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How to dial in a great tape delay in Axe-FX III

eldavvo

New Member
I totally understand and appreciate what you are saying, and where you are coming from. That sort of sonic "patina"
you can get from a Tape Delay is really intoxicating, and kind of charming. I've been blessed to own a few different
vintage Tape Echoes and still own 2 different ones. Also have owned most of the digital pedal versions that try and
emulate them. Delay is bar none my favourite effect.

The EP-3 I have now is far from "ideal" and yet it is also "f'ing perfect." I have yet to find a digital version of a Tape Echo
that will get out of your way like it magically does. I can set it to full oscillation and it will still "duck" out of the way and
create this majestic backdrop of sonic swirliness while you can hear what you play over the top. I can also set it up to be
super forward and in your face. It's pretty much an instrument unto itself that begs you to learn its intricacies and play it
as much as you play the guitar plugged into it.

I am sure to some ears it would sound "better" if it had a new tape in it and was "tuned up." Right now, though, those are
not my ears.

Hope you find what you are looking for in the III. :)
Exactly this, it's not so much the ducking I'm looking for, I like my tape delay to be really in my face, but it's that blanket of sound and modulation that I really love. I think there are some lovely modulated delays in the unit but they don't have that particular imperfect movement that I'm really craving.
 

SinglecutGuy

Inspired
Have you ever used a real tape delay or just pedals that are marketed as "tape delays"? Most pedals marketed as tape delays are caricatures of the real thing with exaggerated modulation, excessively narrow bandwidth and, often, companders in them to improve SNR. A well-tuned tape delay exhibits none of these characteristics. It seems the pedals are trying to replicate a tape delay whose cartridge is 40 years old and capstan is worn down to a nub.

If you want that faux tape delay sound use the Mono Tape type. Set the Low Cut to about 80 Hz, High Cut to around 1.8 kHz. Increase LFO 2 Rate to about 20 Hz and Depth to about 50%. Turn on the Compander for some grunginess. Adjust the parameters to taste.
While you’re 100% correct, I think tape delay is an effect that as you put it, has become a caricature of itself, and as a result, this caricature has become the sound that most guitar players are now associating with tape delay.

The Strymon Timeline and El Capistan are examples of this exaggeration, and are found on a lot of pedalboards. I could be off base here but I think folks are associating this faux tape sound with what should be readily available in a Tape setting.

To each their own, I guess. While I’m not guilty of conflating the two, I DO enjoy the modern “representation” of Tape Delay.
 

Adman103

Experienced
Have you ever used a real tape delay or just pedals that are marketed as "tape delays"? Most pedals marketed as tape delays are caricatures of the real thing with exaggerated modulation, excessively narrow bandwidth and, often, companders in them to improve SNR. A well-tuned tape delay exhibits none of these characteristics. It seems the pedals are trying to replicate a tape delay whose cartridge is 40 years old and capstan is worn down to a nub.

If you want that faux tape delay sound use the Mono Tape type. Set the Low Cut to about 80 Hz, High Cut to around 1.8 kHz. Increase LFO 2 Rate to about 20 Hz and Depth to about 50%. Turn on the Compander for some grunginess. Adjust the parameters to taste.
Yea, I completely agree with the point about modern pedal interpretations of tape machines- they tend to way overdo the artifacts. I have an Echofix EF-X2, which is a modern take on a space echo, and it's very clean and clear and hi-fi sounding (until you start overloading the preamps, anyways), but with a delicious sort of modulation to the repeats, but the overall experience is quite different than my Volante- the Volante seems to lean into the whole wow and flutter thing MUCH more than the real deal, to the point where to get it close, you have to have the age/wear knobs pretty much turned off.
And of course, the tape changes on the Echofix, which affects the sound, and the preamps in the Echofix throw their own something in there... it's a very different experience in reality. I could totally see how a modern guitarist might be frustrated with a real unit- no tap, it's mono, it's noisy compared to a digital pedal... that said, I really love the darn thing, and playing around with the speed and feedback via pedal really lets you pull off some interesting stuff.
the Volante is collecting dust these days, tbh. Currently, I have the Echofix in the loop of my Axe, and I hook it up to my amps whenever the mood strikes. Lots of fun!
 

la szum

Fractal Fanatic
While you’re 100% correct, I think tape delay is an effect that as you put it, has become a caricature of itself, and as a result, this caricature has become the sound that most guitar players are now associating with tape delay.

The Strymon Timeline and El Capistan are examples of this exaggeration, and are found on a lot of pedalboards. I could be off base here but I think folks are associating this faux tape sound with what should be readily available in a Tape setting.

