstage to create choir-like waves that flow into one another and serve as a breathing wash for your guitar playing to float over. There are plenty of delay options to get you there if you have the money and pedalboard real estate to spend on two or more delay pedals. But then, of course, you run into the on-stage tap dancing routine that comes with activating and tapping/dialing in two tempos before your cue – certainly entertaining for the audience but exhausting for the guitarist.

Enter the TC Electronic Flashback Triple Delay: More than just a mouthful! It is 3 independent delays in tandem or parallel to one another, timed by one tap tempo. This integrated concept in one pedal is something I haven’t seen anywhere else on the market and fills the stacked delay niche so snugly for its price point that I couldn’t help but cough up the cash when the opportunity arose. Of course, the “Triple” part of the Triple Delay is only the beginning of the treasure trove that is this feature-rich unit.

tc-electronic-flashback-triple-delay-review-best-multi-engine-delay-pedal-02FEATURES:

  • Three independent delay engines
  • 11 different subdivisions
  • Toggle between having your delays in series or in parallel
  • TC Electronic TonePrint enabled
  • Beam enabled (more on this later)
  • Tap Tempo
  • 12 Delay types and 4 Slots for TC Proprietary TonePrints
  • True Bypass (Optional Buffered Bypass Dip Switch in housing)
  • Analog-Dry-Through
  • Expression pedal input
  • Stereo in- and output
  • MIDI In and Thru ports

Housed in TC’s modern and easily recognizable X4 body (also used in their new Ditto X4 Looper), the Triple Delay boasts a tour-worthy metal chassis with a sexy polished-sparkle blue finish and two-tone screen-printed face featuring a humorously appropriate crown one could assume signifies its regal TC bloodline with three tips representing the three simultaneous delays you can use at once. All four switches (three for each delay engine, one for tap tempo) are soft touch for easy toggling and the knobs are responsive and smooth. There are also two toggle switches between the knobs that control which delay engine you’re editing when you tweak the parameters, and whether the delays are in Serial or Parallel, respectively.

The 5 knobs on the Triple delay are as follows, from left to right:

Delay Type: Much like the Flashback X4, the Triple Delay comes equipped with 12 factory delay types: Tape, Tube, Space, Analog, Analog w/Modulation, Reverse, Dynamic, 2290, 2290 w/ Modulation, Slapback, Lo-Fi and Ping-Pong. You also have the option of setting up a custom TonePrint in the 4 “TP” slots. We’ll discuss this more later.

Time: This knob controls your delay rate and overrides the tap tempo. The max delay time is 7 seconds.

Repeats: Controls how long the delay goes on. At its extremes it can be one repeat or infinity, and it will self-oscillate when the delay rate is short enough to overlap, but I noticed that you don’t get the iconic analog delay pitch-shifting effect when you turn the time knob clockwise on any of the factory presets.

tc-electronic-flashback-triple-delay-review-best-multi-engine-delay-pedal-04Mix: This knob determines how much of your analog signal comes through proportionally to the affected signal. The beauty of it is how little it affects the actual dry signal as it’s turned further clockwise thanks to TC’s design choice to include analog-dry-through: your guitar’s inherent tone is only accented by the Triple, not overcome by it.

Subdivision: This parameter determines the rhythm of the delay time- the options range from dotted quarter notes to alternating dotted eighth and sixteenth notes.

Visit TC Electronic for more info about the Flashback Triple Delay.

SOUND & PERFORMANCE:

Tape is exactly what you’d anticipate, warm and wobbly like the tape machines of old, while the Tube option offers a dark, antique delay tone. Space draws its inspiration from the Roland RE-201 Space Echo; it does indeed add a degree of “space” to your tone and executes classic-sounding ambient oscillations flawlessly. The Reverse setting is Beatles psychedelic. Lo-Fi is gritty and degraded, applying a high-pass to the signal to achieve a filtered tone. The Slapback is in your face and gets closer to a chorus the tighter you dial in the delay rate. Dynamic gets out of your way and only fills out the empty spaces between notes. Ping-Pong jumps between stereo channels, and as such, only benefits in a stereo rig. Finally, the 2290 is the studio delay that made TC Electronic a household name in the industry, and offers crisp, clear delayed notes.

Each delay type stands out as distinct from the others, with the exception of the w/mod options. This model might have been better served by adding different varieties of delay (like a panning stereophonic delay or maybe a delay signal pitch-shifted up or down an octave,) and leaving the modulation options in the TonePrint editor instead. But there are only so many practical delay options, so I can’t fault them for including two modulation options as opposed to some invented delay at this price point. And let’s face it, the mod options do offer some very sought after styles of delay, especially if you’re a fan of The Edge-style 2290 w/ modulation tones.

tc-electronic-flashback-triple-delay-review-best-multi-engine-delay-pedal-03What’s important about all of these delay options, of course, is the primary function of the Triple Delay: to play three different delays at once to create a truly unique delay sound. If you flip the Serial/Parallel switch up to Serial, you get each delay feeding into the next for a never-ending onslaught of glorious, ambient delay. Turn it down to Parallel and you’ll have three delays affecting your dry signal independently and each sort of doing their own thing. Both of these options are best used with delays that are pointedly different from one another. For example, Delay 1 might be a Reverse TonePrint with a long tailed low-pass filter, a tight delay, low mix and repeats at 12 o’clock to create a drone underneath your playing. Delay two is the factory Ping-Pong playing eighth notes to add a stereophonic element, and Delay 3 is a 2290 with vibrato playing dotted quarter notes. In serial, the individual delays create a polyrhythmic wall of sound that might best serve as a pulsing pad-like effect to replace a traditional guitar sound, but when you switch to parallel, the delays operate independently and sound more like peaks and valleys of sound.

