[review] TC Electronic Flashback Delay and Looper (by Bieke)

I have been a pretty much a Boss end EHX delay addict forever, I have also been using Line6 delay modelers for many years, but always reverted  to my old Boss and EHX habit.

In the past few years, we have witnessed the release of quite a few smart multi-mode delay pedals, some pricey, some affordable, some ideal for the knob twiddling tweakers, some targeted towards the preset players ...

TC Electronic, a company that certainly has its merits in the world of delay – succeeded in making a digital multi-mode delay in a compact pedal, with huge functionality and packed with useful features, that is easy to use, and still has an attractive pricetag.

TC Electronic Flashback Delay and LooperThe looks

TC took the less is more approach for this pedal. It’s all so clever and functional, with only 4 controls, feedback and delay on the top row and level and mode selector, black knobs with white markers, a 3-way mini toggle for delay repeats, white labeling, no frills, plain, stereo inputs, stereo outputs as well. Has a 9V DC adapter plug, USB port and a true bypass switch.

The Specs

The TC Flashback delay has 9 different delay modes, can get delay from 20msecs up to 6 seconds delay time, stereo in- and outputs, stereo panning, a 40 second looper (20 seconds in stereo mode). And it comes with the innovative Toneprint feature, which allows to upload software upgrades, or over 60 different Toneprint artist signature delay presets that can be downloaded for free.

Buffered or true-bypass, easy access battery compartment, and there are also 2 dipswitches inside, one to switch from  true bypass mode to buffered bypass (allowing delay trails when you switch of the effect).  The other switch mutes the dry signal for using the effect in a  parallel signal chain.

And finally, an easy to use clever tap tempo function, hold down the switch and hit a couple of short notes that suit your tempo and release. Simple and efficient.

The Flashback also has one more cool option just not seen on so many other delays : a mini toggle to select delay repeats from 1/4 notes, to dotted 1/8th notes or a combination thereof. This enables you to to play both 1/4, 1/8 or both note timing repeats, great for achieving that multiple rhythmic delay sound.

TC Electronic Flashback Delay and LooperThe sounds

Impressive! Extremely musical, relatively easy to dial in and get a dedicated delay effect from this. Lucky enough, because it is not possible to save and store your favorite settings on this pedal. You’ll have to rely on your ears.

A quick run through all the delay modes :

  • 2290 – a promising start is made with this emulation of the classic industry standard digital delay, the TC Electronic 2290 delay. Succulent clean delay with a gradual volume roll off. Neat and useful.

  • ANA – simulation of a warmer, grainy analog delay with a hi-cut mode, treble roll off,  but without the self oscillating delay feedback effect that is typical for analog delays.

  • TAPE – reminiscent of the vintage tape delays, with that wow and flutter modulated effect

  • LOFI –residing comfortably in between digital and analog modes, a darker sounding digital delay with squishy repeats, tasty

  • DYN – another 2290 emulation, you need to get used to this one, delay repeats are tempered while you play and are picked up when you stop playing, this is very useful to avoid cluttering of delay repeats.

  • MOD – another classic mode, the old faithful modulated delay, adds a chorus effect on the repeats much like the EHX Memory Man Deluxe, actually very convincing.

  • P.PONG – panning delay effect for that spatial stereo delay sound

  • SLAP – another classic, very short slapback delay

  • RVS – reverse delay of course, most gimmicky of all delay types, usually will give the player a total feeling of “OMG I don’t know what I’m doing”, but in this case, I actually got that feeling of “OMG I’m playing backwards”, a good one, also the wildest sounding mode on the Flashback

  • LOOP – the looper mode of course,  40secs mono, 20secs stereo, infinite overdub. Tap once to record, tap again to stop recording and play back the loop, same routine to add another layer, as many as you wish. Fast double tap to erase. It’s OK for a looper but as with most of them, it takes some practice to use effectively, I am crap at this.

  • TONEPRINT – for storing a single Toneprint preset. Head to the TC Electronic homepage and download  any Toneprint for free, upload it onto your pedal through USB. OK, I’ll admit I did not try it, but I am sure there are some good ones to pick from.

The Verdict

By the time I got to the Toneprint Mode, I was already convinced that the Flashback is a fantastic little unit. OK, so you don’t have presets, you don’t have full control of delay time, you don’t have the crazy self oscillation, but everything else you can possibly think of is all there. Plus it somehow stays true to your sound and just adds delay. It’s easy to use and offers a plethora of convincing delay effects.

Hmmm, it would not take the place of my faithful analog delay, but it could kick the good old DD-2 of my board. So yeah, here you have it, if you’re fed up with your compact digital delay pedal, the Flashback fits the bill.

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