Paul White tests a specialised analogue delay unit, designed to emulate the unique warm sound and complex echo patterns of its vintage, tape‑driven ancestors.
The Age Pro from Swedish manufacturer Amtech is a specialised mono echo unit designed to emulate the vintage tape‑loop and magnetic disk guitar echo machines of yesteryear. The unit's all‑analogue circuitry uses oldfashioned charge‑coupled devices to simulate the sound of up to five tape replay heads — except. of course, without the excessive background noise, head fouling or snapping tapes!
The Age Pro's input is designed to match a guitar output (though it also works with synths and other line level sources of up to 400mV in level) and an Input Gain control allows different sensitivities of guitar pickups to be accommodated. A line input is also provided alongside a duplicate instrument input on the rear panel, and a 12‑segment LED bargraph meter monitors the input level. The Input Level control adjusts the amount of signal being fed to the delay circuit. Output is via two quarter‑inch jack outputs, one providing an effect‑only feed, while the other provides a mix of direct and effect sound set by the front‑panel Echo Level knob.
The timing relationships between the five 'virtual' heads are, necessarily, fixed, but the overall echo speed can be controlled from the front‑panel Speed knob to produce proportionally longer or shorter delay times, and a Repeat knob effectively sets the delay line's feedback level — at the maximum Repeat setting the unit stops just short of going into self‑oscillation. The Tone control tweaks the frequency content of the delays, and settings somewhere under halfway get the most authentic results. Emulation of the wow and flutter of older tape echo units is present in the form of a Flutter knob, which introduces small pitch modulations which are a vital part of the vintage sound.
The tape‑head switching is done by means of the Mode knob. This has eight positions where settings one to six offer preset configurations of delay patterns. In position seven, five LED‑equipped buttons (marked T1 to T5) can be used to turn individual virtual heads on or off to create rhythmic repeating patterns, while position eight enables the user to set up a custom echo effect using five delay level trimmer pots on the rear panel.
There are also two pedals included with the unit — a footswitch and a variable pedal. The footswitch plugs into the variable pedal, and that then connects to the Age Pro's rear‑panel footswitch socket. A front‑panel control called Pedal Low sets the level of echo that is allowed through the system when the footswitch is in its off position. When the footswitch is on, the variable pedal may be used to adjust the delay level between the Pedal Low setting and maximum.
The Age Pro is obviously aimed primarily at the guitar market, especially the sector that hankers after creating authentic Shadows, Ventures and surf sounds. To confirm this, an included sheet lists echo and Strat pickup settings for 22 popular Shadows hits! There's even mention of a publication called The Ultimate Echo Book, which provides even more comprehensive echo settings...
Even if you're not particularly a Shadows fan, the Amtech Age Pro still has a lot to recommend it. For a start, it's a lot quieter than its predecessors, with a healthy residual noise figure of ‑70dBA. But in spite of this more modern spec, it does manage to capture the essential sound of those old tape units pretty accurately, providing an especially nice rounded tone. I'm not sure that the actual delay sounds are any more authentic than the modelled tape delays in the Line 6 Delay Modeller, which is rather cheaper in the UK, however, that particular unit doesn't have five delay taps, so the Age Pro still ought to find a market — especially amongst the true Shadows fans and those keen to maintain an all‑analogue guitar signal path.
- Authentic multi‑head tape echo sound.
- Easy to use.
- Foot controls included.
- Relatively expensive.
- Delay times not programmable.
A niche product that does what it sets out to do very well indeed. Not the most cost‑effective general purpose delay box, but great for that vintage guitar sound.