Quintessential '70s effects reborn
By Ara Ajizian
Given all of the company's success with rack processors and other digital goodies, it's easy to forget that TC Electronic started off as a small stompbox company in 1976. Fed up with the poor performance and sound quality of the day's effects pedals, brothers Kim and John Rishoj formed the company and began a line of what would become legendary effects pedals. By focusing on the science behind effects, the brothers were able to up the ante when it came to shaping guitar tones. More than 30 years later, TC Electronic has re-introduced three of these gems as the Classic Series—the Classic Sustain + Parametric EQ, the Classic Booster + Distortion, and the Classic TC XII Phaser.
Keeping It Real
When I made the jump from bass to guitar a few years ago, the first thing I did was invest in an amp that delivers superb sound unmolested. Over time, I've experimented with different effects, but found that many pedals produce their desired effect at the expense of the amp's natural tone. I'd heard that the original TC pedals had a level of transparency that was unparalleled, so I was excited to see if these reissues lived up to the reputation of the originals.
First, let's take a look at the Classic Sustain + Parametric EQ ($299 street). By including parametric EQ controls, this pedal lets you target its studio-quality compression to the exact frequencies you're looking to beef up (or tone down). With this pedal, it's easy to tame specific areas that get a little too dynamic—something that you can't always do with a standard compressor.
The Classic Sustain + Parametric EQ is extremely versatile, allowing for a quick, concise boost for soloing, or for achieving percussive effects that accent picking patterns. Another nice feature is the built-in noise gate, which effectively squashes noise from other pedals in your chain, or puts the kibash on excessive feedback.
The more I play, the more I learn the importance of dynamics to any guitarist's sound. With this pedal, highlighting exactly what you want to stand out is simple, and your amp's true tone won't be undermined in the process.
Best of the Boost
The Classic Booster + Distortion ($299 street) is multitalented as well. As a straight-up distortion box, its sound is easily tailored to match your amp's strong points. I own an early-'80s-era Fender Dual Showman amp that lacks an overdrive channel, but delivers one of the sweetest clean sounds I've heard. With the Classic Booster + Distortion, I was able to dial in crunchy rhythm tones and sizzling lead sounds without sacrificing what I love about the amp's natural voice—the warmth and richness of its clean sound was simply transitioned to a dirtier one.
As a booster, the Classic Booster + Distortion can provide that extra kick in the pants your sound may need, whether it's to push your preamp section for a hotter sound, or to boost your signal level due to signal-sucking effects in your chain. With my Marshall TSL602 combo, I used it to create a pseudo-fourth channel, adding just a light bit of break up on the clean channel. A quick turn of the treble control and I was able to fine-tune it to a mildly overdriven, jangly, Stones-ish sound. Beefing up the bass end delivered a rounder, smokier tone similar to Stevie Ray Vaughan's on his version of "Little Wing." With additional distortion and output level controls, as well as a noise gate, finding the right level and intensity of sonic distortion is a breeze.
It's Not Just A Phase
The third pedal in the Classic Series is the TC XII Phaser ($299 street). Everyone is familiar with the swirling, psychedelic goodness of this type of effect, but the TC XII delivers so much more thanks to its extensive set of control parameters.
A simple toggle switch lets you choose either four, eight, or 12 filters (phase stages). Being able to select between these three levels essentially gives you three pedals in one—most phaser pedals come preset to four or six stages. To have one that gives you the versatility of four, eight, and 12 is a definite bonus.
Set to 4 filters, the phase effect is very subtle, but still pronounced enough to let you know it's there. Moving the switch up to eight creates a thicker effect, and is the setting I found myself at most often. For the ultimate in syrupy phasing, flick the switch to the 12 position. At this setting, the pedal goes into high gear, giving an auto-wah vibe to the effect.
As a family, the Classic Series pedals all boast rugged construction—all metal chassis, concise controls, and secure input/output jacks. The switches are solid as well, and there's no mistaking when they're on and off thanks to the bright white LED indicator. All three pedals run on either a 9v battery or a negative-tip AC power supply (not included). All are true bypass, so when they're off, they're off.
What I liked best about the Classic Series pedals was their phenomenal transparency. If you love your sound, and you've worked hard to get the tone you need to express yourself, these effects deliver what they promise without mucking that up. Another item worth noting is the controls on these pedals all operate within a usable range. It's not like with some pedals, where maybe 1/2 of the dial gives you something to work with, and the rest of the way you get gobbledygook.
TC Electronic has succeeded brilliantly in bringing three of their most sought-after effects from the '70s back to life. If you're looking for pedals that deliver professional-quality effects that won't compromise your sound, I highly recommend the Classic Series.
Classic Sustain + Parametric EQ
Classic Booster + Distortion
Classic TC XII Phaser
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