Analog, anyone?

Analog pedals have been the rage since, well- digital pedals. Of course, digital pedals were the biggest thing since, well- analog pedals. Things have cycles that come and go. The digital compact disc was supposed to be the best way to listen to music. It was at least the last tangible way to buy music. You could hold it in your hand, you could see it. Mysteriously vinyl made a nostalgic comeback. It sounds better, they tell me, but it has a realness to it that fits squarely in your hands. Todays has more choices and tones available than ever before. A guitarist can play a library of amps, cabs, and effects, without ever plugging in anything except “plug-I”’ software. We live in an age where tech moves so fast that it’s better not to cozy up with anything to much: Version 2.0 of any given electronics is near complete, at the same time version one hits the market.  Not many Tech based items reach a seemingly “eternally cool” status. The tape Echo is a rare example. As tape echoes go the Echoplex is King.  The WEM copycat and even the reliable, well-loved Roland Space Echo all call the Echoplex “Daddy”.

The impossible mouse-trap like contraption that is the Echoplex is one of the anointed, forever in-style impossibilities that won’t ever be permanently replaced. The EP-2 is unreliable, expensive, hard to find parts for*, and only a small handful of people will service a broken unit. It is a bit trippy and comical to see in action, with its looping tape, whirring motor and (hand) moveable tape heads. It looks like a madman designed it: like an early attempt at flying machine made from flapping wings on a unicycle. The Echoplex is Analog, but it’s SO primitive, that you almost might be more accurate calling it ‘mechanical’. The EP-2 is (yup, version 2.0) is 2nd of the four Maestro tape delay units, and the last version before solid state circuitry replaced the original tube driven design. The truth is, the crazy mousetrap actually works, and quite well.

Tape echoes existed before the Echoplex, but none had an adjustable tape head system. Let’s forget just for a moment how many Guitar Heroes swore by the Echoplex, and how many great records were made using one. Star association sells, but the Echoplex stands on its own. The tone is HUGE. It’s all the things everyone wants. Bathtub style “slapback”, to Grand Canyon Echo, are all inside.  It sounds great even when it’s off, due to its preamp. Many an old-time player used a ‘turned off’ Echoplex as his ‘secret weapon’ of tone hidden behind his amp, just for the boost in tone.  Despite its awkward design, and delicate nature, the thing delivers. Pops, wobble, noise and bulkiness all add up to the charm of this crazy device. Tech does exist that can duplicate the awkwardness inside the EP-2, but somehow, it’s just not the same. To see (and hear) this thing is to believe it. It’s almost liked a vinyl record, spinning its way into some involuntary, positive human response.

The Echoplex became available in 1959. The upgraded EP-2 came along in the early 60s. The solid-state EP-3 replaced it in 1970, just in time for every influential electric guitar player from California, to Nashville, and New York to London to get their hands on one version or the other. While the EP-3 is generally considered the most reliable and collected of the Echoplex models, the tube driven EP-2 is a close second, and for some, it’s #1.

*replacement tape is now available again, so don’t worry too much. With proper care, your Echoplex can outlast you!

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Mike Rock
A fixture in the Rock and Roll guitar community since 1978, Mike Rock is the “Go-To” source for Sam Ash's most intricate questions involving Guitars and related gear. A collector whose true passion is playing, Mike has performed over 2,500 gigs around the world. Mike began his musical journey studying the trumpet. While buying sheet music for a recital, Mike first heard an electric guitar through a fuzz box. Forty years later, he still maintains that the fuzz WAS germanium based (he is a bit crazy). This encounter drove Mike to his first guitar and a tube amp. Soon his guitar was heavily modified and the amp was on its 3rd replacement speaker. Mike was hunting for tone and blowing guitar speakers before there was a “boutique” or “vintage” market. It wasn’t long before Mike was buying, and validating vintage guitars and gear for some of the biggest companies in the world, finally finding a home assisting mentor and friend Sammy Ash, at the place where he heard that first Fuzz Guitar, so many years ago. Mike still performs regularly and recognizes the history and beauty of vintage and modern gear. Mike is aware not everyone is a collector and most players need a set up that works for the sound they chase, regardless of its pedigree, or vintage or status.