TC Electronic Flashback & Hall of Fame Review

Quality construction, great functionality and the new Toneprint function should make these winners.
With the new Toneprint range TC Electronic really has created a set of brilliant pedals for guitarists (and other musicians). In terms of aesthetics, functionality and tone there are few pedals that offer so much in this price range. I’ve been using the Flashback Delay and Hall of Fame Reverb for a few weeks now and I a few niggles aside, I think they are rather brilliant bits of gear.

As you can see from the photos the pedals are of an attractive compact design. Each sports four control pots and a centre switch. Below the controls is a rugged on off switch. Each pedal offers true stereo inputs and outputs at the side and at the top is a mini-USB port and a standard nine volt input.

The metal construction and finish is very pleasing to the eye and I particularly like the construction of the rear of the pedal. The large screw is easily undone with even my podgy fingers and gives easy access to the battery bay and internal dip switches. Neither pedal lasts very long on battery power and using one really should just be for emergencies only. The dip switches on the Flashback and Hall of Fame work the same way, the top one switches from true bypass to buffered bypass, the second one kills the dry signal for use in a parallel effects loop.

Let’s take a look at the Flashback first. The four controls are easy to get to grips with. Delay adjusts the length of the delayed signal and varies depending on which mode you are using. Feedback is the number of echo repeats. FX Level alters the volume of the echo repeats but does not affect the dry signal which is always passed through untouched. The final control allows you to change the delay mode.

That little switch you see in the middle allows you to change the repeats from whole note to dotted eighth and finally a combination of both those repeats, for those of you who want to sound like the Edge. In stereo operation the latter selection will route the whole note repeats to one side and dotted eighths to the other. Stand in the middle of a stereo rig in this mode and you’ll feel like God himself, or at least his guitarist (the Edge again).

On the mode knob we can select 2290 (pristine digital delay), Analogue, Tape, Lofi, Dynamic (Ducking), Mod, Ping Pong (Great in stereo), Slap back, Reverse, Loop and Tone Print.

The 2290 – as you’d expect from TC – really is a beautifully pristine delay. But the other modes are equally enticing. And while the analogue delay doesn’t sound as good (or as bad depending how you feel about them) as a real analog delay pedal it is pretty convincing none the less. The dynamic delay is particularly useful in a rock context as it keeps the echoes quiet until you stop playing.

The loop mode offers a generous 40 seconds in mono mode, half that in stereo. And while it’s surprisingly easy to use even with the single footswitch it is too flawed to be useful. The problem is that the level control changes the volume of both the looped sound and the dry signal from the guitar. You might have expected the control to alter only the recorded sound but alas no. I really hope this is something that TC Electronic can fix with a firmware update. Otherwise it’s very hard to see the loop function as useful.

Controversially the pedal features an unusual tap temp control. Instead of tapping a pedal you hold the footswitch in – which mutes the signal – then strum the tempo on the guitar. I really like this feature though I can see how it could have been improved for example by giving us the option not to mute when strumming and perhaps lowering the delay before it accepts the tempo information. Perhaps we should have at least also been given a socket to connect an external pedal for tap tempo too, but I’m nitpicking now.

The truth is that apart from the problem with the loop the TC Electronic Flashback Delay really is superb. From the external design to the functionality it’s clear a lot of thought and attention has been put into this effects unit. The construction is very sturdy indeed and will stand up to the rigours of the road and most importantly the delay sounds absolutely fantastic.

Moving onto the Hall of Fame Reverb the construction is identical. The same rugged design, stereo connections, back plate and internal dip switches. Again this pedal is digital effects unit with an analog true bypass through for your guitar signal – with a buffer optional via dip switch.

The decay knob is used to change the length of the reverb signal the range of which depends on the mode chosen. The tone control is used to darken or lighten the reverb effect. The level control changes the volume of the effect without affecting the level of the original signal. The mode control allows you to change the reverb effect in use. Finally a small but sturdy switch allows you to change between a long or short pre-delay.

The modes on offer are Room, Hall, Spring, Plate, Church, Mod, Lofi, Tile, Ambient, Gate and Toneprint. Each of these is very good indeed. I particularly like the Church mode (mistakenly called Cathedral in the manual) which offers a very convincing but huge reverb that’s bound to delight the textural guitarist.

Ambient mode is rather interesting as it’s a reverb trying to pretend not to be a reverb. This extremely subtle effect just adds a certain something to your sound without being very obvious. It’s a neat trick and very useful, especially when recording when you want the best tone without recording with too many effects.

Gated mode is excellent too. The reverb level stays low while you are playing but swells in when you stop. So here you can set a surprisingly big verb yet play without being too swamped by it, only for the lust sound to reveal itself when you want it too. I particularly liked using this playing clean arpeggios.

Lush is definitely the right word to use to describe this pedal. All modes sound wonderful, whether used in a subtle manner or washing huge verbs over your playing. I really can’t think of a single thing I dislike about this pedal. This is as good as effects pedals get.

Now we’ve come a long way now without mentioning the major selling point of these pedals, certainly the feature TC Electronic is so keen to promote, namely Toneprint. So what is this Toneprint business? Each of these pedals (and the other digital effects in the range – The Shaker Vibrato, Vortex Flanger and Corona Chorus) has a mode labelled Toneprint. This makes use of a setting stored within the pedal.

The neat trick is that you can download new Toneprints from the TC Electronic website via your PC/Mac and upload them to your pedal via the USB port. TC has got a huge number of well known artists to create their own unique toneprints which you can download and try for free. The downloaded Toneprints come in the form of a small executable file that will overwrite the existing setting but also allow you to compare to the existing tone.

The variety in the Toneprints is pretty amazing and they offer many sounds completely unavailable in the stock modes on the pedals. Many of these Toneprints even change the use of the onboard controls. My favourite so far is Steve Morse’s Flashback Toneprint which is a beautifully modulated delay that sounds fantastic on clean tones. My only regret about this concept is that we’re not given more Toneprint slots on the pedals themselves, it would have been neat to have at least two Toneprint slots rather than just one. But I can completely understand TC Electronic’s wish to keep this new range of pedals as simple as possible.

As you can tell on the whole I’m delighted with the TC Electronic Flashback Delay and Hall of Fame Reverb. These are superb sounding and beautifully constructed products. If TC can fix the issue with Flashback’s loop then it would be perfect.

The TC Electronic Flashback Delay and Hall of Fame Reverb are available now. Other digital effects in the same range are The Shaker Vibrate, Vortex Flanger and Corona Chorus. Two analog pedals are also available in this range – the MojoMojo Overdrive and Dark Matter Distortion.