Updated: Jun 2, 2020
The Tonal Recall is a really interesting delay pedal and #ChaseBliss have really gone to town on it, making it hugely versatile and, most importantly, giving it a wonderful core sound. Take a peek at the video link at the bottom for a demo of the sounds on tap.
The sublime tone is due to the chips used in the Tonal Recall, which are reissued versions of the bucket brigade (BB) MN3005. The originals can be found in pedals like the Electro Harmonix Memory Man and the Boss DM-2 delay, which are famous for their lush sound. These reissues are produced by Xvive, who invested heavily in r&d to create a similar sounding chip, and for good reason as using the original Panasonics 'new/old stock' was starting to become prohibitive for companies due to their increasing scarcity and, therefore, price.
Xvive use the new chips in their own pedals too, for example in the W3 Memory Analog Delay. The new design has generally garnered a positive reaction, however, whether or not the new or old chips are better is not really the debate here as what is important is that they certainly sound amazing in the Tonal Recall.
What is a Bucket Brigade anyway?
This term is often bandied about and can be seen all over the internet when looking at delay pedals, but what does it mean? The use of the BB chips was a solution to an existing problem made possible by the advancements in technology. Initially, tape was used to create delay or echo effects in units like the Echoplex built in the late 50s and early 60s. However, they were always problematic with tape tangling and degrading with use, and were also cumbersome and expensive. So, when transistors came into common usage, these replaced the tape element of the delay pedal, enabling better consistency and smaller, cheaper units.
The Bucket Brigade chip works by simply delaying the incoming signal as it's passed down a line of capacitors, filling and emptying with that signal. This results in a pure analogue signal path which brings with it an innate warmth due to the filtering which takes place.
This is often in two stages: one to remove excessive high end as the BB chips don't like it too much and can leak signal resulting in aliasing artefacts, the second to remove the clock noise. The clock is simply the control used to tell the capacitors when to move the signal along, so in other words, it controls the delay time - the 'rate' knob on a delay pedal controls the clock speed. It does, however, introduce a ticking noise which the second filter helps to remove.
Tonal Recall Controls
Joel and the Chase Bliss team really went to extreme lengths with this pedal and have produced something rather special. Not only does it have the beautiful warm tones associated with a great BB delay, it also has an amazing level of control and variation available for the user. This comes down to the company motto: Digital Brain, Analog Heart.
As although the tones are all analog, the controls are digital which means there are unprecedented features on this pedal such as tap tempo and a recall of two presets.
Here are the controls available:
Tone / Ramp
This acts as a low pass filter for the delay repeats. However, as it's a digitally controlled pedal, this control can be assigned to any of the other controls instead - mix, rate, time, regen, depth. This can be set using the dip switches on the back of the pedal.
As with many similar pedals, this sets the mix between the dry and wet signal - the volume of the delay.
This controls the space between the delays to a maximum of 550 ms.
Moving this control clockwise will result in more delay repeats, all the way into self-oscillating, whirling soundscape madness.
This controls the rate of the LFO on the modulation of the repeats.
This controls the intensity of the modulation.
SLB Toggle Switch
This is a wonderful addition and controls how many of the MN3005 chips the signal is passed through: S for one, which provides a short delay - up to 275ms, L for two, providing a longer delay - up to 550 ms, and B for both.
Wave Shape Toggle
This selects the shape of the wave use for the modulation of the delay signal: triangle, sine and square.
Approaching the Tonal Recall can be a little daunting as it's got a lot of controls including the dip switches on the back. However, the most important aspect of this pedal is the basic tones available because if they aren't great then added bonuses such as modulation and presets aren't really that important. So I hooked up the unit to my pedal board, turned on my Two Rock Studio Pro 35 and grabbed my humbucker equipped Frank Hartung Embrace with a great deal of excitement.
Setting the pedal for a simple delay of around 300ms, I hit the first chord and was rewarded with exactly what I was hoping for - a warm, rounded delay that sounded wonderfully musical.
I then moved on to experiment with the delay times and was able to achieve anything from a lovely slap-back all the way through to the maximum 550ms delay, which sounded absolutely amazing, especially when combined with a Keeley D&M drive.
The SLB toggle switch is just fantastic and using the 'Both' (B) setting added an almost tape-like smear to the sound. However, it's still possible to hear two distinct delays at longer settings.
The modulation section is very powerful and can go from very subtle to absolutely crazy alien-like burbles. I must admit to not being a fan of these latter sounds as I don't personally find them musical, however at lower settings the modulation introduces a beautiful chorusing effect which is just stunning.
The other standout for me is the Tone control. Ignoring the fact that it can be allocated to 'ramp' any other parameter, it's a very powerful tone shaping tool and can take the delay trails from anything from bright, almost digital cleans to incredibly dark repeats, ensuring that whatever you like, Chase Bliss will have you covered.
And finally worth mentioning is just how quiet this pedal is. There is no discernible noise on the one I used even when adding overdrive.
This allows for features such as the previously mentioned tap tempo, the Tone control allocation, and two preset storage - accessible with the toggle switch between the two foot switches - but also means that the Tonal Recall can utilise midi. This is an incredibly powerful thing if your into it.
This is from the midi manual: Tonal Recall allows all of its parameters to be controlled via control change messages, its presets to be saved and recalled with program change messages, and its tempo controlled with MIDI clock messages.
In case you didn't catch that, it says: all of it's parameters can be controlled! Wow, that's pretty amazing.
Finally, there are a few more features worth mentioning. One is that trails can be turned on or off via a dip switch on the back, which also makes the pedal either buffered or true bypass. Another is the tap/hold button, which can be used for the tap tempo but also held to send the pedal into self-oscillation.
I have to mention the array of dip switches on the back as they really do draw the eye and make one wonder what on earth they are all for.
Well, they control what the ramp dial actually does or an expression pedal if that's plugged in. You can either change between two settings or bounce between them, adding more textures and interest to the sounds you can produce.
Although I probably wouldn't use the Tonal Recall to its full capacity, not being a fan of some of the UFO bleeps this unit can produce, this doesn't take away from the fact that this pedal has an incredibly low noise floor, is hugely versatile and, most importantly, just has a gorgeous core tone.
Personally, I've been very impressed with this unit and it has found a space on my pedal board. I'll be keeping an eye on Chase Bliss and snapping up other pedals when I can find them for a good price, because the only real downside to this is the price. At close to £300 new, this is not a cheap pedal but it really is amazing.
More on the Chase Bliss site: