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TC Electronic Plethora X5 review

TC’s TonePrint pedals flexibly arranged in one compact floorboard multi-effects pedal

TC Electronic Plethora X5
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Our Verdict

The Plethora X5 offers you options and lots of them. Add a dirt pedal or two and you've got a pedalboard ready to go, but at a pinch it can also be used as a fly rig or as a means of conveniently expanding your existing pedalboard.

For

  • Compact all-in-one unit.
  • Ease of setup and use.
  • Variety of effects.
  • MASH and external pedal expression ability.
  • Promise of constant firmware updates.

Against

  • ‘Back to front’ display might throw a curveball to some.
  • At the time of writing there’s no user manual available and
  • some functions are not yet implemented.

The concept of a compact self-contained pedalboard with several footswitchable effects is not unique but it’s taken on a new flexibility in TC Electronic’s hands. 

The Plethora X5 can store 127 ‘pedalboards’, each with individually footswitchable effects taken from TC’s TonePrint pedal range. You can combine any five, including multiple instances of the same one, in any order. 

At the time of writing, onboard pedals include the Hall Of Fame 2 Reverb, Flashback 2 Delay, Sub n Up Octaver, Sentry Noise Gate, Hypergravity Compressor, Brainwaves Pitch Shifter, Corona Chorus, Vortex Flanger, Quintessence Harmony, Mimiq Doubler, Shaker Vibrato and Pipeline Tap Tremolo. 

Firmware updates should see more added – the Helix Phaser, Viscous Vibe and a looper are said to be coming soon. TC’s TonePrint concept enables you to instantly load a pedal with a changed set of parameters for a new sound – and it’s very much in full force here. 

Loads of TonePrints are already stored onboard and there are 75 slots per pedal to add via the usual Bluetooth or USB connection. New Artist or TC factory TonePrints or your own variations are created with the software editor.  

TC Electronic Plethora X5

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

In Use

The X5’s effects are laid out in a left-to-right chain, which might not please anyone who’s used to a standard array of pedals with a signal chain running from right to left – but it’s something you soon get accustomed to, especially as each effect is clearly named in bright letters and also colour coded.

This is one well-thought-out unit that uses its underlying technology to full advantage

Operation is all pretty straightforward using the Plethora’s two toggle-switched modes, Play and Edit. Play mode simply gives you pedalboards for performance. You can scroll up and down through the numbered pedalboards with the Board toggle switch or do it via a bit of jiggery-pokery with footswitches 1 and 2.

And if you want to change your effects order on the fly, you simply hold down the two footswitches and the assigned pedals will flip around.

TC Electronic Plethora X5

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

The Edit mode is where you set up all of your pedalboards. The Effect knob selects your pedal for a chosen footswitch while the TonePrint knob selects a TonePrint for that pedal, and three basic parameters for it are displayed in the three central windows to be tweaked with their associated knobs. 

Do that for each footswitch and your basic pedalboard is ready to go, although there is plenty more you can experiment with here besides. 

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While the onboard mono effects loop can be used to implement a four-cable connection so you can put some effects in front of the amp’s input and some in its effects loop, we see its primary function as adding external pedals to the mix, especially as the Plethora has no drive/distortion/fuzz of its own.

The loop can be placed anywhere in the chain, either permanently active or assigned to a footswitch (albeit at the expense of one of the five effects).

Each of the footswitches can function as a pressure-sensitive MASH footswitch to adjust (with a hold-and-press) a parameter of its associated effect, maybe turning up the feedback of a delay for instance. There’s also the option for any relevant effect’s footswitch to have a secondary tap tempo function.

Any added expression pedal’s default option is as a volume pedal that can be placed at any position on the chain but it can also be assigned to single- or multiple-effect parameters. The sounds here offer all the quality we’ve come to see in individual TC pedals but the Plethora setup offers far more flexibility than a bunch of those plugged together. 

Here, you can build a pedalboard for each song in your set with all the necessary pedals set to exactly the right sound, or give yourself similar functionality to a Flashback X4 by having a ’board with four delays (there’s not enough DSP for five delays or five reverbs). This is one well-thought-out unit that uses its underlying technology to full advantage. 

Verdict

Add one of these to your dirt pedal(s) and you’ll have a complete functional pedalboard that can also fulfil a ‘fly rig’ or emergency backup role straight into a PA as it has a globally switched cabinet simulation onboard.

Alternatively, it represents a great way to expand your existing pedalboard with a range of complementary effects without excessive cabling and power requirements.

Specs

  • PRICE: $498 / £399
  • ORIGIN: China
  • TYPE: Effects pedalboard
  • FEATURES: True or buffered bypass, tuner, tap tempo, selectable global cab sim, 127 boards, 75 TonePrint slots per pedal, MASH footswitches, software editing
  • CONTROLS: Standard input L (mono) & R, standard output L (mono) & R, standard Send, standard Return, EXP, USB, MIDI In, MIDI Thru
  • CONNECTIONS: Standard input, standard output, EXP
  • POWER: Included 9V DC adaptor, 600mA
  • DIMENSIONS: 298 (w) x 116 (d) x 53mm (h)
  • CONTACT: TC Electronic