Tore, with TC's Nova System, a floor-based multi-effects processor.
Even though TC Electronic has made guitar products for 30 years, you could say the Danish company is in the process of getting back
into the guitar business. Known primarily for high quality gear that you are more likely to see rack-mounted in a studio rather than on stage, the company’s focus is shifting a bit. TC is putting its high-end sound on the floor, giving guitarists feature-packed boxes o’ tone that offer new and classic sounds along with the kind of variable control that TC is known for. We had a chance to talk with TC Electronic’s Tore Mogensen about the company’s Nova line of effects.
A lot of companies are catering to players who value simplistic designs – making guitars and pedals with a single knob. Obviously you guys are going for something way different.
We’re a high tech company. I don’t see us doing super-simple pedals with the same kind of conviction and credibility as somebody like Analog Man or other more traditional companies. What we’re known for, and what we have credibility in doing, is making pedals that have a lot of options, but at the same time are pretty easy to use.
Our idea for the Nova pedals was to make them simple to use overall, but once you start stretching out beneath the surface and you actually open up the manual and read it, you’ll see that there are all these hidden things that will actually make life easier for you. You’ll discover some cool little things that you’ll want to use. And if you just wanted to use it like a regular pedal, you can do that as well.
One thing that comes to mind is the Audio Tapping feature in the Nova Delay - it lets you set a delay tempo by holding down the tap tempo switch while you play a rhythm into it. It’s very simple and there are many ways to control it. How did that develop?
It really came from trying a lot of pedals. Particularly if you wanted to have rhythmic delays, or specifically if you wanted to play a U2 song or something like that, and you wanted to have the delay and tempo, it’s often pretty hard to tap and tempo accurately if it’s pretty fast. We’ve spent all this time practicing, playing, and having a steady right hand, and so as guitar players, we’re really trained to precise with our hands, not our feet.
So we started thinking, “How hard can it be?” It took a little time to perfect, but once our engineers got the basic thing going, it was mainly a matter of tweaking it so it worked properly. I think it works really great, especially for faster rhythms that you can’t really tap, and for when the drummer does the counting, you can just tap the tempo without anybody listening because the pedal mutes it at the same time. That was sort of the idea behind all this – if the drummer’s doing his countdown, you just tap in the tempo and nobody knows.
I would think some people are intimidated by TC in general, or even the Nova pedals specifically. There are an awful lot of knobs and switches involved.
The Nova Delay looks a little bit like a rack processor, so it might be a little intimidating if you’re used to two regular pedals without a lot of LEDs, auto-increments of seven seconds, and all that stuff. That’s actually one of the reasons we wanted to do the manual mode of the pedals. We discussed whether to even include presets, but we figured with the amount of options and possibilities, the presets are good to have in there.
We want to maintain the feeling that it’s just a pedal. There are a lot of pedal guys who just want to have instant access to the knobs and that “what you see is what you hear” vibe, and that’s where the manual mode comes in. If you just want to use them as regular pedals, it’s really easy to do. You can get some good results by setting everything at 12 o’clock.
Talk about the Dynamics pedal. In a nutshell, what does it do?
Well, it’s a pretty special pedal. Initially we just wanted to do a compression pedal because even though a lot of guys don’t typically associate TC with compression and dynamics, it’s actually one of the areas we’ve spent the most time researching, and have had a lot of success with in other areas of the music business. We really wanted to take some of that experience and knowledge and apply it to guitar.
The basic idea actually was to make a new kind of compression for guitar because the typical guitar compressor is a full-band compressor. What always annoys me when I play guitar, and I like to use a bit of compression, is that it’s really hard to get a nice compression that sounds uniform over all the strings because you have a lot more energy in the lower strings. So if you set the threshold of the compressor to sound nice for the lower strings then you have almost no compression for the higher strings, or vice versa.
So what we really wanted to do was find a way to get a more uniform compression that could be used both for the typical guitar use – squashing the hell out of it for nice country and funk playing – but also to get more of a mastering or studio kind of sound where you just sort of tighten up and get a sound that just sounds better with the pedal on. It’s not something you entirely notice, it just feels a little better to play and the sound is a little tighter and more focused.
We wanted to be able to do both, and we sort of figured we could do something like that based on multi-band compression technology, which is basically three compressors running at the same time in the background tuned for different frequencies. So we set out with this crazy pedal where you have to tune everything in the compressor yourself – frequencies, thresholds and stuff. After we tested it, we figured that it was way too much.
So even though the Dynamics pedal is complicated for a guitar compressor, it actually started out even more complicated. What we ended up with is a pedal that looks basically like a regular studio compressor, but when you’re tuning them on the one compressor, one threshold, one attack knob, and so on, you’re really tuning three compressors in the background with some presets that we’ve set up so they’re moving in different ratios.