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TC-Helicon Play Electric

TC-Helicon Play Electric

4.15 4.15 out of 5, based on 2 Reviews

Nice all-in-one effects box for simple rigs, and sounds pretty much just like the TC standalones as far as I can tell.


26th January 2016

TC-Helicon Play Electric by thesamhill

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 3 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
TC-Helicon Play Electric

I just spent some time A/Bing the TC Helicon Play Electric with the Hall of Fame pedal and the Harmony G XT so I thought I'd share my experiences with that and overall. Also, been lurking at Gearslutz for years and thought I should contribute (esp because I have a question I need answered, and I'm posting that right after this and want the good karma)

Overall, I really like the Play Electric. My pedalboard has the Harmony G XT, then out to a Monoprice compressor (which I think sounds better than it costs), BYOC Tube Screamer, and TC Hall of Fame pedal. That's pretty much exactly what the PE has (plus delay, which is the only other pedal I was really considering, so... bonus). I play an MIM Fender Strat into a 1960s Fender Champ, and vocals into a generic PA box that is sterile but clean enough.

Back to back with the HOF, I can't tell the difference. (At first I thought the PE was a lot different, but then I tracked down the "Speaker Sim" setting in the PE and turned it off.) I set the two to the same reverb type and levels, tweaked to get them as same as I could, and then A/Bed them through a bypass looper into the amp. I was able to get it so that I noticed no real difference between the two. So that's my basic point- I have no idea whether you'd think either sounded good. I did. I'm just saying I could get them to sound the same. Obv the HOF could do more, but if you're just looking for some reverb and not dialing in the exact sound of a church in Wales in November, the PE was great.

An advantage of the PE also is that you can switch reverbs in the middle of a song by clicking through presets. One frustration with the HOF was that it wasn't easy to go from regular reverb to, say, surf-level reverb for a solo part, then back to regular reverb. So the PE is cool that way.

On the other hand, though, the presets do add to the extra complication factor. At least, I think they do. Once you're used to them, they're OK, but it takes a bit to get over the "stomp for on, then stomp again for off" mentality. I'm already singing, playing and watching for band dynamics, so I admit it doesn't take much to throw me off step. The presets aren't hard, that system is probably the simplest possible method, they're just not baby-simple.

I don't think the Play Electric has the Analog Dry Through like the HOF, and our tone freak brethren would probably comment on that. But I figure if I can't hear a difference between the two when playing a Strat into a '60s Champ, then I don't have any business commenting.

The other effects sound fine. The comp is fine so far. I'm not an OD coniosuoorrr (lol, gave up) but between the OD and the Dark Matter onboard the PE I was able to get what I needed. There's other distortion in there but I didn't use it.

I used just the Harmony G XT in acoustic sets for years and loved it. Then I realized that having generated harmonies on for entire choruses wasn't sounding good to me, and that I wanted that momentary mode. So I got the PE and wired up a Switch 3 for myself, and now I can get just a touch of harmony on that one word ("Let me get... to the point... let's roll... another joint"- just hold the switch down on the word "joint" and it sounds sweet without being overdone).

Sound wise, again, I was able to make the PE sound just like the Harmony G Xt on all the settings I used- high, higher, low, and lower. I didn't really try the doubling or octave voices because I don't use them.

As for bang-for-buck, I think the PE is good esp if you compare to the TC singles, HOF, delay, OD, etc, plus patch cables and velcro and hardware and hassle. I'm not recording, I'm playing in a basement and prob for some random gigs, so I'm not going to say it subs for a rackmount effects studio setup or anything.

I went back and forth on the PE and the Voicelive 3. I would like to do some looping, and the looper in the PE is pretty minimal. But I've had all-in-ones before and just got overwhelmed with all the options and couldn't make anything work. The PE seems like a good balance of features and simplicity. The PE has all the standard stuff, and the extra "gimmick" stuff- like the OC-3 (which adds some interesting character to fingerpicked John Prine-style tunes, incidentally) and the looper- can be offboard. That makes things easier for me to track mentally.

Overall: In terms of sound quality, I think the PE sounds the same as the equivalent settings on the HOF and the Harmony G XT. I like the features and the relative compactness and getting rid of the spaghetti mess of patch cables I was using.

  • 1
30th August 2017

TC-Helicon Play Electric by grannis

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 3 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
TC-Helicon Play Electric

I have been using the TC Helicon Play Electric live for about 3 years now, and it has been fantastic in terms of bang-for-buck.

I bought it to sit in the FX loop of my tube amp, and to fatten up my backing vocals.

I am an old hand with digital multi-FX units, so I can get pretty comfortable with all the settings pretty quickly. For anyone that is not, I can imagine it is not super-easy to use - but it is very versatile.

Since I used it in the FX loop, I have mainly used the modulation, delay and reverb effects. I only use these in moderation, and they are fine, but if you are looking to sound like the Edge, or for massive ambient sounds, you may feel this comes up short.

Two other features that I found very useful in the guitar effects:

1) 3-band EQ

Treble – 2.5K, Q=1.5, +/-9 dB
Bass – 101 Hz, Q=2.68, +/-9 dB
Middle - the frequency is adjustable.

2) Boost

This is only accessible via the additional Switch-3 or Switch-6 footswitches, but very simply it gives the option to toggle between two volume and gain settings on your patch - a simple way to switch to a lead setting when you are playing live.

For the amp simulation, and distortion effects, you get what you pay for. This is not a high end unit, but I have used it direct to PA as a backup when my tube amp failed, and it got us through.

On the vocal effects, again you have huge choices, ranging from a little light pitch correction and doubling, through to sounding like a small choir or Cher. Perfect for the guitarist who needs a little help with his/her backing vocals.


The unique feature of this little box, that I have not seen anywhere else in a unit of this price, is that the harmonisation and pitch-correction can be set to take their cue from your guitar. If you change chords while playing, the harmoniser will pick that up quickly and adjust - and you don't have to create a patch for every key you want to sing and play in.

For signal routing too you have a really wide range of options that let you work with an amp, direct to PA, with backing tracks, and with in-ear monitoring. One minor complaint - you can't go to an amp and to a PA at the same time.

It also works seamlessly with most DAWs for recording.


I only give it a 3 for ease of use, because the PC interface is pretty limited, there's no midi, and because you cannot have separate presets for guitar and vocal. In the end I created a patch for every song we play - tedious and time-consuming, but once it's done it's done - as long as you don't change songs every week!

For a guitarist who sings a little backing vocals, this unit is a great choice. For 3 years I have been on the lookout for something better, but I have not found it yet.

 
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