The Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo pedal is incredibly impressive, it is a digital delay pedal that accurately creates the sounds of old Tape Echo machines of which kids these days are probably blissfully unaware of. Over the years many of the most influential players have yearned for the beautiful warm and warbly echoes that these old machines created so Strymon decided to create probably the most accurate representation of such machines into a tidy, attractive and incredibly tweakable pedal. The controls on this pedal are amazing, you can age the tape to take off some of the bright top end, you can add tape crinkle to replicate the sound of a chewed up mangled old tape and the random inconsistencies that would introduce and of course wow and flutter which introduces mechanically related tape speed fluctuations. On top of these features you also have the ability to add Spring Reverb and a +/- 3db Boost.
The layout is fairly straight forward with the main knob controls adjusting the delay time, repeats and delay volume and a couple of Toggle switches to determine the various modes and Tape head settings. There is however another set of controls which is a little fiddly but when you hold down the Tap Tempo and Bypass switch at the same time you access the secondary controls for each knob, for instance the Time knob becomes the Spring reverb level. The Tap Head settings are Fixed, Multi and Single I’ll explain the differences:
Fixed Tape Head – The Time knob varies the tape speed while the playback head is fixed in position
Multi Tape Head – 2 of the 3 playback heads are selected at once, the Time knob varies the tape speed the mode selector switch chooses which heads are selected
Single Tape Head – The Tape speed is fixed while the Time knob varies the position of a sliding record head
The Mode selector switch changes the selection of the record heads as follows:
Mode A – short delay with 1/16th note tap tempo
Mode B – medium delay with dotted 1/8th tap tempo
Mode C – long delay with 1/5 note tap tempo
When you are in Multi mode the mode selector works as follows:
Mode A – Heads 1 & 2 selected
Mode B – Heads 2 & 3 selected
Mode C – Heads 1 & 3 selected
This gives you some cool results!
An incredible amount of research and development has gone into this pedal as their freely available dTape Echo whitepaper shows, and to my ears this is as close to a real Tape Echo as I have ever heard so I’m not surprised there has been so much buzz about it. Check out www.strymon.net for more information on all of Strymon’s effects pedals and keep an eye on two releases due very soon, the Strymon Lex and Strymon Timeline.