I really wanted to see what the bundle was all about because truly vintage tones are hard to find in pluginland and also because the pedals were quite popular in their day.
The plugins are modeled directly from the original and quite well known 80s TCE stomp boxes which were made in Denmark. The originals are selling for $200-500 or so depending on the condition so having strong plugin versions is great for the market.
The Line Booster / Distortion was a huge deal in it’s day. A lot of metal guitarists used the original pedal as a boost in front of their Marshalls in the 80s. You can also hear the pedal version on several Meshuggah records. I obviously had to try it for old thrash and it really came through for that purpose.
The line boost side of the pedal was also used by many very well known guitarists on clean tones for added grit and hell, even bass players and keyboard players used the original pedal to add some sandpaper to their tone.
You can choose between warming, boosting, driving, full on distorted and other approaches with this plugin but they all have a similar coloring. The unique coloring from the pedal really adds a nice feel and it really does provide a more vintage feeling boost vs. a modern boost.
The plugin really started to come alive when I switched to vintage hard rock and punk tones. Thin Lizzy to Bad Religion and everything between is attainable with the right amp selection. It’s more raw, gritty, loose and scrappy than ultra-tight and modern. It really is a great pedal plugin that represents the original quite well.
On the other side of the pedal, I tried the distortion on clean tones or slightly dirty tones and I really just wasn’t able to pull much that I liked out of it. I am not saying it’s bad, I just didn’t vibe with it.
This EQ plugin is quite good but I am not 100% sure how much use it would get in my barn of plugins. Many effective EQ plugins exist out there and I have a few mainstays so really, I just didn’t know where I would use it in a DAW situation.
In a hardware scenario, I would use an EQ pedal before the amp and there are many ways to do that. Use it before a boost pedal to remove something muddy or add some presence before your signal hits the boost. Or use it after a boost pedal to calm or enhance some of the boost’s qualities.
I gave it a rip in 5-6 different ways and it’s really a plugin/pedal that takes some getting used to. I spent quite some time trying to really get a feel for it but once I did, I could really see the benefits. There’s a nice tone to the EQ even when nearly flat that can warm the signal.
Stereo Chorus + Flanger:
I love a good chorus pedal plugin and I also love vintage chorus pedals so I had high hopes for this one. You can select chorus or flanger and then the controls take over the helm for that effect. I found the controls had a ton of value on both sides of the pedal/plugin. The real deal has been used by John Petrucci, Matthew Bellamy, Eric Johnson, Paul Gilbert and many others so the plugin needed to be strong.
The chorus side of the plugin is really nice. It’s warm, detailed and from the research I have done, it matches up perfectly with the original unit. The chorus has a lot of abilities but I really liked it with a Fender Twin style clean. I also gave it some work subtly to enhance distorted rhythm guitars and see if I could color a bass track with it with both experiments turning out great.
I’ve never really been a big flanger guy, I see the allure and benefits of the effect but I guess I have always looked to phaser effects for modulation instead. I can say the depth in the controls allows for a lot of variations of the effect so it’s easy to set things up as you prefer.
Sustain + Equalizer:
The hardware version of this pedal is a “holy grail” level product. It was designed to give the user miles of sustain when needed but to also be able to enhance certain frequencies. Use it with delay and reverb to create almost E-Bow like sustain. I must have sat there for a good two hours the first time out just playing note after note of long, drawn out Gilmour type solos. It’s a gorgeous effect.
All of the plugins in this series were absolutely nailed but some are more useful than others. This one right here could be one of the more useful plugins out there for lead guitarists partially due to its ability to enhance your tone across a wide range of frequencies and partially because there are so many uses for it. Hold notes for days and use all the modulation, delay, verb and the kitchen sink to make beautiful soundscapes.
The lead guitar applications for the Sustain + EQ plugin are endless but it also worked out great for certain styles of rhythm guitar. Fuzz pedals are kind of like sustainers so I put it to work in front of clean to mid-gain amps. You can create some nice raw, chunky rhythm tones with it if you spend a little time working the pedal and amp together. I had success stacking it with distortion pedals to create fuzzy tones but it wouldn’t be my go-to for it. I also used it with keyboard plugins with a lot of success. Top shelf pedal plugin right here.
TC XII Phaser
The XII Phaser has seen many a stompboard over the years so having the ability to use it in plugin form is truly great. It’s an awesome phaser with a list of uses a mile long and it happens to be a fairly unique take on the effect so I would say it’s a must-have for modulation enthusiasts.
My personal favorite use for phaser is old-school country. Those guys mostly used the Phase 90 and Uni-Vibe from what I understand but this phaser plugin more than handles the job with style. Add some gain and go after some Smashing Pumpkins type leads or EVH textures. It won’t copy those exact tones but it’ll get you most of what you need. I love it on clean tones of almost any type with a number of other effects or on it’s own.
This is one of the two pedals in this series that I had the chance to try in person and this was the only one of the two I really spent time with. The realism here is truly on point and I have used it on several mixes with nice results.
The whole line is strong and the bundle is full of ways to get your tone shaped up in whatever way you choose. I have used three of the plugins often and two of them have become new favorites for me.
The GUI and design across the line of pedals is very well done. They look pretty badass with the scuffs and “stage wear” plus it’s easy to find your way around and dial something in quickly.
The plugins are available only as a bundle and I also feel they’d sell a little better if TCE knocked $20-30 off the price but the bundle does have a ton of value inside it so the retail price is not too crazy.
Find them all here:
TCE product page