By Nils Bryant –
Review of: Cusack Delay TME
Reviewed by: Nils BryantRating:3.5On June 29, 2015Last modified:October 8, 2016
Although Jon Cusack and his company have been on the boutique pedal scene for quite a bit longer than most companies, they’ve managed to keep up with the times while still packing some of tricks up their sleeve. They recently released their line of “Retro Super-Science” pedals (including the Tremolo AME) which are scaled down and more affordable versions of their bigger flagship guitar pedals. I’m assuming this was at least partly due to the growing demand for more compact yet fully featured pedals. This particular pedal, the Delay TME (Time Modulation Emulator), is the smaller sibling to their Tap-A-Delay, a dual sized pedal with tap tempo, a subdivision switch, various modulation options and a ramp function. They kept the same circuitry, stripped away a lot of the more advanced features, and packaged everything in a regular sized, pedalboard friendly enclosure.
That being said, let’s dive in, and see how this delay pedal actually holds up.
- Controls for: Mix, Feedback and Time
- Toggle Switch between 3 Modulation settings (off/light/heavy)
- RCA jack for adding optional external Tap Tempo and ‘Brake’ feature
- 9V DC or battery operation
- Top Mounted Jacks
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The first thing I noticed upon opening the box were the “Retro Super-Science” graphics, sporting an eye catching blue-ish/purple color scheme (depending on the light) combined with one translucent and two funky green mini ‘chickenhead’ knobs. Once I plugged it in I found out the translucent knob, besides looking cool, has an LED underneath that blinks in sync with the delay time (even when the pedal is disengaged). I found this to be quite a welcome feature whenever I glanced over my pedalboard during gigs and rehearsals. It really is something I’d like to see on more delay pedals as it allows you to get a feel for the delay time before you even switch the pedal on or hit a note.
Another somewhat less common detail I really appreciated was the momentary style ‘soft/silent’ footswitch. This often indicates that a pedal is non true-bypass, but Cusack is one of the few companies out there that installs soft switches on true-bypass pedals, although I haven’t been able to confirm it in this case, as they certainly don’t make a big deal out of it themselves.
They also opted for top mounted jacks, with the 9v and RCA tap inputs on the left side, which should allow for fairly efficient use of pedalboard space. I see it more and more these days, but since it is not the standard layout, this might require some extra planning when building your pedalboard.
Although they did away with having a tap tempo switch on the pedal itself (which would’ve made the pedal a lot larger) they did install an RCA input jack, to which an external tap tempo box can be connected. RCA jacks are smaller than regular 1/4″ jacks, so again, this is potentially saving space on both the inside and outside of the pedal. My only complaint is that RCA tap tempo cables/foot-switches aren’t common, and pretty much exclusively sold by Cusack from what I could tell.
Connecting an external tap tempo box also enables the ‘brake’ feature which decreases (or increases) the delay time when you hold the switch down, making for cool spaced out chaos. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to try out this function myself, but I can imagine it could be useful for more psychedelic stuff or cool song endings, another interesting feature I’d like to see on more pedals.
On the inside, the Delay TME is a solid, no frills affair, with board mounted jacks and molex connectors to enable a slightly more efficient build process without sacrificing sound quality. There are also two trimmers (easily adjustable with most standard guitar picks), one to control the high end and another one for the level, more on those later.
When compared to other similar sized/priced delay pedals out there this one is relatively feature laden, and the only thing I could perhaps wish for would be a subdivision switch.
Sound & Performance:
Although the Cusack Delay TME is a digital delay, it is quite grainy and slightly noisy, which draws instant comparisons with the usual analog competitors. One should definitely not expect pristine, crystal clear modern delay tones from this box. Together with the relatively short maximum delay time of about 750ms, the sound suggests that this pedal is built around the PT2399 chip, a favorite in DIY circles, but also the heart of the original Tap-A-Delay, Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay, the Skreddy Echo, and a ton of other boutique delays as well as other types of time based effects. On the factory setting I found the tone of the repeats a little dark, but I was able to adjust this using one of the internal trimmers mentioned earlier. It has to be noted however, that due to the nature of the chip, on longer delay times and especially after brightening up the tone, the trails get even noisier.
The modulation affecting the trails is a very welcome addition and can be selected by way of a 3-way toggle switch that goes from no modulation whatsoever to light and heavy modulation in the other two positions, respectively. These are sensible options, although the heavy setting quickly gets a little too wobbly for my taste (especially on faster delay times), and I would have rather seen another slower and more subtle setting.
One reason why PT2399 based delays are so popular is because they tend to sit nicely in the mix without too much tweaking (especially with overdriven/lead sounds), and I found that’s certainly the case with this one: it’s hard to find a setting that sounds bad. I particularly loved it for simple slapback and shorter delays with relatively few repeats, also because the maximum delay time isn’t very long anyway.
The Cusack Delay TME is a relatively straightforward delay pedal that offers a little more flexibility thanks to its tap tempo input and delay tone adjustment. But otherwise it’s very similar to a lot of the cheaper analog delays out there with its dark and gritty character and short delay times. While it certainly isn’t the best choice for people who want long and pristine delays, this pedal does offer solid delays that are more on the lo-fi/analog side of the delay spectrum. I also really dig the blinking LED, low modulation setting, and the color scheme. All in all, while it’s not the most exciting delay pedal around, the Cusack Delay TME is still a solid choice.
That concludes our Cusack Delay TME review. Thanks for reading.
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