To each their own, I guess. While I’m not guilty of conflating the two, I DO enjoy the modern “representation” of Tape Delay.

I don't know if those are "faux tape" sounds, as you put it, or just tape sounds modeled on
an "aged" tape. Obviously you cannot get both with the simply flick of a toggle switch on
an actual EP-3... or a Space Echo. Just have to use the shit out of it until some "degradation"
start to set in. And that kind of "degraded" echo is really appealing and attractive for a lot of
us. Maybe it is a bit of a lo-fi aesthetic. If it is I think that lo-fi aesthethic is not just relegated
to effects like Tape Echo. You can see also it in broken in, or ripped speakers, various fuzz pedals
that fart and blurt and act all bloated. Heck some guys like Jack White and Dan Auerbach---or
even Kurt Cobain---have built entire styles and their careers out of "degraded" gear and tones
that would be looked down upon by others---that is, until it becomes a part of our entire Musical
Zeitgeist. :)
 

la szum

Fractal Fanatic
Yea, I completely agree with the point about modern pedal interpretations of tape machines- they tend to way overdo the artifacts. I have an Echofix EF-X2, which is a modern take on a space echo, and it's very clean and clear and hi-fi sounding (until you start overloading the preamps, anyways), but with a delicious sort of modulation to the repeats, but the overall experience is quite different than my Volante- the Volante seems to lean into the whole wow and flutter thing MUCH more than the real deal, to the point where to get it close, you have to have the age/wear knobs pretty much turned off.
And of course, the tape changes on the Echofix, which affects the sound, and the preamps in the Echofix throw their own something in there... it's a very different experience in reality. I could totally see how a modern guitarist might be frustrated with a real unit- no tap, it's mono, it's noisy compared to a digital pedal... that said, I really love the darn thing, and playing around with the speed and feedback via pedal really lets you pull off some interesting stuff.
the Volante is collecting dust these days, tbh. Currently, I have the Echofix in the loop of my Axe, and I hook it up to my amps whenever the mood strikes. Lots of fun!

That sounds amazing. Congrats on owning such a cool piece of gear! :)

I have seen some demos of those units (built in Australia, right?) and they look amazing.
 

laxu

Power User
Yea, I completely agree with the point about modern pedal interpretations of tape machines- they tend to way overdo the artifacts. I have an Echofix EF-X2, which is a modern take on a space echo, and it's very clean and clear and hi-fi sounding (until you start overloading the preamps, anyways), but with a delicious sort of modulation to the repeats, but the overall experience is quite different than my Volante- the Volante seems to lean into the whole wow and flutter thing MUCH more than the real deal, to the point where to get it close, you have to have the age/wear knobs pretty much turned off.
And of course, the tape changes on the Echofix, which affects the sound, and the preamps in the Echofix throw their own something in there... it's a very different experience in reality. I could totally see how a modern guitarist might be frustrated with a real unit- no tap, it's mono, it's noisy compared to a digital pedal... that said, I really love the darn thing, and playing around with the speed and feedback via pedal really lets you pull off some interesting stuff.
the Volante is collecting dust these days, tbh. Currently, I have the Echofix in the loop of my Axe, and I hook it up to my amps whenever the mood strikes. Lots of fun!
On the flipside, I really enjoy my Volante exactly because it's easy to do things to your sound and how that particular pedal sounds. I never cared if it sounded like a Binson Echorec that is its inspiration because I've never played a real tape echo. Apart from secondary functions I think Strymon is really good at nailing the sweet spot for user experience where their pedals can be versatile but are still straightforward and above all fun to use and operate.

I think a good avenue for Fractal to improve the user experience of their effects would be a view similar to the "authentic" view for amps but instead of trying to replicate the real controls on an effect, you would have a simplified set that makes more sense to someone familiar with pedals. Having a knob that let's me adjust the modulation wow/flutter effect is way better than having to figure out how to exactly setup LFOs to get your desired sound. With Fractal it's sometimes like being in the engine room of a spaceship when you really just wanted to be in the cockpit.
 

Bodde

Fractal Fanatic
Has the mono tape delay algo changed much since the Axe fx III? I always struggled also a bit to get a really nice sounding tape delay out of the Axe fx II. I can get some good sounds out of it but to me it has a bit of an unnatural sound somehow. Hard to describe. I also own a Catalinbread Belle Epoch pedal which I really like. It is supposed to sound like the Echoplex.
 
