Review: Play rock star-created delays with the Flashback X4 Delay
By Jim Galbraith
At a Glance
Can load custom delays created by professional guitarists
A status display would be helpful
In airports, on freeways and when receiving paychecks, delays are things most of us like to avoid. But when making music, a delay can help fatten a sound or provide psychedelic effects.
The Flashback X4 Delay is a stomp box effect pedal that offers the good kind of delay, and in nearly countless varieties. Its coolest trick is that TC Electronic’s TonePrint app lets you choose custom delay settings created by famous guitar players and load them onto the Flashback by holding your iOS or Android device near your guitar’s pickups and beaming the custom TonePrint to the stomp box for immediate use.
The Flashback X4 has 12 types of delay built-in, including Analog, Tape, Tube, Ping Pong, and Reverse. It also has slots reserved for four downloaded TonePrints. It has three large knobs for controlling the time between when the original note is hit and when it is repeated, how many times the note is repeated, and the volume of these repeated notes compared to the original. It has a Tap Tempo button, too, that allows you to tap the speed at which you want the repeats set to.
The Flashback X4 has three foot switches that can be programmed to hold three presets. You can make your own preset by clicking one of the preset switches and choosing one of the 12 types of delays and tweaking the knobs. You can then save your custom preset by clicking off the currently chosen switch and then holding it back down until the switch’s red “active” button blinks green for a second. Once saved, you can fuss around with the knobs, click a switch to a different preset, but if you click back your saved preset, the settings go back to your saved settings and the current knob positions are ignored until you touch one.
The delay type knob also has 4 numbered positions, which can hold any of the dozens of delay presets (known as TonePrints) found in the TC Electronic’s TonePrint app for iOS devices. Many of these TonePrints are designed by famous players like Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Lee Renaldo of Sonic Youth, and Ryan Roxie (who gets a plug because he went to my high school).
If I have one complaint about the Flashback X4, it’s that with so many available delay types and settings, I found it hard to remember which TonePrint was loaded into which slot and which preset is using which delay or TonePrint and with what settings. A small LCD would help a lot for those of us who can’t remember where we parked the car, much less which slot has a Steve Morse TonePrint loaded and which one has the Steve Stevens TonePrint.
The Flashback X4 also has a built-in looper function that lets you record yourself playing (with or without a delay applied) and then play it back to accompany yourself. In looping mode, the A preset button becomes the record button. The B preset button will play back the previously recorded loop over and over, while the C preset button will play back the loop just once. You can stack multiple recordings into a loop by hitting the record button during playback. The Tap button becomes an Undo/Redo button that lets you delete the last part of the loop that you recorded. Hit the button again and you can restore that last part.
I followed the Flashback X4 user manual’s suggested scenario to try the looping features. I first recorded a bass line, then went back and recorded a rhythm part while playing along with the bass track. With those two recorded I added a melody line to the loop. I could play the whole three layer loop, click Undo so the last part recorded (the melody line) dropped out, and then play a solo over the two part loop and then click the Redo button and have the melody line play again. Pretty slick. Unfortunately, the loops can’t be saved to the Flashback. When you turn off the pedal, any recorded loops are erased.
The FlashBack X4 is a ton of fun. It sounds great whether using it as a looper or as a delay. The ability to download custom TonePrint delays from star players is really cool and then beaming them from your iPhone through your guitar pickups to the Flashback X4 is nothing less than geeky greatness.