Living on the Edge
(Above) The original TC2290 rack mount, released in 1985
The 80’s gave us a lot. A lot that we don’t really like to talk about… The mullet, the Iran–Iraq War, Charles and Diana, Liposuction, Tiananmen Square, ‘Post It’ Notes, crack cocaine and Kevin Bacon. One of the best things about the 80’s was the music though and one of the most beloved bands of the times was U2. They had one of the most famous guitarists of the day – a geezer known as ‘The Edge’. The Edge was famous for one thing. Well… two. Firstly, U2’s
trademark washes of ambient, delayed guitar and secondly, wearing a wool beenie whatever the weather. So, how did The Edge get those amazing, textural washes? I hear you ask. Simples. He was a rack-mounted, Dynamic ‘Digital’ delay pervert. Some may claim that he was ludicrously over-invested in the 2290. Yet, upon reflection it seems that his six string, 2290 stylings almost single-handedly defined the sound of a generation.
“…his six string, 2290 stylings, almost single-handedly defined the sound of a generation.”
What's the point of this Hybrid?
I need to start with this simple truism – if you don’t already understand the beauty of this plugin and controller concept then you still won’t by the end of the article. In this day and age there’s a proliferation
of every kind of software plugin. A surfeit if you like. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with that. Not at all. I’m a huge proponent when it comes to the relentless pursuit of progress. So why does the TC2290-DT exist? If you listen to the engineers at TC Electronic speaking about the development of this product you’ll be sucked in by their dedication to chasing the feel of the original hardware and their rather intensive push for the most accurate, digital recreation of what was essentially a mostly analog delay unit, despite it’s brazen, digital moniker. Open the tiny box, pull out the USB cable and feel the reassuringly weighty control unit in your hand. It will tell you there’s something more basic about the 2290-DT’s appeal.
Getting started couldn’t be any easier. Go and download the free TC2290-DT plugin from the TC Electronic website, plug in one end of the supplied USB cable to the controller unit and the other to a spare USB port and you’re good to go. Bizarrely, if you don’t have the controller unit plugged in, the 2290 plugin itself will only work for two
weeks before it needs to detect the controller again and, until it connects it will give you a flashing warning on the virtual scribble strip at the bottom of the plugin. However, during that two weeks, all parameters on the plugin are still available and automateable to you.
At this point we normally talk about the plugin GUI, but I must first mention the physical interface of the controller. Many might wrongly assume the
2290-DT ‘hardware’ to be cheaply thrown together. It’s not. The unit itself is beautifully made with an anodized, black, aluminum finish, featuring extremely durable feeling buttons that have a definitive, strong action – like miniature versions of the original unit. Then we have the fantastically bright, stereo in/out meters and finally, the super retro, red LED
displays dominating four of the 2290’s six modules, or sections.
(Above) GUI has parameters otherwise accessible from ‘SPEC’ keys
The GUI on the plugin sticks to the strident red and black theme of the original unit and the new controller but is remarkably sparse in comparison. What’s annoying to some but makes perfect sense to me is that much of the information that is locked away in the 2290’s ‘secret’ menus (See below) is to be found right here and is organized in a super logical fashion. I liked how TC made things easier through an unconventional piece of design.
The TC2290 was most famous for it’s groundbreaking and widely copied ‘Ducking Delay’ preset. The closest parallel that can be drawn is to side chain compress your delay returns to the instrument or vocal so that the volume is attenuated during the meat of the phrase and then ‘released’ to reveal the signal at the end of each phrase – fattening out the gaps.
Also on the original 2290 were something called Special Keys (or ‘SPEC KEYS’). These buttons access secondary functions that aren’t immediately available on the front end. You can toggle between ‘SNO’ (Special Number ) or the function itself then press ‘SPEC’ again to highlight ‘SVA’ for ‘Special Value’ which allows you to dial in whichever function you choose.
“The TC2290 was most famous for it’s groundbreaking
and widely copied ‘Ducking Delay’ preset. “
So What's the Big Deal?
For me, the most useful functions on the controller are the ‘Feedback’ control at the bottom left and the ‘Mix’ control which, although part of the ‘SPEC’ menu has been cleverly pinned as the default setting. As with all modules you can enter a value using the Smurf-sized, numeric keypad followed by the ‘ENTER’ button. Combine these functions with the ‘DELAY’ section in the top right where you can set your time in milliseconds (the old school way), sync to your DAW or rhythmically tap the ‘LEARN’ button to tell the 2290 what to do and you are pretty much set for all your hardware accessible delay functionality.
“As with all modules you can enter a value using the
Smurf-sized, numeric keypad…”
One of the most refreshing aspects of the 2290-DT is the accessibility of the presets. From the controller it’s in the adjacent module to the ‘Feedback’ control and it uses the same up and down button array. Normally I just have my delays set up in a template but the sheer availability of the preset menu on the TC means I have been experimenting a lot more – particularly when pulling the plugin in as an insert. The joy of not have a carpal flare up when taking a browse through the 2290’s presets is palpable.
Of course you can also access them from the plug, assigning up to ten banks of ten favorites, you can turn the current preset into a default or just surf .
“…the sheer availability of the preset menu on the TC
means I’ve been experimenting a lot more.”
Now, this may sound off but, being able to play in guitar tracks and adjust the delay with my left hand without touching the mouse was a Godsend. Starting with some basic presets it’s so easy to get inspired and consequently lose yourself in the process of making music and that’s great for everybody so frankly, this is simply a ‘must have’ for any guitarist/producers.
“…this is simply a ‘must have’ for any guitarist/producers.“
But here’s the thing – the 2290 is not your average delay device. In fact, it’s also a modulate-able nerd-fest of extraordinary proportion. It begins with the dynamic panning control and gets more in depth from there, utilizing the Sine Modulator to pretty much do anything and everything from chorusing and flanging to a very convincing and visceral Tremolo.
“Here’s the thing – the 2290 is not your average delay device.“
It seems crazy to think that a plugin which is so heavily retarded without it’s associated hardware controller (which many refer to with dread as it’s ‘dongle’) could be construed as being a genuine asset in this day and age of portability and limited desktop real estate. But it is. The main reason for this is that as a buyer you have a pride of ownership not available from software and immediate accessibility thanks to that amazing interface and, let’s be honest – you could spend this much money on a plugin with no controller.
Most importantly though, I have to say that the TC2290 sounds good. No, scratch that. It sounds great. It has a character many will recognize as particularly unique thanks to it’s extremely well implemented envelope modulation – something that allows the TC to mince around the soundfield yet stay out of your way in an almost unnerving fashion. It’s why guitarists have been in love with the original unit for so long and why APN is very happy to see this adorable replica available to musicians and producers everywhere.
“…let’s be honest – you could spend this much money on a plugin with no controller.”
Price and Availability
The TC Electronic TC2290-DT weighs in at $349 USD and is available to physically purchase
from your closest dealer – please find that dealer here.
NB: The TC2290-DT is covered by TC’s 3 year warranty
Compatible on Mac OS X 10.10 or above
Compatible on Windows Win 7 or Later
No additional drivers required, uses standard USB HID drivers
- Small form factor (See Negatives)
- Sweet Integration
- Excellent presets
- Plugin doesn't work without controller
- Have to read the manual
- Small enough to get stolen from your studio...