I’ve been lucky enough to play a lot of weird instruments, from hurdy-gurdy to modular buchla synthesizers to giant pipe organs. Few, however, were stranger gadgets than the Binson Echorec. The sounds of a Binson may be familiar – if only because it was Pink Floyd’s Echo of choice in the early to mid-1970s. But interacting with you musically while watching and hearing the ticking, whirring and sometimes the clink of your electromechanical innards feels like stepping out of a pulp science fiction paperback into a parallel universe, future / past. It is no accident that the band that wrote “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” made it a centerpiece of their creative process.
Foxgear’s China-built T7EBABY delay, inspired by the Binson Echorec T7E, an early Echorec version, mimics the unique sonic quirks introduced by the spinning drum, multi-head, record and repeater. And while Foxgear’s approximations don’t always hit the mysterious, often unpredictable ambience of an original Binson – and few pedals can – there are shiploads of fuzzy, highly psychedelic tones and textures that carry the whimsical sonic characteristics of an authentic analog original.
Digital control in the heart of the stomp
Although the T7EBABY is intuitive to use, like the original Binson, the controls are not what you see on a simple compact digital or analog delay. Some are familiar with funny names. The “Motor Adjust” function controls the delay time, for example. The delay time is extended here to a maximum of 880 ms – more than the approx. 300 ms delay that is available with a Binson or the 660 ms with Echosex 2 from Foxgear’s sister company Gurus. The “Age of Damage” control adds a woozy pitch modulation that emulates drum wear. The volume effectively controls the echo mix.
Other controls are unique in more than names. The head combination selector with 12 positions corresponds to the functionality of the 4-playback head array of the Binson Echorec and enables the syncopated rhythmic echoes that generate different head combinations. In contrast to the Binson, each virtual playback head has a different minimum to maximum delay range, depending on where you set the motor setting. Head 1 can range from 86 to 200 ms, head 2 from 172 to 422 ms, head 3 covers a range from 258 to 625 ms, and head 4 ranges from 344 to 822 ms. The relative distance between the four settings remains constant regardless of the delay time.
As with the original Binson, the Swell function feeds echoes back into the circuit to create additional layers of echo that can self-oscillate or turn into a reverb bed, depending on where you set the length of the swell.
The mode selector has three positions. Echo mode creates a single repetition of the selected head pattern with no feedback. It’s great for staccato and slapback patterns and has a very controlled but strong rhythmic character. Repeats mode brings the swell knob into the mix, which effectively manages feedback. As with the original Binson, the Swell function feeds echoes back into the circuit to create additional layers of echo that can self-oscillate or turn into a reverb bed, depending on where you set the length of the swell. The swell and tone controls are highly interactive. Lots of sound in addition to long swell settings creates self-oscillation. Less tone makes long swell settings sound more like reverb. I loved keeping the tone control and length of the swell in a sweet spot where they created a constant bed of feedback right behind the echoes. It’s an incredibly effective and mysteriously evocative effect. It also feels more precise and is much easier to adjust and control than most of the settings on the edge of feedback on other delays. With Fuzz driving this signal, you can create confusing swirling sustain textures and mutated reverb / delay sounds that are bold with ringing overtones.
Any Echorec pedal that’s worth it is a lot of fun. But there aren’t many of them, probably because the programming and number crunching required to authentically approximate the complex nuances of reality is a resource-intensive task. Thanks to its association with gurus, Foxgear has years of experience hunting down Echorec oddities. The sum of this experience is not only audible, but also tangible. With many settings – especially those with high thresholds and those with odd head combinations – you will be forced to play differently, and that can lead you in interesting compositional directions. At $ 219, it’s a more affordable alternative to the more expensive Echosex and at a competitive price with affordable Echorec alternatives with less authentic features.
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