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9 of the Best TC Electronic Pedals

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This article was of course inspired by Josh ’JHS’ Scott’s recent YouTube video on his own favourite TC Electronic pedals (see Honorable Mentions below). We are funnily enough largely in agreement on the core selection - but we harbour somewhat different opinions on some of the marginals.

 

I’ve tried to view these as being category leading first-choice pedals - at least at the time of their introduction / key active period. Meaning that the TC Electronic option would be judged to be one of the 5 very best in its category.

 

My own TC Electronic pedal collection / selection amounts to 11 pedals, as follows:

  • Brainwaves Stereo Polyphonic Pitch Shifter
  • Dark Matter Distortion
  • Ditto Looper Mini
  • Ditto X2 Stereo Looper
  • The Dreamscape John Petrucci Stereo Chorus/Flanger/Vibrato
  • Mimiq Stereo Doubler Double-Tracker
  • MojoMojo Overdrive
  • PolyTune 2 Mini Noir Polytonic Tuner
  • Quintessence Stereo Harmonizer
  • Spark Mini Booster
  • Sub ’N’ Up Octaver

My pedal-chain has obviously evolved significantly over time - I currently use my Roadie tuner for everything, and am not prepared to sacrifice pedalboard real-estate to a tuner - otherwise if playing live a lot I would likely deploy the latest Polytune Mini or possibly a Sonic Research Turbo Tuner ST-300 Mini - generally I really love the TCE Polytune Tuners and have them in both pedal and headstock clip varieties - which I really don’t use any more in my regular setup.

 

All of the above listed personal selection have been deployed in my chain at one time or another and you can follow their progress / reigning periods via the various pedal-chain articles on this site. The only current permanent feature in my chain is my much-loved Mimiq Doubler, while the Mini Ditto puts in an appearance every now and again on the #2 slot. All the others are largely ’been and gone’ from the chain where I have found other better / more versatile or just more to my liking alternatives.

 

TC Electronic is very fortunate in having 2 classic bread-and-butter pedal ranges in its lineup - the Ditto line of Loopers and Polytune line of Tuners - where universally it sort of goes toe to toe with Boss in pedalboard proliferation for those pedal types. So most players’ experience will likely be of those two types of TC Electronic pedals, followed by one of TC Electronic’s delay or reverb units - where the Flashback and Hall of Fame are the most significant / prevalent.

 

There are a couple of early classics here too - the Stereo Chorus Flanger (alas still with lead attached!), and the still excellent ND-1 Nova Delay workstation. I also included the Roland Juno-60 inspired - June-60 Chorus - which is not billed as a replica, but as the same sort of Chorus effect better tuned for Guitar and Bass - i.e. more of an ’inspired by’.

 

Finally, and actually alphabetically first listed is the most recent, and in my opinion the only properly significant post Mogensen / Behringer innovation - the Brainwaves Pitch-Shifter - which had a very brief stint in my chain as I have variously detailed before.

 

When I started really getting into TC Electronic (a few years back now) it was when ’Pedal Jesus’ Tore Mogensen was at peak prowess, and Boss was looking somewhat a shadow of its former self - with TC Electronic looking every part the modern pedal innovator - to such a degree that I was sort of shocked to see Prince starting to deploy TC Electronic in place of his usually favourite Boss pedals. So for a period, TC Electronic was really in the ascendancy - the development of TonePrint, the unique enclosures and approach to the market - was just really strong on every front.

 

So I’m a little sad to see TC Electronic somewhat off the pace of innovation more recently, while Boss soars away again. I have indicated gaps in the TC Electronic range for a while now, and where further innovation and updates / changes were required. The MASH Pressure-sensing Expression-controlling footswitches were / are ingenious, but I still feel they need refinement, and each of those pedals could do with some sort of calibration mini-knob or externally-accessible trim-pot to adjust sensitivity / and or rate of change.

