If you are reading this article, I am guessing you know what the whole tape delay craze is all about. At some point in your career or amateur playing, you would have encountered musicians you rave about those vintage magnetic tape sounds that everybody strives to replicate till this day. The distinctive character of tape delays is what made this effect so prominent. And the efforts of creating something similar have forced manufacturers to work hard and put blood, sweat, and tears into their products.
When speaking of best tape delays, we cannot avoid the appraisal of Empress Effects. They made the name with their initial Superdelay and continue to do so with newer models. Today we are going to talk about their Tape Delay – a boutique pedal that offers way more than you would think at first glance. This bad boy has certain gems under the hood and will surprise you in the best way possible. I cannot wait to dive into its specifics, so let’s cut to the chase and move on to the interesting stuff!
I will start off by saying that Tape Delay might seem bulky the first time you pick it up. Let’s be honest, it is not the smallest pedal you will come across. However, once you consider all the features it packs, you start realizing that its enclosure is quite small for what it offers. And that definitely is a huge advantage for the pedal. The design of this fella is rather appealing, as everything from black chassis to golden writings and silver knobs seems expensive. As you look at it, you immediately understand what the boutique pedals are all about. The enclosure is durable too, so Tape Delay will be an investment if you decide to incorporate it in your rig. The circuitry is digital with an all-analog dry path, which is why it can replicate the character of vintage tape delay so accurately.
What is more, this pedal has a Signal to Noise ratio of around 103dB, which means that it has spectacular sonic quality. It also allows you to choose between true and buffered bypass, adding nice character to your sound even while disengaged. A separate footswitch for the tap tempo allows you to nail the delay time to perfection and once you pair it with the Delay/Ratio knob, you can mess around with those intervals precisely. Tape Delay offers different tape age, delay time, filters and modulation modes, diversifying your options even further.
This pedal also operates in Tap (standard) and Preset (up to 3 presets available) configuration. And if that were not enough, Empress did also add the ability to modify the headroom using the internal pot and tailor the pedal to the input of your instrument. This compact beast uses standard power supply for operation. Even though I did my best to cover the whole spectrum of features, there are some that you will be exposed to only when you get your hands on the Tape Delay.
Even though we discussed numerous features above, the control section is rather user-friendly and easy to grasp. There is only one thing you should keep in mind – you have the ability to enter Advanced Configuration in which the controls take up different functionality. However, that does not complicate things even a bit.
- Mix – blends your dry and wet signals together;
- D Time/Ratio – sets the delay time and tempo according to your taps with ratios of quarter, dotted eighth, eighth, triplet, sixteenth;
- Feedback – sets the decay time of the delay;
- Output – modifies the overall volume of the pedal;
- Tape Age – moves from new, old and vintage modes;
- Delay Time – takes the range of D Time/Ration knob from slow to fast;
- Filter – engages high or low pass filter;
- Modulation – allows you to add either small or huge amount of modulation to your delayed signal.
The preset mode changes the functionalities of the toggles in order to accommodate the requirements of such configuration.
- Tape Age – allows you to choose the amount of presets in slow or fast mode;
- Delay Time – enables you to select either true or buffered bypass;
- Filter – so called blips, alters the way the delay time changes when the knob is rotated;
- Modulation – lets you choose whether the presets are locked or overwritten.
Empress Tape Delay Sound
In order to understand the sound of Tape Delay fully, we have to discuss the Tap and Preset modes separately. The former on its own offers a wide variety of sounds. The Tape Age toggles shifts between new (bright and shimmery delays), vintage (darker, deeper delays), and old (even darker delays) modes and quickly changes the characteristics of the effect. The precision of delay time and ratio allows you to set the exact tempo your heart desires and be as rhythmic as possible. The concurrent echos will sweep in your sound and create lush swirls. Low Pass filter rolls of the highs, while the High Pass filter does the same thing for basses. This way you can quickly brighten up or darken your tone. And once you pair all this with the modulation, you are left with thick and defined layers of wonderful delays.
The Preset mode inspires you to experiment more and save up all your masterpieces easily. The end result is completely up to your playing and the preferred settings. For this reason, here I will underline the possibilities of Buffered bypass and Blips. The first one blends the trails of your delays with the dry signal and offers a smooth transition along the delay line, while the second one is where this pedal gets truly ‘tapey’. It changes the pitch of your sound drastically, pairs it with modified delay times and that’s it, you have your beloved effect right at your feet. There is no setting in Tape Delay where things sound bad or simply inaudible. Everything is perfectly refined and scrupulous – exactly as you would expect from such a wonderful boutique pedal.
If you ask me, Empress Effects Tape Delay says everything itself. Once you plug in, you are surrounded with the ambiance of saturated and textured delays. Its versatility is jaw-dropping and awakens the creativity that sometimes sleeps soundly inside us. It will inspire you to become a better player, to produce wonderful pieces or simply enjoy your instrument to the fullest. Good luck and try out this magical unit!
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