18 July 2013

Accessories: Planning your voltage and current needs for your pedalboard


When we want to use some pedal effect, between our guitar and amp, we usually don't put attention to voltage and current stuff. We just plug the pedal, check it and, love or hate it. But... are we hearing the pedal as its best?.

Batteries / DC Adaptor

Most of pedals are designed with a constant DC current / voltage in mind. That means that the best way to know if a pedal can deliver what you are expecting from it is to test it with batteries first.

Your mains (as in my case) can be inconsistently delivering voltage and current and, very few pedals are being made with a subsystem that helps them to internally regulate such fluctuations.
So, if you wanted to know if that pedal is for you, please, try it with batteries first.

After you've tested it with batteries, you would probably want to run this pedal with some DC Adaptor, to avoid the typical case were your can run out of battery because you leaved plugged your jack in its input. Or you would like avoid the case of running out of battery in the middle of a performance, specially if that pedal isn't a true bypass one (which can completely shut up your guitar).

But, since mains voltage and current are so variable, your DC adaptor will provide variable outputs, your pedals will receive variable inputs and will deliver variable sounds, from full bodied and musical ones to, thin, trebbly and weak ones.

There are some kind of pedals that work best with lover voltages than the nominal one. This is the case of vintage germanium fuzzes, that seem to deliver a better sound when used with old worn batteries.

There are some other pedals that can sound really enhanced with higher voltages at their inputs. Usually, boosters, overdrives and compressors can open their sound and have better dynamics and headroom at higher voltage levels.

There are other pedals that simple don't seem to be enhanced with a higher voltage than the nominal one but, since the nominal voltage is often not reached (because of fluctuations of your mains) they just don't deliver the right sound.

When moving from batteries to DC Adaptors, it is time to carefully study your needs and to plan your pedal board needs.

Planning your pedal board needs

If you are going to use some DC Adaptor, it is a must for you to carefully read the technical specifications of every pedal and, tech specs of your DC Adaptors, as well.

Every pedal needs a minimum voltage to properly operate and, have a maximum voltage they can receive to not damage the unit. Some pedals can run just at 9V, like the Strymon El Capistan or the Dry Bell Vibe Machine or, those Weehbo pedals that have the Dynamics Switch (which doubles internally the voltage).

Most pedals will allow a voltage input between 9V and 12V or, between 9V and 18V.

Every pedal drains a maximum amount of current (expressed in mA) and, that max current will depend on the voltage so, when you increase the input voltage, the drawn current increases proportionally.

Every of your DC Adaptors can deliver a maximum power, with maximum current on its output (or outputs).
You MUST be sure that every pedal is being feed with the right amount of voltage and current and, that you aren't overloading your DC Adaptor, demanding more power than it can delivers.

Practical Case example

You know, every pedal board is alive and, pedals enter and exit constantly. At a certain point of time, a single DC Adaptor wasn't enough to run my heavily loaded pedalboard so, I am currently having two Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus units and, therefore, I am planning my voltage / current needs with the help of both units, which I try to balance in the best possible way.

If you read the tech stuff of that Pedal Power 2 Plus Adaptors, you will get more or less the following basic information (after a big headache trying to understand everything together).

There are three groups of outputs: 1 - 4, 5 - 6 and 7-8.
All work the same when the micro dip switch is on its "normal" position for each entry. All them will deliver 9V.
What makes them different is that groups 1-4 and 7-8 will deliver a maximum of 100 mA, while the group 5-6 will deliver a maximum of 250 mA.

So, if you have a pedal that drains more than 250 mA (as some synthesized units) you will never get a good result with this Adaptor, you will need to go for anything else (Voodoo Lab has one more unit, specifically for this, able to deliver 500 mA by output). By example, the Carl Martin Octaswitch MKII cannot be feed with any Pedal Power 2 Plus unit.

As I said, there are pedals which sound can be enhanced by running them at higher voltages.
The Area 51 wah it's recommended to be feed at 12V, as the Weehbo Bastard.
I know there is some improvement in openness, definition and dynamics in other pedal types, as the Wampler Decibel+ or the Wampler Ego Compressor, at least, because feeding them at 12V ensures that at least 9V are reaching their inputs.

But, if you plan to increase the input voltage, make your maths before and plan a proportional current drain.
If the pedal drains 30 mA @ 9V, apply a proportion rule and you will find that it could potentially drain (at least) 40 mA @ 12V and 60 mA @ 18V.

So, first step is to know each pedal specifications and see what each pedal requires for your needs and see how those needs can be covered with your DC Adaptor (or adaptors).

This is the excel sheet I was using to plan my own pedal board needs, with all those pedals I've currently having there and those foreseen in a near future.

At header, the output voltage and max current by output in each Pedal Power 2 Plus unit, when using their outputs in "normal" mode, delivering 9V.
Those values change when the DIP switch is switched on, for each particular group.
In the case of the group 1-4, the max current drops to 60 mA and voltage steps up to 12.3V by output.

