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Anybody got an Echoplex?


 
2/25/2005 9:27 AM
regis Anybody got an Echoplex?
A kind friend recently gave me an EP3 Echoplex that was in poor condition. I replaced the drive belt, replaced the tape cartridge, had the pinch roller rebuilt, and had to remove a lot of rust from the chassis. The tolex is ripped and filthy, and the handle and hinges and some of the screws are rusted pretty bad.  
 
Despite all that it now sounds pretty good. The heads are fair worn but I dunno where I would get replacements.  
 
Anyone else have one of these? I remember back in the 70's it was the only game in town if you wanted echo.  
 
I want to put a good word in for Terry's Rubber Rollers & Wheels at http://www.terrysrubberrollers.com/  
 
He did a great job rebuilding the pinch roller to new condition.
 
2/26/2005 7:52 PM
Steve Dallman
email

Hey Regis, I have two Echoplexes at the moment...a non-working Tube mode, and a near mint EP-3. I've owned and do own a lot of vintage echo's and reverb's. I also have a Hohner Echo Plus that is in near mint condition. It was very used when I found it in 1975.  
 
The Echoplex over the years wasn't the only thing available. I had a Fender SS oil can echo that I still have recordings where you can hear it. It was extremely cool the way it would pick up a snair drum through the vocal mikes.  
 
I had a tube Echoplex which I sold when I got the Hohner. At the time the Echoplex was giving me problems and I didn't know enough to trouble shoot and the only repair places around wouldn't or couldn't do anything beyond changing the tubes.  
 
In the 80's I bought a Multivox. It was much like the Roland. It had a loose tape bin, multiple heads, noise reduction, and spring reverb. I loved it...until I spilled a Pepsi into it at a gig. I got it cleaned up, but it never was the same, so I sold it...to a repair tech.  
 
I bought a Univox...the one that uses a small version of an 8-track tape. The tapes were so expensive and hard to find that I rebuilt the electronics around an actual 8-track tape machine. It was far more reliable and even sounded better. And new tapes ran about $2. The type of tape really affected the sound. Unfortunately, the best sounding tape also left the most oxides and flaked badly.  
 
It got accidently run over by our equipment van.  
 
Digital was out by then and I bought a 750ms ADA digital delay...which wasn't without problems. Every time there was a spike in the power line, the delay would freeze up and would take a day or so unplugged to come back to normal. Once I realized what was happening (refridgerators, freezers, beer coolers, large AC units, etc.) I added chokes and caps to the power in the unit and that problem was solved.  
 
After years of using and owning digital, I still love those tape machines. I didn't like the cleanliness of the digital machines. An echo that has the same fidelity as the straight signal sounds unnatural and steps all over the vocals.  
 
I finally got around that by modding the units...if I could get a schematic (impossible with Alesis) or used an unused channel for the delay return. I could then turn down the treble.  
 
I also used a ducker that turned the echo down some while someone was singing, then turned it up as soon as the vocalist stopped. THAT worked great.  
 
I have done my own maintenance, which improved over the years thankfully. My tube Echoplex doesn't work from the playback head out. The last time I tried to fix it was over 15 years ago. I'm ready to give it another try.  
 
I'm working on the Hohner at this time. It uses a Sony tape from an old endless loop answering machine. There are 3 playback heads. The unit has it's shortcomings. It has NO headroom and is hard to adjust to keep things clean. I am planning a few changes. I will add a compandor to the tape circuits. That will compress the signal going onto the tape, and expand the signal coming off the tape. I'll keep the straight signal through the machine off the compandor, but will make some mods to improve headroom.  
 
Without the schematic, it may take a while. I have just cleaned the unit up, and will polish the many guides and heads, and soften up the capstan roller some.  
 
I am also going to change the motor drive. Currently the voltage is highly regulated by the motor supply board and is designed to hold the tape at a constant speed. I am going to change that circuit to a more modern speed controller so I will be able to get slower speeds if I want to. I even thought about spacing the heads apart more. Stock, they are too close to the record head for long echos.  
 
I have a Boss Echo Machine, which is an old analog delay with an earyly Boss Chorus included. The delay is actually quite long for a bucket-brigade circuit. The longest delay is 400mS. The high end goes down as the delay time is increased. There is already a compander in the circuit.  
 
But I've considered putting in a brick wall low pass filter to get rid of the clocking noise. I have a 72dB/octave low pass filter that should work nicely. I should be able to use a noticeablty higher cutoff with that steep a slope.  
 
I have a few other analog delays, including the first Ibanez pedal that I bought with the then new, TS808 Tube screamer, Flanger chorus, 6 band EQ and a compressor. The compressor was the dog of the bunch, so that got swapped for a Dynacomp. The Ibanez EQ was hissy. The Flanger, Chorus, and Delay all used 18volts. I still have them. The Tube Screamer was very nice once I got rid of that cheap, crappy JRC4558 for a decent Bifet. It was pretty dull and mediocre, but the bifet added more complexity and dynamics. The pedal would clean up nicely by rolling back the guitar. We used it on our guitar player's pedalboard (I'm a bass player). He rarely used it before I modded it, but rarely shut it off after I made the chip change.  
 
