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Gurus Amps Echosex 2

Tube Delay Pedal By Paul White
Published October 2015

Gurus Amps Echosex 2

This delay pedal was designed to offer ‘that’ vintage Echorec sound. Does it convince?

The Echosex 2 was designed in response to a challenge from Italian songwriter Tullio Ferro. He wanted Guglielmo Cicognani, a highly respected Binson Echorec restorer, to reproduce precisely the sound of the Echorec, which is a mechanically unusual but once very popular echo device, designed around a rotating magnetic disk surrounded by heads, rather than the tape loop employed by most delays of the time.

The magical voice of the Echorec comes down to a combination of elements, including its preamp design, the distortion that builds up when feedback is used to create repeats, and the limited bandwidth of the recording system. There’s also a certain amount of low–level noise and dirt. All those elements have been carefully reproduced. But in rising to Ferro’s challenge, Cicognani decided that he’d also address two complaints that are often levelled at the original, namely its reliability and its maximum delay time of 310ms. The Echosex 2 more than doubles that to 660ms, with a control position of between six and seven on the dial corresponding to the maximum delay time of the Echorec.

Built into a very sturdy metal case with a Perspex top plate, the Echosex has five control knobs and a bypass footswitch. DIP switches on the side of the unit allow the bypass to kill the repeats dead or to allow them to die naturally when the footswitch is activated. There’s also an option to set two input sensitivities (0dB or –10dB) and two output levels (0dB or +4dB), which means this pedal can be used either as a front–of–amp preamp or placed in an amplifier’s effects loop.

A 12AX7/ECC83 dual–triode valve is used in the audio path to help recreate the sonic character of the original and the preamp can be used without delay if required — it definitely adds a useful degree of warmth and fatness to the sound. A window in the front panel gives a view of the valve, which is backlit with a green–LED. That’s an odd choice, perhaps, but at least it’s not trying to make you think the valve’s glowing with ‘warmth’! Power comes from an external adaptor, which was not included with the review model. The Echosex requires just under 300mA at 9V, via a Boss–style connector, and my feeling is that a properly regulated supply would give the best results — I found that some unregulated adaptors, which seemed to offer plenty of current capability, added hum or noise to the output. (There’s no battery option because of the high current draw.)

The controls use the same slightly quirky descriptors as the original Echorec, though there’s one additional control called ‘Damage’. This brings in a degree of pitch-modulation, to simulate what occurs when the bearings and other drive components, such as the rubber drive wheel, start to wear out.

‘Volume Echo’ adjusts the level of the delay relative to the dry level while ‘Length of Swell’ adjusts the feedback from single repeats, via almost endless repeats all the way to self oscillation. ‘Bass Treble’ affects only the repeats and works in a fairly subtle but still very useful manner. Delay time is set using the ‘Echo’ knob. That’s OK but a tap–tempo function would have made a useful addition for stage use. Only a single delay tap is provided, which corresponds to the Echorec’s most popular setting, four (the one which produced the longest delay times). The delay circuitry uses the popular PT2399 CMOS digital delay chip, which features onboard op amps, clock oscillator and A–D/D–A converters. It’s not the quietest of digital delay chips but it’s capable of being coaxed into producing some surprisingly analogue–sounding results, which is why it was chosen here. The chip is found in some competing products and is popular with DIY pedal builders, as it requires only handful of other components to get it going, but Cicognani found his own ways of exploiting this chip. This includes passing the repeats through the valve circuity with some extra filtering and, of course, that Damage modulation source.

On powering up the pedal, there’s a short delay as the valve warms up. There is some audible background noise that’s most noticeable on the longest delay settings, though it’s less than you’d expect from a real Binson or a vintage tape unit, and it all adds nicely to the charm. The delays are deliciously murky, just as they should be, and degrade as they recycle, and the tone control gives a useful but not excessive control over the sound of the repeats. The Damage control is essential in adding a degree of textural richness to the sound and I found that a setting around half way usually produced good results. Importantly, the delays seem to ‘belong’ to the input signal. That might seem an odd description, but a digital pedal I was using as a sort of control reference produced much more sterile results, with delays which seemed somewhat ‘detached’ because of their clarity.

But this isn’t ‘just’ a delay pedal, as that preamp contributes to the overall sound. Indeed, for recording guitar, I could envisage using the Echosex 2 for its preamp alone when delay is not needed; it both fattens and sweetens the sound without dulling it.

Technically then, the Echosex 2 falls short of perfection on virtually every level — which of course is what makes it sound so good! My only real criticism is that a suitable power supply really should be included, as if you use one that isn’t up to the job, the sound will suffer. Paul White

£269 including VAT.