Tape Echo is one of the most loved effects in the world thanks to its vintage tone and ability to to absolutely insane when pushed. The Belle Epoch by Catalinbread captures the essence of the legendary EP-3 tape delay in a small compact pedal including a replica of the preamp system that made that system so popular.
The Echo Effects
Catalinbread have spent many hours trying to get the exact sound of the EP-3 into this little pedal including all the little modulation nuances that you only get with a real tape echo. This is handled by two controls the 'Mod' knob and the 'Rec Lev' knob. When turned down the mod control doesn't effect your signal leaving you with the cleanest tape sound ever heard. When turned up however you start to get some heavily randomized modulation that has little to no pattern much like the original tape.
The 'Rec Lev' or Record Level control lets you set how hard you are hitting the tape. Original designed as a control to optimize signal to noise ratio on the Belle Epoch you can use it to control how clean you want the signal to be. Turned up this control starts to saturate just like the tape would giving you a grungy rock delay that works amazing in the front of an amp.
Controlling the echo you have your normal selection of Mix, Delay and Sustain which sets how loud, and how often you want the delay to hit. With a range of 80-800ms this pedal modulates more the longer delay time you have set to give you that authentic tone and wide range of sonic options.
Here's what Catalinbread say about the Belle Epoch
The Catalinbread Belle Epoch Tape Echo, has tape echo sounds so authentic you’d swear there was tape inside the pedal! Inspired by the Maestro Echoplex, EP-3 model, perhaps the most famous tape delay ever, the Belle Epoch features everything we love about the EP-3 in a small, maintenance free pedal format. We felt that a “tape echo” pedal was much more than just a standard digital delay with some “filtering” on the repeats. There are a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle traits of the Echoplex that needed to be implemented in order to be authentic. The preamp, the self-oscillation character, the ability to control the “record level” of the signal hitting “tape”, the wow and flutter, the way the repeats decay, the way the circuit interfaces with the amp and other pedals - all these things were important to get right. The original unit was used as a musical instrument unto itself and this is what we captured with the Belle Epoch.
Preamp - Famous for making your guitar sound better even when the echoes are turned off.
Quality of repeats - The Echoplex was not necessarily “hi-fi”. As the echoes repeated, the signal got progressively degraded, losing low end and gaining a shiny, percussive top end with a bit of grit. The first repeat is strong and then it gets more and more diffused as it repeats. And in a well-tuned unit, you could dial in the repeats “Echo Sustain” so that it would float almost indefinitely, or cross the threshold to self-oscillation
Record level - There’s a control on the EP-3 that sets how hard the tape gets hit. While this control was ostensibly used to optimize signal-to-noise ratio, set low it would give light and airy repeats and set high it would saturate the tape hard and give an awesome fat and grungy repeat tone.
Wow and flutter - We designed the Belle Epoch’s modulation control to simulate the daily mechanical irregularities inherent in original Echoplex units. This would typically include bumpy capstan wheels, uneven tape tension, uneven motor speed, humidity, and actual ghosts?
Head drag - The original unit had a unique quality that when moving the delay time slider it took a moment to catch up to the adjustment, creating a doppler like effect. The Belle Epoch reproduces this behavior while you turn the echo delay knob.