TC upgrade both the hardware and the software of their cost-effective M•One multi-effects unit.
When I reviewed the M•One back in SOS February 2000 I found it to be intuitive to use, with a good range of quality reverbs and effects, extremely flexible configuration options, and comprehensive interfacing. In fact, the machine was (and remains) hard to fault at the price, and only when comparing small room reverbs did it give any substantial ground to the similarly priced Lexicon MPX500.
However, TC Electronic have recently introduced a new XL version of the M•One, priced the same as the original in the UK. The majority of the new machine's physical form and signal processing structure remains identical, so I will highlight only the changes and new functions here.
The only obvious physical changes are the new M•One XL badge and the XLR analogue I/O in place of the original's TRS sockets. A menu option lets you feed the left input to both channels — previously done by automatic switching on the TRS sockets.
Turning to the list of presets, the XL offers twice as many as the original machine, with two hundred factory presets plus a hundred user memories. In fact, factory presets 101 to 200 are identical to those of the standard M•One, but a hundred new programs have been introduced from preset one to 100.
The effects programs have also been supplemented with two new options, plus some enhancements to all the reverb algorithms. Of particular note, especially since it was commented on in my previous review, one of the new programs is a Small Room algorithm (the other is a ping-pong stereo delay). For the record, the other core programs are hall, room, plate, spring, live and ambience reverbs; delay; chorus; flange; pitch-shift; parametric EQ; compressor/limiter; gate/expander; de-esser; tremolo; and phaser.
The reverb algorithms have been improved for the XL version with TC's 'XL Technology' — the result of the company's continuing research and development in artificial reverberation. The improvements mainly affect the creation of early reflections and provide better reverb tails with greater density and more complex modulation characteristics. The 'Diffuse Field' technology used to improve the reverb density is currently unique to the XL, but derives from TC Electronic's high-end studio reverberators, and is claimed to offer more natural reverbs than any other processor at a comparable price — I can quite believe it too. The room size parameter of every reverb program has also been extended to include an XL option (small, medium, large and new XL!). However, it is in the simulation of small rooms that the new machine really shows its mettle.
One interesting aspect of the M•One XL is that the Live and Plate programs have been deliberately optimised for live sound use. These simple 'grainy' reverb algorithms apparently cut through on PA systems far better than many of the modern, sophisticated high-density algorithms, which have a habit of disappearing. Not many people know that!
The new ping-pong program adds to the original tap delays by introducing a stereo delay with successive repeats alternately placed left and right. A stereo width control replaces the pan facility of the tap delay algorithms to determine the image spacing of the repeats, but all the other parameters remain the same, including filtering, feedback, delay time and level.
The M•One XL offers a worthwhile improvement on the original, not least by including twice as many factory presets — all of which are usable from the off. The machine is also very competent technically, with thoughtful facilities, but the crux of the matter is that the reverb enhancements lift the M•One XL up several performance notches.
Considering the attractive price of this machine, the new Small Room algorithm is extremely good value and delivers very credible results. Although I couldn't perform the same comparison with Lexicon's MPX500 as I did for the original M•One review, I can say the XL comes a lot closer to the superb performance of the PCM90 than the original did. The new ping-pong delay program is a nice addition too, and avoids having to mess about with dual-tap delay algorithms.
Like its antecedent, the M•One XL is easy to use at either a basic level or as a power user — and delivers stunning results for the money. I liked the original very much, and the new XL is even better, yet costs exactly the same. This is a serious machine capable of delivering very competent professional results, both technically and aesthetically. Well worth fitting into your effects rack.
- Great sounds.
- Updated reverb algorithms.
- New small room and ping-pong delay programs.
- Flexible effects configurations.
- Easy to use, with basic and power-user modes.
- None at this price.
A professional-quality multi-effects machine with the emphasis on reverberation. The XL Technology improves the naturalness of all reverb algorithms, and the new small room program moves the M•One XL a lot closer to Lexicon's high ground. This is a powerful, flexible and very usable machine at an impressively low price.
TC Electronic UK +44 (0)800 917 8926.