Whatever is the instrument that you play, it’s always a good idea to have some additional effects to enhance your tone. Not too much, but just something that will help you in not sounding so dry all the time.
Of course, there are plenty of pedals out there that will help you get all the tones that you need. But what if you want to take it to a whole new level and get yourself a rack-mounted multi-effects unit? After all, this is something professional musicians have been doing for their entire lives, so it must be a good thing, right?
With this in mind, we decided to look more into one of the discontinued pieces by the legendary TC Electronic.
Generally speaking, it’s a unit that’s often used by instrumentalists, even for live shows. We’ve seen some of the biggest names in the world of the guitar using it, including Eric Clapton, Larry Carlton, Steve Vai, Alex Lifeson, and even Dream Theater’s John Petrucci.
Without further ado, here’s some exciting info about TC 1210 Spatial Expander & Stereo Chorus + Flanger.
First off, the TC 1210 is a rack-mounted product featuring a few onboard different effects. It is based on the company’s famous SCF Stereo Chorus/Flanger pedal but with a bit more features.
The whole idea behind the TC 1210 was to have a suitable effect for creating a solid spatial stereo image of one’s tone. In addition, there are some other effects that we will discuss here.
It is an entirely analog unit relying on the old bucket brigade device technology that people are still crazy about these days. There are seven different presets and effects to choose from: spatial expander, two choruses, two flangers, a doubler, and a stereo delay.
The 1210’s greatest superpower comes with its stereo features. Each of the effects can be used either in stereo or mono modes. In addition to this, you’re able to use two separate inputs as two independent channels and process them individually.
There are plenty of controls on there for separating these channels, using the same or different effects on them, and even using each of the dedicated outputs individually or as one whole audio image. All of the features and controls just wouldn’t fit into one brief review.
Inputs and outputs are located on the rear panel. There are two inputs and outputs for regular 1/4-inch jacks and additional XLR inputs and outputs.
Aside from that, there’s an input for bypass footswitch control and the “speed” footswitch jack that lets you choose from five different effect speed modes. There is also a “direct mute” switch that completely mutes the signal coming out of the unit.
Overall, 1210 provides a surprising amount of controls for such an old piece. The combinations are almost endless, and they’re all designed to provide you with some really spacious choruses, flangers, delays, doublers, and expanders.
Although not many will go to the lengths of looking into your rig, we could say that the TC 1210 seems pretty neat. Nothing too fancy, but it clearly shows somewhat of a vintage-ish ’80s and ’90s feel.
The writing on it is a bit too small, but when you get used to setting it up, you won’t have any trouble knowing where each control is. At the end of the day, not many will care about the looks of your rack pieces so there’s nothing to worry about here, really.
Just like its name would suggest, there is a lot of “spaciousness” feel to all the effects on it. But the TC 1210 is best known for its 3D stereo chorus.
Most of the guitar players who have used it over the years were able to create some really spacious feeling stereo tones through it. At some points, it could feel as if there are actually two instruments playing.
But whatever is the effect that you want to use on it, it provides a very 3D feel to it. In some cases, even when the sound coming from the left speaker is louder, you’ll get the impression that the tone is coming from the right speaker.
The illusion is created by delaying the signal to the left output. It is just one of the examples of how complex and detailed this piece actually is.
The analog feel is definitely noticeable with TC 1210 and it won’t sound like any of the standard sterile digital products you can find today. However, the whole operation is a bit outdated.
These days, you can get some pretty convincing (at least in our opinion) digital replicas of analog effects that would be a lot more easier to set up.
1210 will also provide stable operation for any kind of setup, whether you want to use it in front of an amp, FX loop, or in the standard rack configuration.
You can also send the signal to two amps or to separate it and go into an amp and a mixer. The options are endless, but it would take some time getting used to TC 1210.
One thing you need to know is that these are not exactly easy to find. TC 1210 has been really popular throughout the 1990s and these days you can find a used one for well over $1,000.
It’s an entirely professional vintage analog device that will provide some really “spacious” tones.
The TC 1210 is succeeded by some of the modern pieces, all of which are based on this old rack unit. For instance, there’s the TC 1210-DT Desktop Controller, which has a similar spatial expander effect on it.
But to conclude this review, this multi-effects piece is something those vintage seekers are crazy about these days. Aside from the guitar, it can be used for processing vocals or any miked-up acoustic instruments.
But if you’re a beginner and an average enthusiast, you’ll probably want to skip this one and go with something a little more simple and practical.
There’s just never enough of pedals in your signal chain. Whatever is the genre that you play, there’s a high chance you’ll be up for having one of those elaborate floor boards with a whole bunch of useful devices on it (some of them which you probably won’t ever use in a song).
But the thing is, if you’re going into professional waters, there’ll most definitely be a few rack-mounted units involved in your rig.
And, as the technology has progressed over the past years, some of these digital rack-mounted multi effects units became capable of all sorts of different stuff, making some really natural tones and effects with “organic” feel to them.
A great example is TC Electronic’s M3000 rack-mounted reverb and a multi effects processor.
This piece of gear has been used by some of the well-respected guitar champions over the years, including none other than the almighty Dream Theater’s axeman John Petrucci.
Well, if a musician of such caliber preferred using it, then there must be something good about it, right? Let us take some time then to explore the M3000 in this review and find out what makes it so special.
Essentially, TC Electronic’s M3000 is a multi-fx unit with the main accent on reverberation. After years of experience, research, and advancement, the company came up with this one, bringing their new technologies into one well-built rack-mounted device.
Of course, the M3000 features dynamic, modulation, and atmospheric effects – stuff like compression, chorus, delay, and reverb, as well as the elaborate dynamic EQs.
So this is not the typical toy-like low to medium-end processor with distortion, amp, and cabinet simulator, but a very specific professional-grade piece.
First off, the M3000 is known for its 24-bit processing, giving some high-quality clear tones. What’s also important to note is that it features two output channels, making it a stereo processor.
Another great feature here is the so-called VSS 3 technology, which is essentially the company’s own original software that gives a wide variety of parameter tweaking.
