Gear Review: Empress Tape Delay

BRAND: Empress

MODEL: Tape Delay

COST: $249

WHAT IT IS: The Empress Tape Delay (ETD) is an outgrowth of the Canadian Effects Company’s Superdelay unit. The ETD focus’s solely on the sounds and feel of Magnetic Tape Delay units of days gone by, with much more control and “tweakability” at your fingertips.

It’s hardly fair, but the ETD will live or die in it’s comparison to the Strymon El Capistan. In this regard it’s probably to say that this pedal will always be the “kid brother” for many people but I am not one of those people. I was very inclined towards apathy in regards to the ETD when I first borrowed it for a multi-church outreach, and I ended up falling in love with it and was very sad to give it back. My regard for the pedal is good enough for you, then stop reading and go buy it, but if it’s not (and why should it be) then keep reading to find out why.

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TAPE DELAY

This article is part of The Month Of Delay at the Real World Worship blog. All throughout the month of March we will be looking at different aspects of the delay effect in worship music.

REEL TAPE DELAY

See what I did there? Real, actual, Reel to Reel tape delay is almost entirely a thing of the past or the realm of the studio. Famed vintage units like the Maestro Echoplex, Binson Echorec, and Roland Space Echo and Space Chorus used real magnetic tape to create a delay effect by repeating notes. The unit would take the guitar signal, record it and then play it back on another tape head, and then erase it on the final head to start the process over again. The physical distance between the tape heads affects the length of the delay (time). How many times the notes were sent back through in a feedback loop controlled the repeats.

Tape delay has been used by artists from Jimmy Paige to Radiohead to the Black Keys to Buddy Miller to Brian Setzer. It sounds great. For the most part, the only Tape units out there today are vintage units mostly 20-30 years or older selling for $100-1000’s if they’re in good shape. The notable exception is the Fulltone Tube Tape Echo which is essentially an improved modern take on the original Echoplex. They sell for around $1300 new which is cost prohibitive for most of us, but it’s used by artists like Buddy Miller and the Black Keys.

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