Below, the detail of each pedal, with its max drain value at the voltage I would run it, expressed in the last column (9V or 12V). The middle two columns (Unit A, Unit B) are the assignment of each pedal to each particular output of a particular unit. The two following columns are assigning the max current load for each unit, which total "load" can be seen as totals on the summarizing line at bottom.

You can see that one of the Pedal Power 2 units is using all their outputs and, that the second unit is feeding just three pedals but, even this, the "load" of that second unit is still higher than in the first one (390 mA against 377 mA).

In my planning, I am first allocating the big stones and, the bigger stone here is the Strymon El Capistan, which needs 250 mA, just the maximum current a Pedal Power 2 Plus can deliver in a single output. This level of current can be achieved in outputs 5 or 6, only.  I've assigned output 5 of the second unit (physically closer to the pedal) for this.

There are four pedals I wanted to run at 12V. Any Wampler pedal will deliver a good sound if you can at least feed them with 9V and, all them allow voltage levels up to 18V.
To feed them at 18V means that two outputs of the Pedal Power 2 Plus unit should be allocated for each single pedal but, switching on the DIP switch of each required output for group 1 to 4 will deliver me 12.3V with a single cord and a single output.

Therefore, I've switched on DIPs for outputs 3 and 4 in each unit, to run my pedals at 12.3V.
You can see that the Area 51 Wah was assigned to output 3 of Unit A,  Wampler Decibel+ was assigned to output 4 of same unit, Ego Compressor was assigned to output 3 of Unit B and, Weehbo Bastard (to come) was assigned to output 4 of same unit.

Then, I've started to assign each pedal, beginning with the "weighter" ones (more current drain) and, ending with the "ligther" ones, until I've got an acceptable current drain balance for both units.

The total maximum current is 767 mA (0.767 A) so, I should be sure also that the extension sockets rule has a cord that can support such a current and that the output of the Phonic PC9000E power conditioner can deliver such an amount of current.

Sure, if you use just batteries, you can completely forget all this but, if you need DC Adaptors, be sure you are planning the marriage of each pedal with the right Adaptor output, to get the best from your pedalboard.

Pedal Effects: Area 51 Wah - First contact


The Wah is one of those few effects that allows your personality to shine in the sound. Most of effects, once set up, modify your sound in a single way but, wahs allow you to modify the effect in real time and, therefore, you are expressing yourself in real time.

Two people, playing same riff can dramatically change the intention when applying a wah. Sweep range, voice and rest of variables make one wah different from the other but, what makes them really different is the player.

We already discussed about the differences between wahs, in this past entry: Pedal effects: the Wah Effect.
You've guess it. I love wahs!.

But I am in the search of the right wah for a very very long time, since my old 80's wah was stolen, I've never had a wah that nailed the voice, the sweep range and the overall characteristics of that wah.

There are lot of people that just buys a cheap unit and, they are able to tweak it until they've got what they wanted. And, sure, maybe this is the way to go, if you are so skilled.
For those that aren't, to be in the market for a new wah to test is the common way.

Very satisfied overall with the sound of the Real McCoy RMC4 Picture wah, my complains where more related to its floor noise. Compared to a Vox 847A or a Roger Mayer Vision Wah, the RMC4 is noisy as hell and, tends to introduce lot of feedback when used with gain enough.

So, one more time, I was in the market again for a wah with all the good of the RMC4 and none of the bad. That search addressed me to the Area 51 Wah and, this entry is all about it.


This is a make-to-order boutique wah so, there is no available wah for you. Dan will build it to your particular specifications. The 'standard' waiting time is about 4 - 6 weeks but, unfortunately, mine took 8 weeks (two months), what was a bit frustrating.

Even that Dan is very friendly, he had some kind of personal issues during that period and, didn't answered my mails. When he answered back, he did it very correctly and was a pleasure to deal with him.

Once the wah is ready, shipping time is short, just 3 days from US to Spain.

But then, Customs enter in the game and you are sold. It took me one more month to clear customs duties and have the wah at home. So, overall, 3 months waiting for this Wah.

I was so upset that thought "I really hope this wah worths the waiting time, otherwise, I will burn it!".

If you are in the US, you are lucky and, your waiting time will be probably 4 to 6 weeks and, you will never have to fight against Custom's employees.

Wah Customizing

Dan is possibly the only boutique maker that allows you to choose every feature of the wah and, he build it to your specifications.

You can add a led, a buffer, a growl control, a quack control and a range selector. You can even order it as a lefy unit, for left-handed people. You can also select the color (5 different available).

After hearing lot of youtube videos, I was convinced that this probably was the wah I was after.
When I was filling in my order, I recognize that I firstly marked every option, very excited with the possibility to get the exact wah effect I was looking for.

But price, easily goes up and up, when you are adding options so, I've quiet myself and tought: "Let see. This wah should be designed to sound good with no additional tweaks so, what do I really need from all those options, if the sound is already there?".

In my honest opinion, there are just two options that were a must for me: the led and the buffer.

If you leave your wah switched on, usually you realize about it but, a led lets you to know if it is on or off at a glance.