It enables some extremely realistic and crystal clear effects, especially with the elaborate reverb presets. What’s more, the M3000’s dual-engine processing allows you to use two effects at the same time, even two of the effects from the same category.
The full list of effects included is the following: compressor, noise gate (expander), panner, de-esser, chorus, phaser, flanger, pitch shifter, delay, and reverb.
The M3000 also has a total of 600 factory presets, 300 of which are dedicated to instruments and music production and the other half for post-production and film sound design.
All of these presets are specially tweaked by the company’s professionals and can be used as they are out of the box, or can be edited and tweaked according to users’ needs.
For an additional 300 user presets, there’s an option for connecting a PCMCIA card to it. However, this one is sold separately and does not come with the product.
The M3000 features two analog XLR inputs and analog XLR outputs. In addition, it also has digital inputs and outputs as well MIDI connectivity. There’s also the ADAT and optical input option which is useful for controlling it in studio settings.
Despite the abundance of features, the M3000 is pretty simple to use. Of course, it requires some practicing and experience if you’re not completely familiar with such units, but it’s really nothing that will cause you a headache. The front panel might seem a bit confusing at first, but all the controls are well defined and allow normal use.
Aside from the ease of use, this unit is pretty fast and won’t cause you to wait for any presets to load or save. It’s surprisingly great for a product packed with so many high definition effects, all of which are tweaked using quite a few parameters and all saved up in hundreds of presets.
Here’s a quick demo of the unit.
There just aren’t enough words to describe how clear and realistic all the effects sound. Yes, the accent is on reverberation here, with so many different parameters to control, all packed into 600 factory presets.
It would be nice though if there were some additional user presets included, especially for a rack-mounted effects unit of this caliber. Buying a PCMCIA card feels sort of like going back to 1990s. Of course, this is not exactly a deal-breaker for such a refined piece, but would still be a good feature to include. Therefore, we can’t really complain much about it.
Of course, it’s needless to say that this is a professional-grade piece of equipment, so it’s something that you most likely wouldn’t be buying if you’re an amateur musician playing and making music for your own enjoyment.
But if you’re building up a serious rig, or an elaborate professional-tier home studio, then the M3000 is definitely something you should be checking out.
Yes, being around $1,500 new these days, it’s not the cheapest thing out there, but the abundance of effects and their overall quality definitely justify the price.
It’s interesting how one rack-based studio piece of gear can also find its way into a live rig of guitar giants, including John Petrucci of Dream Theater. You don’t often see the same thing used by a metal guitar master and a film sound producer.
Overall, the M3000 is a very versatile and detailed processor made by TC Electronic, designed for professional use (not like you’d expect anything less from them).
Sure, if you have the funds to spend, you can get one of these for your own satisfaction. But despite its ease of use, this is not a toy for an average bedroom guitarist, but a full-blown professional unit that shows its true potential combined with other quality and expensive gear.
So it’s best to think twice before draining your bank account and getting your hands on one of these.
With the abundance of effects at our disposal today, we do tend to take all the pedals we have for granted.
There are certain pedals, effects, and products that we might just overlook, despite the fact that they can significantly improve our guitar tone if applied and adjusted properly. You’ll see all sorts of stuff on the pedalboards of famous professional players.
For instance, Kirk Hammett has a whole variety of effects, and you’ll some pretty exciting stuff on there. Over the years, we’ve seen him use Line 6 pedals extensively, including stuff like the DL4 delay. But there’s another interesting effect pedal from the company’s variety of products ñ the FM4 Filter Modeler.
Not kind of a standard pedal that you’ll find in one’s signal chain since it’s actually a modeler, or a “processor” if you will, designed to replicate some well-known vintage filters and synths. So we’ll use the opportunity and dive into this piece of gear and explain a few of its features and what it does.
First of all, for those who don’t know, filter pedals are similar to wah or auto wah pedals. A wah effect is basically a band-pass filter with the center frequency controlled by the rocking part of the pedal.
Or, if it’s an auto-wah, then it’s controlled by the parameters that you set on it. Another great example of a filter would be a talk box. We would recommend though that you inform yourself about filter effects – what they are and how they work ñ before you consider actually getting a pedal like this one.
With filter pedals like the FM4, you can filter out certain frequencies of your tone in various different ways and by using the unit’s different modes.
The pedal itself features 16 different models of vintage synth and filter effects, controlled by the switch on the left side of the front panel. Each of the modes is based on a different vintage filter that was used back in the day by some of those famous guitar heroes.
The pedal also has 20 different factory presets, and you can add your own sounds to the 4 user programmable channels. Each of these saved presets is accessed via the four switches on the pedal.
As for the other knobs, there is four of them and these are all used to additionally tweak the 16 aforementioned models. There’s “FREQ” or “Start Vowel” which controls the start frequency of the filter.
Then there’s “Q” or the “Stop Vowel” which controls the width of the sweep. Aside from these, you have speed, mode or “synth pitch” that changes the band pass, and the “mix” that lets you blend the processed and the clean signal.
The pedal can be used as either a standard mono unit or as a stereo effect since there are two inputs and two outputs on it.
It can additionally be controlled with an expression pedal, which is bought separately. Using the external expression pedal, you basically get endless possibilities in creating your own unique wah effects.
Among other important stuff, the pedal is powered by a standard 9 volt AC adapter.
Looking at this weird shiny purple thing, you’ll definitely not find a pedal like this anywhere on the market.
The FM4 features a casing typical of some other Line 6 modellers and pedals, including DL4 delay, DM 4 Distortion Modeler, MM4 Modulation Modeler, and the JM4 Looper. The casing is, of course, very well built and is quite sturdy.
While it might look like a weird toy lost somewhere in the 1990s, we can’t argue with this pedal’s great aesthetics, build quality, and the overall reliability.
Just to get this out of the way, the pedal works just so damn well. But the abundance of options and features is, at the same time, its main strength and its main weakness.
With a unit like this, you really need to be into the classic vintage filters and guitar synths in order to fully understand the sounds that you’re making.
Some of the effects that FM4 is replicating were used back in the old days by players like Frank Zappa or Robert Fripp of King Crimson.
