Thursday, May 24, 2007

Eventide Timefactor Sneak Peek

Today I got some to spend some advance-release time with a prototype of Eventide's long-anticipated Timefactor delay stomp box. As you can see by the photo, it still has labeling stickers on it prior to the screenprinting that the shipped version will have.

Eventide is known in the pro audio world for its high-end Harmonizer effects processors and plug-ins. The last thing most of us ever expected from them was a stomp box. But sure enough, at this year's Winter NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show, Eventide elicited a collective "whoa" from observers who marvelled at their first foray into this realm.

The Timefactor is a twin delay stompbox featuring two completely independent delays, each capable of three seconds. And it has ten distinctly different stereo effects: Digital Delay, Vintage Digital Delay, Tape Echo, Modulated Delay, Ducked Delay, Band Delay, Filter Pong, Multitap Delay, Reverse Delay, and Looper.

With both instrument and line level inputs, the box is not only ideal for guitarists, but also keyboard players, home studios, and even touring front-of-house engineers for whom space is at a premium.

Originally slated for a March release, the pedal has been undergoing continued refinement with input from a handful of users on the road. One of these is the band Blonde Redhead, who will forever have the distinction of giving the Timefactor its television debut just last week on the Conan O'Brien show. Also offering beta testing input is the band Ours, whose guitar player is ridding himself of his two Line 6 DL4's - one each at the beginning and end of his signal chain - in favor of a couple of Timefactors.

Some of the changes that have taken place with these musicians' input include: the preset scrolling has changed from a set rate to one every tap, and bank selection (which used to happen on release of the button) is now on the press. Seemingly little concessions like that are actually pretty involved re-engineering tasks, but Eventide clearly wants the best possible product, even at the expense of pushing back production by a couple of months.

I have no doubt that this will be the DL4 of the next decade. As soon as I heard it the first time, the first word I thought was, "Clean." This pedal sounds VERY clean. And I don't mean in a sterile, digital way, because the digital conversion doesn't sound like digital conversion. And the great thing is that the analog-sounding effects are just that: analog-sounding. This is the most studio-quality stomp box I've ever heard.

It's also completely usable. The program changes are instantaneous - essential for live use - and there are 27 user presets to customize your settings.

And what can I say about the sounds? You just have to hear this thing. But here are some highlights:

- The Timefactor's tape delay is beautiful. Hearkening back to the early days of the 60's tape echo, I was stunned by how genuine it sounded. Very analog, and very practical.

- Ever since the 80's over-use of chorused guitar (think Prince and The Police), I've tended to shy away from its use. But the Timefactor's chorus invited me in, captivating me with its understated beauty. It's just plain dreamy.

- Band delay allows only certain frequencies to be repeated, in a fully-customizable pattern, creating an effect much like a wah pedal, but far more complex. Great for unique special effects.

- The multi-tap delay makes for a great reverb sound. It's very much like the old spring reverbs we used to have in guitar amps years ago. A perfect emulation of that "Wipe Out" surf tone, and not digital sounding at all.

- The looper function features a sound quality that can't be touched by the JamMan or the BOSS RC-2. There is no discernible "degenerated and recorded" sound like the other loopers have.

- Another great thing about the Timefactor is that the knobs feel good and respond with a very natural and organic feel.

The only halfway negative aspect I can mention about this unit is the reverse delay. As with any delay box that does reverse, there's just no substitute for running tape backwards and adding the effect on, so that when played forwards, every sound comes in with the suction of a vacuum cleaner. There's no exception here - the reverse delay really wasn't too convincing. However, on its own, the effect made for some great ethereal sounds. Just don't expect to recreate any of Jimi Hendrix's cool backwards solos.

In summation, the Timefactor is simply awesome. I'm thoroughly impressed.