Rarely have I been this bombarded with questions about a pedal that just hit the market. The new Alter Ego delay is a collaboration between TC Electronics and Pro Guitar Shop designed as an alternative to the already hugely popular Flashback delay with a couple of new additions that caught the attention of us Gilmour fans. Here’s my review.
One thing that always brings out the sceptic in me is when products are so clearly branded or made for a specific audience. Using Pink Floyd throughout the ad and pictures of David with his Binson is a cheap marketing trick for sure and no doubt that TC and PGS knows this. However, I’ve always had a great respect for TC Electronics. It’s one of the few companies that makes pedals that it’s hard to find anything wrong with. Also, the guys over at PGS are serious when it comes to good tone.
The Alter Ego is basically a Flashback with two new presets based on a Binson Echorec II and an Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man. Two classic analog delays that has put their unique stamp on countless recordings. The Alter Ego is housed in the same chassis as the Flashback with the same controls for delay (time), regen (repeats), mix and effect mode. There’s also a three-position mini toggle switch for subdivisions. The pedal has true bypass switching and runs on Boss-style 9v adapter. It’s also Toneprint enabled although I don’t think there’s any features for this yet (mine didn’t come with a manual, so I’m not sure how this works).
Soundwise, the Alter Ego (or Flashback) is a top end delay pedal with a dead silent circuit. There are 11 modes for multiple tones ranging from pristine, studio quality digital delay to classic analog sounding tape warble. An excellent choice when you need different tones for the set and not least, it fits right into a cramped pedal board. But the interesting thing about the Alter Ego is the new Binson and Memory Man settings.
Binson Echorec II (ER)
I have to admit that I was quite disappointed at first. Perhaps my expectations was too high but the Binson mode has too much modulation for my taste and I still find it hard to get a decent Gilmour tone on a clean signal. Those haunting, almost reverb-like tones just isn’t there. Obviously, it’s hard to do justice to such a complex effect like the Binson with just three controls. If it one day comes to design a dedicated Binson pedal, I hope they see the need for a control controlling the amount of modulation.
Now, that being said, the Binson mode isn’t made entirely with David’s tones in mind. As the presentation says, the tone is based on PGS’ own Binson unit that has a distinct tape warble. Problem for me, is that the warble sounds a bit artificial, which isn’t surprising since these old units have an organic tone that changes from day to day. Anyway, the effect really comes alive when you add a loud tube amp and a screaming fuzz. At 300ms the warble melts into the sound of the guitar and fuzz and creates a huge ambience. You can really hear those classic Dark Side and Pompeii tones pouring out of the speakers! It’s also possible to get a pretty convincing multiple head effect for the intro on Time.
Soundclips recorded with a Fender Strat (Fender CS69 neck and mid and Duncan SSL-5 bridge pickups) into a Laney Cub12 with a BK Butler Tube Driver and MJM London Fuzz (red, germanium) mic’ed with a Shure SM57 slightly off center 8″ inches away from cone.
Deluxe Memory Man (DMM)
I’ve always been a huge fan of the Memory Man. There’s something about that dark, muddy decay that no other delay unit has managed to replicate. Again, the effect has a bit too much modulation for my taste (I’ve never used the featured chorus on the Memory Man) but it’s much more subtle than the Binson setting.
Personally I like the Memory Man setting better than the Binson. It’s closer to what I associate with the original effect and it works better for my tones. It has warm, smooth repeats and just a hint of modulation that instantly reminds me of The Edge. While the Binson sounds great with fuzz the Memory Man handles the cleans and milder overdrives (as well as fuzz tones).
TC 2290 Digital Delay (2290)
The 2290, TC’s legendary delay unit, is also featured in the Flashback and by no means new but it’s worth mentioning in terms of David’s tones. The 2290 has been one of David’s main delay units since 1987. The studio quality repeats are hard to match and perfect for the more modern Gilmour sounds and just about anything else. It might be difficult to dial in accurate settings for songs like Another Brick (part 1) and Run Like Hell without any display but a marker pen will do the job.
So, is the Alter Ego worth it? For a reasonable $165.00 you’ll get an incredibly versatile delay unit loaded with all the tones you’ll need for your pedal board. This is not a David Gilmour delay pedal and it was never meant to be either but rather a very enthusiastic project between TC and PGS. You could very well just buy the Flashback but the new Binson and Memory Man features are a nice bonus. In terms of more authentic tape delay you can’t really beat a vintage Deluxe Memory Man. There are also a wide range of great sounding units with more controls and tone options like the TRex Replica, Boss RE-20 Space Echo, Empress Vintage Modified Superdelay etc.