When it comes to the sound, there’s some really great stuff that you can do with the FM4. Which isn’t a surprise really, since the pedal features 24-bit processing.
By adding the expression pedal, you get a new dimension to the pedal, with various options and features at your disposal.
While it is fun – extremely fun – you’ll have to spend a lot of time tweaking all the knobs in search of your desired sounds. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing since many guitar players enjoy this process.
You just need to bear in mind that this is not exactly the simplest pedal out there. As mentioned, combining it with an expression pedal, there’s a whole new universe of possibilities for you to mess around with and create your own peculiar wah tones.
Looking at the technical stuff, the only downside could be the pedal’s demand for 1200 mA of power. Most of the pedalboards out there, or different power supplies for custom pedalboards, would not support the FM4.
So you’ll need to use its adapter or spend more money on a new power supply. If there is even one that supports this much power.
To conclude – FM4 is a very versatile and exciting pedal to use, while at the same time you’ll need to be somewhat experienced with filters and synths, or at least educated enough about this kind of gear in order to exploit its full potential.
We would not recommend it to a beginner who’s just looking for a flashy and fun new effect unit. Other than that, it’s pretty great.
It was difficult for the bands who started breaking through on the rock and metal scene in the early 2000s to earn the level of respect that the older generations of musicians had.
Despite the bar being raised high, some of them managed to push through and build their own fanbase.
One of those is Avenged Sevenfold, a heavily guitar-driven band with Brian Haner Jr., a.k.a. Synyster Gates, doing all the lead duties. Of course, a huge part of the band’s success is his unique guitar work and his signature sound.
But among all the stuff in his arsenal of gear, there’s a rather interesting pedal that drew our attention. No, it’s not an overdrive, it’s not a distortion or a wah pedal.
This is what we could call a “dual effect” pedal, featuring both chorus and echo effects in one unit. Now, we will be getting into this pedal, made by Visual Sound, called H2O V1 Liquid Chorus And Echo.
Yes, you don’t need two pedals taking all that room on your pedalboard but just one doing these both roles. So let’s see how this thing works.
This compact pedal, based on 2-in-1 kind of idea, essentially has two separate parts, controlled with two separate sets of switches and knobs.
The pedal has a few versions, and Syn Gates uses the old model, which is called the V1 version. All of the models, of course, have a solid and sturdy metal casing.
First, we have the usual input and output jacks, with the signal going through both parts of the pedal. On the left side, we have the main switch and all the controls for the chorus section.
The chorus effect is managed with three knobs – speed, width, and delay time. These are essentially basic controls for any chorus out there, where you can create anything from a mild light effect to a completely off the charts wacky sound.
The echo and delay part of the pedal is located on the right side of the main panel. There, we have the effect level, repeats, and echo time.
Just like with the chorus part, these are also basic controls for any delay, where the “effect level” is a blend mix, “repeats” is what some other pedals have labeled as “feedback,” and the “echo time” is for the time between two repeats of the echo.
However, the delay part has another switch on its side, giving you two different ranges of the delay. With this switch and the time knob, you can get anything between 10 ms to up to 800 ms.
But aside from the main output, there is an additional jack on the left side. This output is a completely dry one and you can use it either for separate effect loops and for plugging into an additional amp.
The newer versions of the pedal, V2 and V3, have two outputs for a true stereo chorus effect. They also feature additional outputs and you can configure them as two separate pedals in your signal chain.
The first thing that you can notice here on the H2O is that it features a bit of an unusual casing, with the bottom part making the “V” shape.
Aside from that, the pedal is painted in a pleasant shade of deep blue with letters, lines, and logos in white. Although somewhat of an unconventional design, all of the text parts are pretty readable and clear, making it easy to use.
While it might sound like it’s not that important, there’s another pretty useful design solution. The LED lights for the effects are of different colors.
The chorus part has a green light while the delay is in red. At first, it seems like it’s not much of a deal, but in live situations where you’ve been playing for extended periods of time in darker clubs or venues, it’s pretty useful not to have these two effect indicators mixed up.
Two main things about this pedal, which make it a good choice, are practicality and simplicity. Although one might think that such a pedal with two effects in one unit might be a bit tricky one to figure out, the H20 V1 is pretty easy to use.
Even if you’re a beginner who has no previous experience with either choruses or echo/delay pedals, you can get a hang of all the features and controls.
As for the sound, the chorus goes well with pretty much any standard configuration of pedals that you might use today.
While not exactly flashy and complex like some of the stuff that you can find out there, the sound is good for anything between cleans to high gain soaring leads.
Which is pretty impressive knowing that some choruses might add to the muddiness with heavily distorted sounds.
Not too much philosophy behind the delay, but we do need to point out that there were no unwanted sounds nor abrupt stops or clicking when switching the delay on and off.
And while we’re at switching and controls, all of the knobs and switches work fine and seem like they’re not easy to break.
On the one hand, it’s a really great solution to have these two effects in one unit. Aside from the practicality, the pedal just sounds and works so good.
On the other hand, it’s not practical if you want to have additional effects between the chorus and delay.
Sure, you can add some modulation after it, but you might not get the desired sound with the default order of pedals in the signal chain, where nothing goes after the delay.
At the same time, you need to bear in mind that the V1 models are older and can only be found used. They’re not that expensive and they’re not that rare.
But maybe the better option would be to go with a V2 or a V3. But taking a listen to what the chorus sounds like and how well it works, we completely understand why Syn Gates sticks to this old pedal.
One of the products that marked the world of rock music back in the 60s and the 70s were the legendary Leslie rotary speakers.
Although intended for Hammond organ use, those clever guitar players managed to take it over and turn it into something of their own. But the sweet eargasmic rotary speaker sound becomes complicated when you realize that you have to carry that big thing around.
Luckily for all the lovers of rotary speakers, the technology has advanced just enough that you can have that effect in the form of a very compact and practical piece of gear that fits into an average pedalboard which you can carry without breaking your back.
The tone, however, is not easy to replicate, but for the guys over at Hughes & Kettner this was a challenge they gladly accepted, ultimately creating one wonderful unit called Rotosphere MKII.