We already covered TC Electronic’s proprietary TonePrint Editor software in our Flashback X4 review and Flashback Mini Delay review, but I’ll reiterate: The TonePrint Editor makes TC Electronics’ pedals some of the most flexible on the market today. There is a bit of a learning curve, as some of the terms might be unfamiliar to the uninitiated, but once you start digging in the tweakable parameters are near-unprecedented and you can make nearly any sound you can imagine. The sheer selection of famous users uploading Triple Delay TonePrints to TC Electronics’ website is baffling as well and continues to grow steadily, so one never runs out of options there, either.

The Triple Delay also offers MIDI IN/THRU with clock and CC support, though the inability to program serial/parallel changes with MIDI commands is a little disappointing. It would be great to see TC Electronic add even more MIDI functionality via a firmware update. Also, considering the pedalboard real-estate this behemoth consumes, it really hurts that there isn’t some way to save and select banks of triple-delay presets as this would really help maximize the utility of this pedal from its space on your board.

tc-electronic-flashback-triple-delay-review-best-multi-engine-delay-pedal-05

Overall-Rating-4.0

The TC Electronic Flashback Triple Delay is more than an offshoot or alternate version of the Flashback X4 and stands alone as a unique and versatile unit that maximizes the functionality of the TonePrint software and factory presets. Despite some physical limitations like the lack of a tone knob that some other high-end delays include, the Flashback Triple Delay stands above as one of the more innovative units today thanks to its trio of delay lines that can be used in Serial or Parallel modes. No one else in the industry is doing what TC Electronic is doing with the Triple Delay in this price-range. If I had my druthers, the Triple Delay would include some delay algorithms unique to this model, banks of presets, and some expanded MIDI support would be nice, but really those are gripes that shouldn’t hold you back from trying this innovative, one-of-a-kind delay pedal experience.

That concludes our TC Electronic Flashback Triple Delay review. Thanks for reading.

TC Electronic Skysurfer Reverb Review

TC Electronic Skysurfer Reverb Review

 

The TC Electronic Skysurfer Reverb is a “studio quality reverb with award-winning TC Electronic algorithms”. Looks like TC Electronic took a cue from their Hall of Fame reverb pedals and slipped in a trio of digital reverbs into this one.

 

The Skysurfer reverb gives you a Spring, Plate, & Hall reverb with easy to dial in controls for a simple reverb that produces some decent ambience at a bargain price. The Spring doesn’t sound quite as springy as a real spring reverb or some of the more complex digital spring reverbs I’ve heard, but this might be a plus if you’re not really a fan of spring reverb as it does sound good in its own right. While it won’t satisfy the needs of someone looking to replace their vintage amp top unit, a beginner guitarist will still get enjoyment out of this setting. The Hall reverb provides the kind of big concert hall ambience you’d expect with the Tone knob providing the dampening of the high-end reflections to suit your tastes. This one sounds pretty good at lower Reverb settings and shouldn’t clutter up a mix too much. The Plate mode is big yet focused and excels even when using high Reverb settings for larger than life ambience. The Mix takes your sound from dry to fully wet. This is a solid cheap reverb pedal for anyone looking for a stand-in reverb at an affordable price. While the Hall of Fame series does provide a wider range of great reverb sounds (while still offering great value for price paid), a novice will still enjoy the ease of use and solid general reverb sounds of the Skysurfer. Not a bad pedal at all in the Smorgasbord of Tones.

 

Overall-Rating-4.0

 

TC Electronic The Prophet Digital Delay Review

TC Electronic The Prophet Digital Delay Review

 

The TC Electronic The Prophet is a “studio quality digital delay with award-winning TC Electronic algorithm”. Okay, so TC Electronic essentially pulled out the big guns here and slipped in some of the iconic clean digital delay sounds they’re most famous for. A lot of lower end digital delay pedals (costing much more, by the way) tend to distort your repeats if you push the delay time past 700-800mS; that’s why many low-end digital delay pedals using cheap chips don’t have delay times that long. The Prophet Digital Delay produces clean repeats that don’t distort even if you have the Time maxed out at 1200mS and the Repeats knob cranked up to maximum decay for near infinite repeats. It’s incredibly clean. No, this isn’t a false prophet, but a holy messenger of great digital delay effects.

