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Strictly left-brain engineers must be positively confounded by tape delay freaks. Even now, as DSP power makes possible the emulation of the analog irregularities these weirdos love (and I count myself among this tribe), the hardcore remain steadfastly unsatisfied. Their skepticism isn’t entirely unfounded, of course. Most players with a half-decent ear can hear and appreciate the warmth of a wellkept Echoplex compared alongside a digital simulation. But for those that believe that digital emulation represents the pinnacle of audio evolution, the lack of love must be a bit upsetting.
The Orbit Electronix Psychoplex isn’t a tape delay. And for that shortcoming alone, it may underwhelm Echoplex fanatics. But by using a 12AX7 to drive a circuit derived from the Echoplex EP-1 and embracing bucket brigade analog delay technology, the Psychoplex goes a long way toward imparting the sweet preamp-style signal coloration that makes Echoplexes— and the tube-driven EP-1 in particular—so sweet and unique sounding.
Whatever side you choose in the great delay schism, you have to admit the Psychoplex looks the way a stompbox should look. Big, bright, and bold, it recalls a time when Morley and Electro Harmonix built the stompbox equivalents of a Buick Wildcat. Yes, it’s large. And if you’re already complaining that it won’t fit on your pedalboard, you should really ask yourself if you needed that third overdrive anyway.
The odd-looking, box-like metallic appendage on top of the unit houses the 12AX7 tube that’s the key to the Psychoplex’s tone, and the X-shaped vent helps keep the tube cool, while presenting a mysterious, somewhat menacingly glowing visage to your audience when the lights are low. The three controls on the face are logically arranged, easy to identify, and the white knobs are easy to pick out on a dark stage. And on top of the unit adjacent to the input jack, you’ll find a fourth control that switches between long and short delays. You’ll also find the 12V DC jack— important because the higher voltage drives the buffer that’s another essential element of the unit’s Echoplex-like voice.
One of the first among many of the Psychoplex’ pleasant surprises is that it can be subtle. With the big red pedal between a Rickenbacker 330 and a blackface Fender Tremolux, the Level, Repeat, and Time controls all at noon, and the Delay switch set to Short, the Psychoplex had a soft and subdued, but still distinct presence that give chords a little more movement and makes leads stand out a little more prominently. With the Rick’s neck pickup engaged and the Tone rolled off the sound was great for smoky, noirish, bluesy jazz moves—adding a little mystery and attitude to hanging octaves and half-step slides. When I switched to the Long delay, but left the other settings untouched, the Psychoplex became more prominent and spacey—perfect for languid, lazy Hendrix-inspired blues runs.
The two most reactive and organic feeling controls are the Level and Repeat. Both have great range and are sensitive to fine-tuning. Moving the Level control just a notch or two past the noon mark gives the repeats a cool volume swell before they start to taper. And you can combine that effect with shorter repeat setting to add a faint, but discernable backwards-tape sound that sounds doubly hip with a fuzz and some slow raga bends.
With a Fender Jaguar on the business end of the signal chain, the Psychoplex seems in a slightly more natural setting. The cutting Fender single-coils almost have an exciting effect on the stompbox—highlighting the circuit’s capacity to cut high end on repeats without ever sounding thin or diminishing harmonic complexity. Slapback settings at heavy levels are perfect for overthe- top Cramps-style psychobilly vamps and leads. Switching to the Long delay setting gave the super-clean combination of Fender guitar and amp a sweet, Gilmourish flavor. When I added an overdrive, it conspired with the Psychoplex’ 12AX7 to create a just-sizzling tone that sounds amazing for sustained bends and for tremolo-feathered chord arpeggios.
In each of these contexts, the Psychoplex displays a lot of genuinely tape-like characteristics. There’s a very organic presence to this effect when you kick it on. And it’s not at all antiseptic, though there’s still a mechanical regularity to the repeats that sounds more like an analog delay. You won’t notice that if you’re inclined to aggressively tinker with the repeats and level on the fly. To send the Psychoplex into oscillating feedback, you only have to move the Repeat knob just past two o’clock and crank the level up to about the same. Back the Repeats down a bit and you’ll hit a sweet spot where an almost reverb-like harmonic echo will linger like a drone under a lead or chord progression. It’s at these settings that the more Echoplex-like characteristics of the pedal come into play. Certainly, the 12AX7 is a major factor in this aspect of the Psychoplex’s performance. And it seems to not only play into the color of the tones you get, but the more Echoplex-like reactivity of the controls.
The bottom line: The Psychoplex is a beautiful-sounding analog delay. And if you’re a devotee of tape delay tones you’ll be thrilled with what this thing can do— particularly in slapback settings and more radical tweaking where the clock-like analog repeats are less likely to betray the lack of actual tape.
The most Echoplex-like aspects of the Psychoplex are the way the onboard 12AX7 interacts with the circuit, the pedal’s controls, your amplifier, and your playing. That’s nothing to shake a stick at, because even at its mellowest, the Psychoplex can enliven an otherwise clean tube amp tone in very cool ways that are distinctly tube tape echo-like. In the absence of tape, the Psychoplex is unlikely to send nitpickers scrambling to sell their EP-1s on eBay. But for most applications, this pedal will get you about 80 percent of the way to a truly authentic Echoplex tone. And given how elusive that can be we’re pretty impressed with what Orbit has pulled off with the Psychoplex.
you don’t want to risk gigging with your Echoplex anymore, but can’t stand the thought of playing with a dinky analog delay.
you like digital predictability and compact pedal designs.