This particular pedal is used by none other but Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready.
Before we start, we should remind you that this is actually a tube driven pedal. It features one 12AX7 tube that’s mostly used for guitar preamps or preamp sections of amplifiers. This makes it not only a great sounding piece of gear but also a dynamically responsive one.
There are three control knobs on Rotosphere: drive, output volume, and rotor balance. Now, this is not primarily an overdrive pedal, but it does create some distortion which is controlled using the drive knob.
But this being a tube effect, it does create additional distortion if the volume is turned up high. As for the rotor balance control, it blends and mixes the sound of bass and tweeter rotary speakers. There are also two LED lights next to the balance control indicating the speed of the treble and bass rotors.
You can find three quality foot switches on the front panel. First, the bypass switch turns the whole pedal on and off. Right next to it is a breaker switch, which is a pretty interesting and useful control.
With it, you can shut off the rotary effect and use the Rotosphere only as a tube preamp. When switched back on, it brings you back to your adjusted settings.
On the right side, there is is a slow/fast switch that lets you toggle between the speed modes of the pedal. This particular feature works with two additional controls on the left and the right side of the balance knob.
There you can find two small holes with screws in them and these can only be accessed with a small screwdriver. They control speeds of bass and treble speakers in the “fast” mode of the pedal.
On the back side of the unit, there is a selector switch that lets you use Rotosphere either as a guitar or keyboard effect. Right next to it, there are two outputs and two inputs, meaning that the pedal may be utilized in mono or stereo mode.
Another jack, labeled as “remote,” is used for external units like footswitches or MIDI controllers.
Taking a glance at the H&K Rotosphere, you immediately notice that it’s a quality built and pretty nice looking pedal with a silver front panel. It features the almost identical design of all the other of Hughes & Kettner’s Tube Tools units, such as Tubeman MK2 preamp, Tube Factor drive, and Reflex reverb.
One thing that stands out here is the famous Hughes & Kettner logo with blue lights. Through the transparent plastic part with the logo, you can also see inside the pedal, right where the tube is located.
As for the LED lights, they are all pretty noticeable and players won’t have any difficulties seeing all the needed functions turned on or off.
All in all, the Rotosphere will definitely be something that clearly stands out on your pedalboard.
The controls are pretty easy to follow through and there are many combinations for making your sound unique. The feature to use it only as an overdrive pedal is pretty useful and you can get some pretty great vintage tones out of it.
Although for fully adjusting the pedal you need a screwdriver and a little bit of patience, the Leslie speaker simulation is convincing, both in slower and faster modes.
As already mentioned above, with Rotosphere being a tube based pedal, there’s some dynamic responsiveness that you can get out of it, especially if you turn the drive or output knobs up.
And, another thing which comes as a neat feature for these kinds of effects – you can try out different types of 12AX7 or ECC83 tubes to get different sounds.
However, replacing a tube in one of these is kind of a headache since it requires you to take the whole thing apart, including the main circuit board.
And tube replacement is a must after long or frequent use. If you don’t feel confident enough changing it yourself, we advise you to consult a professional.
Despite all the great features and sound, we should point out another minor flaw – the input and output jack placement.
Average pedals have the input on the right side and output on the left, while Rotosphere has it the other way around. This might contribute to some additional cable mess on your pedalboard.
To put it simply: the sound is organic, the rotary effect is convincing, the build quality is amazing, and the pedal just looks great. You’ll just need to know that it’s not like the other pedals and is more of a higher intermediate or pro level piece of gear.
It is definitely worth every penny, especially if you are into the vintage sounds. There were some flaws that we listed, which are mostly just some minor issues, so if you’re looking for a good-quality Leslie emulator, then you won’t really go wrong with Hughes & Kettner Rotosphere MK2.
Putting together your own pedalboard is always fun. And adding a new pedal to the signal chain makes things even more fun, giving your guitar sound a whole new life.
Buying that new overdrive, distortion, chorus, compressor, or even a treble booster gives guitar players such joy that they even get inspired to write new music.
But to some, these conventional effects are just not enough. So they turn over to the dark side and get into the world of synth pedals.
We know how nu-metal musicians tried to be as different as possible from the previous generation of metal bands. Aside from basing their music more on down-tuned deep and dark chugging riffs, the new generation began using these other, let’s say, unorthodox methods for creating this new sound.
Just like James “Munky” Shaffer did, one of Korn’s two axemen, who began implementing the amazing Chimera Synthesis bC9 in his signal chain. Knowing how weird and crazy Korn’s music can get, it’s not that much of a surprise to see this effect on his board. So why don’t we dive into the subject of synths and get to know more of bC9?
However, before we begin, there are a few things that you should know of. Firstly, even though synth pedals seem fun, they’re not exactly simple to use.
For those who are not that familiar with synths but want to give them a try, it is recommended that you read up a little bit on them.
Before we get more into this weird piece of gear, you should get to know more of the terms like voltage-controlled oscillator or VCO, low-frequency oscillation or LFO, control voltage or CV, and other musical properties like attack and release. But if you do know what these are, you’ll have no issues reading the review.
Second, it is kind of weird, even difficult, to implement it in conventional music. You don’t want to end up spending money on a pedal that you won’t use at all. And you don’t want to end up forcing it in your music, creating an awkward or just boring situation during your live gigs or jam sessions.
Third, this being a synthesizer unit, it’s mostly used as a non-guitar piece of gear. So Chimera Synthesis bC9 is not exactly a guitar pedal but can be used as one due to its compact form.
Features and performance
When it comes to all the controls and features, Chimera Synthesis bC9 is a pretty colorful pedal.
Or, another way that we can describe it ñ it’s kind of complicated compared to the other effects guitar players are used to. But compared to other synth units out there, it’s fairly simple to use.
The bC9 is an improved version of the older model bC8, with the option to externally modulate all the possible combination of its eight knobs. There’s also a bonus ninth knob which controls external modulation’s depth.
