Pedal Review: Electro Harmonix Tone Tattoo
Cost: $220 Availible Here
The Electro Harmonix Tone Tattoo is the first analog multi-effects for the company and one of the few analog multi-effects on the market, especially at this price point. The Tone Tattoo features three popular effects in one unit: the Metal Muff distortion, the Neo Clone chorus, and the Memory Toy delay. No menus, scrolling, or complicated settings. Just turn it on and rock out. Each effect is foot switchable, plus there is an added noise gate for the Metal Muff. It’s easy to power with an included 9v adapter, and its low mA rating makes it compatible with most other power supplies.
How do you incorporate the Tone Tattoo?
I first wondered how to incorporate this pedal into a typical pedal board setup. Like many people I already have a delay, dirt pedals, and modulation, and since delay is usually placed at the end of the effects chain, and a distortion in front, placing the Tone Tattoo in with other pedals is a challenge. This pedal is best enjoyed on its own – add a tuner and you’re good to go.
The Tone Tattoo has two essential tones to it: dirty and clean. If you use the “dirt” that comes with it, you’re stuck with a pretty heavy distortion. No two ways about it, the Metal Muff is geared towards the metal genre, and not much else. It features a three-way toggle that scoops the midrange – you can choose to have low, high, or no mid-scoop. What I really wanted was a midrange boost knob to give it more warmth and character. This lack of midrange makes the tone seem a little dated, like the heavy-metal bands from the ‘90s. Once the gain is at 9 o’clock, it gets heavy quickly.
The second tone you get with the Tone Tattoo is the combination of the chorus and delay. This is a nice, warm tone. The Toy is rated for 550ms of delay, but it sounds like it might have more. There is no modulation built into the delay, but you have the Neo Clone for that. The Neo Clone, based on the very popular Small Clone chorus, is a classic sound you’ve heard on many recordings – think Come as You Are, by Nirvana. It includes a switch for added depth.
Adding the Neo Clone chorus to the delay does help give it more character. Without it, it’s a fairly bland delay. When using the Metal Muff and the Toy together, set the blend/gain level lower – it adds a nice thickness to the Metal Muff, great for making solos stand out a bit more.
I tried using all three effects together, but it can get congested if you’re not careful. Keep the Neo Clone speed lower, depth off, and the Toy mix lower, and you can make it work. In general, I’m not a big fan of the metal tone with chorus. I’d rather have the Small Stone phaser running first into the Metal Muff.
Unique to this pedal is the noise gate. It features an on/off button and a very small dial that controls the threshold. I found it works as advertised but didn’t think it was a very noisy pedal in the first place. You can set the threshold to allow some of the delays to come through, which is helpful.
Multi Effects: Digital versus Analog
There are a ton of multi-effects out there - and almost all of them are digital. The knock on these effects in the past has been their decidedly “digital,” or sterile, tone. But many of the new models are much better. The big advantage is the number of effects stuffed into one box. The Line 6 M series, for example, has over 100 effects, a tuner, and user-programmed presets. The new Zoom G3X is $299 and can run any six of the 94 effects and 22 amp models at one time.
I can see EHX trying other versions of this pedal. Instead of the Metal Muff, I’d like to see the Germanium Muff, with the Memory Boy and its added modulation, and their Holy Grail Nano reverb. As it is, the Tone Tattoo is an interesting pedal, and not one easily defined. If you like the Metal Muff tone and must have analog only effects, the Tone Tattoo might be right up your alley. But if you want more flexibility and diversity of tones and are willing to look at digital effects, there are other options to consider in the same price range.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
5 – Tremendous product; among the very best
4 – Great value overall; exceeds expectations
3 – Definite contender, but look closely at the competition too
2 – Average at best; probably better choices exist
1 – Not ready for prime time