Hands-On Review:Electro-Harmonix Memory Clan
Bringing an echo from the past into the modern age
By Jon Chappell
Senior Editor, Harmony Central
Echo may well be the oldest intentional electric guitar effect. (I say intentional because back in the day, things like distortion and feedback were accidents.) It's certainly the earliest rock 'n' roll effect, dating all the way back to Elvis Presley and his guitarist Scotty Moore. It's also probably the most ubiquitous effect in use now, especially when you consider that it's commonly used on clean and distorted electric guitars alike, acoustic instruments, vocals, and basically any other sound you can plug into an input.
Back when The King reigned, delay was created with tape. That gave way to analog delay devices that were eventually supplanted with digital delays. Or were they? While the microchip brought fidelity and flexibility to the echo effect, some say the digital process also robbed echo of some of the tone and mystery that made devices like the original Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man so magical. Discerning tonemeisters demand that analog delays and other modulation-based effects remain a part of their sonic palette. And that's why Electro-Harmonix is always welcome at the tone table.
Today, you can think of Electro-Harmonix'sas the big daddy in a family that includes the crown prince ; his smaller sibling, ; and the littlest of the litter, . While they all share similar analog circuitry and a general vibe that invites musical exploration, each has its own sound and feature set.
The most traditional of the foursome is the, which combines bucket-brigade analog echo with chorus and vibrato in a large-format metal housing. It features a solid, old-school switch—you know, the kind that can be fixed if the unit gets run over by the band's van. That switch is the one difference between the original and new versions: Today's boxes offer true-bypass operation for purer tone.
You may not bypass thevery often though, because that tone is both lush and warm—the ideal sound to push the front end of a tube amp. It's aided by the fact that the DMM takes a healthy 24-volt power supply to run (the rest of the group uses the more standard nine-volt versions, though they also sound great). Connections include mono input and output jacks, as well as a direct out that sends an unmodified signal through its 1/4" jack.
Controls on the spacious and well-labeled front panel include Blend (to mix between overall wet and dry signals); Level (overall output—you can boost your signal when you kick theon!); Feedback (number of discrete echo repeats); the Chorus/Vibrato toggle switch (in rotary knob format); Depth (which governs the chorus/vibrato intensity); and Delay (distance between repeats in time).
If you think "analog" means "short" delay, think again:'s 550-millisecond maximum time is more than adequate for 99% of practical applications, from Scotty Moore's slapback to David Gilmour's cathedral washes.
While you can use theas a "pure" delay or as a modulation effect, my favorite tones came from a blend of the two into one holistic sound. It's interesting that the instruction sheet doesn't mention specs; this is the kind of device you set by playing, listening, and adjusting. It's an organic and very musical experience. Prepare to be drawn into the analog abyss!
Boys will be boys
While they don't use all of the same circuitry, the's tone provides the sonic DNA for the rest of the family. But like any clan, each of the other three Memory units has a distinctive personality.
Theis the most feature-laden—and most "modern"—of the four, offering tap tempo, an input for an expression pedal, and a built-in effects loop to go along with a creamy, rich combination of triangle or square wave modulation with delay (34–700ms). Actually, you can extend the delay time to 1,500ms using the tap tempo function (by tapping one and a half seconds apart), which produces a loop section with significantly reduced fidelity, but that you may find usable in some settings.
The mere inclusion of these features on an analog pedal would be worth noting, but Electro-Harmonix gets extra kudos by letting you configure the tap switch and the expression pedal with intuitive top-panel buttons and clearly labeled LEDs. You can set the delay to one of six note/time divisions (quarter note, dotted-eighth note, quarter-note triplet, eighth note, eighth-note triplet, and 16th note), based on the tempo you set by with the Tap footswitch. (I like that the LED flashes in tempo!) You can also set the delay time the old-fashioned way—by grabbing the Delay knob, which overrides the tap. Overall, it's the perfect blend of modern flexibility and vintage simplicity.
The expression button lets you set any standard expression pedal to govern modulation rate, mod depth, delay feedback, or delay time. Pressing and holding this button also engages "Low Cut Mode," which rolls off bass frequencies in the delay circuit—useful if the results start to lose clarity.
The effects loop lets you modify the delayed sound with other processors—a very cool feature that lets you do things like put, say, a filter, compressor, or pitch shifter on the echoes while leaving the core tone unaffected.
If you don't need the tap tempo features but do want the tone, theoffers 550ms of delay with the same triangle/square-wave chorus, plus an expression pedal input.
Finally, we'd be remiss to ignore the compact and sweet. Ideal for those on a budget—or for smaller pedalboards—the Toy boasts 550ms of delay with that shimmering chorus. Controls include Delay (time), Feedback, Blend, and Modulation on/off. Overall, it offers great tone to go.
If you haven't spent a lot of time exploring the retro aesthetic, you owe it to your ears to give Electro-Harmonix's varied analog and modulation effects a listen. In this family, many of the unique and cool features from the flagship units are included on the "little brothers," making them viable for many musical settings. But whichever unit you select, working with theis an experience you're likely to repeat over and over again.
For high-quality delay and modulation effects that perfectly capture that retro analog vibe, check out the Memory line of effects from Electro-Harmonix. Order today from Musician's Friend and get our 45-Day Total Satisfaction and Lowest Price Guarantees.