It’s easy to forget that it was only six years ago that TC Electronic exploded into the mainstream pedal market with the release of their first run of compact pedals. With three drive / distortions plus a delay, chorus, reverb, vibrato and flanger, they brought out an entire pedalboard in one hit and it really made us all sit up straight and go “hang on, what?”. TC appeared to be mounting a real challenge and they were looking Boss / MXR / Electro-Harmonix straight in the eye. This was some proper Game of Thrones stuff and left us intrigued to see where things would go next.
Over the years, TC have brought out compacts for almost every style of effect going. But not only that, they’ve constantly brought out cool and interesting pedals to go alongside the core line (the Triple Delay and the Alter Ego were particular favourites here at GNHQ).
Fast forward to 2016 and an even bigger shakeup to the range. Earlier this year it was announced that Music Group had bought TC Electronic. As they also owned Behringer, I think a lot of people were expecting TC to release some more “budget” pedals, but I don’t think anybody was expecting this announcement. And what an announcement it is too! Thirteen pedals all topping out each under £50!
EchoBrain Analog Delay
The first thing anybody should notice here is the fact that this delay contains a Bucket Brigade chip; a firm sign of quality for any analogue delay. This has fairly simple controls; a wet/dry blend ‘Mix’ control, plus the regulation ‘Time’ and ‘Repeats’ you’d expect on an analogue delay. With up to 300ms of delay, this pedal offers versatility alongside bags of vibe and cool. Definite one to watch.
Afterglow Analogue Chorus
On the subject on Bucket Brigade chips, you’ll also find them in the Afterglow Chorus! A fairly standard set-up of wet/dry ‘Mix’ plus ‘Rate’ and ‘Depth’. Those chips really sound so earthy and lush. Simplicity is the key here.
Thunderstorm Analogue Flanger
The Thunderstorm also has a neat Bucket Brigade set up. Along with the standard ‘Rate’ and ‘Depth’ controls, you also have ‘Manual’ which controls the centre delay point of the effect, and an active ‘Feedback’ control. The the ‘Feedback’ to the left and you’ll find yourself with glitchy extreme flange sounds, turn right and you’ll be surrounded by a warm, dark resonance. If you leave the control in the centre your effect is more natural sounding. A very cool couple features.
Tailspin Analogue Vibrato
The final Bucket Brigade pedal in the lineup is a nice, simple analogue Vibrato. With just ‘Rate’ and ‘Depth’ here, TC are letting that chip do the talking and for me, I think that’s the right decision. I can see the Tailspin giving the Shaker a right run for its money.
Blood Moon Phaser
OK this sounds absolutely fantastic. Another fairly simple design with ‘Rate’ and ‘Depth’, but with a nice ‘Feedback’ control that allows you to reroute part of the signal of the four-step filter back into the circuit (literally feeding the signal back to the start) to open up a chasm of phase. A really lovely budget phaser.
Rush Analogue Booster
I’m always a little bit skeptical about any pedals that claim to be “clean” boosts. The TC Spark Booster has always been marketed as a “Clean Boost” which I’ve never really understood. Personally I think it’s a great clean *overdrive*, but it adds too much gain for it to be a clean boost. Really keen to see how this one sounds, but all the samples TC have published so far don’t show a transition between on and off. Jury’s out on this one.
Cinders Analogue Overdrive
Regular listeners to the Guitar Nerds podcast will know we’ve always had a huge soft spot for the transparent Mojo Mojo overdrive so this has a lot to measure up to. Simple controls in ‘Tone’, ‘Volume’ and ‘Drive’ offer a familiar set-up and I have to say those preliminary demos sound really promising!
Grand Megus Distortion
In a similar way to how TC handled their initial range of gain pedals (gain, gainier, gainiest), they’ve done the same here. The Grand Megus takes it up a notch at the expense of a bit of transparency from your sound. Everyone is after that “amp in a box” sound right now, and if you want to get that “up to 11” sound at a budget, you could do worse than look at the Grand Megus.
Fangs Metal Distortion
My word, there’s nothing subtle about this one is there? The thing that’ll set the Fangs aside from other Metal pedals is the mid-switch that allows three mid-shaping options that essentially cut from fierce high-mids through to a harsh scooped V sound. You still have full control over bass and treble frequencies plus your gain and volume with standalone knobs. It certainly looks the part too!
As it’s based on the iconic Silicone Fuzz Face you should know roughly what you’re expecting here. Raw, gated fuzz in a pedalboard-friendly housing. Dynamics are the name of the game here.
Forcefield Analogue Compressor
Like Boost, Compression is another effect that you really need to hear in context to the dry sound to know what you’re getting here. By the sounds of the initial demos, this is more centred around vintage compression rather than a glassy rack compressor. Compression is an effect that TC have done really well in recent years (the HyperGravity was a real surprise for us!), so I’m willing to give this one the benefit of the doubt for the time being!
Until the Hall of Fame came along and ruined the party, the EHX Holy Grail really had the compact Reverb market sewn up. Nowadays you’re far more likely to see one of those now iconic firetruck red chassis on your mate’s pedalboard than the old stalwart, so we know TC have form with Reverb. The Skysurfer (I wonder where the idea for the name came from?) offers just the three core reverb sounds in ‘Hall’, ‘Spring’ and ‘Plate’, and the controls may seem a little backwards at first, but I think this is a cool set-up. The ‘Reverb’ knob controls the length of the effect whilst the “Mix” control is actually more of an effect volume, as opposed to a wet/dry blend. I think this could easily become a go-to for people after a more subtle reverb rather than the more extreme splashy verbs that have become popular in recent years.
The Prophet Digital Delay
This is inevitably going to get compared to its older sibling in the Flashback and I think that it does stand up to it as long as you bare in mind you’ve only got the one algorithm in there. Like the Skysurfer, the ‘Mix’ control allows you to adjust the volume of the effect as opposed to a wet/dry blend, which I think it quite a neat little control. You have a three-way micro switch to cut between three options for the subdivisions plus ‘Time’ and ‘Repeat’ knobs. This sounds great!
So there we have it. Thirteen new budget-friendly TC Electronic pedals. It’s worth noting that all of these are True Bypass, and more excitingly they all boast increasingly popular top-mounted jacks. These pedals have certainly been designed for people looking to put together a budget-friendly pedalboard and, honestly (and surprisingly?), there are some pretty great sounding pedals in the range. For me, the standouts are the Echobrain, the Afterglow and The Prophet and I’m really looking forward to spending some time with these to see whether any can live up to the classic TC compacts and become household names.