The Catalinbread Belle Epoch Tape Echo, has tape echo sounds so authentic you’d swear there was tape inside the pedal! Inspired by the Maestro Echoplex, EP-3 model, perhaps the most famous tape delay ever, the Belle Epoch features everything we love about the EP-3 in a small, maintenance free pedal format. We felt that a “tape echo” pedal was much more than just a standard digital delay with some “filtering” on the repeats. There are a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle traits of the Echoplex that needed to be implemented in order to be authentic. The preamp, the self-oscillation character, the ability to play the pedal as an instrument unto itself, the ability to control the “record level” of the signal hitting “tape”, the wow and flutter, the way the repeats decay, the way the circuit interfaces with the amp and other pedals - all these things were important to get right.
The Belle Epoch was designed to be run in front of your amp in the same way the Echoplex was designed to be run in front of your amp. They share almost identical input and output circuit topologies, including the passive unbuffered mixer circuit of the EP-3. However, we tuned it to have a lower output impedance than the EP-3 to not load down the output as much while still retaining the open non-buffered output interface. A buffer does just what the name implies - it isolates one circuit from the next and can create a “disconnected” feeling that is subtle but a player who relies on touch-sensitive dynamics in his rig will appreciate the difference of not having the buffer. Having said that, the Belle Epoch will perform great in almost any pedal stacking situation. But for the most authentic Echoplex-like experience, we recommend that you run it before any foundation overdrive type pedals and after fuzzes, treble boosters, and the like. For the most awesome experience, try playing it right in line before your cranked up tube amp.
The MIX control replicates the functionality of the Echo Volume control on the EP-3 and uses the same basic passive mixer circuit. Set at minimum to get dry only. Set at maximum to get wet only.
The TONE / REC LEV control sets how hard the “tape” or delay line is hit. It does not affect your dry signal and only affects the initial first repeat. Turning the knob while repeats are playing will not affect them. In practice, you’ll want to use this control in conjunction with the Mix control to set your balance
The SWAY / MOD control sets the amount of random tape wow and flutter effects in the echoes. At minimum, there is no wow and flutter. For the most realistic tape warble, set this control fairly low.
The ECHO SUSTAIN controls how much delay signal is fed back to the delay line to get multiple repeats. From minimum up to around noon you’ll get a fixed number of repeats with a great decay curve. Above noon you start to get into infinite floating repeats and then into self-oscillation.
The ECHO DELAY controls the delay time, from about 80ms all the way up to 800ms. It was designed to be manipulated in real-time, as you are playing, to get the same sounds as an EP-3. You’ll notice, especially when the Echo Sustain is turned up a bit, that the echo sound “lags” a bit, much like how the Echoplex behaves when you move the slider back and forth.