TC-Helicon Play Electric by thesamhill
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.