Provides: Guitar effects with iOS app integration
Seller: TC Electronic
Price: Flashback X Pedal – $369.00; TonePrint App – Free
Welcome to the review for the Flashback x 4 Delay & Looper and the TonePrint app by TC Electronic. Even though the Flashback x 4 is a digital delay unit, I’ll refrain from the “repeating myself jokes” for as long as possible. Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is a double header. The Flashback x 4 is a delay and loop footswitch and the accessory app is TonePrint.
Let’s start with a rundown of the footswitch. The Flashback x 4 is blue (good start, eh?) and is of a very sturdy, solid metal construction so durability isn’t in question. There are five large knobs that control (from left to right) the type of delay, the delay time, the feedback (or how many times/how long the delay repeats), the delay signal level, and the loop signal level.
There are two small toggle switches, one of which controls the delay measure (quarter note, dotted eighth note, or both). The other switches the unit between Looper and Delay. The last of the switches are four stomp buttons—these get a bit tricky as they can control more than one function. The first (left to right) is the A memory setting. In delay mode, it will select your primary preset for the delay type and turn on the red LED next to the switch. Hit the switch to turn off the delay (bypass), and the red LED should turn off. When the unit is in Looper mode, the A switch is the start/stop for recording your loop.
Next is the B/secondary preset switch. When in Delay mode, it is your second preset/bypass. In Looper mode it acts as the play/pause button.
The C button in Delay mode is your third preset/bypass, functioning as the “play the loop just once” button for Looper mode.
Last, but not least, is the TAP switch. In Delay mode it is used as a quarter note foot tap indicator for the delay time tempo. This is handy for getting the tempo “just so” by tapping your foot for a measure instead of fiddling with the knobs for ten minutes trying to dial it in. In Looper mode, this is the “Undo” or erase the last recording button.
Now that you know where the knobs are, it’s time for a little bit about their functionality. The Flashback x 4 comes with 12 varieties of delay—from a tape delay to a slap delay—as well as four empty slots for presets and TonePrints (we’ll get to them in just a bit). You get a great variety in the delay types, so it’s easy to find just the right sound. The delay type and sound quality is quite good. The delay time lets you go from infinitesimal delay (microseconds too small to worry about) to a full 7 seconds. By the way, you can get some neat effects if you change the delay time while the delay is playing, but it may confuse the computer and not generate additional delay signal with subsequent play. The feedback lets you select from as little as one hit to “I’ve had a cup of tea, written another article, had a nap, fed the dishes and washed the cat and it’s still going.” The delay level and looper level are basically volume control for the processed signal. Dial it down for atmosphere and an almost reverbish fill to equality with the unprocessed signal.
A look at the back of the unit reveals some lovely ports including 1/4″ mono and stereo input, mono and stereo output and expression pedal. There are also MIDI in and MIDI thru ports as well as a micro USB port. If you’re looking at images of the back, the last port is the 9V DC/300mA power input—pretty standard stuff.
The only things I might suggest by way of respectful advice would be a power switch (you need to unplug it to turn it off) and to move the Delay/Looper and notation switches out in the open as stomp switches. I know they are small and hard to access to prevent accidental switching, but I would personally prefer the flexibility over “safety.”
Now that we have established the Flashback x 4 as a top notch delay with good sound and flexibility, it’s time to talk about the TonePrint app. TonePrint is a free app which lets you beam your favorite artists’ settings to your TC Electronic pedal. This app is actually pretty handy; select an effect by artist, product (type of effect), favorites or features. Once you know what you want, all you have to do is tap the “Beam to pedal” button and hold your iDevice (iPhone/iPod Touch) speaker next to your guitar pickup. You’ll hear some beeping and see some 1s and 0s scrolling across the screen, and voilá! the signal has been beamed, via your axe, right to the TC Electronic pedal, which is now set to sound like your selection. Simple, effective and très cool.
The TonePrint app for iOS handles more than just the delay for the Flashback x 4. The app is good to go with all of the TC Electronic foot pedals so you can beam in a Doug Aldrich vibrato, John 5 chorus, John Petrucci flanger, and so on through distortion, reverb and overdrive. With so many cool artists and effects only a few seconds away, you can really explore the sonic frontier to your heart’s delight. I plugged this into both my digital and tube amps and the sound was clean and full. There was almost no noise or distortion or attenuation of signal. I also used it chained with a multi-effects switch and got very good results. The TonePrint app didn’t work perfectly every time (I had to try twice a couple of times to get the setting to update properly) but that was a very minor annoyance. The upload is very quick and usually works just fine on the first attempt.
The only “bad news” here is the Flashback x 4 comes with a list price of $369.00 (although it’s not too hard to find it for about $250 if you shop around). If you need a serious delay and have that kind of coin in your budget, this is good gear.
By way of incidentals, the Flashback x 4 comes with a modular power adapter. You can fit either a US/Canada blade style plug or a round post style plug. The unit also comes with a USB to micro USB cable so you can update the stomp box with new info from TC Electronic directly from your computer. However, if you want an owner’s manual you will need to go online and get the PDF file.
If you get the Flashback x 4 and TonePrint now, you can have a very Merry Christmas…over and over and over and over (sorry, I couldn’t hold out any longer…).