Hands-On Review:Electro-Harmonix Memory Clan

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Bringing an echo from the past into the modern age

By Jon Chappell
Senior Editor, Harmony Central


Electro-Harmonix Memory Clan

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's Deluxe Memory Man as the big daddy in a family that includes the crown prince Deluxe Memory Boy; his smaller sibling, Memory Boy; and the littlest of the litter, Memory Toy.  While they all share similar analog circuitry and a general vibe that  invites musical exploration, each has its own sound and feature set.

Man up

The most traditional of the foursome is the Deluxe Memory Man,  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 the DMM very 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 the DMM on!); 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: DMM'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 the DMM as 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 Deluxe Memory Man'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.


The Deluxe Memory Boy is 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, the Memory Boy offers 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 Memory Toy.  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 the Memory line is 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.