Frippertronics with Red Panda Tensor.
Frippertronics evolves loops through a long delay (4 seconds or more) with the feedback turned up (but not quite self-oscillating). Out of the box, Red Panda’s Tensor’s Ovr mode is a “normal” looper (akin to a TC Ditto, but with a shorter memory), but it’s pretty easy to turn your Tensor into a Frippertronics machine. You just need to modify the pedal’s midi setting with Red Panda’s Web editor to make the layers fade.
So why do it?
As a pseudo delay, Tensor can record from about 100 milliseconds up to 9.6 seconds. It gives you many more ways to manipulate the repeats (glitch, pitch, direction, random) than most pedals branded as Frippertronics-capable. A truly unique feature of the Tensor is that you can control speed and pitch together like a normal looper or manipulate them separately with the Time and Pitch knobs. This article shows you how to modify your Tensor and get the most out of its extensive Frippertronics capabilities.
Note that the times listed below are for mono use. In stereo the loops are ½ length.
How to set up your Tensor for Frippertronics.
On the Tensor:
- Power up your Tensor.
- Plug in a USB-USB mini cable.
On your computer:
- Plug in the other end of the cable.
- In Chrome, open the Web Editor page and click Tensor. (Note that your Tensor requires v1.2 firmware or later)
- If it’s not connecting, tap refresh.
- Drag the Loop Decay slider to the right to about 20%.
- Unplug and enjoy.
This will give you about 10 repeats before the delay is gone. If you want fewer repeats: drag the Loop Decay slider slightly right, more repeats: drag it slightly left. Changes to the Tensor parameters are happening live when connected. So if you start recording via the directions below you can audibly adjust the fade level to your taste on our computer live.
How to use Frippertronics on the Tensor.
- Set the left Hold toggle to Ovr.
- Set the left footswitch toggle to L.
- Set the Speed knob to 5p.
- Tap the left footswitch, wait the duration of time you want the loop to be and tap again to set. The LED will turn green. (Or for max length, just wait into the LED turns gree.)
- Tap the left footswitch again to engage overdubbing. The LED will turn red.
You’ll now be in delay mode. To clear the loop, tap the right footswitch .
This demo is more of a conventional Frippertronics demo with a 9.6 second delay.
This demo is more messing and a mess than music, but goes through Tensor’s effects of auto-reverse, pitch shifting, random and time stretch that can be added to the long delay.
How to effect the delay.
While many pedals can do Frippertronics, not many offer you so many ways to mangle the sound during both recording and playback. Generally only the layer being presently recorded will be permanently changed by the effects.
You can reverse loop playback with the Dir switch or the Speed knob. All direction changes to new layers are recorded so if you record overtop of a reversed loop, that layer will be forwards. The Alt setting is much fun and keeps changing loop direction each pass so you can mix forward and reverse layers without having to throw the switch.
Speed up or slow down memory playback with the Speed or Pitch knob. Note that recording while the pitch is set to -1 octave will make that last layer normal pitch. But if you turn the Pitch knob back to normal that last layer will play back +1 octave. (It’ll make more sense in practice than it does on paper.) If you have a free hand while playing, you can speed up or slow down pitch in the fly.
You can compress the loop length to 2.4 seconds (5p) or stretch it to 38.4 seconds (7a) without changing pitch using the Time knob. Note: When stretching, things get choppy. When compressing they can get glitchy.
The higher you crank the Rand knob the more random grains from the loop will be added back into the loop. Before noon, the changes are glitches and direction, past noon when the Pitch knob is anywhere but noon, random pitch changes will be added with the Pitch knob setting the range.
To fade the loop while recording, just stop playing. (Fade speed will depend on loop length. A traditional-Frippertronics memory length of 4 seconds will fade over 40 seconds.)
Controlling slowdown and reverse.
Tensor was built to work best with an expression pedal. The Old Blood Expression Ramper is a nice option if you’re not into expression pedals.
- Power up the Tensor.
- While holding the right footswitch on the Tensor, plug in the TRS cable from the ER. The LED will blink yellow.
- Set ER: A to 7a, B to 5p, Rate to 12n.
- Hold the right footswitch for 3 seconds to lock. The LED will blink green.
Mess with the ER knob while the toggle is on Rate to adjust the speed. Each time you tap the switch on the ER the Tensor will slow down to a stop and then speed up in the opposite direction. Anything that’s recorded during the shift will be be permanently effected and heard as a speedup.
When the left LED is red, Tensor is in the delay mode. But when green, it repeats the loop without reducing volume. (This kinda restores the normal function of the Overdub mode.) If the left footswitch toggle is set to M, you can easily punch audio into the loop.
A few notes.
- When recording the first loop, there can be a click if a note is sustained when recording stops. If exact loop length isn’t needed, it’s useful to record the first pass blank.
- Turning the Blend knob a little past noon will make the first repeat equal to the dry before fading.
- The memory doesn’t clear when switching Hold modes. But it’ll be halved when you switch to Nxt mode?
- You’ll probably want Tensor early in your chain, unless you like janky-sounding modulation.
- Tensor sounds great when followed by ambience. Though this Frippertronics mod makes Tensor a long delay, following it with a short delay and ambient reverb can really bring things to life. Mode 2 of the Recovery Effects Dirty Murals v3 is a solid choice.
The Red Panda Tensor Time Warp is a genuinely-unique looper. But what really sets it apart as a Frippertronics machine is the ability to mangle the layers in fascinating ways. While you can get near-pristine repeats, there’s always a strong urge to start corrupting the fading loop into something entirely else.
But really, techniques in this article are just the start. Try a more normal delay length of maybe a second for some wonderfully rhythmic repeats. And Ovr is 1 mode of 4 modes on Tensor (including Live mode). While some sounds can be janky, Tensor can do “normal” reversing, pitch shifting and gltiching live when not recording. As quirky as Tensor is, it’s an extremely useful pedal to keep on your board.
Like these practical reviews on quirky pedals? I’m not paid by Red Panda or Recovery Effects to write them, so buying me a coffee below is sincerely appreciated. It enables me to buy and review more.