Released in 2015, the TC Electronic (TC-E) BodyRez Acoustic Pickup Enhancer is, according to the manufacturer: “Designed to restore the natural acoustic resonance of your instrument when using under-saddle pickups.” The name is clearly an amalgamation of the words body and resonance and pretty much sums up the mission of this pedal: to restore these qualities to the sound of an undersaddle pickup on an acoustic instrument. Continuing in the marketing copy, it apparently does this through “…a vast amount of pre-configured filters combined with subtle quick compression in order to bring your amplified tone back to life.” More on that later. At time of writing the full user manual (as opposed to the quick start guide) is not available on the TC Electronic website; however, I managed to track down a copy on manualslib.
Let’s start with the basics: the pedal measures (as in, I actually measured it) 44mm/1.74″ in width, 94mm/3.70″ in length and 45mm/1.77″ in height, from the base of the pedal to the top of the single control knob. It is thus quite a small pedal and readily disappears into the string pocket of a gigbag or guitar case. Here it is alongside my MXR bass preamp and one of the newish Fishman pedals:
As expected, a pedal of this size cannot accommodate an internal battery: there is a power input on the right side for any standard pedal power supply, i.e. 9-volts, center-negative, 100 milliamps minimum. A simple power supply is included with the pedal. Above the DC input is located a mini (not micro) USB connector for firmware updates. As of September 2023, TC-E have not released any for this pedal. And no, you cannot power the pedal using a USB power supply connected to the USB port; I’ve tried. The input and output sockets are on the right and left sides of the pedal respectively and are not labelled at all – this could be confusing for pedal newbies. On the plus side, the sockets are offset to allow for closer pedal spacing with other TC-E mini pedals such as the polytune mini or hypergravity. Thoughtful!
The pedal has an input impedance of 1 MΩ (megaohm), making it compatible with most pickup systems be they magnetic or piezo. Users of passive piezo systems should probably try the pedal in-store to see if there is any high frequency loss.
The pedal is true bypass, meaning that it acts like a straight piece of wire when not engaged, and will even pass signal when no power supply is connected, which is a useful failsafe for players such as myself who use a rechargeable battery pedal power supply. The solitary footswitch clicks positively but not obnoxiously and the solitary knob turns smoothly with no backlash and just the right amount of resistance. Overall the pedal feels well built and a quality piece of gear.
So, what does this pedal actually do? TC-E are quite tight-lipped about this, referring to it as “…a sound engineer in a box…” (user manual page 7) with ‘pre-configured filters’ as mentioned in the introduction. Fortunately, the effect of this pedal on one’s acoustic tone is quite obvious to the ear, and it is possible to work out what is going on under the hood by listening while adjusting the knob. Having used and lived with this pedal for six weeks now, this is what I’ve found:
With the BODY knob set fully counterclockwise (about the 7 o’clock position), switching the pedal on appears to activate the audio compression only – this is something you can both hear and feel, and is particularly obvious when strumming, as it knocks the peaks off your playing. The compressor in this pedal is very musical and has clearly been designed with undersaddle piezo pickups in mind, helping to reduce the brashness and ‘in your face-ness’ of their sound.
Rotating the BODY knob clockwise from the minimum position progressively applies several EQ filters to your signal – the depth and width of these filters seems to increase the more you turn the knob, with the compression appearing to stay relatively consistent. Once again, these assertions are based on my listening tests alone.
From the 7 o’clock to the 12 o’clock position, a midrange frequency cut is applied, which is perfect for reducing the ‘quack’ of virtually all undersaddle piezo pickups. I found that both my Cort acoustic guitar fitted with the Fishman Matrix Infinity pickup system, as well as my Takamine guitars fitted with their iconic Palathetic pickup system benefitted from this. I found 10 to 11 o’clock to be the sweet spot, allowing me to eschew any use of the tone knob on the Fishman system. On the Takamine CT4B-II preamp, this position allowed me to boost the low end without it becoming muddy and meant I only needed a touch of mid cut. The overall effect was clarifying and satisfying, much like brushing a dusty pair of leather shoes or cleaning a water-spotted window pane. A touch-up, in other words.
Beyond the 12 o’clock position, a bass and treble boost are applied, along with increasing midrange cut. On a quality pickup system, this to my ear results in a tone that sounds hollow and brittle and, ironically, lacking in body! I suspect this area of adjustment is meant for dealing with primitive and/or bad-sounding piezo pickups where the tone is almost entirely midrange, which need to be taken by the scruff of the neck and flung rather than gently ushered into their musical place. It would also work for those players who like a really scooped sound.
The great news is that this pedal is both extremely simple and extremely versatile – by playing, listening and turning the knob in small increments, I suspect that most players would be able to find tonal satisfaction at some point. It is NOT a toy or gimmick – the engineers at TC-E have clearly done their homework and designed a complex signal processor with the simplest possible user interface. I would be happy to play out with nothing but this and a reverb pedal, that’s how good it is.
The compression in particular is the unsung hero of this pedal: for years I have tried to find a solution to the unavoidable difference in volume between fingerstyle and strumming. I’ve tried compressor pedals, boost pedals, multi-effects pedals with onboard compressors, the list goes on. With the BodyRez, when playing fingerstyle I keep the pedal off, switching it on when transitioning to my pick. The compression keeps the volume from exploding and the EQ touches up the tone – one stop shopping!!! Can I get a witness?!
- Pressing and holding the footswitch mutes the pedal (LED flashes red) – perfect for silent tuning or for guitars with no onboard volume control. I love this feature and use it all the time.
- Powering up the pedal while holding down the footswitch activates an alternate mode where the pedal alternates between normal (LED steady red) and reverse polarity (LED steady green). In this mode the compression and EQ functions are always active, and the footswitch is used only to control the polarity – useful when fighting feedback on stage.
In conclusion, if you play an acoustic instrument fitted with an undersaddle piezo pickup, the BodyRez is seriously worthy of your consideration. With a street price of around US$120 at time of writing, I think it is good value for money, given the challenge it has helped me to overcome. Having said that, this is most definitely one of those “try before you buy” pedals, as the results will likely vary significantly from guitar to guitar and player to player. I’m keeping mine!