A Tape Echo For Anyone

If you’ve ever looked into how artists from the 1960s made their music, you’ll learn about the many inventive ways in which the tape recorder enabled new effects. One of the simplest of those is the tape echo, as distinct from a reverb which introduces the many delayed echoes of a large auditorium, an echo provides a single delayed version of the original. It’s something [Mark Gutierez] shows us as he makes a tape echo from a cheap Walkman-style cassette player. It’s hardly the highest quality of its ilk, but it does the job.

The player in question sports the ubiquitous Chinese mechanism that’s the last still in production. It has a radio incorporated which he doesn’t use, but for all that it has only a permanent magnet erase head rather than one driven from the bias oscillator. He first puts another head in the space between the record head and the pinch roller, then further modifies the cassette so a loop can be pulled out of the side of it, moving all heads off-board. As you can see in the video below the break it’s in no way high-fidelity, but with a couple of Eurorack mixer kits added on it makes for an interesting effect.

If you can lay your hands on a reel-to-reel machine, you can make a more traditional echo machine.

8 thoughts on “A Tape Echo For Anyone

  1. Neat. Couple of mods could be to replace the magnetic erase head with an electromagnetic erase head so you can vary the amount of erasure on the tape to introduce artifacts from past recording passes. Also maybe as a mixable audio in to the record head to add other effects with the guitar input.

  2. Note that you can have several playback heads on the delay loop, each with its own preamp, for more complicated patterns. And you can change the amount of each recirculating back into the recording. I’ve seen setups which dynamically varied the playback head positions as well.

    This is of course all a lot easier to do with reel-to-reel.

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