These nine knobs are divided into five groups by color. Two yellow knobs control VCO frequency and VCO and LFO modulation depth. Two blue knobs are for LFO and VCO waveshapes and LFO speed.
Two red knobs are for attack and release. Out of the two green knobs, one is for external CV modulation depth and the other is for patch control. And, finally, the grey knob controls the master volume of the pedal.
But that’s not all. Aside from the on and off switch, there’s also an envelope mode toggle switch with three positions: up is auto-repeat, mid position is single shot with no sustain, and the third one is single shot with sustain allowed.
There are also two buttons, one red that triggers the envelope generator, and a black one that allows you to modify external modulation. There are also two input jacks and one audio out jack.
The unit runs on three AAA batteries, either regular alkaline or rechargeable ones. The stainless steel base of the bC9 needs to be removed for the battery replacement and it’s opened with a hex key which comes along with the pedal. It is kind of an unusual sight to have a pedal powered with AAA batteries instead of the 9-volt ones.
If you do decide to get a Chimera Synthesis bC9, it will, without any doubts, be the first thing everyone will notice on your pedalboard.
This unit’s partially transparent body acts as a diffusor of lights coming from ten LED lights located inside. So essentially, bC9 lights up all around, indicating what processes are actually going on at the moment.
Looking at one of these in action is comparable to an elaborate light show. Considering that Chimera Synthesis bC9 is made of transparent acrylic polymer and is hand-frosted, it looks as if all the colored LED lights are “spilling” all over the casing.
If you do care about the aesthetics and all the fun that comes with it, then this pedal is for you. All this is packed on to a quality stainless steel base with four rubber feet. It’s pretty well-built and can’t be easily damaged.
Let’s get one thing clear ñ synth pedals are not for everyone. As already mentioned above, they aren’t that easy to implement in standard music you hear every day.
However, if you’re really into experimentation and pushing the limits of your playing, then Chimera Synthesis bC9 will be a pretty useful unit. And being a compact little piece of gear, it’s pretty amazing of what this boutique pedal is capable of.
It can be used in separate loops and set on a specific setting that might suit some of the songs in your live set. Or, if you’re really in the mood for it, you can do an extended solo where you play around with all the knobs and switches.
If you’re just getting into the world of synth guitars and want to get a pedal for this, bC9 is definitely a good choice, no matter if you’re into Korn’s Munky or not. Just make sure you’re 100% serious about it and do all the research before you buy one.
When it comes to modern guitar effect pedals, and music gear in general, there are quite a lot of companies out making it. Some companies are large, and some are small. Some suck, some are great. We all know how it goes.
To the end user, aka the music gear consumer, there are advantages to dealing with both big and small companies, as well as cons.
On one hand, large companies are trusted and have years of experience doing what they do, and can back up any of their products (usually) with guarantees and warranties that protect the musicians buying them from lightning storms, jam hall fires, irresponsible siblings getting their slimy mitts on your pedal board, etc.
These big, established companies that have household names make pedals that are the go-to gear of working musicians, and the cycle of rock continues.
On the other hand, you have companies that run a slightly smaller, tighter ship, but have more creative freedom, and are able to experiment.
They also have the ability to keep a meticulous eye on everything that goes on, and their customer service has the potential to be a lot better, as they can offer things the big companies can’t, and come up with technology that is mind-blowingly inventive.
A company of this sort that is small but spunky would be T-Rex Engineering, a company out of Denmark who manufacturers a number of guitar pedals, including distortion/overdrive, tremolo, looper, delay, reverb, octaver, wah, and more.
They also make power supplies, boards, bags, cables, brackets, and tape cartridges.
Basically, TRex makes a lot of what your average musician will need to get through the next show, plus a bunch of stuff that a lot of musicians wouldn’t mind getting for their birthdays if only their friends, family, and loved ones knew a thing or two about cool music gear.
Lars and Sebastian, childhood friends who both have a passion for music, and who founded the company back in 1996, always make sure the components with which they use to make their pedals and gear is of the utmost quality. They have a small but dedicated team who work together to keep on top of things.
Being music gear nerds here at YTMS, and fans of boutique guitar pedals and crazy/cool effects, we managed to set up a little Q&A with TRex, with the hopes to get a better idea how their business works, and also so we can learn more about their pedals, which we are big fans of!
You gotta figure, if their stuff is good enough for the likes of Steve Lukather (Toto), Marc Tremonti (Alter Bridge), Martin Gore (Depeche Mode), Carl Verheyen (Supertramp), Patrick Matera (Katy Perry) and Luke Potashnik (Katie Melua), they must have their shit together.
And in the following chat, we find out exactly how TRex goes about things! Enjoy!
Can you, in a nutshell, describe what TRex Engineering does?
We design and manufacture effects, amps, power supplies and accessories for guitar players, as well as other musicians that need useable tools for real-world applications.
What inspired you to get into the effects pedals business?
Lars (founder) is an electronics guy and for his graduation project, he made a switching system for pedals, so they could be turned on and off in presets. Sebastian (childhood friend, founder) did the digital part, since he was also graduating in electronics, although back then, you did either analog or digital.
They had both between the two of them, so it worked quite well.
A few players saw it and wanted to buy it, so the guys started a small production.
So really, it was as simple as a “good idea” that people bought into, which is still very much the philosophy around here – ask and listen to the players and see if you can come up with stuff that they feel is useful, not just impressive or “en vogue”.
How was the guitar effects pedal world different back when you guys started in 1996?
First of all, there weren’t that many competitors (or should I say colleagues?). The boutique thing was just happening and things were still pretty old school regarding the setups/rigs.
Nowadays, programmers can make the planet rotate the other way using a chip that costs 0.02USD, it seems.
In many ways, the pedal world hasn’t changed one bit since Hendrix tracked “Hey Joe”, because there seems to be an incredible interest in “classic” effects and sounds, but at the same time, we embrace new technology like there’s no tomorrow.
The requests we get are sometimes physically impossible to meet, but I get why the question is asked because from the outside world, it certainly looks like anything’s possible.
One guy wanted a pedal that could detect what key the band was playing in, so that he could pick the right harmonica for the song – I don´t want to put the guy down at all, but a book on music theory is 5 bucks and needs no power.
