App-Enabled Effects Pedals: Which One is Right For Me?

Gone are the days when stompbox tweaking meant twisting simple knobs.

Technology is advancing so quickly within the pedal world that the time-honored dispute between analog and digital feels like old news. Some companies are making a name for themselves by marrying digital and analog technology and finding creative ways to provide musicians with an interactive experience unlike any other.

TC Electronic, Eventide and Source Audio are three companies in particular that have embraced digital technology in an innovative way, blurring the lines between pedals and studio-quality effects processing. Each company has released software allowing users never-before-seen editing capabilities via computer, tablet or phone.

Here’s a closer look at the capabilities the TC Electronic’s TonePrint, H9’s Control, and Source Audio’s Neuro apps offer musicians.

TC Electronic TonePrint Editor

TC Electronic's TonePrint app was released in 2011 and proved to be an immediately successful concept for musicians looking to squeeze more sounds out of their pedals.

For the first time ever, musicians could download signature presets from artists directly to their pedal. Looking for an Andy Summers-designed chorus effect? How about a reverse delay designed by Bumblefoot?

For those looking to create their own settings, TC Electronic’s detailed TonePrint Editor software has offered users the ability to create custom settings specific to their pedal.

For example, those equipped with the ever-popular Flashback or Alter Ego delay could easily set specific delay, feedback and modulation settings on a computer or mobile device and “beam” the new sound to their TonePrint-enabled pedal.

TC Electronic Tone Print Editor

TC Electronic Tone Print Editor

However, the app doesn't come without limitations. With just one space reserved for custom TonePrint settings per pedal, users lack the ability to store multiple, customized presets – a shame, given the app’s editing capabilities. Musicians looking to create and access multiple presets on-the-fly may choose to look elsewhere.

TC Electronic has made up for this lack of versatility with the sheer variety of TonePrint-enabled pedals. In addition to the Flashback and Alter Ego, the Corona Chorus, Hall of Fame Reverb, Helix Phaser, HyperGravity Compressor, Shaker Vibrato and Viscous Vibe are all Toneprint-enabled.

With the lowest price tag of software-enabled pedals, set-it-and-forget-it simplicity and an endless stable of artists releasing custom sounds, TC Electronic’s TonePrint may prove to be versatile enough for most players, especially those just getting into digital-meets-analog software.

Eventide H9 Control

A must-have for Eventide H9 – Core, Standard and Max model – owners, the H9 Control app offers users the same versatility found on the pedals the H9 itself is modeled after – the Timefactor, Pitchfactor, Space Reverb and Modfactor – and much more. With its editing software lacking no depth whatsoever, H9 Max owners in particular have the ability to draw up a virtually endless series of delay, reverb, pitch-shifting and modulation patches.

The H9 Control app boasts the sleekest user interface and lowest learning curve of the three editing applications.

Users familiar with the Timefactor delay are bound to be familiar with the app's knob-based interface and parameters, ranging from resonance and modulation depth to dual delay configuration. Space Reverb fans will undoubtedly be familiar with wet/dry mix, modulation and tap tempo settings.

Eventide H9 Control

Eventide H9 Control

However, the H9 app's versatility doesn't end with a streamlined user interface and countless tonal options. Boasting one of the most creative technical teams in the industry, H9 users have come to expect countless updates from Eventide themselves, from custom-built delay and reverb settings to the pedal's exclusive Sculpt distortion modeler.

The H9's sleek aesthetics provide somewhat of a handicap for musicians looking to tweak parameters in a live setting. But the app's ability to send presets from mobile device to pedal allows users to make quick, subtle modifications on-the-fly.

Because of this, other app-based pedals may provide more versatile within a live context. But for studio players who have a little time to fine-tune their tone, the H9's editing capabilities may prove to be second-to-none.

Eventide’s formidable technology comes at a cost, however, with the feature-packed H9 Max netting over $500 on the used market. Both of the stripped down H9 Core and H9 Standard models also offer users the same streamlined interface and upgrade ability with a few less frills for slightly more inviting used price tags – $300 for the Core and $400 for the Standard.

Source Audio Neuro App

Source Audio's Neuro App adds deep editing capabilities to the company's expansive line of pedals, including the Vertigo Tremolo, Lunar Phaser and the popular Nemesis Delay. Inspired in part by the company's dedication to incorporating customer feedback into the pedal's design, the Nemesis in particular offers something that Eventide's H9 does not – the ability to adjust parameters on-the-fly in a live setting.

But beneath the surface, the Neuro App allows users to tailor countless parameters and settings to their needs. The Neuro app allows users to configure the Nemesis Delay's features in great detail. Under the “Hardware Options” menu, users can select buffered or true bypass modes, trails (allowing the delayed signal to fade out after the pedal is switched off) and “kill dry” mode – a must-have for reverse delay fans looking for fully-saturated ambient sounds.

Source Audio Neuro

Source Audio Neuro

In “Sound Editor” mode, users can sculpt their dream delay tone with maximum delay times up to 2600 ms, feedback low/high cut, diffusion and distortion, “wow and flutter” depth, multi-tap delay levels and (for those who use a stereo setup) stereo panning. Furthermore, the device also allows users to assign different functions to the pedal's Intensity, Modulation and Rate knobs, allowing different parameters to be tweaked in a live setting.

Also included in the Neuro app is the ability to download user-made presets. A quick glance at the app's “Browse Sounds” menu reveals a dedicated core of users who have tweaked their Nemesis to capture sounds reminiscent of murky oil can delays, slapback delays best suited for country guitarists, and pristine, digital dotted 8th note delays dialed in via the pedal's tap tempo.

With a competitive price tag – used units typically sell for under $250 – Source Audio provides a happy medium between TC Electronic’s abilities to tweak custom-built parameters on-the-fly and Eventide’s limitless editing options.

For those looking for a dedicated delay, tremolo or reverb, TC Electronic or Source Audio’s offerings may be best. For those looking for one pedal to rule them all, Eventide’s H9 may still be the one to beat.

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