It seems that the state of the echo pedal is improving these days. With so many out there, makers have to come up with new twists on functionality or new tonality. The Dark Echo goes for the tone. It is an unassuming package in a small box about the size of many popular effects. The simple controls are blend, repeat, time, and sway. One footswitch is for off and on with clickless true bypass. The unmarked input and output jacks are located on the end of the box rather than the sides like some pedals. It features the usual 9-volt negative center power jack on the side as well. A small blue LED shows on or off status. There is also an internal trim pot that controls the unit’s output volume, giving a -2 to +6 db boost.
So, how does it sound?
The first thing I look at when checking out any echo unit is of course the echo itself. The long-standing debate over analog-versus-digital delay still is with us. Digital delays are much more faithful to the original input signal, which can be great if you are trying to do repeating echoes and timed echo tricks. On the other hand, analog units are known for a warmer, more natural sound. In real life, echo repeats do not come back exactly as they were made. The delay repeats grow darker as they trail off. The Dark Echo seems to have a bit of both worlds.
The repeats are very close to the original at first, and then they decay into a magical sounding abyss. The maker compares it to playing your guitar under the ocean, and he is correct. The delay time ranges from 50 to 450 ms, an adequate range for most users. Digital delays may provide longer delay times, but they often sound very hard and clanky toward the end of their repeat cycle. With the Dark Echo, slap back echoes used in country music and ‘50s-type music are on the money—not harsh or brittle sounding. The longer delays are smooth and provide a much better ambience than most other delays I have heard. The Dark Echo competes well with its peers in the arena of echo units.
The repeat control can be turned past 3:00 for endless oscillation like an old Echoplex. This is very controllable and will not run away unless you wish it to. Furthermore, when the unit is in bypass mode the echo is still running so you can have your oscillations going while bypassed and bring them back when you turn the pedal back on. This is a pretty cool feature for special effects.
Wait there’s more!
The magic of this unit lies in the sway control. I have seen many delay units trying to simulate tape stretch and the mechanical warble of the Echoplex. This is usually accomplished by using modulation. Sometimes random modulation is used. On the Dark Echo, the sway control provides a triangle wave- type modulation that increases in intensity and frequency at the same time when turned up. This type of modulation, coupled with the pedal’s darkening echo repeats, provides an unreal characteristic to the sound. This pedal produces some intense ambience as well as the ability to make strange other-worldly sounds. Because of the sensitivity of the sway control and its effect relative to the delay time control, I found many very cool usable sounds in the unit.
The Final Mojo
I found the Jack Deville Dark Echo to be a well-built and extremely useable tool for anyone’s pedalboard—even if you already have an echo unit. This unit also combines well with other pedals. I tried it with various types such as distortion, overdrive pedals, flangers and even tremolo. I can definitely foresee hearing some of these unique tones on upcoming recordings.
you're looking for an echo effect with the best of both analog and digital worlds
your allegiance to analog is complete and unwavering