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TC Electronic Plethora X5 review

Flexibility is the name of the game with this TonePrint-enabled multi-effects unit with MASH footswitches

  • £399
  • €409
  • $499
TC Electronic Plethora X5
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Our Verdict

The Plethora X5 is aptly named, offering a very player-friendly, compact solution for expanding your tone options. Gigging players will love it; the Plethora can even work as an emergency rig. And the good news is that firmware updates will expand its feature set over time.

Pros

  • Compact unit with all the essentials.
  • Easy to use.
  • MASH footswitches and expression pedal inputs.
  • Regular firmware updates.

Cons

  • Effects displayed left-to-right, which is initially confusing.

What is it?

Even in this day and age, where there is a stompbox for everything, there is still room in our hearts and on the floor for the multi-effects unit – the one-stop-shop where all the essentials gather under one chassis.

Typically, these will be programmable, allowing you to assign your favourite sounds to patches and have a gig-ready platform at your feet. Just as effects pedals have evolved, so too have the multi-effects. 

DSP tech is getting more advanced. Functionality is getting ever-more accessible, with features that hitherto were the reserve of the bespoke-built pro systems no available as standard in mid-priced models. TC Electronic's first multi-effects pedal, the Plethora X5, is by any standard pretty darn modern.

As you would expect, it collects the Danish pedal titan's most successful TonePrint effects pedals in one compact unit. All the hits are here: the Hall Of Fame 2 Reverb, Flashback 2 Delay, Sub n Up Octaver, Sentry Noise Gate, Hypergravity Compressor, Brainwaves Pitch Shifter, Corona Chorus, Vortex Flanger, Quintessence Harmony, Mimiq Doubler, Shaker Vibrato, Pipeline Tap Tremolo, and the latest firmware update brought the Helix Phaser, Viscous Vibe and a RAM-based looper to the party, too.

Think of it as many pedalboards in one floor unit. All in, you can store 127 pedalboards

Think of it as many pedalboards in one floor unit. All in, you can store 127 pedalboards. The TonePrint tech offers you a lot of control, a lot of options. The unit ships with a whole load of them but you can download more via Bluetooth or USB, and having them involved allows you to switch to a favoured set of parameters – say a delay, with time, number of repeats, etc – at the touch of a footswitch.

Performance and verdict

You will be forgiven for a moment's confusion when first plugging into the Plethora X5. The footswitches and effects run from left to right, as opposed to right to left as most of us tend to arrange our pedalboards. However, the displays are very easy to navigate, with effects clearly named and colour-coded.

Indeed, once you get used to the left-to-right orientation the Plethora X5 is a breeze.  There are two modes – Play and Edit – each selected via a toggle switch. In Play mode, the Plethora X5 is set up for performance. You can use the Board switch to sift through your pedalboards or use switches 1 and 2. 

If you want to switch the order of your effects and you're in a hurry, you can hold down two footswitches at simultaneously and swap the order of the two effects. Now, that's in Play mode. Edit mode is where you will encounter the rabbit hole.

You can assign any pedal to a footswitch via the Effects knob, and likewise with the TonePrint knob. Three key parameters will be displayed on the windows with a knob above for adjusting them are associated knobs. Dial-in the tone you like, the effect is set, then move on to assigning an effect or TonePrint to the next footswitch, adjust as required and continue until you have set up your 'board.

Also consider...

Line 6 HX Stomp

(Image credit: Line 6)

Line 6 HX Stomp
It's not as flexible on-the-fly as its larger forebears, but the HX Stomp offers a staggering number of tones from a pedalboard-friendly package.

Boss MS-3 Multi Effects Switcher
Yet for those of us looking to minimise on real estate (and outlay), Boss has come up with an ingenious solution that gives you programmable loops for three of your own pedals and a host of its own effects – 112 to be precise. 

Mooer GE300
Mooer's GE300 is a slightly more affordable approach to high-end multi-FX, and a worthy competitor to Line 6 and Boss.

Those are the basics, though you can dig deeper. There are secondary functions almost everywhere you look. Hold down the TonePrint knob to access a tuner. The MASH footswitches themselves offer a degree of expression control, too. Holding one down can, for example, increase the depth of a chorus, and they can control a tap-tempo function where appropriate.

Bringing your other pedals into play is easy, which is just as well as there are no onboard dirt pedals here. There is a mono effects loop with which you can use four cables to run some pedals into the front end of the amp, others through the loop. You can place the effects loop wherever you like on the signal path, keep it active 24/7 or assign it to a footswitch.

Connect an expression pedal to the Plethora X5 and it will immediately be recognised as a volume pedal, and, like the fx loop, can be placed wherever you like in the signal chain. You can also assign parameters to it across single or multiple effects.

As for the quality of the sounds? Well, these are are all household names. You know what you are getting. What the Plethora X5 does well is bringing them all together and create a format with which you can combine them more effectively than if you had them simply daisy-chained on your 'board.

After a little experimenting, you will soon see its potential. The gigging guitarist can build a set and program the Plethora X5 so each footswitch accesses a sound for each song on the set. Or use it to run variations on a theme, such as a four reverbs, each a little roomier than the last. And then, of course, once you incorporate your favourite stompboxes you can really get to work on a signature tone.

MusicRadar verdict: The Plethora X5 is aptly named, offering a very player-friendly, compact solution for expanding your tone options. Gigging players will love it; the Plethora can even work as an emergency rig. And the good news is that firmware updates will expand its feature set over time.

The web says...

"Add one of these to your dirt pedal(s) and you’ll have a complete functional pedalboard that can also fulfil a ‘fly rig’ or emergency backup role straight into a PA as it has a globally switched cabinet simulation onboard. Alternatively, it represents a great way to expand your existing pedalboard with a range of complementary effects without excessive cabling and power requirements."
Guitarist

Hands-on demos

TC Electronic

Andertons

Sweetwater

Specifications

  • ORIGIN: China
  • TYPE: Effects pedalboard
  • FEATURES: True or buffered bypass, tuner, tap tempo, selectable global cab sim, 127 boards, 75 TonePrint slots per pedal, MASH footswitches, software editing
  • CONTROLS: Standard input L (mono) & R, standard output L (mono) & R, standard Send, standard Return, EXP, USB, MIDI In, MIDI Thru
  • CONNECTIONS: Standard input, standard output, EXP
  • POWER: Included 9V DC adaptor, 600mA
  • DIMENSIONS: 298 (w) x 116 (d) x 53mm (h)
  • CONTACT: TC Electronic