Eventide TimeFactor

December 4, 2007

That is until now. Designed for guitarists and other musicians, the new Eventide Stompboxes line packs much of the power of the  company’s pricier processors into pedal-sized packages at populist prices. TimeFactor serves up a selection of ten studio-quality Eventide delay effects algorithms, and boasts an unusually robust feature set that includes twin independent 3-second delays, a 12-second Looper, a versatile “Billboard” display, true stereo operation, multiple tap-tempo capabilities, three Bypass modes (including true bypass), and extensive MIDI implementation (including sync to MIDI clock).

“TimeFactor’s effects engine is a newer version of the DSP engine that sits at the heart of Eventide’s rackmount Harmonizer products,” explains company CTO Tony Agnello. “By using a code-compliant DSP, Eventide was able to port our best and most popular time-based effects to the stompbox. After performing the delicate task of extracting the Harmonizer’s DNA, the remaining challenge was to map the control functions from the rackmount user interface—which is almost never controlled by foot—to a user interface tailored to the creative needs of live performance.”

TimeFactor’s ten effects—DigitalDelay, VintageDelay, TapeEcho, ModDelay, DuckedDelay, BandDelay, FilterPong, MultiTap, Reverse, and Looper—may be used as is, or as starting points for programming your own sounds. The pedal’s 20 memory slots come loaded with great-sounding factory presets, ranging from relatively straightforward digital delays and vintage-style echoes to chorused and filtered delays to ring-modulation effects and other more adventurous sounds. Having only 20 memory slots may be viewed as a limitation, but that’s 20 more than most delay pedals offer, and the presets may be backed up to a MIDI sequencer or SysEx librarian program (along with all system settings).

TimeFactor operates in two modes: Bank and Play. There are ten banks, each containing two presets. In Bank mode, you cycle through the banks by tapping the right footswitch, and then toggle between the two presets in each bank using the left and center footswitches. You can also temporarily disable individual banks that you aren’t using, saving you the trouble of cycling through them to access the banks you want, say, during a live performance.

In Play Mode, the left and center foot-switches control the currently loaded preset. When the Looper is loaded, the three footswitches function as transport controls: Record, Play, and Stop. Otherwise, the left switch toggles the effect on/off, and the center switch engages Infinite Repeat (100 percent feedback, with delay input muted)—a great feature found on many old-school digital delay units.

Despite TimeFactor’s potentially staggering number of features and functions, its user interface is a marvel of simplicity and efficiency, suggesting the people who developed it actually used the pedal for musical purposes during the development process, rather than simply dreaming it up on paper. And even the pedal itself exhibits intelligence. For example, whenever you turn a knob, the Billboard first displays the name of the parameter you have selected—nearly everything is named other than presets—and then displays that parameter’s current value. (The Billboard even displays waveforms and other simple graphics.) Time-Factor also automatically configures itself for mono/mono, mono/stereo, or stereo/stereo operation, in response to which input and output jacks have plugs inserted in them. And those are just two examples.

Perhaps the most brilliant aspect of the user interface, however, is having 11 knobs for immediate hands-on control of critical parameters. In addition to the global Dry/Wet Mix control, there’s a Delay Mix control for adjusting the relative levels of the two delays, and each delay has its own Delay Time and Feedback controls. Also, as most presets include modulation and filter options, there are dedicated controls for modulation Depth and Speed and Filter amount. A “soft” control labeled Xnob changes purpose depending on the effect type, and the unnamed 11th knob is an encoder that selects effect types, engages tap tempo, serves as a Save button, and interacts with the three footswitches in various ways to control additional functions.

I tested TimeFactor patched between my guitar and amp, in the amp’s effects loop, and as an outboard studio processor, using the switches on the rear panel to select the correct levels. In all cases, it performed remarkably well, with negligible noise on most settings. And, although the majority of the pedal’s nine delay effects were designed to function optimally in stereo (the Looper is mono only), I was impressed with how well they translated into mono.

But what about the claim that TimeFactor’s delay algorithms are derived from the same DNA as those found in Eventide’s high-end processors? To find out, I auditioned the pedal alongside an Eventide Eclipse (which streets for about two grand) to see how it stacked up.

TimeFactor’s effects and the presets found in the Eclipse are not exact equivalents—though several are nearly indistinguishable. Comparing TimeFactor’s TapeEcho to the Eclipse’s EchoplexingPong, for example, yielded many similarities, and the same essential vibe. Similarly, by tweaking TimeFactor’s FilterPong setting, I was able to create sounds almost identical to the Eclipse’s FilterEcho. In other words, while the effects were not entirely the same in every respect, they were remarkably close, with equally excellent audio quality. And, in some cases, I actually preferred the sound of TimeFactor.

It is characteristic of Eventide’s classic delay effects that they somehow manage to sound both warm (in the sense of rich and appealing) and exceptionally clear and detailed—and that also goes for the modulation effects derived from them. TimeFactor possesses that character in abundance, and its clean digital delay effects are as good or better than any I’ve heard.

As for TimeFactor’s VintageDelay effects, they weren’t quite as full sounding and vibey as, say, those produced by my tube-powered S.I.B. Echodrive (which I consider to be the gold standard for analog delays), but they possessed the deeply layered richness and complex decay characteristics that are the hallmarks of the best analog and tape delays. TimeFactor’s modulation effects (chorus, flange, and Uni-Vibe) were also impressive, as were the reverse-envelope, multi-tap, and various filtered sounds. Even the ring-modulator effect rang with authority.

The Looper operates in a relatively straightforward manner, though it has numerous hidden functions, some of which are quite esoteric. You get 12 seconds of loop time at full bandwidth (lower-bandwidth 24- and 48-second looping are also available), with a choice of various recording, dubbing, and playback modes. You can also have previously looped material fade out as you overdub new material (à la Frippertronics), and manipulate the time/pitch relationships of recorded loops in real time—including setting the Play Speed to pitch the loop in musical intervals by using the Octaves, Oct+5th, Dom7th, and Chromatic settings.

To more fully access TimeFactor’s capabilities, I definitely recommend connecting an optional expression pedal. All of the factory presets include expression pedal assignments, and you can make your own assignments by simply moving the pedal through its range while twiddling the knobs corresponding to the parameters you want it to control. Should you wish to get TimeFactor off the floor for easier hands-on access, an optional 3-way footswitch can substitute for the onboard footswitches, and also be programmed to control numerous other parameters.

My only beef with this product—other than its bulky wall wart—is that you cannot name the presets. Eventide is currently working on an editor/librarian program for preset backup and organization, and it would be great if it also allowed you to name presets within the computer and simply port them into the pedal. In the meantime, you may use a MIDI sequencer, or any number of SysEx librarian programs—Eventide recommends MIDIOX for PC and SysEx Librarian for Mac, both freeware—for backup. But these concerns are far from deal breakers.

Believe it or not, TimeFactor actually has considerably more features than mentioned here—but I believe enough has been said to demonstrate why it should receive an Editors’ Pick Award. This is simply the most brilliantly designed and best-sounding digital delay pedal I’ve ever encountered.

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