The TC Electronics Nova System multi-effects unit for guitar is a floor-based solution for guitarists who want an compact, easy to use effects package that won’t break the bank. TC Electronic has been a major player in the guitar effects scene for long enough now to be taken seriously, with products like the G System from which the Nova System takes its effects progams. The Nova is laid out logically, and has all the features necessary for the jobbing guitarist incuding a handy boost button for solos.
First and foremost, there is no digital modeling and no simulations of any amplifiers or effects. It is a straightforward, well thought-out, almost ‘back to basics’ effects set up that’s easy to use and keeps the programming simple. There’s no acoustic simulator or synth effects or digital distortion or preamp; all the overdrive and distortion on the Nova is analogue. There are 30 presets and 60 user patches; the banks are selected by the Mod and Pitch up or down buttoms and the patches are in groups of three selectable by Reverb (1), Comp (2) and Drive (3). Once I’d mastered the actual sensitivity of the button switches and how much pressure to apply, getting round the patches was relatively straightforward although there is a very small delay while the patch is loaded, but I put this down to my own clumsiness rather than any inherent problem with the unit.
Editing and storing user patches on the Nova is quick and easy – simply select a preset, press Store and select a user patch number. Once edited, press Store again and it’s done. Each effect can be stored temporarily in the four Variations memories while other effects are being edited. This is useful if a favourite setting, for example a compressor, has been programmed, as it can be stored and recalled for new presets. There are global settings such as FX Mute which will change the characteristics of reverb and delay tails as patches are changed as well as Boost Lock, Routing Lock and Factory Bank Lock, which stops the user straying into the factory preset area when playing live. Input and output level settings can be edited in the Levels section where input sensitivity and output volume can be set. Guitars use the Drive input but there is a Line input as well which be selected here.
The Nova System features seven effect types: Drive, Comp, EQ, Mod, Pitch. Delay and Reverb. All of these types are shown on an LED lit ‘ladder’, and offer a sensible choice. The Drive is either Overdrive or Distortion, with both options offering their own parameters to edit and store, while the Delay offers six choices including Tape and Ping Pong. All of the effects can be edited at any time and stored immediately, thanks to the visibility of the choices on offer.
The analogue overdrive and distortion on the Nova really put this unit a little bit ahead of the competition. They’re warm and musical and have no hard edges like their digital counterparts. The slightly overdriven crunch sounds usually sort the men from the boys on multi-effects – they’re often either lacking in clarity or are so harsh as to sound unpleasant. Not so here. There’s no problems with the high gain distortions either, and sustained notes push themselves into a natural and controllable feedback.
The factory presets, which are usually loaded with far too much reverb and delay on multi-effect units to be usable, are programmed with a degree of sublety which marks a refreshing change. The chorus, flanging, phasing and tremelo sounds, despite being digital, are all rich and full sounding, although I would have preferred an analogue compressor.
With the features on offer here as well as the rugged build quality and the great sounds available, the TC Electronics Nova could well be replacing a lot of pedalboards and patch cables in the very near future.