The buffer is a must if you think to run a wah with a vintage fuzz. This is the only way you will get from your fuzz the right sound., since fuzz and wah compete to be the very first pedal in your pedal board.
Fortunately, Area 51 buffer is internally switchable on and off (with a microswitch inside). So, if you order it with a buffer, you can switch it on or off at any time.

To be honest, I don't like this "Martelle" paint finish. Even that some colors could be attractive, that Martelle make them to look odd. A plain (or metalized) color paint could have a more attractive look, IMHO.
In my case, since Dan had issues with his paint provider, he sent me a "custom grey" color:  metalized grey!!!.

Martelle paint was fashion during the 80's but, not nowadays. I hate the look of my Hudson Electronics Stroll On fuzz, because it has same kind of finish and, looks ugly compared to rest of the pedalboard.

But seriously, color or look didn't matter to me. The only I really wanted was the sound and sweep.
Has it those?.

The Sound - First contact

Voltage again, my son

As any other pedal I buy, the fire test is to try it inserted in my pedal chain. If it reacts accordingly with rest of the pedal board, the new one is very well welcome. Otherwise, even if it is an outstanding unit, I must remove it from the pedal board, to not compromise my sound.

As every time a new pedal comes, I've read maker' specifications and, had to review again the DC output assignations for each pedal, to balance the drain in both Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus units.

One of the techs notes that called my attention, when reading the short explanation that comes with the pedal, is that this pedal will provide a nice sound if AT LEAST 9V are being provided.
If you are following my blog entries, you will remember how inconsistent is my mains voltage and, how hard it affects to the whole rig and, that's one of the main reasons why I've decided to go for Weehbo effects.

To be sure I am delivering at least 9V to this unit, I've toggled the micro dip switch of the Pedal Power 2 Plus unit to feed this wah at 12.3V (any of the outputs between 1 and 4).

This 12V recommended value took my attention. When I was discussing with Eike (Weehbo Effekte) if, his Bastard distortion pedal will sound better at 18V (as the Dumbledore, JCM Drive and PlexDrive do), he told me that not really but, that he personally likes the Bastard at 12V.

Well, at 12V is how I am currently running Wampler Ego Compressor, Wampler Decibel+ Buffer/Booster and how I've planned to run the Weehbo Bastard Distortion (in a near future). And, after reading the tech note from Dan, I've decided to run the Area 51 at 12V, as well.

All that discussion about voltage is to let you know that I am not sure if this is what made it to sound so good. I don't know if I was running the RMC4 at same voltage if I would get same results. Honestly, not tested by now. I don't know if it was a key decision or, if it just was one more drop in the cup of the tone.
Anything I am describing below is related to how it worked at 12V.

How it compares to...

Let me clearly state this: this is a plug & play wah. I didn't feel in the need of tweaking anything else to make it better. It works awesomely stock and, totally suits my needs, in every single sense.

Basses are guttural and deep but, without messing and masking the sound as in other units. Very vocal sounding. You can tweak the shape of basses with the option "Growl control" but, as it comes standard, I absolutely love it.

Trebles are well represented but doesn't go piercing and thin, as in the case of the Vox 847A or (in less measure) the RMC4. Just the right amount of trebles, just the right amount of basses.

Sweep range is just perfect for my foot. The three "main areas" of the sweep, basses, resonance mids and trebles cover a nice range and, doesn't go so extreme that you can hate any of those areas in particular. All them have the right amount, nothing less, nothing more.

The "transition knee". That borders between the three "main areas" are, sometimes, very distinctive in some wah units (as the Vox 847A), what produces a dramatically change when crossing every border. In the case of the Area 51, that "transition knee" is soft and smooth, no "chask".

Respect of the voice, I would say this is an "enhanced" version of the RMC4. Bottom line is very similar but, in my opinion, every frequency range is better represented, avoiding extremes and, making it softer or even EQ'd.

Respect of signal strength, the signal is full bodied, as the Vision Wah (with the booster in the right position) and, doesn't sound weak (as in the case of the Vox 847 and, in less measure of the RMC4).

Well, probably "crazy tweakers" will be very happy with all the available options but, I just prefer simple operating pedals that deliver an outstanding sound and, that's what I am getting with the standard Area 51, as it was designed.

One of the thing I was discussing with Dan is the quietness of the wah, when switched on. I've let him know that, even that I loved the voice of my RMC4, the main issue I had and, why I was in the market again for a wah was the floor noise of the RMC4 and, I've asked him how the floor noise was in the Area 51.
He answered: "I took lot of attention to this. My wah is quiet enough but, take into account that as per design any wah will introduce some floor noise".

So, what about its floor noise?. Awesome!. It's so quiet as the Vox 847A or the Roger Mayer Vision Wah and, way quieter than the RMC4.

I've tested it with some backing tracks, alone and before some overdrives (Weehbo JCM Drive, Plextortion and Dumbledore) and before a vibe effect (Dry Bell Vibe Machine V1.0) and, results were fully satisfactory.

I need to test it deeper for several weeks until I have the final decision but, I am having same sensations I had with my good scores, as the Vox Night Train, the Marshall 1923C, VHT Special 6 Ultra, Strymon El Capistan, Dry Bell Vibe Machine or my Weehbo effects.
It seems like this time I really have THE WAH.

