We delve deep into The Echo, Reason’s versatile delay effect.
Since the Reason Rack plug‑in opened up Reason’s effects devices for use as individual plug‑ins in other DAWs, I’ve rediscovered some of the gems in the standard Rack collection. One of the shiniest of these is the echo/delay effect called, simply enough, The Echo. There’s way more to this device than a classic delay. It offers a ton of cool signal processing possibilities, real‑time performance modes and a unique feedback loop insert feature.
With the Mode switch set to Normal, The Echo will be familiar territory to SOS readers. (In fact, if you’ve already used The Echo, feel free to skip to the Breakout section for some more advanced tips). Delay time can be sync’ed or set in milliseconds, and you can switch in a ping‑pong mode which uses a pan knob for setting width and initial direction. Alongside this there’s an Offset control for setting different delays for left and right. This is always relative to the main delay time, and follows the main sync mode.
Feedback also has a left/right offset control, although in this case it’s bipolar. Feedback is augmented by a Diffusion section, which adds a basic reverberant spread. The Diffusion components are based on the delay time, and the effect can be used to create some wonderful resonant chaos if you use short delay times and high feedback settings.
In addition to the Wet/Dry mixer, the Output section has a Ducking control. This really handy function automates a common manual mixing trick. Ducking links the amount of wet signal to the level of the input, so echoes are suppressed when audio is playing. As audio dies out, the effect output raises, with the result that echoes swell in at the end of lines.
Colour & Mod
After the standard delay controls you’ll find the Color section, which serves up tone shaping in the form of multimode Drive and Filter stages. These are ‘inside’ the feedback loop, so are applied cumulatively to each echo.
The Modulation section is one of the charms of The Echo, offering a number of ways to affect the pitch of the delays. Env is particularly fun, progressively pitching each echo up or down. This can yield results similar to the popular Beat Repeat effect in Ableton Live. Combined with the Roll function (see below), this can also create the classic up‑pitching jungle snare rollers.
Wobble is for introducing pitch instability, approximating wow and flutter in a tape loop. The LFO, on the other hand, applies regular pitch mod separately to the left and right channels, and can be used for a subtle spread or more dramatic weirdness.
My favourite feature of The Echo is the ability to insert other devices into the feedback loop’s signal path. This is patched on the rear panel of the device with the stereo connections labelled as Breakout Input and Output.
In Screen 1 I’ve added another of my favourite effects devices: Audiomatic. This offers 16 different options to progressively crunch up the signal as each echo generation passes through it. The default setting is Tape, which obviously has particular relevance in this scenario. Another really fun experiment is to patch in another delay device like the original DDL‑1 mini device. This can produce unexpected irregular rhythmic echoes that you’d never normally get with a delay effect. Whatever process you add, you’ll probably need to ride the feedback control and device levels carefully as it’s pretty easy to get uncontrolled feedback; but this is all part of the fun!
There’s way more to this device than a classic delay. It offers a ton of cool signal processing possibilities, real‑time performance modes and a unique feedback loop insert feature.
The Echo has three operating modes, selected on the left‑most section of the front panel. Normal mode gives you standard delay functionality, with the input signal passing through at all times and the level of the effect set with the Dry/Wet Output control. Triggered Mode lets you manually gate the input signal, so you can add delay at specific moments. It’s therefore mainly used when The Echo is routed as a send/return effect.
The Roll mode turns The Echo into a real‑time performance effect and requires a little more explanation. It’s essentially like the Roller or Stutter effects you find on drum machines (especially Roland and Arturia boxes) and DJ mixers, but with more tactile control. For Roll mode, it makes most sense to route The Echo as an insert effect, with the output set to the full Wet position.
Instead of an on/off switch or trigger, Roll is applied with a slider which, in signal flow terms, crossfades from the dry to wet signal while also increasing the feedback. For the classic infinite repeat based on the current delay time, it works best to move the fader fully across pretty sharpish. The clever design behind the scenes is a response curve and some latency built into the fader which have both been fine‑tuned to give good musical results. It’s a lot more simple to use than describe!
One last trick is to utilise the signal processing modules in The Echo, without the echoes. While the Delay section can’t be bypassed, if you switch off Sync you can set the delay time down to 1ms. If you also set the Feedback to minimum, Diffusion off, and the Wet/Dry mix to 100 percent, the signal is as‑near‑as‑damn‑it passing straight through the tone and mod sections. (You could cause a phasing issue doing this if the source is being processed in parallel somewhere else in the Rack.)
The Drive modes are all worth taking advantage of in this way, and the LFO spread is also a pleasing effect. A more unexpected discovery was bringing the Ducker into play. On a signal passing through like this, the Ducker applies a kind of aggressive compression. This is a solid, hard‑hitting effect on a drum bus, especially combined with a large dose of the Tube or Limiter drive. It put me in mind of the classic SSL listen mic compressor, both in the way it sounds, and in how it subverts an effect that’s intended for another use.