 

If I look back at my Best of NAMM or Best New Pedals of the Year articles for the last few years, then TC Electronic entries are rather few and far between now - I have the Quintessence and Brainwaves listed - but very little else of note - where the most recent TC Electronic releases are simply just range revisions essentially. Behringer’s involvement very obviously resulted in TC Electronic’s ’Pedal Jesus’ Talisman moving to Universal Audio - and while I’m happy for him in his new job, I’m sad to see him leave the pedal arena. In general Behringer does not have the same mindset as the TC Electronic of old - I do hope though that TC Electronic manages to prevail and rise again - in the meantime - consider these some of its greatest hits! :


Brainwaves Stereo Polyphonic Pitch-Shifter - £95

I have detailed my adventures with this pedal quite a lot - I brought it in as a replacement for the TC Electronic Quintessence and DigiTech Whammy Ricochet which were sort of on rotation on the same slot. I thought the Brainwaves would be able to do most of what I used those for - but more easily. While that did not turn out to be the case really and I was soon back to using mostly just the Ricochet again. My key issues were not with the core pedal functionality which is fantastic by the way - but I found that the MASH footswitch did not seem to react as consistently for me as the Ricochet's standard momentary action footswitch, and for the Pitch-Shifted tones there were really quite audible artefacts - particularly when running cleans through the pedal. Bill Vencil of Chords of Orion fame does an excellent head-to-head between the Brainwaves and the EHX Pitchfork - and while I infinitely prefer the functionality of the former, the Pitchfork does sound better and more natural. I still retain the Brainwaves and it is useful for certain functions, but that particular slot in my pedal-chain is now occupied by the Meris Hedra which I really love, and was one of my favourite pedals of last year. For me though the Brainwaves is the last of the great Tore Mogensen era pedals - albeit it launched just after his departure. Part of me feels that he would have spent more time on it and helped iron out those couple of niggles I have with it - it's a really clever pedal with all kinds of unique functions - and of course it benefits from TCE's amazing TonePrint functionality - where you can use the TonePrint Studio App to really craft any sort of pitch-shifting effect you might desire. I do feel though also that TC Electronic has not moved quite in step with the current speed of innovation - and its compact pedals really need to be featuring dual footswitches and onboard footswtichable presets by now! The Brainwaves is a great pedal - and for its form factor a major contender - a likely even three-way between itself, the Boss PS-6 and the EHX Pitchfork.


Ditto Looper Mini - Generally around £69, gold example pictured was a £99 limited edition

This is surely now THE ubiquitous mini looper. Nearly everyone I know has one, and I still use mine ever now and again on slot #2 - particularly when I'm trying to tweak and calibrate a relatively complex pedal - and just want a consistent loop to compare results against. Pete Honoré uses his all the time and is a master of the craft - as evidenced in the above video. This is the original simple one-knob looper - I feel it's one of those pedals everyone should own!


Flashback 2 Stereo Delay - £95

For a while this was THE leading compact Stereo Delay pedal - with the best combination of number and quality of algorithms, TonePrint and Tap-Tempo on board. In many head-to-heads it was the category winner and in many ways I actually prefer the pre-MASH units although they in turn benefit from more TonePrint options. I will probably still acquire a TCE Alter Ego V2 Vintage Echo at some stage - while I concede that for the average player the Flashback is probably the better choice. I believe the Flashback is still Bjørn 'Gilmourish' Riis' delay of choice - and his tones are consistently stellar! While very recently there has been a new wave of next generation compact delays - per the Keeley Eccos and Walrus Audio Mako Series D1. The Flashback sill mostly holds its own - but the new pedals probably look more appealing.


Hall of Fame 2 Stereo Reverb - £99

Of course the Hall of Fame is the matched pair to the Flashback delay - and they long reigned as the power couple in that category, I still feel the Hall of Fame holds up pretty well, and at one stage I was considering it for a supplemental Reverb pedal role - where my core Reverb is currently the Source Audio Ventris, supplemented in my active chain by the Eventide H9 Max - I really don't need a third reverb workstation now - although I will likely deploy a Chase Bliss Dark World, EQD Afterneath V3 or Walrus Audio SLÖ in the #33 glitch pedal slot - for eerie / otherworldly textures - and definitely on a rotational basis. I do feel though that the Hall of Fame 2 is still category-leading in most respects and an excellent all-round choice for a compact reverb - there are few units more capable than this at this size.


