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Echoes of the Past and Future

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The Echoplex EP-3, a tape- delay that used a self-contained cassette-like cartridge, is perhaps the most famous and iconic delay unit of all time.

Although Tel-Ray produced their own Ad-n-Echo Model 1001, the Adineko system was licensed to a number of other companies, including Gibson and Fender, through which most of the Adineko delays were sold.

Most of the great echo machines of the 1960s were manufactured in Europe. A couple of these designs were made available on the American market courtesy of Guild Guitars, which imported and rebranded the Watkins Copicat and Binson Echorec, selling them as the Guild Copicat and the Guild Echorec by Binson, respectively.

Fender made some forays into the echo market in the mid ’60s, too, including with the Fender Electronic Echo Chamber and the Fender Echo-Reverb. These were not as well regarded as the European machines, and there was really only one obvious choice for many American players looking for echo—the Echoplex.

Echoplex Rex, King of Vintage Delays
The Echoplex is perhaps the most popular and iconic echo effect of all time. Designed by engineer Mike Battle in 1959 (with the help of guitarist Don Dixon), the Echoplex used a loop of tape housed in a self-contained type of cassette, which was much easier to manage than other tape-based systems. It also employed an easy-to-operate movable head to achieve different lengths of delay.

Manufactured by Market Electronics in Cleveland, Ohio, the first Echoplex model was produced from the early to mid ’60s. It was succeeded by the EP-2, at which time the original—which had no model number—was subsequently designated EP-1. These early Echoplex models are prized by guitarists for their warm, tube-driven tone.

The bucket-brigade device (BBD) is a specialized integrated circuit that facilitated development of a whole category of time-based modulation effects. Before the digital revolution, choruses, flangers, and analog delays all relied on BBDs to achieve these effects.

Eventually Battle was asked to design an Echoplex that didn’t require vacuum tubes, which led to the release of the EP-3 in the early ’70s. In addition to its solid-state circuitry, the EP-3 incorporated a few other changes, the most significant being its “sound on sound” feature. In sound-on-sound mode, the erase mechanism is disengaged so that the machine continues to record on top of whatever has already been recorded onto the tape loop.

This made the EP-3 the first portable looper—an analog one, to boot! Other improvements included a proper output jack (instead of the hardwired cable used on the previous models) and a better, more accessible layout. The EP-3 also featured a really nice-sounding preamp that many pedal manufacturers have attempted to emulate in recent years.

In an effort to further “improve” the design, the makers of the Echoplex came out with the EP-4 around 1976. This model incorporated additional circuitry, such as a built in noise gate, compressor, and controls for treble and bass, which affected the sound in a way most players didn’t care for. The sound-on-sound feature was also eliminated, perhaps to make room for the level meter and additional controls on the front panel. Mike Battle has stated that he was not involved with the design of the EP-4.

A couple of other Echoplex models that had a brief run in the early to mid ’70s are also worth mentioning. The Battle-designed EM-1 Groupmaster was sort of like a deluxe, 4-channel EP-3 with additional features and a large, awesome-looking analog VU meter. The budget ES-1 Sireko model lacked the sound-on-sound feature, and its delay-time slider control had a much shorter throw than the EP-3. The Sireko also used a different tape cartridge than all the other Echoplex models—one that is nearly impossible to find these days.

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