Strymon TimeLine

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Raves about Strymon's El Capistan tape delay simulator and blueSky reverb abound all over guitar discussion boards, and with TimeLine, its latest excursion into ambience, Strymon is once again swinging for the fences. This pedal features 12 types of stereo delay and a 30-second looper, all crammed into a gunmetal gray housing that measures just 6e" x 4e" x 1e". The nine knobs and three footswitches are easy to use and have a sturdy feel. The top-row knobs include Time, Repeats, and Mix, along with Value, which handles all other parameter values and serves to fi ne-tune the delay in milliseconds. The bottom four knobs adjust various parameters depending on which of the 12 delay types is selected via the Type knob under the LED display. Adjustments are easily made with a minimum of page layer searching.

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Three footswitches perform multiple functions: selecting preset A, preset B, and Tap (tempo). Pressing A and B together scrolls down, while B and Tap together scrolls up through 100 banks for 200 user-programmable presets. The rear panel holds stereo audio and MIDI ins and outs, an expression pedal input, and a switch that converts the “Right” audio i/o into a loop for inserting another effect pedal to modify the repeats.

I put the TimeLine through its paces by placing it between a Fender Stratocaster or Blacktop Jazzmaster and an Orange Tiny Terror or an Egnater Rebel 30. Space doesn’t permit describing in depth each of the incredible sounds available, but let me try to give you a sense of what this thoroughbred can do.

The dTape setting demonstrated why the El Capistan is so popular: control over tape age, wow and flutter, crinkle, bias, low-end contour, and tape speed. It also allowed access to a wealth of vintage Echoplex effects—though not speaker-shattering runaway repeats (switch to the dBucket mode if that’s what you’re after).

The TimeLine’s I/O includes an expression-pedal jack and MIDI In/Out.

In Single range, the dBucket settings showed the gritty analog goodness of the earliest single-chip delay pedals. The Double setting added delay time, and, combined with the modulation controls, moved effectively into Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man territory.

The clarity of the Digital and Dual Delay modes kept classic U2 rhythms from becoming muddy, and helped my picking stay in time when attempting Albert Lee-style dotted-eighth tricks. Pattern and Tremolo delays converted pedestrian repeats into a huge palette of rhythmic variations. Select- able slice sizes in Ice Delay geometrically multiplied the sonic shaping possibilities of the setting’s Harmonizer-type pitch shifted repeats. Musical mavericks will love the gritty Lo-Fi delay that make blues licks sound straight off a 78rpm record, complete with vinyl scratches.

I could rave on about the varied and gorgeous sounds, but I wouldn’t have space for the Looper, whose 30 seconds of high-fidelity recording proved just one of its charms. TimeLine let me use any delay effect both before and after the loop. Holding down Tap entered loop mode, where stepping on Switch A started “record.” I swelled in some chord pads, sans volume pedal, using the Swell Delay. Pressing A again to overdub, I switched to the Ice setting for lines with repeats shifted an octave up, then changed the parameter to an octave down for another layer—all while the loop was running! If I changed the delay time of a preset while playing, the Looper recorded that glissando pitch-shifting effect as well.

I could then change the location of the Looper to pre-effects, still without losing the loop, and run the entire layered soundscape through a square wave LFO filter effect.

Using a MIDI foot controller and expression pedal maximizes the potential of this amazing pedal, allowing more Looper controls (reverse, half, and double speed) as well as easier program access and realtime parameter control. But with or without MIDI, the TimeLine’s variety and quality of sounds, solid construction, and ease of use— all at a reasonable price point—more than qualifies it for an Editors’ Pick Award.