Like most manufacturers of high-end effects and processors, TC Electronic recognizes the growing demand for lower-cost equipment. Its response is a pair of low-cost effects processors: the D-TWO and the M-ONE. The D-TWO offers a broad range of delay- and modulation-based effects. The M-ONE is more of a traditional multi-effects processor with reverb, delay, EQ, dynamics and an assortment of other effects algorithms.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, live sound
Key Features: Two effects engines, balanced analog I/O, S/PDIF digital I/O, large multicolor LCD display, input level and gain reduction metering, tap tempo
Contact: TC Electronic at 800-288-5838; 805-373-1828; www.tcelectronic.com. Reader Service 123.
+ Thick, versatile reverbs
+ Punchy compressor/limiter
+ Intuitive interface
+ S/PDIF digital I/O
– Limited effects parameters for editing
– One-speed value adjust knob
The Score: A capable and great-sounding multi-effects processor that delivers TC Electronic effects quality at a budget-friendly price.
The TC Electronic M-ONE ($699) is a true dual-effects processor. It has two effects engines that can be configured in numerous ways, including parallel mono, series mono and parallel stereo. Feeding these processors is a pair of 1/4-inch balanced inputs and 24-bit converters, as well as an S/PDIF digital input. Outputs mirror inputs – 1/4-inch balanced stereo jacks, 24-bit D/A converters and S/PDIF digital output. Other back panel connectors include MIDI in/out/through, pedal input and standard IEC power jack (no wallwart).
The M-ONE offers a pretty diverse range of algorithms, including reverbs (room, hall, plate, spring, live and ambience), one- and two-tap delays, chorus, flange, detune, pitch shift, parametric EQ, compressor, limiter, gate/expander, de-esser, tremolo and phaser. Unlike some other comparable units, the M-ONE has no multi-effect algorithms that combine more than one effect on a single processing engine.
Perhaps most striking about the M-ONE is its multicolor LCD. Different sections of the display have different background and foreground colors, which add an attractive (and useful) visual variety to the display. This large display tracks input level, input selection, sample rate, effect routing configuration, effect algorithm, program name, gain reduction, program number and more. The input level metering has a relatively slow-acting average display, plus an instantaneous peak indicator with hold.
Thankfully, the care that went into designing the M-ONE’s LCD display spilled over into other aspects of the unit’s interface. Knobs and buttons are clearly grouped and labeled by function, including levels, setup, effects, program and control.
To the right of the M-ONE’s front panel power switch are the level knobs for input, mix and effect balance. The mix knob controls overall dry-to-wet ratio (for most routings), while the effect balance knob controls the output balance from the two effects engines. To the right of the levels section sits the LCD display.
Next are the setup buttons, including routing, I/O, tap and utility. The routing button brings up the M-ONE’s processor routing options; the I/O button controls inputs used (analog or S/PDIF digital), sample rate in the analog input mode (44.1 kHz or 48 kHz) and clock source (internal, digital input). Tap lets you enter a tempo from the front panel. Utility brings up MIDI configuration options, bypass modes, pedal controls and more.
The effects button bank has algo/edit and bypass buttons for each effects engine. This is where you select algorithms and adjust specific parameters of each. Program buttons, recall and store, do exactly what their labels indicate.
The M-ONE’s control section contains up and down buttons for selecting effect parameters, and a large knob for adjusting those parameters (or selecting programs). The final buttons – enter and exit – confirm program changes and exit the editing mode, respectively.
It’s refreshing to sit in front of a piece of equipment that sports an intuitive, well-conceived interface. The M-ONE is pure simplicity to operate, thanks to its logical control layout and clear labeling. I was able to access most of the M-ONE’s functions without touching its manual, which is always a sign of good interface design. If you’re easily intimidated or confused by multi-effects processors, the M-ONE may be just the friendly face you’re looking for.
When editing programs, the up- and down-arrow buttons step you through the available parameters. A handy “More” indicator shows if parameters exist above or below your current location in the list. The large adjustment knob is smooth and predictable, making it great for most adjustments.
Unfortunately, the M-ONE’s knob doesn’t have any way to move through broad parameters in large increments. This means dialing in 1,200 cents’ worth of pitch shift 1 cent at a time – which is a rather slow and tedious process.