June 60 Stereo Chorus - £35

Initially unveiled by some as a Roland Juno-60 Synth Chorus replica, but then latterly rationalised as more of an inspired-by pedal - this is the simplest quality Chorus unit you could expect to find - especially at this price! It has just two push-buttons - which you can use independently or in tandem for a phasey-swirley Chorus at its most potent. It's of a similar type to the Roland DC-3 / Boss DC-2W (£179) - while TC Electronic actually does a version of that too - the 3rd Dimension Chorus (£29). I might just get the June 60 one of these days for fun, while I'm already lined up to acquire a Boss DC-2W this year. For just £35 though I feel you would struggle to find a more elegant chorus at that level!


Mimiq Stereo Doubler - £78

This is my all-time favourite TC Electronic pedal. I've said it many times before - this is absolute fairy-dust for Stereo Rigs - but does relatively little for standard mono rigs. When applied on my pedal-chain (always-on!) it provides - Added Dynamics, Definition, Thickness, Depth, and Dimension. It's like going from an old single-speaker transistor radio to a full-blown multi-speaker Dolby Atmos Sound System. It breathes extra life and detail into your core sound - it has to be experienced first hand to be believed! This is the one TC Electronic pedal I cannot live without - if they were to announce they were stopping making these - I would for sure buy myself a couple or more spares for just in case. An incredible pedal really and without equivalent as far as my experience shows - but somehow only really works in Stereo!


ND-1 Nova Delay Workstation - £159

I was surprised to find that this slightly over-sized medium enclosure delay workstation is still available in retail - Andertons for instance has 4 units currently in stock. I've been toying with getting one of these sort of as a fun sometime rotation against the slightly more overall capable recent Boss DD-200 - which I use to supplement my main Strymon Volante Magnetic Style Delay. The Nova Delay has near enough everything you might want out of an advanced delay workstation unit - with a variety of stereo modes - where you can change the 'Color' of the repeats from Tape, through Analog to Digital - i.e. textured / warm to clean / pristine / cold / dark. You also have 6 different tap divisions, 3 levels of modulation and 9 onboard presets. I'm really tempted to get one of these - it's not quite as fully-featured as the Boss DD-200 I will rotate it with, but it's close enough to be a really decent occasional alternative. Depending on how my other acquisition priorities go this year - I will likely try to pick up one of these units too! These are super user-friendly also!


Polytune 3 Noir Mini Polytonic Tuner - £59

I have the version 2 - the V3 is fairly recently released, while my own Polytune Mini has long since relegated from the pedal-chain - frankly I needed that slot for another pedal. Currently the slot features the excellent Keyztone EXchanger Pickup Enhancer, and I use the Roadie Automated Tuning-Peg Tuner has my main utility instead. As mentioned in the intro - if mine was more of a life rig rather than a studio rig - I would for sure have a pedal in the chain for ongoing tuning monitoring and quick touch-ups. While I really don't need it in my own setup. I still feel that the Polytune are something of a marvel - for sure if you want something with higher accuracy get a Petersen StroboStomp or Sonic Research Turbo Tuner - but the Polytune is perfect for my own preferences really.


SCF Stereo Chorus Flanger (since 1976) - discontinued - last listed at £312

This is really an amazing sounding Chorus / Flanger and was retailing for a very high price when last listed. There are a variety of versions listed on Reverb - but you probably need to be careful which version to get the best chip set with etc. Also these units somewhat disappointingly come with power-leads permanently attached. I may still get one of these units one day as I do rather like Chorus and this is certainly one of the classics pedals of that genre - I would though need to get someone to mod the power-supply side of the pedal - so I could run it off the standard 2.1mm 9V[-] power-supplies / cables - versus the direct mains cable it comes permanently attached to. There was an SCF Corona Chorus version of this, and the John Petrucci Dreamscape was supposed to be a compact version of this original - but neither of those have that amazing original magical vibe - this used to be an overlooked pedal - but it has firmly been on the radar for a while, and yet still you get great used examples of this popping up on Reverb.com at fairly decent prices. So this one too may well be in the collection one day - even though I would struggle to fit it in on the current #29 slot.


Honourable Mentions, Further Thoughts and Recommendations

There are a number of other TC Electronic pedals that deserve mention, and are worthy of consideration - although I would likely exclude the Vintage Distortion which is as Josh Scott pointed out just a re-badged T-Rex Mudhoney - and the best version of that is surely the recent Made-in-Denmark reissue - which can be acquired for pretty decent money nowadays.

