This week on TPS, Dan & Mick add another episode to the library of stompbox stories in a much anticipated jam session and chat with TC Electronic’s own Tore Lynggaard Mogenson. The timing of the episode could not have been better following the launch of the new Pipeline Tap Tremolo and the major splash made by version two models of the classic Hall of Fame Reverb and Flashback Delay featuring the proprietary innovation of Mash technology.
If you’re dying to hear Tore’s take on particular pedals in the TPS rig of the week, fast-forward to the following: Flashback (30:45), Hall of Fame 2 (37:50), Pipeline Tap Tremolo (59:45), and Mimiq Doubler (1:10:35).
Along the way Tore tells bits of the history behind TC, shares his experience in scrapping and crafting pedals, and gives some insight into the way his design and engineering team are thinking outside of the stompbox. Here’s my take on just three ways—among many—that Tore and TC have innovated the parameters of what a guitar pedal is and impacted the gear industry.
TonePrint: The Endless Library of Custom Pedals
We’ve all been captivated by custom and signature gear from time to time. An amp, guitar, or pedal developed in partnership with a favorite guitarist that captures their iconic tone. But what if your pedal hardware was not bound to one signature sound and even allowed you to create your own truly custom settings? There’s an app for that. In case you haven’t heard, it’s called TonePrint.
As Tore commented, “As pedal designers, we make so many choices for the customers,” yet the inklings of TonePrint came from the bold idea of turning the tables. Tore recalled thinking in the pre-Toneprint days, “What if we could actually change that? What if you could actually dial it in exactly the way you wanted instead?” This was the concept that birthed the entire TonePrint platform and resulted in an ever-growing library of artist-designed sounds locked and loaded on the app and endless possibilities for every user to create their own signature effect pedal using the TonePrint editor software. So that’s what it is, but how does it work?
In telling the story of TonePrint, Tore reminded us that some of the best new technology is based on vintage tech. Remember that old sound of 56k dial-up modems? Or older still, early TV remotes that dispatched signals to change channels using different audio tones? As Tore explained, the sound made by your smartphone when beaming a TonePrint through your pick-ups is really no different. The sound you hear when you beam a tone print is in effect all of the data of an individual TonePrint’s parameters encoded as magnetic-field frequencies. This data is then transmitted by the magnetic field of the pick-up, received by the pedal, and then loaded into the digital interface tucked away within.
If the mobile app software solution of TonePrint wasn’t enough of a game-changer, wait until you meet the hardware innovation that is Mash.
More Magnets, Mash, and the Evolution of the Footswitch
One of the biggest news headlines in the gear world in recent months was TC’s launch of pedals with a pressure sensitive footswitch that enabled on-the-fly control over parameters in the effect. Meet “Mash.” Not wasting any time, Tore took Mash right to the top of the roster of TC crowd favorites and front-end loaded it into the Hall of Fame and Flashback Delay.
At face value the Mash footswitch looks like your standard fare on/off switch. But what lies beneath is a magical mix of magnets and rubber gaskets that translate pressure applied to the switch into distances in the magnetic field, resulting in an expression pedal-like item already onboard. Simple yet innovative, dynamic and responsive, and practical beyond belief.
As Tore described using the example of the Flashback Delay, “depending on which type of delay you choose it will do different things.” When set to tape delay, the depressing the mash switch cranks the feedback to max and then delay times change depending on pressure applied. This “will give you that classic self-oscillating spaceship sound.” When partnered with TonePrint editor, the Mash switch can be set to any parameter of your choosing and the customization extends even as far as allowing you to moderate intensity of the effected sound by tailoring pressure levels.
In short, the Mash technology rolled out by TC Electronic represents a huge step forward in stompbox hardware as well as opens up entirely new ways for users to engage in deep customization via the TonePrint editor software.
If you’re at all like me, you spend a lot of time curating your pedal collection, trying them in various combinations, and laying awake at night thinking about the problems and prospects of intermingling the analog and digital aspects of your rig. I slept a little better last night thanks to Tore’s explanation of how TC optimizes the potential of digital pedal effects while retaining the integrity of the guitar’s native analog signal.
You’ve probably heard the term “analog-dry-through” to describe the signal path of select guitar pedals. But what exactly does this mean for what transpires under the hood of your stompbox? Dan & Mick put Tore on the spot and asked for an explanation of this design approach.
As Tore described, when pedals are put in between a guitar and amp there is the potential to affect the signal due to the introduction of added stages of circuitry. “When you have digital pedals…as soon as you turn them on, a lot of pedals basically turn your entire signal into zeroes and ones…The idea of turning your lovely analog signal into zeroes and ones doesn’t make me happy.” Tore and TC, however, make the best of both worlds: “Even when the pedal is on, we basically only take the wet part of the signal and convert it to digital. The dry part, always remains analog even when the pedal is on.” So, in the case of the Flashback delay, for example, the front note that is amplified is 100% pure, old school analog (i.e., the dry signal), while the echoes pinging into the background are the digital renditions and modulations of that original note (i.e., the wet signal).
In addition to the tonal benefit of this design, Tore underscored the plus of analog/digital designs for limiting the latency that can result in pedals that do full conversions of the entire signal. “Converting something from analog to digital, and then back from digital to analog again, will actually take a little time.” While this miniscule gap would be nearly unrecognizable with a single pedal, multiple full digital pedals stacked in a chain would multiply the necessary conversions resulting in a latency to the sound and felt in the fingers. Added to this, analog-digital-analog conversions can introduce an unwanted white-noise.” With analog-dry-through TC Electronic pedals, you get the benefit of both worlds without the latency or hum and hiss.
That’s just a few soundbites of the Tore’s feature on TPS. Be sure to check out the full episode for yourself and to browse through the full array of TC Electronic pedals over at Riff City.
TPS Rig Rundown:
Amps: Fender Hot Rod Deluxe; Hamstead Artist 20+ RT.Guitars: 1963 Closet Classic Fender Telecaster (ca. 2000); 1958 Gibson Custom Les Paul Standard (ca. 2002); 1962 American Vintage Fender Stratocaster (ca. 2000); Collings 290 DC S.