In short, we are all a lot closer to each other now and manufacturers must listen harder and react faster on the market demands.
What are some of your top sellers these days…and why?
The Soulmate Acoustic and our tape echos are doing pretty well right now. I guess they serve a purpose that players can relate to.
With the ASM, it sort of takes out all the guesswork of playing live with an acoustic, because everything is there – effects, signal conditioning, pre-amplification, D.I. box, etc.
The tape echo units seem to be “fun” and offer something completely different to what else is out there, good AND bad. But most customers like them for the exact same reasons.
Shoot, who doesn’t like to press a switch and watch stuff turn, roll, slide and blink? And then it also puts out sound!!
We all connect to our inner 3-year old child when we see such a thing, which I think complements the precise, predictive and controlled nature of a modern DSP-based effect.
These speak to the grown-up part of our brain and provides safety in use, but they are not as lively or random.
I think music that has some irregularities in it speaks a bit louder than something that’s maybe slightly too polished, and I guess that’s why there’s room for a tape echo on the market, also.
You’re obviously into more than just pedals.For those who don’t know, what other stuff do you make?
We make some power bricks called FuelTanks, that share a common topology but differ in size, total power and in the various options for powering pedals.
We also make ToneTrunk pedalboards, which are also available in various sizes.
These differ from the competition by being two-tiered, so you get to turn on a pedal in the back row without hitting knobs or switches on the goodies in the front row.
I know you take pride in your components.From where do you source the materials?
It depends. Where “standard” stuff gets the job done, we use it.
If a certain design calls for some special component, we try to track one down that might fit the purpose or simply have them made according to our specs.
So the philosophy is that the customer should only pay extra if extra is needed.
We have several custom made parts in our products – some are from Danish manufacturers, others from the US or Asia. It all depends on who can make it for us.
We source mechanical parts for the tape echo locally (because of high tolerance), we make custom knobs right at our factory in China, and our custom made transformers and coils come from our transformer supplier in Denmark.
What’s the main factor in making a more durable pedal?
Obviously, the parts have to be connected tightly and the parts that see the most stress should be up to the task.
Honestly, I don’t think there’s much more to do for mankind here – do we really need a design that can be run over by a truck and still work? I mean, who plays gigs involving running their equipment over by trucks? (I’d love to go see this band, though).
Basically, it’s about sticking to the laws of physics. Making sure that the parts stay connected during use.
As for the components, humans don’t even know how long, say, a resistor will last, because they haven’t been around long enough for us to even know.
Some drift or fail, but as a component “species”, they work forever (so far) as long as they don’t run too hot. So staying cool is always preferred.
And then you test, to try and catch the “lemons”.
Maybe if we all stopped kicking those poor circuits they would last longer?
Pedals are about the only piece of delicate electronics that are purposely made to be stomped on all the time. Food for thought.
Is there one type of pedal you feel that you specialize in?
I don’t think we necessarily excel at a certain type of effect, but I do believe we have gotten pretty good at finding the sweet spot between “one trick pony” and “it can also make you a smashing café au lait and take your kids to school”.
Musicians can’t always manage 200 choices at a gig/rehearsal when they feel something ain’t quite right, but a few choice options are quite valuable because you wanna get the music going, not fiddle around for hours on end.
But for a certain effect TYPE, I don’t know. Delay? We’ve had good success with the Replica.
What do you think is your dirtiest pedal of all?
Easy: Michael’s Mudhoney. Or his Soulmate. Both have seen numerous stages and, being Michael’s, it shows. Not even a chisel helps. It’s like a superman mix of beer and epoxy glue.
Even Mike doesn’t know how he did it…
Seriously, I would pick the original Mudhoney. Not in terms of gain levels but in terms of “sound”.
What do you consider to be your niftiest pedal?The one that strikes you as being most ingenious?
That would probably be the tape echos.
We sort of made them because we couldn’t help ourselves, but I think we managed to incorporate some not-seen-before features, making them not only a fresher version of some long forgotten technology but also something that peeked into the new millennium.
Then there was the Spindoctor, which had motorized pots for preset storage of settings. That was pretty “nifty”.
How has Danish music in general influenced your approach to making guitar pedals?
The Danish music scene has changed a lot, too, since T-Rex started out. I guess it’s not that much different from the rest of the western world.
We can’t ignore the power of “computer music” or the change in gear requirements – it´s been ages since I’ve seen a 4×12 stack in a club, for example.
But that fuels the creativity at the same time, because there´s a need for new gear.
And we’re not about to do another TS clone, so for us, it’s cool.
How often do you sell out of certain products?
It’s actually a situation that one tries to avoid, because it means you can’t send out products to your distribution chain.
But it has happened many times, mostly because we misplaced our crystal ball that we used to keep track of future orders.
It’s like buying beer kegs for your backyard party – if you don’t know who’ll show up and how much beer they can drink, how will you know how many kegs you need? And again, you definitely don’t wanna run out before midnight.
What do you think are the advantages of being a relatively smaller company in this day and age of mass production?
It’s easier to change a few little things here and there, design-wise or work-wise in the process and the very same developers that created the products are also somewhat involved in the sales/marketing side of things, which creates the glue that holds it all together.
Also, people would be surprised how many hats we all wear here.
We have to, being this small. It makes coming to work a lot more fun, because you can be an R&D guy one day, and a warehouse guy the next.
And this creates a mutual understanding of the whole organization, which I believe is a positive thing.
What do you think keeps certain artists like Martin Gore, Steve Lukather, and Carl Verheyen coming back to T-Rex Effects?
The coffee. It’s shit, but we have loads of it!
No, first of all I think the artist relationships we have ARE based on relationship rather than actual gear.
It’s not like those guys have their cases stuffed with T-Rex gear front to back, but they (and their techs) are always up for checking out our stuff and hear what we’ve got cooking.
And then we show up at shows and give them some support through our channels.
I have to give serious credit to my colleague Michael who is our A&R guy, because I think he manages to keep things on a “friend” level, and I think that is the main reason why guys like those you mention stick around. It’s all very down to earth.
