New pedal in Ember Studios: TC Electronic Alter Ego
I find that between releases is the perfect time to swap out gear and bring new instruments and processors into Ember Studios. New sonic textures and instruments inspire creativity, bring new excitement, and helps keep everything fresh. I’ve sold a number of cherished instruments and processors and over the next month or so, I’ll be adding new tools and toys and writing about it here. I’ve had a weekend to play with the first new addition, a TC Electronic TonePrint delay pedal called the Alter Ego, a customized version of their Flashback delay that was designed in cooperation with ProGuitarShop.
More after the cut!
The main differences between this pedal and the TC Electronic Flashback are two custom models: the Binson Echorec, and a vintage Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man. These devices were made famous by great 70s bands like Pink Floyd, and indeed, the ProGuitarShop video demonstrates these sounds by playing classic Floyd riffs. This was my initial attraction, as I love David Gilmour’s delay sounds, but I’d also been pretty intrigued by TC Electronic’s TonePrint concept, and given the fair price ($165) and that I was flush with “gear sales cash” I jumped.
First and foremost, this is a digital delay pedal with stereo inputs and outputs and internal 24-bit, 48kHz processing. It sounds very good; the transparent delays sound transparent, the modulated/saturated delays sound appropriately colored and dirty. As complicated as a digital pedal could be, this one is actually quite manageable, with only a knob to choose the delay model, and then knobs for delay time, regenerations (feedback), and a mix knob. The default is to turn off the “kill dry” (or “fully wet”) feature, but that can be turned on by flipping a dip switch. By keeping it simple, you give up the sort of super-fine control you can get in software, but it also makes it incredibly easy to just set a model, twist a knob, and you’re done—which, really, is what you want in a small, stompbox format pedal. (Well, at least it’s what I want).
Not only is it easy to dial in, but the sounds are great. I especially like the intensely modulated Echorec model; it sounds completely unique, especially the way that if you add distortion to your tone and turn the mix down a bit, you get a really thick, nearly out-of-control but still fully manageable tone that is excellent. The Deluxe Memory Man model has a level lower than any other model, so that you’ll need to turn up the mix higher to be heard. But again, it really comes alive when you add some drive or grit to your tone. The analog and classic TC Electronic delays sound great and the Reverse Delay sounds really fantastic, it tracks very well and sounds appropriately psychedelic. It’s got a 7000ms looper as well, which is easy to use and fun but if you’re seriously into loopers, this is as basic as you can get (record/on/off), so it’s not going to be enough for you.
I’d mentioned that TC Electronic’s TonePrint concept had interested me, and it’s basically this: the pedal has a slot for a preset, called a TonePrint, that you can download into the pedal either via USB from your computer or from an app on your iOS or Android phone. TC Electronic offers dozens of TonePrints that you can add to your pedal that have been designed in concert with various music stores, professional musicians, and so on. As of now, there’s no way to save your own presets to your computer as a TonePrint, to use TonePrints for other pedals, or to edit TonePrints via a software editor. Never the less, the idea of expanding your pedal offerings via TonePrint presets is still a good one—and being able to do it by simply holding my iPhone over a guitar pickup is pretty damn cool!
I tried a number of TonePrints, and I have to say I was impressed. I didn’t know if they’d be different enough to be interesting, or just sort of “saved parameters” of sounds I could easily dial up on my own. But apparently, TC Electronic does some extra tweaking for their TonePrints, and most of the TonePrints I tried were different enough from my default options to be valuable to me (only Munkey’s “Synth” preset wasn’t all that interesting to me, of the dozen I tried).
Keeping in mind that I’m still in the “honeymoon” period with this pedal, I’d have to say that I’m very happy with the Alter Ego TonePrint delay, and I’d recommend it (or the Flashback, if you aren’t interested in the two custom models of the Alter Ego). TC Electronic seems to be doing a very good job supporting these pedals with firmware updates and new TonePrints, so that should keep this pedal fresh for a while. And I’m sure you’ll be hearing it on subsequent Ember After songs!