PSP Audioware's name has become synonymous with the audio processing techniques of yesteryear. While plenty of their plug-ins produce effortlessly modern-sounding treatments, the popularity of their VintageWarmer and OldTimer show they've captured the spirit of vintage gear better than most. Their latest processor to incorporate classic techniques is Echo, a delay plug-in with the drive, saturation and pitch manipulation of tape-based processing.
The GUI sticks to a single page, with a control set incorporating some surprising and creative twists. The upper controls, from left to right, target the input stage, with the option to dial in wow-and-flutter effects to produce the characteristic pitch variations you'd associate with tape-based effects. You get both frequency and depth amount dials to craft these to taste. It's possible to toggle echo to BPM-locked or millisecond-based operation, or to de-couple synchronization altogether and enter a tempo manually. Two creative uses of this would be to offset the delays to half- or double-speed operation. The tape speed control to the right is interesting, too. By default, a quarter-note delay is offered at 15ips, but if you slow the tape speed to 7.5ips, the quarter-note becomes a half-note; if sped up to 30ips, it doubles to an 1/8th-note. If you tweak tape speed while Echo is in use, you'll be greeted to all kinds of pitch mayhem and make some great sounds in the process. At a glance, Echo presents itself as a stereo delay unit, but a pre-delay ping-pong control in the upper-right corner actually turns the unit into a four-delay beast. (You can bypass this if you prefer to keep things simpler.)
Below this panel, you'll find sliders that control the main delays. Via the link rocker switch in the bottom-left corner, these can either be paired or de-coupled to let you set independent values for each side. Whichever mode you choose, the note values to the sides of the sliders indicate the delay value. When the sliders are in their default central position, you'll hear quarter-note delays with tape speed set to 15ips. But you'll also produce quarter-note delays if you adjust tape speed to 30ips and move the sliders up to the half-note position at the top. This is perhaps the only confusing element of Echo, and it may lead to some initial head-scratching. But the options provided by variable tape speed and delay time offer the broadest range of creative options within your tracks. As both parameters can produce unusual time and pitch offsets, having the opportunity to use these simultaneously, whether working together or pulling against each other, is huge fun.
On either side of the delay sliders, you'll find feedback controls to set the number of echoes and feedback pan dials to control their stereo behaviour. Using these controls, you can feed delays from the right to the left and vice versa, for example. Crucially, the plug-in also offers low- and high-pass filter effects on both sides (so you can generate echoes from specific frequency bands) and controls to set an output level for each delay. Lastly, you can create tape saturation effects by controlling drive amounts, which vary in tonal character depending on the frequency areas you target. The lowest strip of dials allows you to control the stereo spread of each delay and the pan balance. Independent dry and wet knobs are also provided, allowing you to use the Echo in-channel or on an auxiliary.
In the top-right corner, the "ducker" control brings gating-style effects to your delays. Clicking this button changes the upper panel to provide threshold and range parameters on the left-hand side to set volume levels at which the effect triggers and the amount of volume drop applied to the delay taps, respectively. On the right, open and close dials control the time-based behavior of the ducker, setting the equivalent of attack and decay speeds for this option.
Echo is a great-sounding plug-in that capably rivals other tape-emulating delay effects for substantially less money. Its control set requires a little patience, but once you're familiar with the options, you'll find yourself designing echo effects perfectly geared to your tracks. In particular, the drive controls provide a colour and warmth that can bring power and pace to busy staccato sequences or an edge and richness to pads and sustained sounds.