If you’re way into “guitara obscura” you may know the following. But for the rest of us, this might be news. Let’s start with the Echoplex itself.
I’m not going to get into the electronics of the thing, but anyone who’s a fan of classic rock tone knows that the Echoplex was used as much or more as a boost than for echo. Jimmy Page, Eric Johnson and Edward Van Halen are just a few of the many guit-slingers who have (I believe Johnson and Page still do) used the Echoplex in their signal chains to round out their tones.
That fact is actually behind pedals like the ClinchFX EP-PRE (the first such pedal made), Xotic EP-Booster and I think there’s one more but I can’t remember it. In other words, if you don’t want to keep a rickety Echoplex running and don’t want the echo anyway, why not try to mimic the preamp with a pedal.
The EP-PRE is a JFET preamplifier that is based on the preamp section of the Echoplex EP-3 tape echo unit. It will deliver a few db of boost, but I don’t consider it as a boost.
Words such as “enhance,” “fatten” and “enrich” all cover the effects that the EP-PRE has on your tone [and also sound like the description of a congressman…], but I have yet to find a word that really captures the magic of this amazing little circuit. A friend who has one of the prototypes calls it a ‘tone polisher.’
The EP-Booster provides up to +20dB of unadulterated boost with multi-dimensional, shimmering highs and lows, and no ear fatigue.
…it was based on an amp!
Tripped over an article in the March 1990 issue with Allan Holdsworth on the cover. The article is about Ray Butts. Ever hard of him? Me neither.
Turns out he made an amp called an Echosonic – in 1954! It was a 25-watter with a built-in tape delay, and was embraced by Scotty Moore, Chet Atkins, Carl Perkins and original Johnny Cash guitarist Luther Perkins.
According to the article, Ray was a radio repairman who was asked by someone to make an amp that could help replicate the echo on Les Paul’s recordings. Eventually the Echosonic resulted, which remained a favorite of Scotty and presumably others. (He made his last amp in ’62, and in the vid below you’ll hear Scotty say that Ray only made 60.)
Here’s the key piece of the article:
“He says that Echoplex essentially based their tape-delay units on his Echosonic amplifier, but he decided not to take legal action after meeting with the company’s officials.”
> You can read about the amp and what Scotty has to say about it on his webpage, here.
> Ray also designed the first Filter’Tron humbuckers, patented in ’54, before Gibson patented its PAF design. He also had the idea in ’68 to use piezos to amplify individual strings, put one together for Chet who didn’t like it, so Ray dropped the idea.
> Ray died in 2003. RIP and thank you Ray!
> It’s impossible (for me) to hear on a YouTube vid how the EP pedals affect tone, so you’ll have to check one out in person. I haven’t heard one yet, but am jonesing to.