TC Electronic’s Flashback X4 is a combo pedal, offering a wide array of delay types with a looper and as demonstrated in the YouTube video below:
TC Electronic is known for its quality delays and the company brings its best in Flashback X4. You get 12 delay types, starting with Tape, which has a very vintage and widely popular tone. Tube is slightly warmer than Tape. Space has rich echo sounds based on the Roland Space Echo. Analog produces a nice fading echo, while Analog with Modulation adds some swirls in the mix. Reverse is based on the old Hendrix experimentation, reversing a tape delay signal. Dynamic is unique, as the delay swells in volume when you stop playing and reduces while playing. 2290 is a vintage TC Electronic delay from 1985, producing a crisp and clean echo – while the 2290 with Modulation adds a tri-chorus effect in the mix. Slap produces that vintage slap-back echo, reminiscent of Scotty Moore and Chet Atkins. Lofi has a (well… lo-fi) tone that sounds dirty. Finally Ping-Pong shifts the echo back and forth from left to right (cool when running your gear in stereo, although it sounds great in mono). The overall quality of sound is obvious and pristine; whether keeping the effect low or high in the mix both the guitar signal and the delay are audible and separate. What also is cool is that you can edit and create unique delays (and save them in three presets) or upload TonePrint delays, which are delays designed for TC Electronic and by professional musicians like Petrucci, Morse and Townsend.
TC Electronic is known for its delay pedals, and so you know you have quality on your pedal board. However, the Flashback X4 is not the most pedal-board-friendly, since it has a second function – a looper. Gigging musicians may opt for the Flashback Mini (if not wanting to store a preset or a TonePrint) or the Flashback (regular) or Flashback 2, both of which can save at least one presets/TonePrint. However, even with the added size of the Flashback X4 if you’re looking for a delay that offers three presets that can be accessed with footswitches, as well as another four TonePrints, upward of 7000ms of delay and have access to the many delay types (that you set manually), then you would be hard pressed to find a better and more complete option… all at a price of $249 USD. What also makes this version of Flashback useful is the MIDI in/out, stereo capabilities and being able to use an expression pedal for some unique and ambient effects. The Flashback X4 does come with its own power supply, but you can use any 2.1 mm 9v-12v supply that gives at least 300mA of power.
EASE OF USE
The first part of the Flashback X4 is the DELAY. Three factory presets are included at the footswitches, which you can change and save. The other delays (e.g., Tape, Tube, Space, etc.) and all their elements are “what you see is what you get.” For example, you can select Tape delay and from there you turn a knob to select Delay Time (unless you use the Tap temp function), Feedback (or how many repeats you get) and Delay Level (how much you want to hear the delay, e.g., the mix between dry and wet). This is very straight-forward stuff. There’s also a Subdivision Selector so that you can chose the note intervals that the delay is based upon (e.g., quarter note, dotted eighths or quarter notes + dotted eighths). It doesn’t take long to set these and to know where to set them, although it depends if you want a hint of delay or a lot and how much feedback, etc. (and once you find what you like, simply save them in the footswitch presets).
Use of the TonePrints (uploading them more particularly), or creating your own unique delays/TonePrints is more involved, but not that difficult to apply. Users first would download the free TonePrint Editor and hook up the Flashback X4 via USB (cable included) to a computer… or you can use a SmartPhone and stream the information to the pedal. Once in the editor you can select from dozens of custom TonePrints from world-class musicians… you can edit them or create your own from scratch in the editor and then save those in the presets or in the four TonePrint slots (located with the delay type selections). This also brings us to the use of an expression pedal. When using such a pedal to create unique delay effects, you can apply different elements to the pedal. For example, you can create a delay time swell, from 200ms to 1000ms… you can increase the amount of modulation in the mix, or perhaps alter the Feedback or the Delay Level… or all the above.
The second part of the X4 is the LOOPER, activated with a flip of a switch and while still able to access the various delay types (with other loopers you still need a delay effects pedal) so that whatever you record includes delay. However, you do not have access to the presets, since the footswitches now have different functions when working the Looper. You can add as many dubs or layers to your loop (up to 40 seconds of record time) simply by pressing the REC footswitch, and each one can have a different delay type and mix. Once you press REC a second time the recording stops and the loop plays continuously until you press the Play/Pause footswitch – also, you would have to press REC again to start another dub. If you don’t like a recording you press the UNDO/REDO switch (obviously pressing it again will REDO the recording … and holding it down for a few seconds wipes out the Loop and all its layers). There’s a ONCE footswitch, which is useful if you stop soloing and want the loop to play one last time before ending. One thing you should be aware of is that the Looper does not save any recordings… once you turn off the Flashback X4 you lose what you recorded.
RELIABILITY & DURABILITY
TC Electronic’s Flashback X4 is a hefty piece of technology, encased in steel. The company did not skimp on the quality of the housing, that much is obvious. The footswitches are soft-click-based and all solid to the touch. The footswitches are spaced apart well enough that it’s unlikely you will double-click anything. The footswitches also are far removed from the heavy black plastic knobs, large enough that you likely could rotate them with a foot (with the exception of the delay selector, which clicks in place). The two switches on the front (Subdivision Selector, e.g., eighth notes, full notes, and the Delay/Looper switch) are small and located between larger knobs, and so they are well protected from mishaps. All lines (input/output/power/USB/MIDI) are located in the back, to save on pedal board space and to keep unwanted force or pressure away from a stomping foot. You cannot use a battery with the Flashback X4, but a 9v DC power supply that provides at least 300 mA (power chord included or use your own pedal board power supply).