Don’t Sweat the Tap Tempo: Free the Tone’s Flight Time Delay Has BPM Auto-Detction

Sometimes you really need to hear a feature in action to determine if it’s actually a game changer, or just a cool but ultimately inessential concept. When I first heard the phrases “delay pedal” and “real-time BPM analyzer” the pleasure neurons in my feeble brain woke from a long sleep and formed a circle pit. Who among us hasn’t had sensuous fantasies of untethering ourselves from the infernal tap tempo button?

Japanese pedalologists Free the Tone are responsible for setting my heart aflutter with the release of their Flight Time FT-1Y delay pedal. First of all, that early 80s computing component is rad, and calls to mind not just the halcyon days when you had to boot up MS-DOS on a separate 5.25″ floppy disk, but also the early legendary digital delay units like TC Electronic’s 2290.

But let’s cut to the chase: can you just disregard the tapping and let the nanorobots in the circuitry do the work? It doesn’t appear so. The BPM analyzer “adjusts the delay time by automatically trimming the BPM based on realtime tempo analysis of the current performance within the range of ±20% of the tempo (BPM) information tap-entered by using a footswitch.” So it appears to be more of a safeguard against sloppy tapping. Well, I suppose that’s still handy.

Here’s the other use of this functionality though, and it through me for a bit of a loop (no pun intended):

World-First: Delay Time Offset Feature *
A common delay setup is to offset the delay time compared to the BPM of the tune being played to make the delay sound of a guitar or bass more easily heard. When the delay time is set to be equal to the actual BPM, the delay sound will be masked by other on-beat sounds and become difficult to hear. With a shorter delay time setting, you can give a high-speed impression to your playing. Conversely, a longer setting can help to render broader expressions with plenty of time for each tone. Since the delay time offset amount can be set for each preset, you can keep the setting best suited to each tune.

Honestly this concept had never really occurred to me. Yes, I’ve noticed that sometimes if your delay’s quarter or eighth notes or what have you land perfectly in sync with the current note you’re playing, the delay can sometimes be less noticeable, but offsetting the timing seems like it could do more harm than good. In fact, dynamic delays (like the aforementioned 2290) do the opposite and duck the repeats out of the mix if they’re landing in the vicinity of the part you’re currently playing. But keeping those trails prominent and just nudging them later is certainly a novel approach.

You can judge, if not the features, then at least the sound quality of the Flight Time in Free the Tone’s demo video below. The pedal will be available November 7th, with an MSRP of $430.

Source: Premier Guitar

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Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and mp3.com were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.