Introduction: My first Delay was a Line 6 DL-4, and man, what a great pedal that was. It had a very handy looper (even with the option to slow down or reverse the loop, plus you could still have delay when jamming over the looper), a dedicated tap tempo switch, the ability to save 3 of your own sounds and most important of all, it sounded great. But then space on my pedal board became an issue (or maybe just G.A.S. introduced itself to my life) and I ordered the smaller Boss DD-7 to test it against the DL-4…
To make a long story short, it didn’t sound quite as good (read: full, organic) as the Line6, but was one third of the size, had all the stereo- and tap options I needed and felt way sturdier (the Line6 DL-4s have a reputation of being quite short lived, and mine too showed first signs of ageing).
This was maybe 7 or 8 years ago, and I was quite content with the DD-7, until I recently stumbled upon a raving review of the TC Electronic Alter Ego V2. On paper, it sounded awesome – 9 different delay sounds (all simulations of vintage delay devices) plus the possibility to create and save a unique toneprint! So as almost a decade ago, I gave in to the attraction of something new, ordered it and tested it against my existing pedal. Let’s find out if TC has created a worthy rival of the DD-7 and if indeed, time is a flat circle 😉
The shootout: Let me straighten something out beforehand: I realize that the Boss DD-7 specializes in straight, clean, digital delays first and foremost and that the TC Electronics Flashback would be the more appropriate opponent for a shootout. But since I almost exclusively only use the Analog or Modulation settings on the DD-7, I will mainly focus on them in the upcoming sound samples (no video this time).
The Boss DD-7 has 4 different sounds
- ANALOG (based on the Boss DM-2)
- MODULATE (normal + chorus) and
The TC AE V2 has 9 different sounds
- EREC 2 (based on Binson Echorec 2)
- DMMC (Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory-Man Chorus)
- T ORG (Tel Ray Organ Tone)
- 2290 M (TC Electronic 2290 Modulated)
- REV M (Reverse Modulated)
- BDM2 (Boss DM-2)
- CKAT (Watkins Copykat)
- EP1 (Maestro Echoplex 1)
- SP (Roland Space Echo)
Since both have a sound simulating a Boss DM-2, let’s dive right into it! Here’s Sample 1 (Fender Clean – then Boss Analog – then TC BDM2)
You’ll immedialty hear two things: First the stereo subdivisions of the delays are not the same – and I can do nothing about it (more about that below) – second the difference in sound. Where the Boss sounds thin and “just there”, the TC AE2 really colors the scenary! It has depth and definition, but still leaves the original guitar signal untouched. Let’s hear other samples.
In my opinion there is no question which pedal sounds better. The Alter Ego V2 just sounds rounder, fuller, more real, while the Boss sounds bland and flat. (Interesting aspect of the AE 2 that it doesn’t seem to able to self-oscillate, something which the Boss easily can…) But let’s ontinue with other aspects of these units.
Quality of build: Both seem very sturdy, but if my life depended on it I’d definitely choose Boss. Jump on them, let your guitar fall on them, spill a saucy burger with french fries and half a gallon of coke over them, boss pedals don’t break, period.
The Tc seems sturdy, but would the soft-click switch even survive something as a passionate step from my size 13 Doc Martens? I doubt it! Point for the Boss
True Bypass: Boss uses (buffered) FET switches, while the TC Electronic is true bypass by default, but n gives you the option to set the bypass mode to buffered (via DIP switches inside the pedal), in case you want your repeats to trail off. Point for the TC AE2
Stereo Options: Clear point for Boss. The DD-7 has multiple settings for stereo out. You can choose between Normal (same on both sides), Panning, Ping Pong or Effect + Direct. The TC AE2 has a subdivision selector 3 way switch, but only the bottom setting is true stereo (it creates quarter notes on the left and dotted eights on the right). That’s really my main gripe with this pedal – whereas the DD-7 lets you freely choose between stereo option and the rhythm of the delay (quarter notes, eights, dotted eights, triplets) – you are stuck with only 3 (2 really) options on the AE2 (quarter notes, dotted eights, quarter notes and dotted eights)… and STILL can’t choose a stereo effect for them. I really hope TC looks into that and releases a firmware update that gives us more freedom over our stereo options.
Tap Tempo: The AE2 features a “hold and play” function (you press down the pedal for 2 sec., then play steady ¼ notes on your guitar), it works well enough in the studio, but is useless on stage. Imagine you have a song with a speed change in the middle, wouldn’t it be nice to change the tempo of your delay “on the fly”? You could do that on the Line6 DL-4, you can do it on the Boss DD-7, but you can’t do that on the AE2, because someone somewhere decided that the pedal had to go totally mute!?! I understand muting the effect, but not even direct sound coming out of it? What the hell is this??
Much better on the DD-7. You can use the time knob, you can use the build-in pedal aand even better, you can use an external footswitch that is connected to the Tempo/Exp-jack to change the rate without anyone noticing. I cannot for my life understand how the guys at TC Electronic didn’t think of something like that for their pedals, or ever thought that muting the signal is gig-friendly??? 🙁 … Clear point for the DD-7
Looper: Works exactly the same on both devices. You have 40 sec of loop in mono, and 20 in stereo. I noticed a slight difference in sound however (the Boss seems to muffle the highs a tad, but that could be only in my imagination). Draw.
Other stuff – Kill-Dry, Analog dry-through, Tone Print, updateable firmware: Boss has a kill dry option and nothing more, TC has all of those.
MY VERDICT: As I wrote, I am still baffled about some of the decisions Tore and the other guys at TC Electronics made when designing the Alter Ego V2 pedal. A delay unit without a practical way to change the rate or without the ability to tinker with the stereo subdivisions? Offering a delay based on classic, analog pedals that doesn’t self-oscillate? A no-go guys! But on the bright side I like the possibilites the Toneprints offer and sound is paramount, so I am quite happy actually to call the Alter Ego V2 the winner of this shootout, and my new delay pedal.