From the classic double-tracked effect on Elvis’s voice to the more subtle delays on The Beatles’ records, delay and echo has been used extensively in the last 50 years. The first echo devices I came across in the 60’s and early 70’s used tape or a spinning magnetic disc. These produced a warm, analogue sound in a relatively compact unit and provided control of echo time, feedback, mixing and sometimes EQ. And some units, like the Space Echo, provided more than one playback head to create a variety of echo patterns.
In the late 70’s, solid-state echo devices appeared, such as the Marshall Time Modulator and the MXR Flanger Doubler. Other classic analogue delays, like the Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man and MXR Analog Delay, gave musicians affordable access to analogue delays in compact pedals. The 1980’s saw the start of the digital revolution with rackmounted devices, such as the Lexicon Prime Time and PCM42, which sounded very clean by comparison with analogue devices. In the 90’s, digital multi-effects were everywhere, with hardware units from Yamaha, Alessis and others claiming to emulate just about any type of effect.
In the new millennium we have a return to individual designers and design teams offering high-quality bespoke plug-ins for Pro Tools and other popular software. Sound Toys Echo Boy is a delay plug-in that can emulate virtually any classic or contemporary delay device – from the subtle warmth of high-end studio tape echo, to the ‘low-fi’ sound of classic tape echo boxes like the Echoplex and Roland Space Echo. Echo Boy even lets you introduce the glitches, distortions and other anomalies that always existed in tape and analogue devices. It doesn’t really sound quite as ‘dirty’ as my old Echoplex but that is probably a good thing!
The selection of presets is comprehensive, with everything from simulations of specific devices, such as the Boss CE1 Chorus, to generic effects such as analogue tape echo. There are effects to suit vocals, guitars and so forth, most of which hit the spot. And the drums presets are killers! I tried each effect in turn and used Pro Tools automation to switch between them in the different sections on playback – instant remix time!
The user-interface looks, and is, classy. The presets are brilliant and this plug-in manages to provide all the controls you could ever wish for in one relatively compact design. So Echo Boy gets my vote as one of the best delay effects processors available today.