Free the Tone FT-1Y Flight Time Delay

  • By Fletcher Stewart @tonereport
  • December 11, 2014

First Class Functionality and Tone

Upon first glance, the FT-1Y gives off an impression of militaristic magnitude. Not only is it built like a Boeing B-52 Bomber, it probably wouldn’t look out of place if it were integrated into the cockpit controls. However, unlike a flying killing machine, The Flight Time Digital Delay FT-1Y is designed to break the sound barrier set by previous delay pedals, while breathing new life into the age-old sonic art of time manipulation.

With large, stage-readable numerical displays and a simple push-button parameter selection process, it is shockingly easy to quickly sculpt a sound with exacting precision. The lack of any rotary controls, big red digital readouts and clear, high headroom tone ceiling will likely bring about the obligatory TC Electronic 2290 comparison. This is far from a bad thing, but this 21st century digital delay has its own thing going on entirely. Utilizing a 32-bit high-precision DSP engine and a boldly innovative Holistic Tonal Solution (HTS) switching circuit, the FT-1Y administers a pure, consistent signal path (even when bypassed) and noiseless repeats.

While it is easy to dial in rich, yet high-fidelity repeats, the high-pass and low-pass filters can be dialed in to taste. For example: setting the high-pass filter to 20 and tapping in a touch of modulation can mimic the sizzling slurred repeats of an old Echoplex EP-3. Alternatively, using the low-pass filter, I could get murkier BBD delay-style repeats that add atmosphere while retaining the diction of the initial pick attacks. It is really nice to build a delay sound from the ground up without the compartmentalized modeling approach. I also love the full bandwidth repeats with the filters disengaged. This is just pure, clean delay that can really make an arpeggio or lead take flight. First class.

First-in-Flight Features

There are a number of stellar delay pedals out there that sport modern features such as spillover trails, preset storing, subdivisions, looping, etc. Free The Tone President and Chief Designer Yukihiro Hayashi has an extensive background in custom mixer design, audio system development and guitar tech fieldwork. This experience has enabled him to create a delay unit that meets all the demands of today’s delay-obsessed guitarists, while soaring above and beyond the competition in some key areas.

Every heard of a real-time BPM analyzer? Now you have. That’s right, there is a tiny microphone next to the BPM Analyzer LED that activates at the push of a button. Using real-time analysis of the current performance, this ingenious device autocorrects the BPM within 20-percent of the tapped-in tempo value. This can be a laborsaving godsend for guitar players who are tired of tap dancing while trying to sing, or could save some out-of-sync embarrassment on an ill-monitored stage. Of course this feature works within reason. Guitar players in a John Zorn tribute band or other extreme time-jumping avant-garde act aren’t going to rely on this.
The other first-in-flight feature here is the offset control. This enables to-the-cent offset time adjustments that prevent the masking of delay repeats by other beat-synced instruments. Magic.

What we like: A time manipulation tome could be written about the FT-1Y. In addition to the aforementioned attributes above, this thing is MIDI-ready, dry-kill-enabled and even sports a hold switch jack for creating pads or percussive repeats, that act like tonal floatation devices to riff on top off. This pedal is as intuitive as it is in-depth and the sound quality is simply stunning. This is a first class ticket to tonal aviation.

Concerns: The lack of a stereo output seems insane to me considering the comprehensive nature of this beast. That, and the exclusion of reverse repeat functionality are the only oversights onboard. Ironically, airport security will probably be very interested in this army green, no-nonsense, metal switching box…bring the manual with you and you should get through the gate.

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