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Strymon Volante

Virtual Tape-echo Pedal
By Bob Thomas

Strymon Volante

This isn't Strymon's first analogue-modelling delay pedal... but it may well be their best!

Strymon have built an enviable reputation in the 10 years since their first product hit the shelves, and one area in which they've been quite active is the digital emulation of analogue tape-based effects, first with the '3-head' El Capistan Tape Echo, and then with the '2-tape deck' Deco Tape Saturation and Double Tracker. With the El Capistan, they sought to emulate early single and multi-head tape echoes, whilst Deco tipped its hat towards the delay, flange and saturation/compression effects obtainable from early open-reel tape recorders. A more recent venture was the Eurorack-format Magneto, a '4-head' digital tape echo and looper, with a defiantly analogue front panel.

Strymon have recently added the splendidly named Volante Magnetic Echo Machine to this range. The Volante is a stereo‑in/stereo‑out digital evocation of drum echo, multi-head tape echo and reel-to-reel studio tape echo, with the added facilities of a sound-on-sound mode and an algorithmic vintage spring reverb. Its size, Italianate name (a musical instruction meaning 'in a light, flying manner'), greenish-gold paintwork and black background to the control area put me in mind of a Binson Echorec drum echo unit that once crossed my path and severely injured my wallet! Perhaps Strymon are tipping their corporate hat to Italian engineer Dr Bonfiglio Bini, who designed and built what is possibly one of the finest magnetic echo/delay effects units ever made?

Controls

The paintwork is where any resemblance ends, because the Volante's knobs and switches provide access to a range of DSP-driven, magnetic delay-based effects that Dr Bini could only have dreamed of. The vast majority of controls are organised in three functional groups in the upper half(ish) of the top panel, and the three footswitches (On/Reverse/Hold, Favorite/Pause, Tap/Splice/SOS) and their LEDs are arranged along the bottom edge.

On the left you'll find the four knobs: Rec(ord) Level sets the level going into the DSP, rather than the level coming into the Volante's input stage; Mechanics enables you to add an increasing level of mechanical aberration (wow, tape splices, crinkles etc.); Low Cut is a high-pass filter for the echo repeats; and Wear simulates the effect of wear on both media and heads by reducing the recording and replay of the high frequencies in the repeats.

The central block contains switches for Type selection (Drum, Tape, Studio) and virtual-tape Speed (half, normal and double). A rotary Time control sets the delay...

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Published June 2019