 

The bonus here is the 3-position switch that lets you select from 3 different delay time ranges for the Time knob. Flipping this switch in real-time will also jump the delay time to the interval selected. Say, you’ve dialed in a 1/8 delay; you can then select between either 1/16 or 3/8 by flipping the switch. You may not fiddle with it during a gig, but this is another fun thing to play with when in the studio or during late night bedroom jamming. Also, trying getting weird with the Repeats maxed and the Time at minimum with 1/16 selected for bizarre bell-like tones. Now if TC Electronic will just release a $79-$99 version with tap tempo, tap divisions, and optional modulation. Still, an amazing delay for the price and one of the best pedals of the Smorgasbord of Tones lineup.

 

Overall-Rating-5.0

 

TC Electronic Echobrain Analog Delay Review

TC Electronic Echobrain Analog Delay Review

 

The TC Electronic Echobrain Analog Delay is a “vintage-style delay pedal with all-analog bucket-brigade circuit”. Simple enough. And it’s got the expected 3-knob control layout of classic analog delay pedal. Turns out the tones are great to boot. The Echobrain Analog Delay sports clean, low-noise operation with repeats that decay into a brighter ambience at higher Repeats levels, even extending into a great self-oscillation when you push the Repeats up to around 1 o’clock or higher. Essentially, this pedal gives you the hallmarks of a great analog delay… and for a crazy discount compared to other pedals. Seriously, $50 for a real analog delay pedal? And it actually sounds pretty good? Crazy times we’re living in.

 

The tone of the repeats with longer decay is somewhat unique as the lows are rolled off for a slightly dubby delay, although not quite all the way in that direction. But the sound gives way to a unique flavor that might give this pedal its own appeal for some discerning guitarists. But seriously, even if you weren’t expecting much at this price point, only the most jaded purist will disagree that this pedal offers great delay tones that are certainly worth more than this pedal’s price of admission. My only gripe is that I wish the self oscillation didn’t occur until closer towards the Repeats’ maximum setting. Still, the Echobrain Analog Delay is another highlight of the Smorgasbord of Tones series.

 

Overall-Rating-4.5

 

TC Electronic Thunderstorm Flanger Review

TC Electronic Thunderstorm Flanger Review

 

The TC Electronic Thunderstorm Flanger is a “vintage-style flanger pedal with all-analog bucket-brigade circuit”. Now I wasn’t expecting this at all. This pedal is awesome. The Thunderstorm Flanger packs in an incredibly wide range of excellent flanger sounds and is easily one of the best values in TC Electronic’s new range of affordably priced pedals.

 

It can be challenging for the complete beginner to understand what the knobs do unless you get tweaking and hear how the parameters impact the sound for yourself. I’d say it’s safe to start with everything at minimum, then crank the Depth. You’ll get a slow, churning flanger sound that’s already killer before even touching anything else. The Depth knob controls how wide the flanger sweep is while the Rate sets how fast it moves. The Feedback is basically a “regen” or “regeneration” control and feeds the signal back into the effect for a more intense flanging sound. The Manual knob sets the frequency focal point. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the Thunderstorm Flanger is that you can set the Depth at minimum and use the Manual & Feedback to set a static tonal filtering sound that’ll alter your guitar tone in all kinds of beautiful ways. Hell, this aspect alone makes it well worth the $50 and could be useful for all kinds of effect processing in the studio. If I had to knock it for something, I’d wish for faster Rates (while still retaining the current slow churn) so that it could completely replace a certain classic purple flanger pedal I’ve always loved. But if you like flanging at all, the Thunderstorm Flanger is certainly worth adding to your arsenal and just might find its way onto some pro guitarists’ pedalboards as well. Great work, TC Electronic. Definitely one of the best from the Smorgasbord of Tones.

 

Overall-Rating-5.0

 

TC Electronic Blood Moon Phaser Review

TC Electronic Blood Moon Phaser Review

 

The TC Electronic Blood Moon Phaser is a “vintage-style phaser pedal with four-stage filter and all-analog circuit”. This pedal certainly gives you a lot more control than your old orange phaser pedal. The familiar Rate knob sets the speed of the effect. The Depth controls how much phasing is applied to your signal. There’s no phasing happening at the minimum setting although you’ll notice that the pedal seems to have its own color which is applied to your sound. It’s also noticeably louder than your bypassed signal. Raising the Depth brings in the phasing and increases how prominent its effect is on your signal. The Feedback feeds the signal back into the effect again and increases the filtering and resonance of the phasing sound. The Feedback is more of a premium phaser parameter, so it’s nice to see it added here. Still, I think a little more could have been done to even out the output, cut signal noise a bit more, add a little more range on the slow side of the Rate, and tweak the LFO’s range for a slightly smoother sweep that’s less jarring at the opposite ends of the phaser’s sweep. That may sound like a lot of criticism, but this is still a fun phaser for the measly price; however, the Blood Moon Phaser stands as the weakest link of the mostly solid offerings from the TC Electronics Smorgasbord of Tones.

 

overall-rating-3-0