Video / Demo ?

Not right now. There are videos enough available in youtube that demo the sound of this unit alone.
You will probably hear it in my future videos, since it's now in my pedalboard to be a keeper (I hope, my last wah).

16 July 2013

Pedal Effects: Weehbo Dumbledore


I think this trend of D-sound pedals was started by Hermida Audio and his Zendrive. Hermida was in love with the sound of Robert Ford's Dumble amp and, he wanted to capture the soul of such an amp in a guitar pedal.

And it did it really nice. The Zendrive is an awesome sounding pedal and, I loved it, except for the excessive compression that was taming down my attack (which I love to have). It could be a fair and accurate modeling of Ford's amp but, not my cup of tee.

I liked the voice and body character of that D-unit but, wasn't satisfied with the excessive compression so, I went to market searching for some alternatives. I was just weighting the Dumkudo, with a waiting list, importation stuff, etc. when I've seen that Wampler had the Euphoria Overdrive, that included a D-sound voice mode (smooth).

The attack in Wampler's unit is less compressed than in the case of Hermida's one, what I liked. The voice of the Euphoria isn't so creamy and sweet as the voice of the Zendrive and, I find that the "distortion grain" goes really fatter in Euphoria (like big balls), as soon as you start to roll on basses, what makes the sound a bit blurry.

Due to my own issues with my mains voltage, the Euphoria lacks body when my voltage drops, delivering a thin, weak and lifeless sound. Since I already own a couple of Weehbo pedals, that internally double the input 9V to 18V, giving more headroom and dynamics to the sound, I wanted to check their Dumbledore, their own take on the D-Sound.

Who has the truth?.
All them and none of them.
Take into account that Dumble amps were made-to-order amps and, every amp was tweaked for its particular owner. There are not two Dumble sounding the same so, each pedal maker can get the "core" sound behind Dumbles and fine-tuning that sound to their own particular taste.

Sound any of those exactly like the amp they are modeling?.
Honestly, I have no idea. I've never played a Dumble and, I've never played those Dumbles that each maker used as a reference for their own pedal.

Does it really matter?.
In my opinion, it doesn't.
What I like of the D-Sound is that sweet, warm and creamy soft distortion and, what I don't like is an excessive compression of the sound, due to a tube rectifier sagging.
Each maker (with a D-pedal) has its own take of that D-Sound so, check them all and just choose the one that better works for you.

This entry is all around my tests with Weehbo Effekte Dumbledore pedal and, how I can compare it to Zendrive and Euphoria pedals.


Pedal comes in a classy black cardboard box, with just the right "Marketing" stuff.
Inside, the box is foamed to protect the pedal.
With the pedal itself, you can find the complete Weehbo Effekte catalog, one Weehbo sticker and four adhesive rubber dots for the bottom plate of the pedal.

As usually in Weehbo pedals, the user's manual is just a short description along two pages that, basically describe the function of each particular control and, that focus in the particular functions of each model.
I am missing here some guide settings, to get a quick taste of pedals possibilities (something that always comes with any Wampler pedal).

This pedals has a new-brand look, as the PlexDrive and, differently to the JCM Drive (that looks as worn by the age). I love pedals to look like new-brand if I buy them new-brand so, thank you, Weehbo.


This one is quite similar to the INPUT control you will find in other Weehbo pedals. It helps to get the right input impedance level and to cook a light overdrive sound for the Standard mode.

Well, this one corresponds to the GAIN control you will find in other Weehbo pedals but, the difference is that this one boosts the drive for the More mod, providing a thicker and creamier distortion level.

Complete Tone Stack
Differently from other makers, the Dumbledore has a complete active tone stack, that allows you to tweak the sound to your needs. Bass, Treble and Mids are there to help you to easily get your wanted tone. Mids are highly dependent on the setting of the Mids selector.

Mids Freq selector
A three way toggle switch that fixes the central frequency for mids in three different spots, from lower to higher frequencies and, that helps a lot to make this pedal to cut the mix.

This control sets the overall output loudness of the effect.

Two hidden trim-pots
Inside this pedal, there are a couple of trim-pots that help you to fine-tuning the sound of this pedal to your taste. One is being named Tone and sets up the overall tone of the pedal and, the other one is called Presence and sets up the overall presence of the pedal.
I've still didn't played with such a controls but, they seem very interesting.

Dynamics switch
As in any of Weehbo's big boxes (with a couple of pedal switches), the Dumbledore includes the Dynamics switch that, when toggled to left side, duplicates the 9V input to 18V internally, what gives to the sound a nice headroom and awesome dynamics.


Firstly, you better select the right Gain for the Standard mode. That will adapt the impedance to get the best from your pickups.

Then, with the help of the active tone stack and the Mids Freq selector, you can make the sound to cut the mix, to your taste.
This is one of the things that was a tad complicated with Euphoria. To have a full bodied sound that cut the mix was a hard work, while the operation in the Dumbledore is so straight forward than in the Zendrive.

Once the sound is ok, you better roll the Level up to unitary gain, to better stack it with other pedals.

