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Chances are you’ve owned or at least played a Boss pedal at some point in your guitar-playing career. One of my first pedals was the venerable DS-1 which I used to distort some painfully harsh solid-state amplifier into a cacophony akin to a paint can full of bees. I sold the amp long ago, but the DS-1 is still around and working despite innumerable teenage beatings. Whether you’ve grown to love them or drifted away from their products in a fit of boutique fixation, Boss pedals remain some of the sturdiest and most effective stomps on the market.
2013 marks the release of the 100th Boss compact pedal, the TE-2 Tera Echo. And appropriately, it’s a pretty forward-looking stompbox. It’s not entirely a delay, nor is it entirely a reverb. Instead, the Tera Echo is an amalgam of effects that takes a cool detour from the normal single-effect Boss pedal and goes in some different sonic directions. And by using the company’s new MDP (multi-dimensional processing), Boss has made the TE-2 an especially dynamic delay, reverb, and modulation box that will satisfy adventurous guitarists, as well as the ambient crowd.
That Old Boss Magic
Not much has changed in the Boss enclosure department over the years, and that’s because they got it right the first time. You know the look—the footswitch pad is big and well out of the way of the controls which are securely mounted to the faceplate. A 9V adaptor may be used to power up the unit, but a 9V battery is included too, and is easily accessed under the footpad. The TE-2 is about the weight of most compact Boss pedals and will sit securely on the floor or fit on a board with a little Velcro.
The Tera Echo has four easy-to-use and fairly intuitive controls for dialing in the ethereal colors within. The wet/dry mix is changed with E. Level, which can completely cut out the effect or camouflage your original signal under a clamorous haze. Tone delivers a darker, bassier response when you turn it counterclockwise and a sharper, more cutting output when you turn the knob clockwise. Feedback sets the tail length of the effect and S-Time (spread time) alters the effect duration.
The final piece of the puzzle is the freeze function that is activated by holding down the footpad. Once it’s engaged, the LED will flash and the residual echoes from your last notes will indefinitely repeat and you can then play over the top normally.
One of the feature attractions of the Tera Echo is its ability to produce heavy swells and big space-rock crescendos. But to really explore the functionality of this box, I started with most of the controls dialed down to a minimum and discovered some very cool, more understated sounds. I left all the TE-2 parameters around noon and dropped the E. Level to 10 o’clock. With the wet signal mixed at this ratio, most of the cosmic theatrics are present but very subtle, and you’re left with a lush echoed reverb with a little shimmer that harkens back to the sound of earlier Interpol records. Arpeggiated picking takes on extra saturation and notes glow with an animated quality that really reacts to your playing. It’s here you start to hear the MDP in play—harder picking accents the modulated aspects of the delay, while lighter attack reduces modulation presence to a subtle wash.
Kicking up the E. Level will, of course, bring more effect to the table, and pushing it past noon is where things start to get interesting. Set the pedal up for signal splits and multiple modulations, for instance, and the single-coil, chiming echoes of a Telecaster will pitch-shift until they wind down lower into a bubbling cauldron. Fast volume swells will rise with an expressive surge along the lines of Mogwai, or Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Pushing Feedback and S-Time into extreme regions yields lengthy, cavernous trails that can get out of hand if you don’t watch your levels. These types of freakouts are better suited for cleaner, high-wattage amplifiers that more effectively distribute a wide range of frequencies, and moving from a Telecaster and 15-watt Vox to a Les Paul and Fender Bassman opened up explorations of the headier, wilder soundscapes you can create with the TE-2.
Once Feedback hits 4 o’clock, you’ll have a near-infinite loop that swells drastically in volume. If the S-Time is dialed low, the incoming signal sounds like a tsunami rushing through your speakers, and you’ll have to turn it back fast or risk blowing your eardrums. With an increased S-Time, the babble gets very robotic, like a slightly rounded square wave. Luckily you can kill the feedback by turning off the pedal, and the delays will trail off.
The freeze function is a great addition that can be applied to many live situations. The E. Level and S-Time primarily affect this feature, although higher feedback levels enable you to snare and hold a cool bubbling surge. Such freezes are harder to capture and difficult to replicate, but they’re awesome in song climaxes when you want to noodle over weirder or more ethereal textures. And if you really nail the technique, you might not need that synth player after all.
The TE-2 Tera Echo will find favor among players who like their time-based effects tweakable and powerful. In the most basic applications, the TE-2 is a stout reverb you could use in any situation. The pedal’s most extreme sounds, though, could land you knee-deep in a noise-rock project. In between the craziest modulation and the subtlest effects, however, there are plenty of useful sounds for unique sonic explorations. The sound quality is excellent, it handles all pickups equally well, and the tone knob is powerful enough to tailor the peal for just about any rig or stage situation. And while the Tera Echo may not become a staple effect like the DD-3 or DS-1, it seems destined to become one of those Boss effects that stirs up a cult of players who can’t live without it.
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