TC Electronic’s new TonePrint concept might sound gimmicky, but that’s what they said about ice-creams with a Flake in the top – and we liked the Hall Of Fame Reverb enough to slap a ‘highly recommended’ rosette on it in last issue’s Gear Of The Year awards, so they’re clearly onto something.
Here’s the story: Each of the stompboxes in the TC TonePrint series is a standard-sized pedal with a wide range of sounds available through the usual knob-twiddlage, but they also have a USB socket for connecting to the net to download extra, ‘customised’ tones – most of them designed by name guitarists across a wide range of genres, from shred king Ron Thal to country session ace Pat Buchanan.
Even more cleverly, a free smartphone app now allows you to load sounds into the pedals simply by holding your phone next to a guitar pickup where it will ‘play’ them encoded as MP3 files. Check the YouTube videos if you don’t believe it – we didn’t at first, but it really does work. Mind you, all this witchcraft is not crucial to getting the most out of the FlashBack. There are 11 switchable modes here, and TonePrint is only one of them; the others range from tape and analogue simulations to a reverse effect and a generous 40-second stereo looper. But if there’s a sound in your head that you just can’t find, then cruise to the TC website for TonePrint extras that span from crazy spaciness to lo-fi sounds.
Many people still associate digital delay with crisp, pristine repeats that don’t add a lot of depth to your sound. The FlashBack is not going to change anyone’s mind about that. All the different delay types on offer here sound superb in their own way – especially the reverse and ducking ‘dynamic’ settings – and they’ve certainly nailed the wobbly decay of a real tape echo; but if you’re seeking proper analogue mush then you’d best look elsewhere.
Even the TonePrint sounds described with words like ‘warm’, ‘dark’ and ‘fat’ have a little too much edge and not enough bloom for my liking. A filter knob for full control over the timbre of the repeats would have helped, but let’s face it, this is a compact pedal – where would they have put it? However, squeezed between the usual dials is a three-way switch for hopping between quarter-note, dotted-eighth-note and trippy combination delay times, which is a very handy little feature.
And just like the Hall Of Fame, this pedal has an extra pair of switches hidden behind the easily-removed bottom panel: one turns off true bypass to allow echo tails to carry on fading away after the effect is switched off, while the other cuts out the dry signal completely.
The Flashback is a triumph of clean and efficient Danish design, and TC deserves credit for managing to include a tap tempo feature and an easy-to-use looper even though there’s only one footswitch. There do seem to be hundreds of brilliant digital delays around all of a sudden, but for the asking price, this one should be classy enough to please anyone – and the best part of the whole thing is, as long as TC can continue to get tone-savvy guitarists adding their ideas to the TonePrint library, it should keep on getting better after you’ve bought it.