And, it's time to go for the More Channel. Switch it on and just roll that More control until you get a "second channel" with higher gain and creamier and thick distortion.
This double-channel approach sets up this pedal apart of any other Dumble-like pedal and, it's incredible useful. Thanks Weehbo for this feature!.


As we discussed above, there is no way to say: "Ok, that sounds has the Dumble amp of X", neither the contrary. So, I just can establish a comparison with other two well known D-sound pedals: Wampler Euphoria (smooth mode) and Hermida Audio Zendrive.
Also, take into account that sound is very personal so, any comment here is very related to my own taste / needs.

Respect of compression, I would say that the compression level of the sound (taming attacks) is somewhat between the lighter compression of the Euphoria and the harder compression of the Zendrive, what's fine for me.

Respect of the sound fingerprint, I would say that the sound is also between both but, closer to the Zendrive than to the Euphoria.
With Euphoria, as you roll in basses, to give some body to the sound, the distortion gain fattens and the sound goes blurry and not clearly distinguishable.
This is not the case of the Zendrive and, also not the case of the Dumbledore, which can get thicker and creamier without fattening the distortion grain.

The optional More channel is a very distinctive feature of this unit. While in Hermida Audio we should go for the Tiki Drive to get similar (but not equal results), in Euphoria we have not such a possibility. If memory doesn't fails, Dumkudo has that possibility also.
This is like to have a two-channels Dumble and helps a lot to be playing with a soft, sweet, warm and bluesy overdrive and, to step over to get a creamy bluesy overdrive.

As happens with the JCM Drive or the Plexdrive, the Dynamics switch its highly recommended for you to leave it in its 18V position. That's how the pedal's voice really shines and sounds like a real amp.

What I've noticed with all D-sounding pedals is that they tend to sound a bit dark and distant. Fortunately, the Dumbledore, with the help of the Mids Freq switch  and a full active Tone Stack, allow you to tweak the sound until you can easily make it to cut the mix.
But, the attack taming is a bit too much for me, still.
I need to tweak the inner trimmer pots and see if this kind of behavior can be softened in any way.

Probably, the best take of the original Ford' sound is the Zendrive. If this is your cup, go ahead.
But the Dumbledore is second to none and, its wide tone possibilities allows you to tweak any kind of D-Sound and, remember it, it's a TWO CHANNEL unit, with outstanding dynamics!.


Well, there are around there lot of Youtube demos that go in detail with the features of this pedal so, I avoided to leave there just one more demo.
What I was really interested on is to check how this pedal could be integrated with the rest of the pedalboard (still under building) and, to check how well it stacks with other Weehbo pedals (JCM Drive and PlexDrive) and my new brand Strymon El Capistan.

I've tested this pedal, among all the rest, with some backing tracks, to be sure all them are doing the right work and can cut the mix with attitude. Here you have the results:

10 July 2013

Pedal Effects: TC Electronics Flashback


Note: this entry was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog, around August / 2011. I am just revisiting it here.

Delays are time effects, where the input signal is being split in two paths. In one of them, the signal remains pure (with some remarks here!), while in the other the original signal is cloned one or more times with a certain delay (from some miliseconds to some seconds) respect of the original signal. Additinonaly, the delayed signal can be mixed again at lower volumes with new echoes, in a feedback loop of a certain length.

Some units have also some kind of modulation module (vibrato, tremolo, chorus) to modify (modulate) the delayed signal,

Early delay units where tape delays. They were recording the signal on a magnetic tape and, read again with a certain delay. Then, tape units went more sophisticated, including several heads that allowed them to runaway from sterile simple echoes and to produce a complexer ambient.
Probably, the most famous unit was the Echoplex and, you can still see those in some Studios and, even in some stage (Brian May uses a couple in his performances).

Roland (lately Boss) started also its own steps with the Space Echo, also a tape delay.

As the electronics evoluted, one more delay type was included: the analog delay. Instead of using a magnetic tape, a network of filters was used to delay the wet signal. The rise of solid state components, as certain integrated circuits, allowed to increase the available delay times, that were very short in the beginning.

One of the early analog units was the Boss DM-2 but, some of the first ones still have place in some pedalboards, as Electro-Harmonix' Memory Man (used by David Gilmour, by example) or some delays from Ibanez (and lately, Maxon).

With more evoluted designs, practically every pedal maker has some analog delay pedal in its catalog.

With the evolution of digital electronics, more Integrated Digital Signal Processors were available and, Digital Delays started to flood the market. The first digital delay was the Boss DD-2.

In digital delays, the analog signal is being sampled and converted to binary values. That set of zeros and ones is being internally processed, generating new sets of zeros and ones that would be converted again to an analog signal on its output.

Therefore, the quality of a digital delay will depend on the quality of its Analog/Digital and Digital/Analog  converters and, about the resolution and precision of the Digital Audio Processors, inside the unit. The best the components, the more close to an analog unit it will sound.

Analog delays are more organic, warm, natural and musicals. However, because of technical reasons, they are very limited in the range of delay they can offer and, they have just one "voice", independently of speed and repetition controls.

