Ever since seeing Adrian Utley put the Arturia Minibrute through the Maestro Echoplex I wanted one of these classic tape echoes. These units aren’t cheap though and require regular maintenance, so I looked around for Echoplex Tape Echo alternatives…
The Echoplex is probably the most famous tape delay (next to the Roland Space Echo) and emerged in the 60s. It featured some true innovations at the time. As a tube based unit, its sound with and without the echo was warm and inviting, but its biggest contribution was its sliding tape head, a design that enabled the user to adjust the delay time. The Echoplex hoses its endless tape spool in a plastic cartridge, providing protection for the tape itself, and making replacement something of a doddle.
The original Echoplex EP-1 and its follow up EP-2 were eventually superseeded by the solid state EP-3. which became a standard for musicians like Jimmy Page, Brian May and Andy Summers. Thanks to the success of the Echoplex, the company Maestro soon faced stiff competition from other manufacturers offering their own take on the classic tape echo. Roland certainly made the biggest impact with their Space Echo line which gained notoriety as being one of the essential tools in creating reggae and dub music.
These tape echoes, like a lot of vintage gear still command heavy price tags and often have to be sent in for repairs and upkeep, so I was looking for an alternative to a Echoplex Tape Echo without sacrificing much of the sound and characteristics they became famous for.
Basically you have two options, one is obviously to go for VST plugins that emulate the sound in your computer. The second option (the one which I ultimately chose) is to have a guitar pedal as outboard effects unit and route that to your DAW.
Echoplex Guitar Pedals
There’s actually quite a few pedals that try to emulate the Echoplex, but I eventually settled on the pedal from the original manufacturer. They offer two separate pedals, one for the actual delay and one that replicates the warm sound by modelling the preamp of the original machine.
Other options include the Belle Epoch and Strymon El Capistan, each will set you back around $300. And if you money is no problem, you can also look at the Fulltone SSTE, which is basically a newer version of the Echoplex. Here is a great in-depth video that compares these four options as outboard gear.
In the VST space there’s two great digital emulations if you are after the sound of the Maestro Echoplex Tape Echo…
EchoBoy Jr. $99.
Consider yourself an analogue afficionado? Then investigate the EchoBoy Jr. by Soundtoys. I recently added this one to my collection and love it!
A scaled down version of the original EchoBoy, this offers seven classic delay emulations including clones of the Echoplex EP-3 and Roland RE-201 Space Echo.
Universal Audio EP-34. $149.
If you have a UAD2-enabled interface or accelerator, you want to check out the EP-34, a spot on recreation of the original Maestro Echoplex EP-3.
UA’s version adds nifty modern features like tape sync and adjustable tape tension.