Sure, they play bigger stages than the average guy, but the common interest in the biz, gear or life in general prevails.
And they are just so nice, friendly and helpful on all levels, and that´s the kind of people you want close by, right?
The pure skill and mastery with which John Petrucci handles his guitar tone needs no special introduction. The man has proven what he’s capable of enough times by now. One interesting thing about Petrucci is that he keeps his gear fairly fluid. This especially applies to his effects. Lately, Petrucci has been a huge fan of TC Electronics. So much so that he has been working with them on designing several signature presets. With that said, it wasn’t long before they gave him an entire pedal. TC Electronic Dreamscape delivers the very essence of Petrucci’s modulation taste in a single pedal. Today we are going to check it out a bit closer.
TC Electronic Dreamscape Review
After the major shift back in the late ’80s and throughout ’90s when almost everything went digital, we have been seeing a considerable push back to analog. Sure we still have prominent digital effects pedals, but the it is the analog stuff that is held at high regard. However, there is one current that is going steadily against the stream. That is TC Electronic. They have completely detached themselves from pursuing analog pedals and focused mainly on pushing digital to the new level.
Tc Electronic Dreamscape John Petrucci Signature Multi-Effects
Most of their pedals feature TonePrint technology. In simple terms, this tech allows you to design your own effect presets, upload them and use them as you see fit. Where Dreamscape excels is TonePrint territory. Petrucci has basically designed modulation effects which he likes and uses. Then TC Electronic took his main creations and put them all in a single effects pedal.
In terms of design there isn’t much that is new. TC Electronic, similar to Boss, has a very uniform chassis that they like to use. Unlike Boss, TC Electronic’s chassis of choice has a very strong vintage, analog vibe to it. If you really think about it, it is a fairly smart move. Whether or not TC Electronic did it on purpose is yet to be determined, but their pedal bodies take the edge of the high tech digital circuitry that is hiding inside.
From a purely practical standpoint, there are a lot of good things to be said about TC Electronic Dreamscape’s chassis. It is robust and made of thick die cast metal alloys. Pushing the pedal to the limit on stage, treating it with little consideration and generally abusing it shows how solid this entire package is.
If aesthetics are an important fact of your decision making process, TC Electronic is usually one to deliver. Their pedals are always fresh with great graphics and awesome looking designs. One important thing to note is that their graphics are never impeding the functionality of the pedal.
Features of TC Electronic Dreamscape can be divided in two categories. We have a hardware component and a software component. That’s simply the fact of the matter with a pedal such as this one. Hardware features include both mono and stereo outputs, as well as five different controls. The top is dominated by four knobs and a switch. That is excluding the foot switch. The knobs are labeled as Speed, Depth, FX Level and Mode. The last knob we’ve mentioned allows you to choose between two flangers, two choruses, two vibratos and stock TonePrint mode.
As we have said before, all of the presets have been designed by Petrucci. The switch is whereyou select between TonePrint and stock mode in most other TC Electronic pedals. However, in this one it is quite different. Aside from fine tuning his modulation effects, Petrucci also wanted to add flavors to the overall tone of the pedal. Therefore we have the Bright, Normal and Dark modes as well.
Even with simple analog or digital pedals, there is plenty of variables to cover in regards to performance. When you start talking about a pedal that is as developed, complex and layered as this one, things tend to get extremely interesting. To start things off, lets get one major misconception out of the way. The fact that TC Electronics is all about that digital magic doesn’t mean that this pedal is a ‘gadget’ or a ‘fancy toy’. On the contrary. It is a highly capable piece of gear that delivers something that no other pedal does.
All presets that come with the pedal sound genuine. If you are a fan of Petrucci’s work, you will definitely see his influence oozing from the pores of each modulation effect. Different colors of tone also add to the whole experience. When you punch into the Dark mode, your whole tone will take on a more sinister appeal. On bright, it is somewhat cheerful. Best of all, you can go and design your own preset and evolve what comes as stock even further. That’s the beauty of most TC Electronic pedals, including the Dreamscape.
At the end of the day, Dreamscape is a pretty unique piece of kit. It is a multi effect pedal in the true sense of the word. Even if you are not familiar with Petrucci and you just want a whole lot of functionality packed into a single pedal, Dreamscape will work great. On the other hand, if you are a fan of Petrucci and you love that distinct Dream Theater vibe, this pedal will help you get there much quicker and with less pain in the process. The real conclusion we can draw from this experience is that TC Electronic could just be the glimpse of things to come. Sure, old school analog isn’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t improve our current digital effects. Customization is what it all comes down to and TC Electronic has been mastering this aspect of guitar effects design for quite a while now. Not only are they one of the better names in the business, but more and more people are opening up to their unorthodox ways.
Guitar effects pedals can generally be divided into two categories – those that have an obvious impact on your tone, and those which take care of business behind the curtains.
The former group is where you can find all of your distortions, overdrives, reverbs and similar. The later group is full of awesome effects which include EQs, compressors, noise gates and other.
Both of these guitar effect types are essential for a refined and tuned up guitar tone, even though one of them is much more popular than the other.
Boss CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer pedal belongs is among those pedals that you won’t notice if they are used correctly and do their job.
It’s an awesome, inexpensive tool which is capable of seriously transforming your guitar’s tone.
Today we are going to take a closer look at this stompbox and talk about what type of performance it is capable of bringing to your pedalboard. With that said, let’s begin.
Boss CS-3 compressor Review
Compressors are an awesome tool to have at your disposal. While a lot of guitar players are on the fence when it comes to these pedals, the truth is that one 30 minute session with a compressor leaves you thinking how you ever managed without it.
In simple terms, a compressor pedal is there to level out your volume when it reaches a certain value. At the same time, it boosts the volume when it is lacking.
When used correctly, a compressor will a give you an even and unbiased volume as long as you play, and most people won’t even notice. You, however, will and your life as a guitar player will be that much easier because of it.
Boss CS-3 is one of the simpler compressors you can get. It is actually a dual purpose pedal, considering it acts as a sustain pedal as well. This type of combo is awesome, especially when it works well.