Digital Delays tend to sound cooler, accurate and clear. But, quality of components is key to avoid "digititis" (digital artifacts). Delay times are often way longer than in analog units and, additionally, Digital Delays often include several different algorithms that bring several "voices" (delay types) and, usually one of those emulations is just an analog delay emulation.

Digital Delays, in rack format, are often seen in Recording Studios, because of their versatility. TC Electronics has very famous delay and reverberation algorithms, specially in their System 6000.

TC Electronics already delivered a set of excellent quality pedals, in their series Nova. Price, complexity and size of such a series of pedals is what made me to discard them.
One more modern delay with good press is the T.Rex Alberta but, its price is even higher than the TC unit.

Sure, Boss delays (as the DD-3) are always a reference but, I particularly like more the sounds of the T.Rex or TC.

Since I've already got an analog delay (Maxon AD-999 Analog Delay), I wanted to try a digital delay and, fill the gap of certain features I am missing, as the tap temp, subdivisions of the primary delay time, etc.
Luckily, TC Electronics is delivering now a series of pedals named Toneprint, with a pedalboard friendly size and, with an operation way more easy than in their series Nova and, with an attractive price, less options but still a bunch.

The TC Electronics Flashback seemed to me a good compromise between price / function / quality / versatility / easy to use. So, that's all about this blog entry; to share with you my experience with this pedal.

TC Electronic Flashback Delay and Looper


The pedal comes inside a cardboard box of small dimensions, very "marketed". Inside, the pedal, the user's manual (a paper sheet type DIN A2, in several languages), a triptych with information about rest of TC Electronics offer, a sticker of TC Electronics and, an USB cable.

Inside the pedal there is a battery (unconnected), therefore, if you want to use it, you should open the pedal. To open the pedal is darn easy, just a big screw where you can insert a coin.

You cannot see the guts. Just the battery is visible and, a couple of micro-switches. Rest of circuitry is being hidden with a metallic tap, fixed with 4 screws.


On left and right sides, a couple of input and output jacks. That is, it works in true stereo.
In the upper side, we have an USB port that will allow us to update the user bank with some downloaded Toneprint and, a jack for a 9V adaptor.

Rest of controls are in the front side of the unit and, are as follows:

Fx level

This is the volume of the wet signal in the mix.


Determines the delay time, rolling it on clockwise increases the delay time.
Every delay type can work with a delay range between 20 ms and 7000 ms (7 seconds), just the Slapback is an exception, allowing a maximum of 300 ms.


Controls the number of repetitions that are being summed to the original input signal.

Delay Type Selector

It allows you to choose between 10 different delay algorithms (we will describe them below) and a Looper function.


A three positions microswitch allows you to choose 3 different divisions of the primary time. The primary time is being established with the Delay pot or, with the Tap Delay pedal switch (to be explained below).
The switch up corresponds to a subdivision of 1/4. On Middle position to 1/8. And, on down position corresponds to 1/4 AND 1/8.

Pedal Switch

Apart of being the switch that activates / deactivates the effect, is the switch used to enter and exit from Tap Delay and Looper modes.


Delay Types

This unit comes with 10 different delay types and, an additional Looper mode. Following the order of the delay type selector, these are the available algorithms.


Digital Delay based on the legendary TC 2290. There is no processing of repetitions. A very pure and crystalline delay effect.


Emulates a typical Analog Delay, where there is a certain roll back in high frequencies and, where repetitions sound smoother and more natural blend with original signal, even if they are lots of repetitions at a high volume.


Emulates a Tape Echo unit. Tends to deteriorate a bit the recorded material, with some flute effect and, all this combined with a significative roll out of high frequencies and, even part of low frequencies. But, this kind of imperfection and rawness is what makes this type of delay more musical than others.


Digital delay with less precision bits that creates "teeth" in repetitions. You can notice very clear the attack and release of the sound.


An emulation of the legendary Dynamic Delay, that was introduced initially in the TC 2290. The delay loudness is actively altered with the dynamics of the input level. While we are playing, the delay level is being attenuated and, between riffs, the delay level increases. This allows to play long riffs without masking the sound.


Repetitions are being modulated with a vibrato effect.


The delay is being panoramized alternatively to left and rigth side, while the input remains in the original stereo position. Of course, it makes sense to use this one just in stereo.


A very short delay, with one or very few repetitions. Is usually applied to "doubling" the guitar, making the sound bigger. Short slap delays are usual in Funky and, a bit longer in Rockabilly.


Reverse delay. The signal is being sampled and then reproduced in a reverse way. Nice to give some mystery atmosphere to the sound.


Looper function. It allows you to record a loop of 40 seconds (mono) or 20 seconds (stereo).
The recording is continuous so, we are overwriting the previously recorded material.
To start recording, we step over the pedal switch (light blinks).
To stop recording, we step over the pedal switch once more and, the pedal begins to reproduce the recorded loop.
To erase the loop, we should step twice in a row the switch.


This is an user bank. You can use a downloadable software, available in TC Electronics site, and the USB cable delivered with the pedal to change the parameters of the algorithm of this bank. Therefore, you can create from scratch your own delay type.
In TC Electronics site you can download also some Toneprint files already prepared by well known guitarists.

