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.
- 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)
- 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.
Mix: 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.
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.
What’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.
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.