DigiTech TimeBender Musical Delay
Originally published in Guitar World, May 2010
While you can use the TimeBender for simple slapback echoes and bouncy multi-tap delays, it can also function as a musical instrument unto itself that will inspire you to explore many new musical ideas and avenues.
If you last bought a delay pedal five or 10 years ago, you may wonder why anyone would be interested in yet another upgrade of the same-old, same-old. Ever since the first delay pedals appeared in the late Seventies and early Eighties they’ve changed very little, mainly by offering cleaner tone, longer delay times and maybe a reverse effect or some wacky modulation feature.
DigiTech’s new TimeBender Musical Delay has less in common with its stomp box predecessors than it does with high-end processors—it’s more like a powerful rack unit configured as a sturdy, stage-worthy pedal. The TimeBender sounds and performs like a sophisticated, professionalquality rack processor and programmable foot controller setup. And while it has a wide variety of exciting and complex new sounds that you can control in countless creative ways during performance, it’s as easy to use as your dependable old overdrive or phaser.
The TimeBender’s powerful processor provides delay, pitch shifting and looping effects, and while you can use it for simple slapback echoes and bouncy multi-tap delays, it can also function as a musical instrument unto itself that will inspire you to explore many new musical ideas and avenues.
The DigiTech TimeBender is slightly larger than two standard-sized DigiTech stomp boxes placed side by side, and it includes two footswitches that control a variety of functions depending on which effect is chosen or engaged. The left footswitch turns the effect on or off, and it will engage infinite repeats when held down. The right footswitch lets you control either tap tempo or memory-select functions (the pedal stores four fully programmable presets), and when the footswitch is held down it provides a “smart strum” function that lets you either set the tempo by strumming, play a multi-tap pattern that the TimeBender uses as a delay pattern, or strum a chord to tell the intelligent pitch shifter the key in which to create harmonies. When Looper mode is selected, the left footswitch controls record, play and overdub functions while the right footswitch either stops playback or erases the loop.
A rotary switch lets you select any one of 10 effects: digital or analog delay, moving-head tape, variable speed tape, dynamic digital, dynamic analog, dynamic tape, time warp, reverse, envelope or looper. The TimeBender provides up to five seconds of stereo delay that can be displayed in either milliseconds or beats per minute. When Looper mode is selected, the maximum delay time increases to 20 seconds (mono only). In addition to standard delay time, repeats, mix and tone controls, the TimeBender includes a multiplier function that splits delays into various time signatures (including half, quarter and eighth notes, dotted eighths and triplets), a voicing control for manually dialing in the desired pitch shift scale, and a pattern switch with 10 different preset rhythmic patterns plus a strum pattern setting. A vividly bright blue tempo LED helps you monitor delay times visually.
Jacks include a pair of stereo inputs, a pair of stereo outputs, and 1/4-inch jacks for an optional footswitch (for scrolling through memory presets) and expression pedal (for morphing between two saved settings). An external AC power supply adapter is included—the TimeBender does not operate on batteries.
Thanks to 24-bit processing and a 44.1kHz sampling rate, the TimeBender’s digital delay tones are as clean and pristine as a NASA research lab. The analog and tape delay settings possess authentic fatness and warmth that will please discriminating vintage tone freaks, and the looper produces lively, dynamic signals that are indistinguishable from the original performance even when several overdubs are layered on top.
To pitch shift the delays simply engage the voicing knob. When combined with the envelope delay setting and various time pattern settings, it can create a variety of fascinating intervals, harmonies and melodies where intricate, chopped arpeggiated note patterns dance off of each other. The dynamic delays “duck” the delay effect while you play and bring the repeats forward when you stop playing. The TimeBender’s special effects are truly special. Instead of creating gimmicky novelty noises, these effects are truly musical and they can inspire many new song ideas.
The strum functions are very easy to use after a few practice sessions, and they provide very powerful expressive possibilities for live jams. I found it a lot easier to nail the exact delay tempo I wanted using the Strum function than it was using the tap tempo function (maybe because my hands are more coordinated than my feet). Although the TimeBender creates some very sophisticated effects that rival those of professional rack processors, it’s exceptional easy and intuitive to use.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The DigiTech TimeBender may look like a stomp box, but it’s really a rack processor in a pedal’s clothing. With its exceptionally intuitive design and stellar sound quality, it takes delay into a new realm that previously was only available to players with expensive rigs and the patience to program custom effects. The Envelope delay, pitch shifting effects and looper functions combined are worth more than twice the pedal’s list price, and they should provide a lifetime’s worth of musical inspiration.
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