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By Dan Day
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer
For years, effective echo and delay effects could only be created in a professional recording studio. Now you can duplicate your complete list of favorite recorded echo effects with the DigiTech TimeBender. But it does so much more than that. While modern guitarists appreciate those classic delay effects, they also want a delay pedal that lets them create their own new sounds. The TimeBender has powerful and innovative technology that elevates it above simple delay pedals by including new types of delays, pitch-shifted repeats, ready-made delay patterns, and a variation on tap tempo that lets you set tempo, key, and time patterns by strumming. I’ll get to those later, but first, the basics.
The TimeBender gives you five seconds of true stereo delay from 10 types, starting with the classics you’re familiar with: Analog, Digital, Moving Head Tape, Fixed Head Tape, and Reverse. It also has totally new delays such as Dynamic Repeats and Envelope. The TimeBender pedal is built like a Humvee to withstand the rigors of the road. The controls are logically laid out with the basic delay functions on the left and the more advanced applications on the right. The LED display is large and well-lit to eliminate any guesswork. Two footpedals control delay and looper on/off, memory, and tap tempo.
I began my TimeBender sessions by duplicating some of my favorite recorded guitar echo effects such as Jimi Hendrix’ spacey slide solo in "All Along The Watchtower"—easily accomplished with a couple of simple delay settings. To simulate the feedback loop tape saturation that climaxes the intro to James Gang’s "Standing in the Rain," I used the Moving Tape Head delay with repeats set to max (infinite), hit a mute strum, and decreased the delay time until the repeats overfed into each other and produced that characteristic white noise "kkkrrrsshhh" used on ’60s and ’70s recordings.
With the Dynamic Analog delay, I re-created the echoed slide guitar of James Gang’s "The Bomber." This is a way cool delay, because Joe Walsh’s solo alternates echoed slide runs with gently strummed E to D chording. Most delays would destroy the contrast between the two parts by applying the echo equally. The TimeBender’s Dynamic Delay setting duplicated Joe’s effect perfectly by "ducking" the repeats as I played while leaving them intact when I stopped. I manually adjusted the rate of repeat using the tap tempo on the right footpedal.
Other features include a Modulation knob to add a chorus-like effect; the Tempo Multiplier button that produces delays in-between beats and makes complex patterns such as triplets much easier to configure; a Memory function for storing the settings of four of your favorite creations; and an Expression pedal input that works with any standard 1/4" mono passive expression pedal for morphing between two saved settings for amazing new effects.
Here’s where the TimeBender gets really interesting. With the Pattern knob, you can choose from 10 ready-made delay patterns. Instead of evenly spaced delays—or taps—as in Simple Delay, Pattern can offer up to six taps with varied spacing. Dual Delay pattern has different delay rates for each line. When using stereo output, each line feeds a different amp to create the illusion of more instruments. More complex delays are available with Multi-tap Pattern including three-tap and six-tap. Each of the Pattern delays can be combined with pitch-shifting repeats that are controlled by the Voicing knob. Choose from more than 100 voices to create harmonies and arpeggios. You can either choose a harmony based on any scale interval such as a lower third, a higher sixth, an octave above or below, or a combination of scale intervals. For example, I selected the Root-Based Pattern Delay to create evenly spaced arpeggios based on the root note I played. I selected the 3U-3H voicing, so when I played any note, TimeBender repeated an arpeggio pattern—the lower 3rd harmony, the 3rd above, and the root note. Because DigiTech knows that most guitarists make lousy drummers and can’t keep time with their feet, as an alternative to using tap tempo, you can activate Smart Strum by pressing and holding the right footswitch and strumming a multi-tap delay pattern. I used Strum to duplicate the pulsating bass intro to Pink Floyd’s "One of These Days."
With Smart Strum, I strummed an A chord to set the key I would be playing in so that TimeBender could intelligently add the correct harmony or harmonies based on the Voicing I selected. To illustrate, I selected the 6-tap Multi-tap Pattern delay, and a 5th and octave Voicing. To keep things simple, I chose only one repeat. For each note played in the key of A the six taps would alternate between the two voices. With stereo output, one amp played the 5ths and the other amp, the octaves with the root note coming from both amps. With the Mix knob turned to Dry, only harmony notes could be heard. Very cool.
The TimeBender also has a 20-second Looper. I started off with a simple riff, and after a couple of practice runs, pressed the left pedal to lay down the first part. After working out a harmony riff and practicing it a couple of times, I pressed the left pedal again to go into overdub mode. I added three more harmony parts before I turned off overdub so I could improvise freely over the massed guitar harmonies. I also created a four-chord loop sequence with digital piano, bass, and guitar parts. The Looper is a great practice, performance, and ear-training tool.
The DigiTech TimeBender gives you unlimited delay possibilities that once required a rack of effects and hours of programming. It lets you go beyond normal delays to create custom repeat rhythms or patterns with intelligent harmony on the fly as you strum. It’s a well-designed, well-built delay system that’s advanced yet easy to use.