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Adman103

Experienced
On the flipside, I really enjoy my Volante exactly because it's easy to do things to your sound and how that particular pedal sounds. I never cared if it sounded like a Binson Echorec that is its inspiration because I've never played a real tape echo. Apart from secondary functions I think Strymon is really good at nailing the sweet spot for user experience where their pedals can be versatile but are still straightforward and above all fun to use and operate.

I think a good avenue for Fractal to improve the user experience of their effects would be a view similar to the "authentic" view for amps but instead of trying to replicate the real controls on an effect, you would have a simplified set that makes more sense to someone familiar with pedals. Having a knob that let's me adjust the modulation wow/flutter effect is way better than having to figure out how to exactly setup LFOs to get your desired sound. With Fractal it's sometimes like being in the engine room of a spaceship when you really just wanted to be in the cockpit.
Yea, I think you nailed it with why tape sim pedals are still valuable- they're straightforward to use, convenient, sound great (even if it's not 100% spot on to some other tape echo out there...), and they can have presets (which is a big deal, for sure.). I definitely don't mean to knock the Volante- it's a great pedal that I've really enjoyed, but it is pretty heavy with the wow and flutter thing. A real tape echo would have to be in pretty rough shape to sound as crazy as the Volante can get.
 

Adman103

Experienced
That sounds amazing. Congrats on owning such a cool piece of gear! :)

I have seen some demos of those units (built in Australia, right?) and they look amazing.
Thanks! Yea, it's a wild piece of gear! Build quality is fantastic- built like a tank, and sounds amazing. I really only have a couple of outboard effects these days, and everything else is Axe Fx, even with my regular amps, and each piece of gear does something specific- the Echofix, a Microcosm, a Mimiq, and a FreqOut. It's nice to be able to just plug the Echofix into an amp, and you've got a choice of preamps, tape delay, reverb and chorus, all in one box. And it works great in the loop of the Axe Fx, although it does introduce a little bit of noise, but that's just how those things are. It's pretty fun.
 

Bodde

Fractal Fanatic
I have an Echofix EF-X2, which is a modern take on a space echo, and it's very clean and clear and hi-fi sounding

Didn't know that Echofix. Just looked it up. Sounds great. But a very hefty price tag! 2600 euro. You can buy an Axe fx III for that!
 

Adman103

Experienced
Didn't know that Echofix. Just looked it up. Sounds great. But a very hefty price tag! 2600 euro. You can buy an Axe fx III for that!
yea, they aren't cheap. I've been slowly selling off a bunch of stuff I just don't use any longer (mostly cause the Axe does it all equally well), and way back in the day, I sold my old RE-201 to help raise funds for my wedding, so it was one of those long term wish list things for me. The price has gone up and down a bit over the last couple of years, as the Australian dollar has gone up and down, and I'm sure the other options (Volante, Belle Epoch, Axe tape echo, etc) make more sense for a lot of people, but it's a great sounding unit that I'm grateful to have. The tape flowing through the top of the thing is intoxicating.
 

Bodde

Fractal Fanatic
yea, they aren't cheap. I've been slowly selling off a bunch of stuff I just don't use any longer (mostly cause the Axe does it all equally well), and way back in the day, I sold my old RE-201 to help raise funds for my wedding, so it was one of those long term wish list things for me. The price has gone up and down a bit over the last couple of years, as the Australian dollar has gone up and down, and I'm sure the other options (Volante, Belle Epoch, Axe tape echo, etc) make more sense for a lot of people, but it's a great sounding unit that I'm grateful to have. The tape flowing through the top of the thing is intoxicating.

Ok sounds like a great machine to have. But I never would spend that much for a delay. Even though I am a delay junky.
 
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yyz67

Power User
I have yet to find a digital version of a Tape Echo that will get out of your way like it magically does. I can set it to full oscillation and it will still "duck" out of the way and create this majestic backdrop of sonic swirliness while you can hear what you play over the top. I can also set it up to be super forward and in your face. It's pretty much an instrument unto itself that begs you to learn its intricacies and play it as much as you play the guitar plugged into it.

I am sure to some ears it would sound "better" if it had a new tape in it and was "tuned up." Right now, though, those are
not my ears.
I've never ventured into the tape echo territory and you have my interest piqued.

Wonder if you could post a clip of some of that oscillation and swirliness you mention (maybe w/ & w/o dry over the top)?
 

eldavvo

New Member
So, played with the "worn tape" setting a little last night and I have to say it sounds great. There's a nice warmth to it and can oscillate really nicely. The modulation is probably a little more "uniform" than what we're used to hearing in representations of worn tape but I think with a bit of tweaking it could easily warble a bit more.

I'm sure Cliff and the team haven't added this just because of this thread but it's still very cool to be able to see functionality you want being added to the system.
 
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