We raved over TC Electronic's original Flashback delay pedal back in issue seven - and now there's a brand new version with even more to offer. But does it still offer the great value for money of its predecessor? Gi was one of the first magazines in the world to get a review sample and Tom Quayle was first in the queue to try it!
At the time we videoed our review of the Flashback X4, the pedal was so new that there was literally no information available about its features or specs. TC Electronic's hugely efficient publicity department had kindly sent us a very early review sample but I had no idea what to expect, other than great sounding delays I always expect from TC, so I went into the experience with a definite sense of excitement!
I wasn't disappointed then, when I opened the box to find a pedal loaded with new features but familiar enough that I could operate it immediately. The X4 is about four times the width of the original Flashback but the same length and depth. Whilst this takes up a larger footprint on your pedal board, the extra features make it more than worthwhile.
Housed in the same style blue aluminium casing as the original, the X4 has four footswitches along the bottom, three of which function in principle as three separate delay units, each of which can store a preset from the myriad of delay options available. The fourth footswitch controls tap tempo functions and keeps the audio tap function of the original unit. Saving a preset is as simple as choosing your delay options and holding down the relevant footswitch until it saves the sound. Recalling the preset requires a simple press of the required footswitch, effectively giving you three delay units in a single footprint.
A small switch converts the Flashback X4 into a fully functioning looper pedal, something that the original unit featured but which was very limited in functionality. The new version has full undo functions, allowing you to delete single layers of audio and will store a loop after you've recorded it for playback later on. You can't save loops but providing you don't switch the unit off, your last recorded loop will be preserved. You can also now use the delay functions of the pedal at the same time as the looper, something that was sorely missing from the smaller pedal.
One of the most exciting features of the X4 is the ability to store up to four Toneprints, as opposed to one on the original Toneprint pedals - hence the name X4. This allows a much greater degree of flexibility and the range of Toneprints is now so vast that you'd be hard pushed to not find some sounds that push your buttons. The range of on-board delays has been expanded too, in the form of Tube and Space modes plus modulated analogue and 2290 variants.
Ins and Outs have been upgraded with the addition of MIDI in and thru, allowing for MIDI control over preset selection and internal parameters plus an expression pedal input. You still get stereo ins and outs plus a USB port for transferring Toneprints and firmware updates. These additions really put the Flashback X4 into the pro-level market, allowing it to be integrated into sophisticated switching units and midi setups for the ultimate control over your delays.
Tonally, the Flashback X4 is everything you expect from TC with beautifully pristine digital delays through to thick modulated analogue repeats and crazy infinite space-type sounds. The ability to select between quarter, eighth and quarter with dotted eighth note rhythms allows for easy textural or rhythmic delays that mimic the sounds of the Edge or Albert Lee. With such a multitude of options you'd be hard pressed not to be inspired by this pedal and the new looper functions push this aspect way beyond the practice tool that it was in the original Flashback into a serious musical addition.
With the original Flashback, TC created a pedal that represented such good value for money that you wondered how it was even possible. The new X4 version makes this question even harder to answer and gives a product that will be really hard for the competition to beat. Superb sounds, flexibility, ease of use and expanded I/O options makes this a very attractive and pro-level delay pedal that is affordable for all but the most budget conscious of players. TC is leading the way once again. I recommend you check one out as soon as you can.