The M-ONE’s algorithms err on the side of offering fewer parameters than you might expect, most likely in an effort to maintain the unit’s ease of use. Reverbs, for example, don’t offer diffusion, density, stereo spread or ER shape parameters. Chorus and flange have no low- or high-pass filter, and you can’t get both attack time and soft knee from any one dynamics program.
In addition to a few more parameters here and there, I would love to hear TC’s take on a few other effects algorithms. The M-ONE offers no filters or filter-type effects (low-pass with resonance, autowah, vocoder, etc.); also notably lacking are a Leslie speaker emulator, true pingpong delay, reverse reverb and gated reverb.
The M-ONE’s algorithms are largely conservative in nature, and don’t offer the serious sound-mangling power of some of its competitors. That said, I do have to commend TC Electronic on the addition of the compressor, limiter and de-esser programs.
When it comes to sound, the M-ONE doesn’t disappoint – especially with its reverbs. On the reverb continuum between ultrarealistic (often thin) and overly full and thick, the M-ONE’s algorithms lean a little more toward the thick side. Some of TC Electronic’s reverb programs sound huge, a fact that will earn smiles from those producing popular forms of music. Stacking two M-ONE reverbs in a series makes for some extremely dense sounds.
The M-ONE’s reverbs are excellent across the board, with the hall, live and ambience algorithms standing out as the best of the bunch. The hall and room algorithms do nice work with pop drums, and I especially like the fatness and detail of the unit’s small room emulations. The M-ONE’s ambience program is great, wrapping a sound in acoustic space that’s somehow unnoticeable and unmistakable at the same time. The addition of a realistic spring reverb was a nice plus.
Modulation programs (chorus and flange) on the M-ONE are very good, offering a choice of classic and four-voice varieties. The four-voice effects are a little smoother, but I actually preferred the more pronounced classic varieties in most cases. The M-ONE’s phaser offers a similar choice between vintage (four-filter) and smooth (12-filter) varieties.
What a pleasant surprise to find great-sounding dynamics programs in the M-ONE. The unit’s compressor and limiter algorithms are the real deal, adding punch and impact to sounds as they smooth out dynamics. The M-ONE even fattened up drums, which is usually tricky to do with a digital compressor. The compressor’s program-dependent attack time algorithm picked good-sounding settings for most input sources.
For some reason, TC Electronic left manual attack time off the compressor and soft-knee off the limiter – you won’t find both in the same algorithm. The M-ONE’s de-esser works well, but it can be tricky to set up – there’s no way to listen to the side chain to dial in the offending frequency. The M-ONE’s LCD display shows gain reduction for all three dynamics programs though with no dB scale.
The M-ONE’s detune algorithm is smooth and lush, adding nice fatness and width. Its pitch shift programs provide two voices that span a two-octave range on either side of the input pitch. You can pan the two voices anywhere in the stereo field, and adjust their individual levels.
The pitch-shift algorithm exhibited some definite, rhythmic “slicing” noise, but the effect is useful if dropped back far enough in the mix. When a processor in this price range (from any manufacturer) turns out a really good pitch shift, I’ll throw a party.
The M-ONE’s 24-bit converters maintain a high degree of transparency and openness, and I really appreciated the addition of the S/PDIF jacks for digital-only processing. The days of clarity-killing effects processors are drawing to a close, thanks to pristine-sounding units like the M-ONE.
Though made in Thailand, the M-ONE nearly matches the quality look and feel of TC’s Danish-made products. Level and adjust knobs are sturdy and smooth, and the unit’s buttons emit a nice, positive “click” when you press them. Overall, TC Electronic has really maintained the quality of its product line down into this lower price point. Some companies don’t handle the transition quite so gracefully.
I was curious how well TC Electronic would do at courting the lower end of the studio effects market, and the answer is: obviously very well. The M-ONE offers a nice complement of bread-and-butter effects, the majority of which are implemented with aplomb. Digital I/O is a real plus, as is the unit’s extremely intuitive interface. Oh – let’s not forget the M-ONE just happens to sound great to boot.
If TC Electronic products have been beyond your reach in recent years, the M-ONE may well change that. With a street price around $500, the M-ONE is poised to bring TC Electronic quality to a whole new market.