Imagine what the world would be like without our ability to see colour. Were the richness and fullness of all creation flattened to duotones as appears in silent movies, would we be so inclined to seek out more of it? In a way, the invention and proliferation of technicolour techniques to the film world reads as a metaphor for what I am asking. Once the full spectrum was loosed upon the unsuspecting public, the rate of change was palpable. It was as if suddenly there was a whole new way for us to describe our world to ourselves. To a point, the guitar world has a similarly poetic paradigm shift in its history, that of the invention and proliferation of the humble effects pedal. Small, sturdy, varyingly affordable and thick with every sound imaginable, pedals are the Pantone or Technicolour of the medium of sound and companies like TC Electronic are continually seeking new ways to help us describe our everything.
Buoyed by the success of some flagship models like the Flashback, Hall Of Fame, Helicon series et al, a few years ago TC decided to simultaneously expand and simplify with a barnyard full of one trick ponies. Housed in bullet proof chassis’, builds like the Rusty Fuzz or Cinders Overdrive quickly found homes on pedalboards everywhere as their purified voicings found favour with many tired of the overwhelming burden of choice. Expanding further to encompass all corners of the effects globe, their time based and modulated builds further filled out the tone rainbow. Here we are a few short years later and we appear to be nearing the narrow end of the bag of tricks.
Recent years have seen tone chasers circling like sharks around the burley of transparent, tube-like overdrives. Tube Screamers and Klons can be found for mind-bogglingly extortionate prices on gear share pages across the internet. What would TC’s answer to such a hubbub be other than to simplify? The Tube Pilot takes what is at the core of the sound on everyone’s mind, a searing 12AX7, and plants it firmly in the hands of those who want it. Finding just the right amount of heat is as easy as ever with the two dials allowing you to navigate the combination of input and output gain just like you would on a classic British tube amp. The clip comes on quite strong and early which means there’s no messing around and, as opposed to acting like a standard clean boost, serves up a considerable helping of off-axis artifact that clearly delineates the Tube Pilot from its more stock contemporaries.
The other two pedals I have today are interesting in that they live more in the studio than centre stage. The Crescendo is a handy tool to have in the post-rock bag of tricks as it allows you to volume swell without the use of either pot or pedal. The sensitivity control allows you to dig in if you must while the attack dials in the rate of uptake on your picked note. I didn’t find too much variance in my twiddling, but in front of a long delay or reverb this thing could really come to life. The Iron Curtain is the answer to every high gain fiend’s oldest question: how do I clean up in between djents? A noise gate is an essential tool for those of you looking to stop on a dime, and the minute detail TC have placed on the PCB here is right on the money. I usually find gates a little too present for what I’m trying to do, but this one was delicate enough to ride silently behind my playing as opposed to choking it to death, which I found tempting to say the least.
While it is seemingly safe to assume that having a ‘one of each’ line of pedals is little more than standard practice for a pedal company, TC Electronic have gone to great lengths to ensure that theirs is far from average. Each pedal in this series is a unique take on an archetypal sound, not a clone, and this is what keeps the company ahead of the curve.
Hits and Misses
Bullet proof, new versions of essential effects
Crescendo wasn’t as smooth or long as I’d hoped