Analogue echo units have been available for many years now, and although they have been kept out of the limelight by the newer digital delay lines, they still represent an effective means of producing echo related sounds.
The ET-100 is one such device offering a basic range of reverberation and short echo effects. It employs the common 'bucket brigade' principle to produce delay, whereby a signal input is clocked through a series of capacitive cells in a finite period of time. A single bucket brigade device can only produce a short time delay, the maximum delay being determined by the number of aforementioned cells and the rate at which they are clocked. With such devices there is always a trade-off between maximum delay time and signal bandwidth. The Echotec has opted for a long delay time (400mS approx.) at the expense of bandwidth which cuts off around 3kHz.
The unit measures 25 cm (W) x 6 cm (H) x 15 cm (D), is of lightweight aluminium construction and finished in black. Although increasing portability, this lack of weight does mean that the unit can be dragged off an amplifier top easily if accidentally caught. The interior of the unit is sparse with a small, base mounted PCB carrying the MN3005 bucket brigade device (BBD) and several other integrated circuits.
All controls and connections are housed on the front panel which features separate Mic volume and Instrument volume controls with two pairs of jack sockets below each knob, suitable for -40dB (Mic) and -20dB (Inst) input signals. Up to four inputs can be accommodated which are summed with the delayed signal and fed to a common output socket (-20dB) on the right of the panel. An Echo Volume controls the mix between the direct and delayed signals, giving direct only at one extreme and an equal balance of both, at the other. If this control is left on direct signal only, then the Echotec could feasibly be used as a simple 4 into 1 sub-mixer, which is a useful bonus.
The combination of Delay and Repeat controls determine the type of delay effect. Very fast echoes can be achieved when Delay is in its central position, producing an early Rock 'n' Roll feel on vocals and a Hank Marvin impersonation with electric guitar. Advancing the Delay setting produces longer delay and by adding some signal regeneration with the Repeat control, multiple echo can be obtained which helps to give depth and a rich texture to synthesisers. The reverberation produced by the Echotec is very metallic and 'ringy', and is not particularly suited to vocals but is pleasant on guitar. If a drum machine is fed into the unit, this reverberation will boost the level of the hi-hat slightly and generally increase the metallic nature of their sound. Care should always be taken, by the way, to limit the amount of accent on the bass drum or snare when putting a drum machine through any effects unit, as input overload can easily occur. The peak reading input LED on the Echotec should help to prevent this and input volume should be reduced until this LED glows only on the very loudest passages of music.
The range of the Repeat control is slightly limited giving roughly five seconds of repeats on maximum setting and long delay. The unit has very little inherent noise producing a clean delay sound but the use of BBD technology does mean that the delay signal frequency response is much lower than other echo units. Boosting the treble content of the delayed signal with the Tone control does improve things slightly though.
The fact that the Echotec is aimed at the home recordist and music maker, whose standards are generally assumed to be below those of the professional, would have meant that limited bandwidth and poor delay range would not have mattered so much in the past. However, standards have changed for the better and the home musician looking for a good, budget-priced echo unit that will give a good range of sounds and reliable operation, has a greater choice of such devices available today.
Whether it is false economy in the longterm to purchase a unit like the Echotec in preference to a slightly more expensive digital delay perhaps, is a matter for the individual. The newcomer to music may outgrow this device fairly quickly, but having said that, as an introduction to the wonderful world of delay, the Echotec is ideal.
JHS also produce the Mini-Echotec MX99 unit, a baby version of the ET-100. It offers a standard complement of front panel controls: Input volume, Direct/Delay Balance, Repeat level (for multiple echo) and variable Delay time. Both Mic and Instrument inputs can be accommodated.
As with the ET-100, a useful footswitch socket is provided (but no footswitch!) which enables the delay effect to be bypassed giving a direct signal only. Various types of delay effects can be achieved but the delay time range limits this unit to reverberation effects which are useful for adding depth and colour to most sounds.
The Echotec units are distributed by John Hornby Skewes & Co Ltd, (Contact Details). RRP of the ET-100 is £108 and MX-99 is £75, both include VAT.