Anatomy of Guitar Tone: Tape Delay Preamp

Hey everybody. This is Mark Marshall from The Pro Audio Files and

This week, I wanted to talk about using an EP Booster from Exotic to recreate the sound of a tape echo. I’m going to be combining the EP Booster with a Strymon El Capistan. The reason I’m doing this is because I’ve become addicted to tape echoes, and not just for the echo sounds, but for the preamp and the extra couple of dB of boost that I can hit the front end of the amp with.

This is an old trick that a lot of guitarists do, and sometimes they don’t even turn the delay on, but they just use the preamp for a little extra push and clarity.

I wanted to pair the two — the EP Booster and the Strymon El Capistan to see if I can come close to what my Tube Tape Echo sounds like. I just wanted to note real quick that the EP Booster, which is this pedal right here, is note a recreation of the same preamp that is in my Fulltone Tube Tape Echo, so for this, the Tube Tape Echo is likely to be just a little bit darker, because of the tubes in it, and the EP Booster I believe is based on the EP-3 circuit, which was solid state preamp.

It’s still a really fantastic pedal, and as you’ll be able to hear, it comes pretty close.

One of the things that’s cool about the Strymon El Capistan pedal is that it does offer you a boost in it. The only issue with this is when I like using the preamp of an EchoPlex or a Tube Tape Echo, I like the boost to stay on the whole time.

So if you set the boost on here, it will only activate when you turn the pedal on. In other words, even when I turn my delays off, I like having that extra hit to the amp there.

I think you’ll find from the examples that the amp sounds like it opens up a little bit when you stick the preamp in front of it. Most of the time, I’m using fairly low output pickups, but that paired with an EchoPlex or a Tube Tape Echo hitting the front of the amp just really really — it gives it just a little fuller, richer tone.

I’m going to A/B some examples here with each pedal on independently and combined.

One of the other things worth noting about the setup for what you’re going to hear is I made an adjustment to the dip switches that are inside the EP Booster. There are two dip switches — one is for 3dB of gain, so in other words, as soon as the pedal is on and the knob is at its lowest position, that will automatically be +3dB of gain.

I left that one alone. What I adjusted is there’s a little bit of a bright switch in it, and I turned the bright switch off to a vintage setting, just because when I was A/Bing it with the Tube Tape Echo in the bright setting, it was just a little too bright and glassy. That’s the only change I made, and I pretty much just made sure that they both were hitting the amp at the equal amount.

[EP Booster and El Capistan]

[EP Booster into Headstrong Lil King]

[El Capistan into a Headstrong Lil King]

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC. More at
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