TC Electronic Flashback X4 Delay – review

The TC Electronic Flashback X4 Delay is one serious unit.

TC Electronic’s Tone Print series of pedals have been hugely popular with musicians all around the world. The Flashback Delay has been one of their top models, but as anyone who is a delay aficionado knows, one delay is never enough! TC Electronic were on the case and late last year they released the Flashback X4 Delay. I’ve had this pedal sitting in my studio for a few months now, and I think I’ve finally gathered the courage to try and review this absolute beast of a pedal.

The Flashback X4 offers 16 different delay types with three programmable presets, tap tempo and 40 second looping functionality. For Tone Print users there are four banks in which to store your favourite TonePrints. The effects can be adjusted via the Delay Time, Feedback, and Delay Level controls, and there is a control for Looper Level when you switch from Delay to Looper mode. You can switch between true and buffered bypass settings, and can also allow delay tails when you switch the effect off. Like all TC Electronic pedals, the Flashback X4 is built like a brick, with high quality tough enclosure, switches, jack and controls. You wont be able to run this on batteries, not that you would want to though. TC Electronic have provided a nine volt adapter, but you can use your own nine volt negative tipped supply if you like.

With such a large variety of tones and features available, plus Tone Prints it can be a bit hard to test every one completely. In this review I’ll be testing primarily the delay types that appeal to me the most, and can find a place in my regular song writing and playing. As per most of my reviews I’ll be testing the Flashback X4 through my Blackstar HT-5 head with 1 X 12″ Celestion Vintage 30 loaded cabinet.

I use a couple of delay sounds for music with my band. A large repeat digital delay to create a sound-scape for one song in particular, and a BBD style analogue delay for several lead guitar parts. I typically use two different pedals to achieve these tones to my liking. My first challenge was to try and get similar sounds from the Flashback X4.

The “2290” mode, based off the now legendary TC Electronic 2290 Dynamic Digital Delay, was perfect for the lush sound-scape I was after. It’s clear cut digital reproductions of every chord and note I was playing, and the ability to hit near infinite loops of sound provided the exact sound I was looking for. Each run of delayed tones responded well to nuances in my picking.

For my analogue delay tones I actually use a proper BBD  (Bucket Brigade Device) analogue delay for those classic dirty repeats. When I’m not stepping on a wah pedal for my solos I have the analogue delay to spice up the sound and help it jump out of the mix. The “Analog”mode was the obvious option to pull off this sound, as it’s supposed to be a faithful recreation of the now legendary BBD delay tone. It certainly didn’t disappoint. Chords and notes degrade in a beautiful way that just sounds so close true BBD analogue delay, and you can also have fun tweaking the controls to get those crazy sci-fi sounds.

Another one of my favourite options on the Flashbback X4 is the “Analog with Mod” setting. This gives you the same basic analogue delay as the “Analog” option, with an added touch of subtle modulation.

Truth be told all of the delay modes built into the Flashback  X4 sound amazing, and no matter what sort of music you like to make there will be at least a few options that will appeal to you. But it isn’t just the built in delay modes that make the Flashback X4 so amazing. The TonePrint functionality is what takes the Flashback X 4 to a whole other level.

The Flashback X4 has four TonePrint banks to store your favourite settings too. There are two ways of loading them into a pedal, via your computer and a usb cable, or through the TonePrint iOS and Andriod apps for your smartphone or tablet. I chose to test the loading of TonePrints through my iPhone, and was really impressed by how simple it was to do. Just select one of the TonePrint banks on the pedal, and beam the TonePrint from the iOS app, through your guitar’s pickup. The “Tap” LED flashes green when you are successful.

Switching from Delay mode to Looper mode, the Flashback X4 becomes a very powerful looping pedal with an easy to use interface. The preset and tap tempo switches become record, play and pause, play once and undo./redo switches. These are all simple to use, and with the ability to add or remove delay effects to your liking via the delay level it all becomes very powerful for those interested in creating lush sounds.

With both true bypass and buffered bypass switching, with and without delay tails, you can configure the Flashback X4 exactly to your liking. All settings sound great with no tone suck what so ever. There are two micro switches under the back plate on the back of the circuit board that allow you to set these parameters. It’s great having this available to users, but there is one problem. To open the back plate you need to have the correct Torx wrench to open it. These aren’t the sort of tools most people just happen to have lying around, so it probably would have been better if TC Electronic used regular screws for the back plate, or even better, had the switches someone externally so users didn’t have to worry about opening anything. Really though, that’s the only complaint I could make about the pedal.

The Flashback X4 has pretty much everything a musician could want built into this package, things that I couldn’t put to test personally. If you use a stereo rig, or like to have MIDI sync clock or switching capabilities, or even have an external expression pedal the Flashback X4 gives you the power to use any or all of these.

Overall the TC Electronic Flashback X4 Delay is one hell of a pedal. Its rock solid construction, combined with endless easy to use features makes it perfect for those of you who are like me, and love delay tones. TC Electronic have managed to put together some amazing delay effects, along with a fantastic easy to use looper that any musician would be able to use right out of the box. There is just so much packed into this amazing box that I haven’t even been able to uncover in this review. So if you are looking at getting yourself a powerful delay pedal that can do more than your mind could even think of coming up with you owe it to yourself to try this pedal out.

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