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In my last post I talked about how I was going about deciding which delay pedal to buy. After securing some money, I went ahead and bought a Damage Control Timeline — found one decently priced on eBay — and have been testing it extensively the last few weeks.
The reason I went with a Timeline instead of others is because I felt that having a stand-alone feature to be able to store a few presets would be nice. I don’t need dozens of spots or menus to navigate, just a handful. So DC Timeline fits the bill.
First of all, you probably already know that the pedal is huge. It has its own power supply, too, so you can’t power it up with something like Voodoo Labs Pedal Power. Another missing feature I only realized upon receiving it is an on/off switch. The lights light up as soon as you plug the pedal in, even in bypass — and there’s no way to turn the pedal “off” without unplugging or using a switch on a power strip. A minor niggle, but I usually leave my pedals plugged in all the time in my studio, and I don’t like the idea of anything drawing unnecessary current.
There are many knobs, but for general delay purposes, they are fairly intuitive. I appreciate that it has 3 ways to set delay time — with the time knob, tap tempo and strum tempo (hold down tap tempo and strum/play something rhythmically). It would have been even nicer if holding down the tap tempo muted the sound, but that can easily be done with a tuner pedal inline. It has three lights (two lighting up the tubes and one “Magic Eye” — the tubes don’t glow on their own like they do in tube amps) and their colors and blinking can indicate different settings, but so far I find this overwhelming and distracting. And when the pedal’s in bypass, they all go green — it would have been nice if something indicated the tempo even when in bypass.
Storing presets is fairly easy, but the mode selector doubles as bank selector (2 per spot, 8 total) so that means if you want to go select a different preset, you have to crouch down and manually twist the knob. And here’s an important detail — in preset mode, the delay time gets recorded with the patch, and you can’t use the tap tempo then to set the delay time, because the tap tempo switch acts as the patch selector. The bypass switch selects the patch A, while the tap tempo switch selects the patch B. Stomping on each turns the pedal on with that preset, or bypasses the pedal. Another detail, this time a nice one, is that delay persist mode (the delay trails remain even after the pedal’s put on bypass) does get stored along in presets. Personally I’d have it on all the time, but if some patches called for persisting and others didn’t, that’s a nice detail.
There’s much more to this pedal — it has a simple looper that works as advertised, and it can act as a modulation pedal, too. Multi-head (an ability to create rhythmic patterns) and reverse delays both are quite usable. I haven’t been able to test ping pong, as I don’t have a stereo setup.
But, since they try to cram in a lot of features and tweakability into this pedal, I find that it has a rather steep learning curve. Knobs do different things in different modes, so it’s definitely not a pedal for those folks who don’t want to sit down with a manual and learn a new instrument.
As far as delays go, this one sounds very nice. I quickly dialed in the delay sound I heard in my head — clear but warm digital delay, with a hint of modulation to sweeten it up. The filter knob goes from digital to analog to tape simulation seamlessly — much better than just straight tone knob, though the effect is not too drastic, it feels just right. The tweakability means that you can tailor it to sound the way you want. I’ve tested delays from TC Electronics (various models, including the new Flashback delay) and Electro-Harmonix (Deluxe Memory Man from 90s) and Timeline just sounds perfect to me, neither too hi-fi nor muddy, though it can approach both those extremes if that’s what you want. It just sounds organic to me, or simply that it has the delay tone I had in my mind. Other pedals I’ve tried/owned in the past include DigiTech DigiDelay, Korg 301 delay, MXR Carbon Copy, Electro-Harmonix Stereo Memory Man, and Subdecay Echo Box. Of all, this one definitely has my sound.
It’s not as complex as some of the mega delays of today, but Timeline does have a learning curve, plus it’s big and quirky. It’s an overkill if you use delays as an ambiance mainly, but if you look to play a delay pedal as an instrument, this one offers both versatility and limitation/quirkiness that may inspire creativity — I can see myself really growing with the pedal and doing things with it that are hard to do with others. It’s not as quirky as like some of Electro-Harmonix’s offerings, but Timeline definitely has its own personality as a machine. It can sound like many things but you have to operate it in a way it wants to be operated.
I’m loving how it sounds, but I am actually still on the fence about this one. After playing with it for a while, I realized that despite my intention to the contrary, I may be a delay-is-an-ambiance guy, as I am just not inspired to write music that takes advantage of some of its distinct features like Multi-Head and Reverse delays. Even the modulation, I am still trying to figure out whether I’m going to use it at all — the only kind of modulation I like being a rotating-speaker effect — so so far I am just using it as a simple delay machine, without any presets.
Even then, the value of finding my sound is worth a lot, especially since I’ve been looking for it for years. But I can’t help but wonder if I’m better off getting the other choice I was considering, Strymon El Capistan — as my favorite sound out of Timeline is a tape simulation (though a fairly clean one at that). It’s cheaper, simpler and smaller, though I’m sure it’s tweakable enough to make it sound the way I want. I think the decision I have to make is not so as much that of which pedal to buy and keep but about whether I’m looking for delay as an instrument or just an ambiance effect. I may be the latter, because so far I haven’t felt inspired to play it as an instrument, despite this being a superb one at that.
In any case, I hope this review gives insights that other resources don’t, to those of you who are considering hunting down this discontinued pedal. I’m going to keep it for now until I have some excess cash to try it side-by-side with the Strymon. We’ll see which way the wind blows then.