Review of: TC Electronic Flashback X4
Reviewed by: Gabriel TanakaRating:4.5On May 17, 2014Last modified:October 7, 2016
Hailing from a legacy that began with the classic 2290 Dynamic Digital Delay rack unit and drawing upon the recent breakthrough success of the Flashback Delay and Looper, the Flashback X4 is TC Electronic’s flagship delay & looper pedal. And what a monster of a delay it is! With 16 selectable delay types, 3 presets, tap tempo, and a dedicated looper, the Flashback X4 is the culmination of TC Electronic’s 20+ years experience crafting some of the finest delay tones in the world. But perhaps the most exciting feature of this pedal its compatibility with TC Electronic’s new TonePrint Editor software, allowing you to design your own signature delay sounds from the ground up. Is it the best delay/looper guitar pedal available? You’ll find out in our TC Electronic Flashback X4 review.
16 selectable delay types, including 4 custom TonePrints.
Three Presets, selectable via dedicated footswitches or MIDI.
Dedicated Tap Tempo footswitch.
3-position Subdivision selector including dual delay (Top: quarter notes, Middle: dotted eighths, Bottom: quarter notes & dotted eighths).
Control knobs for selecting Delay Type and adjusting Delay Time, Feedback Level, Delay Level, and Looper Level.
TonePrint enabled and compatible with the TonePrint Editor software for PC, MAC, and iPad.
Beam Enabled with TonePrint app for Android and iOS.
40 second looper with undo function.
Independent loop and delay engines.
True Bypass (optional buffered).
Expression pedal input for controlling Delay Time, Feedback Level, and/or Delay Level.
Stereo inputs and outputs.
Mini USB port with included USB cable.
Powered by included 9VDC power adapter.
Sound & Performance:
For such a fully-loaded pedal, the Flashback X4 is remarkably simple in design and equally simple to use. The 5 large knobs have a rugged feel to compliment this sturdy pedal and make it very easy to dial in a delay sound. The knob on the left lets you select between 16 different delays (more on those later), while an array of knobs labeled Delay Time, Feedback, and Delay Level will be familiar to anyone who’s used a standard 3-knob delay pedal. When you’ve picked a delay and have dialed in your levels, you can save your settings to one of the 3 presets by pressing and holding the currently active preset footswitch for about 2 seconds. It couldn’t be any easier really. The only thing to be mindful of is making sure you’ve already selected the preset you want to overwrite before dialing in some new settings.
As for the delays themselves, there’s plenty of great-sounding selections available. If you want pristine digital delays, the 2290 delay has you covered with the signature digital delay sound that TC Electronic have become renowned for. The Flashback X4 even has a 2290 w/ Mod delay for achieving that Edge-like modulated delay sound without having to lug around a pair of 2290 rack units. The Tape delay provides warmth and depth with a hint of modulation, sounds that have made tape echo a staple delay effect for decades. If you want a little more saturation, the Tube delay has a slightly grittier sound for an even more vintage-sounding tube tape echo vibe. There’s an Analog delay that simulates the tones of old-school bucket brigade infused delay pedals and an Analog w/ Mod version for some added movement. If you want a dedicated slap back echo, the Slap delay delivers with plenty of spank and twang. The LoFi delay has a degraded sound with reduced frequency bandwidth, perfect for capturing the feel of certain early 80’s delay pedals. The Space delay sounds great with higher Feedback settings and excels at producing ambient delay effects. A Dynamic delay model lets you add delays to only the spaces between your playing. Reverse alludes to that classic Hendrix backwards guitar sound, offering some otherworldly inspiration. And Ping Pong rounds out the available models for delay repeats that bounce back and forth in stereo.
The Flashback X4 has a lot of solid sounds right out of the box that are a blast to play. Some of the models are slight variations of others, and I would be among those arguing that “w/Mod” isn’t exactly a completely original model. But each of the different settings provide an inspiring palette when you need to dial in sound quickly. A huge library of downloadable artist TonePrints provides even more inspiration. But the real fun comes from digging in with TC Electronic’s TonePrint Editor to create your own delays from the ground up.
Flashback X4, meet TonePrint Editor
When the Flashback X4 was first released, TC Electronic hadn’t yet made the TonePrint Editor publicly available. Now that it’s here you can dig deeper into the Flashback X4 (along with the Flashback Mini Delay, HyperGravity Compressor, & other TonePrint compatible pedals) than ever before. The Flashback X4 is the ultimate companion for the TonePrint Editor as it has 4 TonePrint banks and 3 user presets for quick recall of your favorite TonePrints from the pedal. That means you can save 3 of your favorite custom TonePrints as presets and have 4 more available at the turn of a knob.
I tested the TonePrint Editor with the Flashback X4 on both Mac and iPad. Fortunely, TC Electronic included a USB to mini-USB cable to connect to your computer, but to use the software on iPad you’ll need to pick up a camera adapter cable. Both software interfaces are exactly the same with the iPad benefit being that you control the on-screen settings via touchscreen.