Time selection

Once you've selected the delay type, you can choose to select the time (half, 1/4 note) and set up the main time with the Delay pot or, you can select the main time with pedal' switch (tap).
If we leave the switch pushed down, we can define the time just strumming (strong and dry) our guitar' strings, around 2 seconds. When we released the switch, the average time is being calculated and selected.
This way of do the tap delay sets this pedal apart other delay pedals.
Once the main time was established, you can subdivide it, with the micro-switch Subdivision, to add more repetitions.

Bypass and Kill-Dry modes

As we've mentioned, by opening the rear cover you will access to a little microswitch, with two slide switches.
First one controls if this pedal should work in True Bypass mode or in Buffered Bypass mode.

When Buffered Bypass mode is being selected, we can remove the original input (dry) signal in the output. This is useful if the pedal is being inserted in a Parallel FX Loop of your amp.

My impressions

My interest for delays is just to give some ambient and to push back the guitar a bit in the right mix depth.
I am not a delay enthusiast so, I am not used to creative uses of the delay effect itself. Because of this reason and, since there are good demos available in Youtube I am not going to do some video for this pedal.
I went just checking every delay type to finally leave there the one it worked the best for my needs.

I can hear a certain level of digititis, more notable where you play the guitar alone. Some settings, where the effect level is high and there are a lot of repetitions, show more clearly those digital artifacts, which are more evident in the attack and release phases.
As we discussed above, those artifacts depend on the quality of the converters and digital processors of any digital delay.

The sound, once blend in the mix, is excellent. I've tested it with several backing tracks and, the sensation of digititis disappears (to reduce the effect level or number of repetitions helps also) and, the sound is, overall, very satisfactory.

Of all those available delay types, I specially liked:

The 2290, because it sounds very clean, crystalline and pure, not masking the sound.
The ANA, that goes close to the sound I get with my Maxon AD-999.
The TAPE, who in the hell has money to buy a Tape Echo Unit? and, who wants to transport and integrate in his pedalboard such a big monster?. This one sounds very musical and, very decent.
Another interesting delay is the MOD, where the added vibrato gives a very special touch to the delay.

Mads for Delays will enjoy of a very user-friendly delay unit, versatile and with a set of emulations variate and distinctive. Each delay type sounds very differently from the rest so, it's very difficult to don't find an useful one for each situation. Maybe, one of the most rares is the DYN one, because tails increase their loudness when we stop playing and, the most exotic is the REV one.

I've easily integrated this pedal with rest of pedal board, achieving a nice sound and, it works very nicely together with the TC Electronics Hall of Fame reverb effect (which will be described in a next blog entry).

For my own needs, I've found more interesting the delay type TAPE, because it sounds more musical to my ears.

04 July 2013

Pedal effects: TC Electronics Polytune


Note: this entry was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog, around August/2011. I am just revisiting it here.

You will find tuner pedals at any price. Practically, every brand has at least some model and, sometimes more than just one model. But there are some parameters that distinguish one from the other.

Precision is one of the most distinctive parameters. One Octave, in a tempered scale, is being divided in 12 semi-tones of 100 cents each one. Tuner's precision is being determined with their ability to represent the exact note with a deviation expressed in cents.

It seems that 25 cents is the deviation practically heard by anyone, while more fine ears can distinguish differences between 5 to 6 cents. Let see some typical tuners.

King of tuners, Peterson, has a tuner in a pedal format (Strobo Stomp II), which precision is of 0.1cent (a decim of cent!).
The Boss TU-3, very often seen in pedalboards, has a precision of 1 cent, as the Korg Pitchblack, among many others.

Most of tuners have a precision between 1 and 0.1 cent, which is more than enough for every ear.

One more characteristic to take into account is the response time of tuners. Each tuner reacts with a very different speed recognizing the note. Slow tuners, taking more time recognizing the note, make us to go from one side to other, while trying to tune the string. Speed tuners are even able to recognize notes as they are being triggered in a speed riff.
Tune speed isn't so critical when we are trying to intonate our guitar and, for that case, the great precision of a Peterson weights more than its response time (that's already good enough). But, a good speed is the best when we are trying to tune between songs.

One more interesting characteristic is the display. Most of tuners have several modes, that allow you to choose the way that better works for you. Peterson introduced a stroboscopic way to show the tuning process and, most of modern tuners have such a mode in a partial way.

Briefing it, most of tuner pedals have a precision more than enough to let you to tune your guitar so accurately that nobody could hear the deviation of the exact note and, therefore, what can differentiate tuners is the rest of their characteristics.

TC Electronics Polytune


The tuner comes in a small cardboard box, with lot of "marketing". Inside, the tuner pedal, a free subscription ticket (3 months) to Sound On Sound, a sticker of TC Electronics, a couple of velcro straps and the user manual, with instructions in several languages.
The unit includes a sealed battery (of short duration). You have to open the unit, to remove or install the battery. And, this is a darn easy operation.The unit has just a single big screw, in the center of the backside, with an slot as wide as a coin so, you can open and close it in an instant, without recurring to some screwdriver.