Here is a video review to introduce you to the Boss CS-3 pedal if you’ve never seen it in action.
Boss is known for two things – quality effects pedals and the design of their pedal enclosure. Boss CS-3 comes in the very same body that all other Boss pedals share.
The color for this model is bright blue, which is the only way you could discern what you’re looking at from a distance. Needless to say, CS-3 is one tough pedal that can take all of the abuse that is normal with consistent stage use.
This pedal comes with four control knobs available. You have the Level knob which is used to adjust the volume of the pedal. Up next comes the Tone control.
This is the knob you use to set the frequency at which the compression is going to kick in. Attack knob determines how fast the compression is going to kick in after you play a note, and finally, there is the Sustain knob.
This control is used to determine how long the compression is going to last. For a compressor, these controls are pretty rudimentary.
With that said, you can still hit a decent level of finesse with what is available on CS-3. This trait alone made it one of the favorite compressors on the market, with guitarists such as Jack White using these pedals as well.
When it comes to powering this bad boy, it’s the usual story. You can either go with a 9V battery, a power adapter or a pedalboard power supply.
Performance Of The Boss CS-3 Pedal
In terms of performance, Boss CS-3 offers a great bang for the buck value. Compression works well and you can still dial it in pretty accurately.
While it’s not going to be something a professional who needs absolute fidelity would use,it is definitely enough for the vast majority of guitar players out there.
One of the main attributes of any good compressor is transparency. If a compressor changes the color of the tone, it does more damage than good.
Boss CS-3 is not completely transparent but is much better than most of the pedals in this price range.
Sustain is the other part of CS-3’s functionality, and it is quite awesome. When you work with sustain pedals, those of lower quality will add sustain but it just won’t sound right.
In the case of Boss CS-3, the situation is completely different. You can push in a lot of sustain and it will sound natural. As a matter of fact, entire effect CS-3 has on your signal comes across as organic.
What type of power source you are using is definitely going to have an effect on your tone as well. Just like it is the case with other effects pedals, a battery or a dedicated power supply is going to bring the best results.
There’s nothing worse than having to deal with that annoying buzz, especially when you are working with a pedal such as a compressor.
Here is one more short video review of the pedal, this time by the folks at Sweetwater Sound.
Compressors, like many other low profile modulation pedals, are a tool that is used when you need to elevate your tone to the next level.
One of the issues with these type of pedals is that you can sink in a lot of money into them, and it will be worth it.
Budget solutions like Boss CS-3 are essential for working musicians who can’t afford to invest into a boutique model.
In that capacity, CS-3 is the patron saint of guitarists all around the world.
The pedal works, and it works well. Just the fact that it combines compression with sustain is amazing and makes it a package that you just can’t ignore. Is it the perfect solution?
Probably not, but it was never meant to be the silver bullet. Boss has a way with designing effects pedals so that you get the most bang for your buck, which is exactly what Boss CS-3 offers.
You can even look at it as a learning vessel of sorts that will help you figure out where you want to go in terms of perfecting your tone, and what your next pedal should bring to the table. On its own, this stompbox deserves all the praise it gets.
The sound bank contains a variety of different sounds perfect for a whole range of musical styles. There are 6 categories available, from clean up to an ‘extreme’ setting.
Each of these categories has a further 10 variations for optimal control over your tone. There are up to 60 different memory banks for specific tones to be saved into allowing a range of different tones within this one pedal.
Once you have created your tone using the sound bank there are a number of different effects that can be added, with everything from reverb and delay to octave pedals and even a harmonizer.
The level and tone of these effects can be altered using the parameter knobs. A unique feature to the pedal is the ‘freeze’ setting which allows a single note to be held out while you play other notes over the top of it; this can lead to interesting and experimental sounds.
A lopper is also featured on the pedal with 30 seconds of space to loop. This is ideal for guitarists; for compositional purposes or improvising over a chord progression.
This is also useful for a live situation, one guitarist may want to loop one part and play another, with the pedal allowing you to record one sound and then loop it to record another.
For example you could record a clean guitar part and then solo over it using distortion.
Additional features include a tuner, wah-wah/volume controller and a ‘super stack’ button which adds bass creating a fatter tone.
Check out this video review BOSS ME-25 Pedal by gearwire:
Ability to Record – A major positive of this pedal is the ability to act as an audio interface.
This is very useful for recording, it allows musicians with a limited budget to create and record their own guitar tones onto any DAW from their own bedroom, without the need of a high quality amp or microphones.
The pedal connects to the PC via USB, ideal for home recording.
Reliable and Durability – Like many other BOSS products, this piece of gear is very sturdy; I would feel comfortable taking this pedal to a gig and wouldn’t have to worry that it would break half way through a set.
The pedal can run on either AA batteries or an AC Adapter.
Value for the Price – The number of effects alone on this pedal warrant the low price tag.
At around £135 this pedal is extremely good value, considering that a single stomp box can cost this and more, there really is an advantage to having a whole range of sounds at your disposal for such a low price.
Changing between sound banks – One of the only let downs of this pedal is its system of changing between tones in a live setting. The only way to change between its 60 sound banks is to go up or down by a setting in a numeric order.
For example if you were on setting 1 and you wanted to change to setting 4 you would have to pass through settings 2 and 3 first. This can be a pain during a live setting, changing between a clean and distorted sound in the middle of a song for example.
This is avoidable by lining up all your sounds in a specific order before getting on stage however the hassle of having to do this is a flaw of this pedal.
Comparison to analogue effects – While the sounds in the ME-25 are very good, they are a recreation of their analogue counterparts.
Analogue effects tend to give a more natural sound to the tone while the digital effect gives a more ‘computerized’ sound.
Many view analogue effects as far superior to digital and may be disappointed by the tones which they get from this pedal, however this is entirely down to personal opinion.
In conclusion, although this pedal may be seen as an entry level multi effects unit it can hold its own in terms of amount and quality of effects when compared to other digital effects units.
At the low price and with a range of possibilities, this is the perfect pedal for someone looking to add interesting and creative effects to their playing.