One of the only gripes I had about the Flashback X4 upon its release was that there wasn’t a dedicated knob of some sort for really dialing in those darker analog tones with a healthy dose of high-end rolloff. And what about modulation tweaking? The TonePrint Editor software lets you edit the functions of all 3 of the Flashback X4’s delay control knobs with up to 3 different parameters each. You can then assign an expression pedal to all 3 knobs for realtime control of up to 9 parameters!
While that might be going overboard for some users, there are many practical uses for such in-depth control. Since you can set a default tempo for your TonePrint and use the Tap Tempo to sync to the music if necessary, the Delay Time knob is often the best candidate for reassigning to different parameters. You can also simply add an extra parameter that changes as you modulate the Delay Time, Feedback or Delay Level.
In one interesting TonePrint I made (which I recreate in the accompanying review video), I completely replaced the functions of the Delay Time and Feedback knobs. Starting with the Tape Template, I selected the Delay Time knob to edit. The default parameters assigned to this knob are Delay Time and FB HiCut (which changes the tone of the delay as you alter the Delay Time, similar to how the tone changes on a real tape echo machine). I replaced Delay Time with FB LoCut and set a knob response curve to get a full frequency sound when Delay Time is turned counterclockwise and a more mid-focused, lo-fi sound with less bass and treble when the knob is turned fully clockwise. I voiced the knob’s curve to have plenty of sweet spots in between. Then I set the Feedback knob to control the Modulation Speed, Modulation Depth, and Saturation. At the counterclockwise position, there was no modulation, but throughout the middle were varying degrees of increasing Depth and Speed, becoming more prominent as the Saturation rose at higher settings to a warped, overdriven tape echo at the fully clockwise position. While each knob can be positioned independently, I also set both knobs to the expression pedal for realtime control. Combining an expression pedal with the varying rates of multi-directional movement available from the adjustable knob control curves allows you to achieve delay effects completely unique to the Flashback X4.
The Flashback X4 was already pretty solid to begin with, but when combined with the TonePrint Editor, you have a delay tone-shaping powerhouse of a pedal. Once you start digging in you may wish you had more than 3 presets. Of course, you can also easily beam in TonePrints from your iPhone or Android phone with the TonePrint app if you need a sound on the fly.
TC Electronic have become known for easy-to-use looping with the Ditto Looper and Ditto X2 Looper. The Flashback X4 provides even greater tactile control as a looper thanks to the pedal’s 4 footswitches with dedicated looping functions including Record, Playback/Pause, Once, and Undo/Redo. One of the coolest inclusions of this arrangement is the Once footswitch. Pressing Once during a loop cycle means that this will be the last playback of the loop, letting you end a loop sequence perfectly without worrying about hitting a stop command at just the right moment. If you want to throw in a quick harmony to a part that repeats once, you can hit record, play your lick, and then hit Once and play your harmony over the part. If you want to use that loop again later in the song, replay it with Play or Once. Undo/Redo functions as expected, letting you remove or bring back the last recorded layer, useful for adding some drama to a performance. Holding down the Undo/Redo footswitch for a couple seconds deletes the loops.
Delay can be used over loops, but there’s currently no way to turn the delay on and off while looping. I tried coming up with a workaround by assigning the Delay Level knob to an expression pedal, but this only served to change the volume of the entire recorded loop. If you want to switch between using delays and the looper during a live set, you’ll have to kneel down and flip the dedicated Looper/Delay switch. I would also have liked to see MIDI sync for the Looper as well as MIDI control of the various Looper functions. For the extra pedalboard space consumed by the Flashback X4, some guitarists might wish for even more than 3 onboard presets. But these are relatively minor concerns considering what you’re getting. At this price point no other delay pedal offers as much tonal flexibility as the Flashback X4 paired with the TonePrint Editor application, and the functional Looper is icing on the cake.
Considering the quality of sounds that pour out of this pedal and the creative possibilities the TonePrint Editor offers, the Flashback X4 is quite an impressive delay pedal. Let’s see the final result.
The TC Electronic Flashback X4 is quite possibly the most versatile delay pedal in its price range and can contend with pedals costing much more thanks to its simple plug-in and play operation and integration with TC Electronic’s TonePrint Editor. The huge library of free artist TonePrints lets you store 4 of your favorites along with 3 footswitchable user presets. For those of you who really want to dig deep and shape your delays from the ground up, the free TonePrint Editor for Mac, PC, and iPad will help you create your ultimate delay tones. The Looper is an added bonus that brings even more value to the Flashback X4. If you’re looking for the best delay/looper pedal, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something better at this price.
That concludes out TC Electronic Flashback X4 review. Thanks for reading.
Want to buy the TC Electronic Flashback X4 Delay?
February 27, 2015 at 6:27 pm
Gabriel what do you think about the alter ego x4?
Love to see a review.
September 24, 2014 at 1:57 am
Absolutely gorgeous! My other love!!! If you wish to delay the competition for me again 😛 Much appreciated 😀