Tuesday 11 October 2016

TC Electronic Nova System (Flash ROM Issue)

Recently I bought a TC Electronic Nova System on eBay. I usually enjoy working on repair projects that make me resort to all sorts of solutions. That’s why I’m so keen on the idea of bidding on eBay when there’s a TC Electronic Nova System for sale, or any other pedals and effects available, for that matter. In many cases, the owner doesn’t know what has gone wrong with the unit; the only thing that he or she is aware of is that it has stopped working. That brings me to the equation as I try to discover the effect, the cause, and then fix the issue.
Before I share the video that I put together about the way that I was able to track down the problem, I’m going to talk about the system in general and tackle some of the issues that other guitar players just like me have had to put up with over time. The first mishap that I came across is the fact that the brand hasn’t released an update to the firmware since 2011. Of course, some might say that this is irrelevant for guitar effects and pedals, but if there were any bugs and there weren’t resolved upon the launch of the product, the manufacturer could have at least provided several solutions.
The TC Electronic Nova System manual might not be particularly straightforward about any issues you might encounter, probably because the brand doesn’t think ahead of things. Let’s get to some of the details that make this floor-based effects solution one of the most critically acclaimed ones out there. For one, it’s easy to use but provides the audio superiority most of us are looking for. Secondly, the obvious advantage of getting and using such a product is that it combines several pedals into one, and so you won’t have to carry them individually in your case and risk damaging them during transport. The analog distortion/overdrive section is programmable, which gives users a lot of room for adjustability. Then, you have the plethora of effects that compose the system, such as noise gate, modulation, delay, pitch, reverb, EQ - you name it, this system has it. But wait, there’s more. 60 user presets and 30 factory ones await you if you choose this model.
In short, some of the common pros of this system is that it has excellent sound quality, is versatile and compact, and provides a good selection of effects. Some of the people who’ve bought it, however, have emphasized that they’ve run into several problems. While some didn’t like the distortion, others found that the reverbs aren’t the stellar quality they’d expect from TC Electronic. Is it worth the investment? It’s hard to give a straight answer to the question because you live and learn. Nonetheless, it does cost a pretty penny as most websites that still have it in stock sell it for more than four hundred dollars.
Common problems
One of the typical issues encountered by users is that some of the chips in this system tend to get warmer or hotter than the rest, and may eventually get burnt. This has been documented on multiple forums where guitar players ask other pedal and effects users about whether or not they’ve come across the same malfunctions. Usually, what happens is that the DSP and Audio Receiver chip become very hot. Replacing the chips can be rather pricey if you don’t buy them from the right place or if you don’t even have any experience with doing this kind of thing. Most people prefer getting an entire mainboard rather than purchasing the chips individually.
My experience
This is not necessarily what happened in my case. I discovered that the Flash ROM was the main problem. First and foremost, I have to say that the Nova System is a somewhat old processor because new and updated models come out every year. The fact of the matter is that many of these modern options come with a myriad of selections/functions which may turn out to be confusing instead of simplifying the unit operation. Compared to many other processors, the Nova System shouldn’t lose its value over time because the sound quality is unparalleled and the ease of use simply can’t be compared to the usability of other systems.
My Nova System froze every time I started using it. Before I get any questions in the lines of ‘Have you tried turning it on and off again?’, I’ll note that I did, many times. After each restart, the same problem occurred time and time again. Since I was beginning to blame the Flash ROM, the simplest solution to my problem was to replace it with the one I had in my other Nova System. Yes, I already had one with a broken power supply before bidding on the eBay auction I was mentioning at the beginning of the post. In spite of its damaged power supply, this unit had a perfectly functional Flash ROM 39VF040, so why not give it a try? As you can see in the video showcased below, this attempt was successful. In the next episode, I’ll load the firmware and document it as best possible.

Have any questions? Feel free to leave me a comment with your input or inquiries.
Location: Birmingham, UK


  1. Bedankt voor de info. Weet u misschien of deze flash-rom los te koop is?
    En waar?

    Incase i've got it wrong for you being Dutch i'll ask in English:
    Do you happen to know if this chip is for sale and where?

    Bedankt/Thanks in advance

  2. I don't know. You ca write a message to tc electronics. I guess they have spares part at service department.
    Good luck.

  3. Hi, I have the same problem. I'd to ask, that is the firmware of the unit is stored on this flash-rom chip? If I could buy a new chip, is it possible to upload the firmware to it?
    Thank you in advance!

    1. This problem is caused by a setting. Digital sapling rate (44.1, 48.0 or something like this) For some older chips, the unit will freeze if you change that setting. How to solve it: find another newer unit ( see the serials) swap the chips and change the setting or update. Update will reset the settings. Then put back the older chip. Hope will help.

    2. I have this locking up issue and tried ordering the chip from a microchip vendor (ROM 39VF040) and then tried to update the firmware. Didn't work for me. The only thing that lights up is the factory default button and the display says Nova System/TC Electronic. Which at first I thought was a good sign but I was unsuccessful in flashing the ROM. I have looked for a cheap functioning NOVA to steal the chip from but don't seem to have any luck with that.

  4. Hi, I have the same problem, my nova system freezes out...I'd like to ask, that is the firmware of the unit stored on this flat-rom chip? If I could buy a new one, is it possible to upload the firmware to it? Thanks, and thank you for your video too!
    All the best!

  5. I’ve had an issue with mine Turning off then on, for a split second. Took it to a tech, but he couldn’t find any issues with it.


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