Once opened, you can access the battery but, rest of circuitry is hidden behind an internal cover, fixed with 4 more screws.

Product seems to be made of good materials, with good finishing and, it seems sturdy enough.

Controls and connexions

In front side, just the visor and the switch that activates the pedal.
In lateral sides, the input and output jacks.
Most of control are in the lateral upper side and, are as follow:


A very small button at left hand, that changes the mode between Needle and Stream (pseudo-stroboscopic).
9V Output

This output allows you to use the tuner to feed up other pedals, with a multi barrel-plug cable (not included).

Service Port

This mysterious USB plug would probably be of use for technical service repair and, maybe to update the software or firmware of this tuner. Service cable not included, neither.

9V Input

This is the input for the 9V AC Adapter, if you aren't going to use the internal battery. When you plug something there, the battery remains unconnected.


Every time you push this button, the reference tuning goes down in a semi-tone. You can drop your reference tuning up to 5 semi-tones.


This tuner allows two visualization modes, Needle and Stream. In the Needle mode you have the typical arrow, similar to analogic units, that allow you to know when the note is in tune. In Stream mode, there is some kind of stroboscopic display, where a set of lights move in semi-circle; when they stop, the string is in tune (this is my own preferred display).
With button Display, we are changing the mode in the following sequence: G Needle, G Stream, B Needle, B Stream. G means Guitar and, B means Bass Guitar.

Independently of the two display modes, the tuner works in two different working modes: Poly and Mono. But, you don't have to push any button to go from one to the other mode. As soon as the tuner detects more than just one string ringing at once, the mode Poly is triggered and, if we just play a single string, Mono it automatically enters in mode Mono.
In mode Mono, the display will depend on the election we already discussed related to button Display but, in mode Poly, the view is fixed and, independent of Display.
Each string is being represented by a group of 2 leds, having 6 groups of leds for a guitar and, up to 5 for a bass guitar. When each string is in tune, their corresponding leds light in green. When some string is out-of-tune, this will be shown with the help of a couple of red leds up or down the green in-tune group.

Mode Poly is just what differentiates this tuner from the rest. It was the first tuner to incorporate a multi-strings tuning system, where you can check and modify the status of all strings at once.

According to the maker, you achieve the best results working with the bridge (rear) pickup and, softly strumming strings with your thumb finger. If you try that, the display will automatically change to mode Poly and, you will see at a glance the tuning status of all your strings. This is really good for live performance, to re-tune any string between songs. After strumming strings and, while they are still ringing, you can act over the tuning keys of each out-of-tune string and see how they come back to tuning. You can strum more times until you got everything in tune.

But, you have to take note that the mode Poly hasn't the same accuracy or precision than the mode Mono. While mode Mono has a precision of 0.5 cents, mode Poly is less accurate but, equally useful.

Also, you should take into account that mode Poly WORKS ONLY with TRADITIONAL tuning and dropped tunings (up to 5 semi-tones below traditional tuning). Poly mode doesn't recognize any other kind of alternative tunings so, be sure to use mode Mono for those cases.

Finally, if you press simultaneously Display and Tuning buttons, you access to Calibration mode.
The calibration mode can establish a reference frequency for A (La) different of the default one (440 Hz).
You can change reference frequency between 435 and 445 Hz, with an interval of 1 Hz.

The Tuner works in True Bypass (according to the maker but, I seriously have my suspects that this isn't true because as soon as you feed it with power, even if the pedal is switched off, there is some internal checks that you can see in the display). When you switch it on, the sound is being muted, allowing you just to tune.

My impressions, after my tests

I've restricted my tests to check modes Poly and Mono, tuning guitars with different bridge systems: a fixed bridge (LP like), a deluxe floating bridge (strato deluxe), a vintage floating bridge (PRS 513) and a Floyd Rose bridge (Charvel SoCal Type 1).
The Poly display allows you to see the instability of all strings when you are tuning just one of them, in a guitar with a floating bridge, where you see the red lights going up and down in the meanwhile.

The Poly tests were very interesting. In every case, it was a very quick way to check the tuning status of each guitar but, I think it works way better for fixed bridge guitars and, I prefer to go string by string (mode Mono) in the case of floating bridges (you achieve quicker and accurate results like this).

Comparing it to my previous tuner, the Korg Pitchblack, it's clear to me that the Polytune reacts way quicker than the Korg unit, in a closer real-time to your changes in the peghead so, it results quicker to tune your strings.

I also think that it works better in Stream mode than in Needle. To my ear, I think the tuning I achieve  is more accurate in Stream mode.
The Korg Pitchblack has more visualization modes than the Polytune and, some are mixing Needle and Stroboscopic views.

I've also made some speed to detect notes tests while playing some riff. To clearly detect the note, it needs that you give that note with total clarity and not so speed. It doesn't seem to be the speeder tuner in the World; there are some other units that work with more speed and accuracy but, without any doubt, is quicker than the Pitchblack.

I am not going to do any demo video, because I've seen videos enough in Youtube and, I don't feel myself as adding something extra to those.