Back to your Echoplex. Back in the day, a good stereo shop could relap the heads when they were worn. These days the same dealers look at you with a puzzled look if you ask about "relapping."  
 
There are sources for the heads. I believe Fultone has some...but save up your money.  
 
Keep it clean and demagnitized and either learn how to wind your own tapes, or keep a replacement on hand. You need to use lubricated tape and it's not as easy to find since 8-tracks disappeared.  
 
There used to be head and guide lubricants that made all the contact points slipperier which extended life of the tape and heads, but I don't even remember what it was called...and forget about finding it today. But I can polish the guides myself so I'm not worried. I also have a collection of really bad 8-track tapes that I can use for rewinding.  
 
These things are fun...work well. Digital is too clean. Analog is too muddy. Tape is better to my ears, and besides the more natural quality of the echos, the slight wow and flutter add to the tone. Some digital delays include hi filters. The Danelectro "Reel Echo" even has a "Tape/SS" switch and a switch that adds wow and flutter. THAT's a fun pedal. The modulation is not random enough and they went a little overboard. And the delay cuts out when you move the echo pointer. If they only got that part right...
 
 
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2/27/2005 5:47 AM
Regis
Hi Steve, thanks for the reply. Hang on to that tube Plex, working or not it's worth a lot of money!! Even EP3s are going for $350+ on Ebay.  
 
I had forgotten about relapping heads until you reminded me. God knows where I could get it done; guess I'll do a Google. I was going to make contact with fuller to see if his heads would work and if he would sell them. The heads on my EP3 sound ok but are significantly worn if you examine them closely.  
 
I bought a replacement tape cartridge from Mike Battle, the inventer of the Plex. He has a webpage ran by his son:  
 
http://www.tubeplex.net/  
 
They wouldn't tell me the tape formulation of their cartridge, I guess it's bad for business.  
 
I went to Tape Warehouse here in Atlanta and they had some surplus radio station carts they sold me for replacement tape. I had heard about the 8 track trick, I guess I'll hit some thrift stores. I need to figure out how to reload the old cartridge, it is jammed badly and and I'll have to dismantle it to get the old tape out, then figure out how to properly reload new tape. Any ideas?  
 
How to you polish the guides on your plex?  
 
Regarding wow and flutter, this thing has plenty of both. I guess that's normal.
 
3/5/2005 11:31 AM
Steve Dallman
email

I've never had any trouble with worn heads. Even if there is a slight groove where the tape runs, as long as the path is smooth and the heads are alligned right, clean and demagnitized, I've gotten great results.  
 
Fulltone has replacement heads, and I've seen other sources recently.  
 
I have always rewound my own using 8 track tape. I'd start the winding by opening the cartrige, taping the first loop around the spools, and start winding. Once I had enough tape on the spools, I'd pull out the tape from the center and splice it to the tail from the outside of the spools.  
 
I never measured because I never used the sound on sound. The biggest problem today, besides locating 8 tracks in good condition, is finding splicing tape. Radio Shack no longer has it, and while doing a search on the internet, the only sources I've found have a $20 minimum.  
 
I've got a great Barry Manilow 8-track ready to begin it's new life in my tube Echoplex.  
 
I'll polish the guides using the same thing I use to polish frets to a mirror like sheen. A dremel with a felt disk, and Mother's metal polish. My girlfriend, a true biker chick, turned me on to this stuff. It can make steel shine like chrome.
 
3/7/2005 8:21 AM
Regis
Thanks for the tip on reloading cartridges. I'm still a little fuzzy about it, but I'll give it a try.  
 
Where do I get that metal polish?  
 
I got my splicing tape from Tape Warehouse here in Atlanta, a couple of bucks for about 10 tabs.  
 
I replaced the belt, and I am going to try to get new motor mounts out of the guy at fuzzorama.com.  
 
I went back to my plex after reading post and did another cleaning. I didn't mention it before that I had thought the record head had rust on it, but it was tape debris! I had to scrub like hell with a cue tip and isopropyl to get it clean. There is still a hazy sheen on all the heads that won't come off with these methods.  
 
Thanks Steve!
 
3/9/2005 2:44 PM
Steve Dallman
email

It's been years since I re-wound a tape so it's a bit fuzzy to me. I believe Dunlop sells replacement tape cartridges.  
 
The polish I uses is "Mothers Mag and Aluminum Polish" and it's available at any auto supply dealer, like Autozone, Advance Auto,etc. I keep a container at home and at the music store I do repair work for.  
 
I'll check into Tape Warehouse for splicing tape.  
 
Another way to replace the tape is to find the splice in the old tape. Then cut the splice, and splice your tape to the outside tape end. Then pull the old tape out from the center until you reach the splice. Then cut the old tape off and splice your new tape together.  
 
Good luck,  
Steve
 
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