 

So the other TC Electronics that did not quite make it into my own Collection / Selection or Top 9 Cut include:

 

  • Alter Ego V2 Vintage Echo
  • Ditto Jam X2 Looper (Mono only)
  • Sentry Noise Gate
  • Spark Booster
  • Tube Pilot 12AC7 Tube Overdrive

I feel I should briefly mention the MojoMojo overdrive too, which has been Paul Gilberts's unofficial signature overdrive for all these years, and which I did have in my own chain for a brief period. I feel it's a pretty decent overdrive unit with a high degree of flexibility, but there are so many others that I infinitely prefer more - in fact I'm not sure the MojoMojo would get anywhere near my top 10 neutral overdrives - it doesn't quite have the degree of warmth, dynamics and harmonics that I seem to favour - still a great neutral drive which Paul Gilbert uses to excellent effect.

 

Of the additional worthy contenders, the one I am most likely to get is the now discontinued Alter Ego V2 Vintage Echoe - which was actually a ProGuitarShop / Andy Martin collaboration back in the day - and includes all those cool vintage tape-style delays which I so love.

 

Generally though - and apart from the few shining lights I have mentioned, I seem to be gradually moving away from TC Electronic. There are so many things I feel were lost in the Behringer transition - the excellent former website and Tore Mogensen obviously - that sense of Scandinavian independence, innovation and design. When the cheaper Smorgasbord range was first introduced - it was separated from the main prettier, and better designed core range - but now all the models are mixed up. Akin to combining the Toyota and Lexus catalogues into one jumble or the same for Gibson and Epiphone. I guess Behringer were hoping that some of the TC Electronic magic / cachet would rub off on the cheaper pedals and make them more saleable - while in actuality it was they that rubbed off the veneer of quality from the main range.

 

I feel that TC Electronic innovation has stagnated - it no longer has an appealing, accessible and friendly public face. It's veneer of quality is much dissipated with increasing reports of quality issues - particularly with the X4 varieties of pedals - and some Dealers seem to have abandoned ship already or reduced their coverage significantly.

 

What with T-Rex still on the road to recovery, Carl Martin thus far not yet succeeding in gaining decent traction with younger players and the other minor players not up to too much - the former Pedal super-state of Denmark seems to be somewhat faltering at the moment.

 

Apart from the Mini Ditto, Polytune and Spark, I've been largely disappointed with the mini TC Electronic pedals. I would have thought they could have got a second TonePrint onboard by now - or some way to select between a couple of options. As I've shown elsewhere on the site - Mini pedals don't need to be entirely diminished in functionality - there are a number of really clever recent smart minis showing the way forward.

 

I was unnerved when Behringer took over - I feared for the worse - and that seems to have very much happened. TC Electronic was obviously able to re-package and re-brand all those myriad Behringer pedals that weren't selling particularly well at the time - but the way all that was done has damaged the core brand and made it less appealing. TC Electronic weirdly now finds itself in a similar position to where Boss was a few years ago when TC Electronic was then dominant. As the adage goes though you need to keep moving forward to maintain position and relevance - standing still only works if everyone else does too. As it is - many of those that TC Electronic formerly had in its wake are now forging ahead - and TC Electronic seriously needs to catch up on all fronts. Unlike T-Rex though whose bread-and-butter pedals were their power supplies - since overtaken by more innovative companies (Cioks, Friedman, Strymon) - at least TC Electronic is still maintaining parity with its loopers and tuners - which should sustain it for long enough to mount a come-back!

 

Of all the current crop of pedals I feel the ones I have singled out are the most relevant and competitive - while in other areas there have been increasingly more innovative pedals that have come into play. If you have a stereo rig - the Mimiq is a must buy, but otherwise the only properly must-buy pedal that TC Electronic has and everyone could do with owning is the Mini Ditto - for now that is still the leading example of its type - all the others have major competitors and appealing alternatives!

 

It would be interesting to hear which TC Electronic pedals you consider essential and stand-out - when considered and weighed up against everything else which is available nowadays ... do you agree with my prognosis?

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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