Guitar pedal reviews – TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 (reverb), Electro-Harmonix Oceans 11 (more reverb), Electro-Harmonix Soul Food (overdrive)

TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 – Considering how many features this pedal has I have very little to say about it.

TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 Reverb Pedal

50 years ago mankind went to the moon with probably less computing power than the DSP chip in this red box, yet this red box cannot realistically simulate the sound of one of those toy microphones with a spring inside.

When fiddling with any musical apparatus in one’s basement, I feel a good musical apparatus has an ability to “lift” the musician out of the basement to some kind of special place. Even a ubiquitous BOSS flanger can instantly transport me to “Barracuda-Land.”

This pedal from Danish electronic wizards TC Electronic doesn’t do that. Have the Danes never heard the sound of a room, a hall, or an old spring unit in an amp? Plenty of the pedal’s features are pretty silly. Like stereo input and output. Are stereo amps all the rage in Denmark? And the touch-sensitive “mash” switch seems like a fun concept until trying it out and realizing

  1. A touch-sensitive stomp switch is ergonomically and functionally pretty different than an expression pedal.
  2. Even if it did work well, when in a musical context would anyone say “You know, I want to hover my foot above this stomp box to change the reverb trail on just this one particular note or chord?”
  3. This worthless feature reminds me a lot of TC Electronic’s polyphonic PolyTune tuner. Maybe in Denmark people like to tune every string at the same time and tuning accuracy isn’t a big deal.

I sold this pedal after about two days after scoring a good deal on it since it was listed as a Hall of Fame One on eBay. In the time I had it I didn’t discover anything I liked about it. Remember those 90s bookshelf stereos with “hall,” “room,” and “arena” settings? This pedal is pretty much that for guitars. Most of the settings sound like variations of the same algorithm. Trying out the spring reverb is a particular disappointment. You’ll want to leave your surf board locked up in the garage, because there are no waves today and the water is full of sharks. Same goes for the downloadable tone prints.

The Hall of Fame 2 is the kind of uniquely bad pedal that has me scratching my head with questions like.

  1. Do I really like TC Electronic products at all? I thought I liked my Dark Matter distortion and Shaker vibrato, but now I’m not sure.
  2. Do I even like reverb?
  3. Do I even like playing guitar?
  4. Do I even like music?
  5. Do I even like sound?

And that’s not what anyone wants in a reverb pedal. D-

Electro-Harmonix Oceans 11 – Do I have some sort of snobby golden ears that just can’t appreciate a digital reverb pedal or can the cigar-smoking hippies in New York City make a better ‘verb than the Danes?

Electro Harmonix CEO Mike Matthews

As it turns out, yes, those New Yorkers have indeed made a very good ‘verb in the Oceans 11.

“Wait a minute,” you must be saying, “but the picture above reveals just a single output, no mash switch, and no tone print, so clearly the Hall of Fame 2 has to be a better pedal!”

Except that all the sounds on this pedal are good, and the little “mode” button reveals a bunch of hidden features and parameters that are more useful than beaming different settings from a smartphone, as on the Hall of Fame.

P’twaaaang! The spring setting drips just like the real thing. If there are sharks in the water today we will jump them!

Plate! Like a Motown record.

Reverse! Plate with echo! Plate with adjustable tremolo! Crazy stuff too! Shimmers, infinite sustain reverb, flangeverb, and other sounds that transport me from my basement pedal board straight to the moon.

By default the pedal is even set so, after turning the stomp switch off, the reverb trail of whatever was playing before continues, so it is possible to build up a wash of long crazy reverb and then play clean guitar on top of it. That does mean that the pedal is not true bypass and that it digitizes every sound that comes through it even when it is off. Which is, in fact, not a big deal, especially for the hearing-impaired rock and roll guitarist.

If I had to criticize something here it would be what I generally criticize about Electro-Harmonix pedals. It can get very over-the-top very quickly. Depth and rate knobs on Electro-Harmonix apparatuses can be turned to such extremes that on certain settings nothing above 9-o’clock on the dial is really useful. With the spring setting there is also somewhat of a delicate balance between dialing in a heavy surfing sound and not having the dry signal completely overwhelmed by reverb.

By the way, unlike the Made-in-Thailand Hall of Fame 2, this puppy is made in New York City.

But with every conceivable turn of every knob this pedal has something to offer. I don’t know whether to reach for my surfboard or gaze down at my shoes. A

Electro-Harmonix Soul Food

Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Distortion/Overdrive Pedal

Apparently there is a famous overdrive pedal from the 1980s called a Klon Centaur that sells for thousands of dollars on eBay. I had never heard of it until I read some Electro-Harmonix ad copy for this pedal, which is supposed to ape that sound at a reasonable price, several years ago.

I don’t have a dusty Klon Centaur to compare the Soul Food to, but I can say the Soul Food is decisively not great. If EHX released this pedal as the “Ice Pick” or “Small Speaker Simulator” it would have a more sensible name.

This pedal has the same three knobs as, say, a Tube Screamer, but what makes this pedal unique is that the “vol” knob has a lot more range than it needs to, providing gobs of clean gain, the “gain” knob doesn’t have much fuzzy gain at all, and the “treble” knob covers everywhere between “boxy” and “icepick.” The gallons of clean gain could conceivably make for a useful clean-ish boost for folks who like clean-ish boosts, except the overall sound of the pedal is so narrow-bandwidth and frequency-limited that it doesn’t work well as a clean boost either.

The style of gain is also what is called “touch-sensitive” gain, meaning it doesn’t distort or compress the sound all that much. Sensitive little licks will sound clean (albeit boxy and harsh) while aggressive moments will take on a furry “torn-speaker” sound.

There are a few sweet spots to be found, and I can see this being a useful “kick it on for extra zing during a solo” pedal for folks who solo, but overall this tends to be a harsh, unpleasant pedal.

Do I even like overdrive? Is rock and roll still relevant? Who knows?

I haven’t sold this puppy yet, but it’s likely I will soon. C

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