Electro-Harmonix Tone Tattoo Multi-Effects Pedal Review
- Pros: A compact combination of three classic Electro-Harmonix pedals. Combine up to three analogue effects using one unit.
- Cons: Little more than the sum of its parts in terms of functionality.
- Overall: Although technically a space-saver, only really suited to people specifically looking for distortion, chorus and delay pedals.
- Amazon: Electro Harmonix Tone Tattoo
Clad in a stylish, tattooed case, the Tone Tattoo from Electro-Harmonix is something of a Frankenstein multi-effects pedal. It’s a cut-and-pasted amalgamation of three of their best-selling pedals, the Metal Muff distortion, Neo Clone chorus and Memory Toy delay units. It’s all analogue, so you’re getting the real things and not some digital reproduction. The only danger with this formula is that you might only get a lacklustre, stripped-down version of three existing pedals set into one easy-to-sell package.
The features of the Tone Tattoo are pretty simple to grasp. You have three key components, the classic Metal Muff, Neo Clone and Memory Toy effects, all lined up in that order. The chain is fixed, so you can’t play around with your chain in the same way as with the individual pedals. You can either combine the three effects, use them in pairs or just on their own, however. This puts it on par with many mid-sized digital pedals in terms of maximum simultaneous effects, and they’re the real thing rather than an approximation.
Three sturdy footswitches activate and de-activate the different pedals. These are chrome and line the bottom of the Tone tattoo, so they’re easy to trigger with a stomp in a performance situation. Above these are the controls for the parameter of the different effects. These are a combination of buttons, dials and switches, and they control the same parameters as are available on the original units.
The “Metal Muff” section, emblazoned in green on the right of the unit, has dials for drive, bass, treble, volume and gate threshold, a mid scoop switch and a button to activate the gate. The gate threshold knob lets you choose the amount of decibels you need to produce to open the gate and allow the signal through. This is especially useful when you’re combining the distortion with the delay effects of the Memory Toy. The scoop switch is fixed to either add -7.5dB or -11dB to the mid signal (or none, if switched off). The “Boost” controls from the stand-alone pedal are missing.
Slim-line and central, the “Neo Clone” section is a reincarnation of Electro-Harmonix’s updated version of the Small Clone pedal popularized by Kurt Cobain. It’s a chorus pedal, so it has a knob to adjust the rate of the modulation and a button to toggle between a low and high “depth” of effect. It’s exactly the same as the original unit, just sandwiched between two others.
The left side of the pedal is dedicated to the “Memory Toy” delay function. It’s parameters are controlled by four dials, which adjust the delay time up to a maximum of 550ms, the amount of echoes produced by a note, the level of gain and the mix between the two signals. This offers the same level of control as the original unit with the addition of the gain dial.
When it comes to jacks, the Tone Tattoo is simple, it has one to plug your lead into, and another to go to your amp. You can put it anywhere on your signal chain, but you have a fixed route through the unit and no option for a stereo output.
The Sum of Its Parts
The major limitation of the Tone Tattoo is shown perfectly by its name. Not only are you confined to using three specific effects, you can’t even vary the order of them. You can have fun with the delay function and adjust the distortion and chorus parameters, but you are essentially emblazoning yourself with this combination of effects. Digital effects units might not produce the authentic analogue tone perfectly, but it allows for much more sonic content to be crammed into a pedal. By comparison, the small Line 6 M9 has 101 different effects, which can be combined in any way.
It’s also worth noting that Electro-Harmonix have simply put three existing stompboxes together. It does cut down on unnecessary wires and saves some space on your pedalboard, but it also means that their flaws get carried along with them. The muddying of the tone that can happen when you run the Metal Muff through a high-gain amp, the Neo Clone can still go too far and sound a little ridiculous and the Memory Toy doesn’t have a tap tempo function, which makes it more difficult to get your echoes in time.
On the positive side, the pedal also captures what made the original models so great and puts them all in one place. It keeps the authentic analogue tone – which many guitarists prefer – and lets you come up with interest effects combinations. It’s simplistic yet durable design makes operation intuitive, and you don’t have to worry about it getting knocked about a little on the way to a gig. It’s made to last.
If you don’t have distortion, chorus or delay pedals and would be interested in that combination, the Tone Tattoo is basically peerless. However, anybody who isn’t a fan of the original pedals should steer clear, because these aim to be reproductions and nothing else. Electro-Harmonix has just put three of its units in one box, and perhaps they aren’t particularly updated, but it does save analogue multi-effects newbies money and helps pedalboard-wielding experts save space on their rigs.