Updated on 03.25.2019 – Please note: this article is part of a series of pieces about delay stompboxes. We already published three other articles in the series, one focused on mini delay and echo pedals, one on pedals emulating the Binson Echorec delay and another one on basic analog delays. Look out for more articles about delay coming out in the next few weeks!
When it was released in the ’50s, the Binson Echorec was pretty much a game changer in the still young, tape-dominated world of echo effects. Thanks to its innovative design featuring multiple reading heads, it introduced the concept of “multi-tap” delay – something tape can’t do – and also of modulated repeats. the 2nd version also introduced the concept of a Multi-Mode effect, thanks to the “Selector” knob, which delivered three different effects: Echo (slap back delay), Repeat (regular delay mode) and Swell (delays with overlaps)
Here’s a quick history from the Volume 4, Number 3 issue of Gearphoria:
The Binson Echorec is an old echo device produced in the 1950s in Milan (Italy) by Binson Amplifier Hi Fi company. It’s based on a magnetic drum system (called “memory disc”) that was more durable and stable than the magnetic tape used in the same era in other delay/echo units.
This is the original unit:
And this is version 2:
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, many players and bands, like The Shadows, Pink Floyd, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, used it to obtain that typical sound from outer space that this magic machine can create with its innovative magnetic drum system (small heads with variable positions around a rotating disc with a thin steel band/drum on it), supported by a tube circuit (six 12AX7 tubes) with an electric motor that produces the echo effect by a thin steel recording drum around the disc with the heads system arranged on the edge of that drum when the disc is rotating. One head is used to record and other four heads for playback. The Binson Echorec has three input and three output channels (with a jack or Geloso socket), and a channel selector on the front panel.
Obviously, the 60s-era Binson Echorec is now an old, big and noisy machine. It has a maximum delay time about 300-330 ms and maintenance can be difficult due to hard to find replacement parts and spares.
The most popular version of the effect was probably the second one, released in 1960, which added a few new controls to the front panel, including a 12-way “Switch” knob (far right in the picture below) that could recall 12 configuration presets for the magnetic heads: each selection produced different single and multi-tap delays.
FAITHFUL RECREATIONS USING DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY
Although the fascination with this vintage machine is still intact, not very many pedal manufacturers have attempted to encapsulate this effect’s sound in a compact stompbox enclosure.
Here’s a gallery of the most popular (and, as far as we can tell, also the only) Binson Echorec emulations in stompbox format:
A digital recreation of the first Binson Echorec that takes the delay time up to 1k milliseconds, it includes all 12 combinations of the original unit’s “Switch” knob and adds a “Tone” control like in version 2, renouncing though the magnetic head on/off “Channel Selector.” An internal trim pot controls the intensity and randomness of the modulation.
Dawner Prince Boonar Echo ($349.95)
A digital pedal, the Boonar faithfully recreates the character and functions of the Echorec 2, sharing the same analog signal path as the original but with high voltage driven FETs as tube emulators and a DSP unit recreating the magnetic memory drum based effect. Uniquely, it allows you to switch from Repeats to Swells through a second footswitch. With a delay time increased to 1k milliseconds, it replaces the 12 positions of the “Switch” knob with an increased 16 combinations allowed by the four Playback Heads buttons. The small Drum Age knob on the back of the pedal adds or removes the character displayed by older, worn out units (mostly loss of volume and high frequency and a more random modulation).
Gurus Amps Echosex 2 ($409)
A more stylized, but great sounding, emulation of the Echorec 2, it recreates its signal path with one comprised of tube preamp > digital head simulation > analog filters, using an actual 12AX7 tube in it. It also features an “Age of Damage” knob that blends in the sound of older, worn out units. It ups the delay time to 660 ms and improves compatibility with active pickups and other instruments through dip switches on the side panel that allow to fine tune in/out levels. Lacks the selectable tape heads and Echo/Repeats/Swell function, focusing on the original unit’s most popular effect, the Swell.
Strymon always packs its pedals with more than one voice, but the Volante offers emulation of three specific delay pedals, and the Binson Echorec is one of them – called here “Drume mode.” The controls aren’t exactly the same as the original, but the sonic recreation is extremely faithful, and the various controls actually expand on the limits of the vintage unit.
ANALOG RECREATIONS IN STOMPBOX FORMAT
T-Rex Binson Echorec
T-Rex showed this incredible prototype at NAMM 2017, but it’s not out yet as the time of writing. Most of you won’t be able to afford it anyway!
OTHER PEDALS THAT CAN DELIVER THAT SOUND
If you all you need is an effect that kinda sounds like an Echorec, these pedals might deliver it well enough, together with other sounds that are not in the Echorec’s repertoire.
STRYMON EL CAPISTAN
According to the Tone Report, the Echorec clearly influenced this pedal’s design, although it can’t be called a faithful recreation.
TC ELECTRONIC FLASHBACK
Is there anything you can’t do with TC’s Tone Print technology? Of course, somebody came up with an Echorec setting, check it out!
SOURCE AUDIO NEMESIS DELAY
The Source Audio Nemesis programmable delay also features settings inspired by the Echorec.
LINE 6 PROGRAMMABLE PEDALS
The Line 6 M5 and M9 – and other similar programmable pedals by the same manufacturer – has an Echorec emulation called “Echo Platter.”
VIDEOS: SHOOTOUTS ETC.
Here are a few more fun and relevant videos we found on YouTube: