Just shortly after releasing updated versions of its flagship X4 large format Flashback and Hall of Fame delay and reverb units, TC Electronic concludes the cycle with updates of the Mini pedal equivalents. I could have done with this news a couple of week back during my dedicated Mini Pedals Week!
In any case the biggest change here is that the Hall of Fame mini gets two more knobs - where you used to have just a single Reverb knob, it now has 3 - Tone, Decay and Level - and of course the addition of the dynamic expression MASH footswitch. TC Electronic also tout the new Shimmer algorithm which all Hall of Fame users can benefit from courtesy of the shared TonePrint dial-in / beam-in delivery system.
The Flashback Mini II does not look too much different as it has the same 3 knobs as the predecessor - although the second Feedback legend has been somewhat abbreviated - F.Back, Delay and Level. In this instance TC Electronic focus on the MASH expressive footswitch addition alongside two new / improved algorithms - Tape and Analog. There's also mention of the admittedly superb Crystal delay which uses TC Electronic's recently upgraded Polyphonic Octaver Engine.
There is no doubt these TCE Minis sound just as great as their larger siblings - but for me they really lack the usability of those compact equivalents and their mode-selector knobs. Having to beam in just one flavour for use each time is not a good solution for anyone really unless they are solely or largely just using the one flavour. I supposed you could also argue that you can set up two Minis side-by-side and be able to easily toggle between those. This should really be sorted out with Presets on the compact flagship editions which I've long banged on about.
I've seen these Mini versions used really well - and of course you can tweak etc. via the amazing TonePrint Studio app - but the enforced limitations on playback options have never sat particularly well with me. I don't see why TCE cannot employ some even smarter footswitch electronics like many others do - where two quick presses could at least flip between a first and second mode onboard the pedal. Obviously many players like these and they certainly have their purpose - they're just not really ideal for me though unless TCE gets a little smarter on the onboard preset availability - I'm just asking for one extra flavour favour!
Generally for me in the land of Goldilocks - the Minis are a little too small and limited, while the biggie X4's are just huge - longer even than my Strymon Volante which even that is larger than I would want to go these days. I would still say the best option here are the best-selling 4-knob compact editions - they have the right combinations of features, format and tones for me, even though we've lost the onboard tap-tempo since the MASH footswitches arrived - which is not good for me either. There's plenty of compact pedals with dual footswitches out there - and there's no reason to think TCE could not work up some improvements along those lines.
I feel TCE has slightly lost its way since being acquired by Behringer and losing their talismanic ambassador Tore Mogensen! At one stage they were leading the chargerand throwing down the innovation gauntlet in Boss's and everyone else's direction - I noted that in latter years Super Boss Fan Prince had even taken to using TC Electronic pedals - yet TCE seems to have woken the Dragon - meaning Boss has been on blistering innovation form of late, and TCE has been left somewhat adrift in its wake.
I've already mentioned that I acquired one new TC Electronic pedal this year - the Brainwaves Pitch Shifter - on paper a really innovative and smart pedal. But in practive it did not work out as well in my pedal-chain - versus the EHX Pitchfork it has some odd digital noise artefacts in the signal path, and I actually found the MASH footswitch somewhat tricky and inconsistent to use - particularly when compared to my DigiTech Whammy Ricochet - where the latter went back in the chain until rotated out in turn to make way for Meris's Hedra Pitch-Shifter! I felt that Tore would have worked closer on smoothing out some of the issues with the Brainwaves before it was released. There are already lots of odd stories doing the rounds about quality control and staff morale - but I still remain open to persuasion. I feel that TCE are somewhat off the pace of innovation currently and no longer in their leadership position pedal-wise - while they are still releasing some interesting studio gear.