Delay and echo are the oldest and most commonly used effects in modern recording. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that there exist more delay-based plug-ins for DAWs than any other form of effect. They can typically be found in one of three main flavors: simple digital line or ping-pong delays with minimal edit parameters and rhythmic pattern capabilities; complex multiline and granular-style band delays with much more of a sound-sculpting character (think Eventide H3000); and “vintage” apps that focus solely on a single boutique model, often tape- or mechanical-based, with few modern amenities.EchoBoy TDM — the first plug-in from SoundToys' new line to support true TDM operation — blurs the lines by harnessing everything there is to love about retro echo boxes and digital delay lines, adding numerous advanced timing and rhythm features and paying especially close attention to the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) nuances that each era of echo imparts on a sound. Sure, it can faithfully emulate virtually every echo device ever created, but it's the bevy of new controls, allowing you to mix and match characteristics to create some truly unique delays, that make this plug-in stand out. Currently available for the Mac OS X platform only, EchoBoy is intended to run on Digidesign Pro Tools|HD systems but can also run natively under Pro Tools LE.LITTLE BLACK BOXSharing the same retro black rack-device motif as the rest of the SoundToys lineup, EchoBoy quickly secures the impression that you're dealing with something not prehistorically vintage and not too pristinely modern, either. The wide analog-style knobs, inviting toggle switches and aviationlike red segmented LEDs combine to accurately suggest an influential timeline somewhere between the 1950s and the 1980s.As it should be with an iLok-protected plug-in, installing the license chip on my Apple Mac G5/dual 2GHz, equipped with 2 GB of RAM and Mac OS 10.3.8, was fast and without incident. In Pro Tools 6.9, running on HD 3 Accel hardware, EchoBoy showed up in all four available incarnations: TDM, HTDM, RTAS and AudioSuite. TDM support is available on HD and HD Accel systems only. Although EchoBoy is well-integrated with Pro Tools — supporting all of the standard features, controls and automation — early on, it caused intermittent crashes in Apple Logic Pro 7.1 running in DAE mode and refused to sync to Logic's session tempo. In the midst of my review, SoundToys released the free version 1.1.2 upgrade for download; the upgrade fixes these issues and sees support of sample rates as high as 96 kHz on TDM (HD Accel only) and as high as 192 kHz on RTAS and HTDM. Additionally, version 1.1.2 adds support for older Pro Tools|24 Mix systems with HTDM at 44 and 48 kHz; CPUs of 1 GHz or faster are recommended for this.The plug-in comprises three main configurations. The first is the echo Mode control, which switches among four basic algorithms, each offering a different number of delay outputs and signal routings. Single Echo mode is most like your classic echo effect whereas Dual Echo supplies two independent echo channels. Ping-Pong mode is similar to Dual except that the input is always fed first to the left channel, which then feeds the right channel, subsequently bouncing back and forth between them for a ping-pong effect. Rhythm Echo mode takes a single delay line and generates individual outputs for multitap effects.EchoBoy's overall appearance changes slightly depending on the mode and parameters you select. So to keep the UI streamlined and simple to operate, the plug-in only presents what you need, when you need it and institutes temporary pop-ups for specialty functions and in-depth parameter tweaks. In Single, Dual or Ping-Pong mode, the echo edit block to the left looks relatively similar, providing controls for Echo Time (adjustable in milliseconds or musical note, dotted note and triplet values); Feedback (determining the number of echo repeats); Saturation (adding subtle tube- or tapelike compression and distortion); HighCut; and Wet/Dry Mix, allowing EchoBoy to be used for standard in-line (insert style) or bused processing.The maximum echo time available depends on the specific echo mode and whether you are running EchoBoy in TDM, RTAS or AudioSuite format. In TDM Single Echo mode, you can achieve a maximum delay of one second. In Dual and Ping-Pong modes, you get two independent Echo Time controls. Each may be set to sync to note values, or you can have one channel freewheeling based on milliseconds and not synched to host while the other channel is tempo-synched and set to a specific note value.The Tweak button calls a pop-up window containing knobs to control the echo's accent, width and left and right offset. Accent is bipolar, so dialing it clockwise will cause the volume of each repeat to alternate between loud and soft, emphasizing the odd echoes only, whereas counterclockwise rotation will cause the even echoes to be accented, resulting in an offbeat syncopated feel. The Width control can be used to narrow the echoes of a stereo signal or even to spread them outside your speakers. The Offset control is provided to adjust the tightness of the stereo image (up to 25 ms) and to adjust for any minor phase problems. Again, Tweak in Dual mode provides you with independent accent controls, one for each echo channel, and there's also a cool Feedback mix control that allows you to run remnants of each echo channel into the other, creating potential for lush, reverblike echo curtains.STEPS IN TIMEBy far, the most challenging yet flexible pattern mode is Rhythm Echo, essentially a step sequencer displayed in an oscilloscopelike window. A max of 16 echoes can be placed in any conceivable pattern along a freely definable beat grid, and each tap is represented by a thick bright-green vertical bar, the height of which determines its loudness. Using an ingeniously simple implementation of controls, the Rhythm knob allows for quick assigning of rhythmic patterns based on common note values. The accompanying Repeats knob determines how many taps will be placed incrementally along the grid.With EchoBoy synched to MIDI Clock, I fed it a simple kick pattern from a drum loop I'd been programming. With echo intervals set to 16th notes and repeat set to 4, I got a perfectly tempo-locked echo, as expected. But the fun starts when you draw in your own taps, dropping them in at odd positions, and modify the Shape knob, which applies amplitude envelopes across a pattern's echoes. I couldn't get enough of the reverse shape on vocals for that cool '80s backward-echo sound. You can even Command-click a ghost echo anywhere between the quantized grid lines. Turn up the Feedback, and the whole pattern repeats — into uncontrollable mayhem if you wish. Custom patterns may be saved, recalled and shared among any SoundToys plug-ins; this was especially cool for me, as I could now import them into my FilterFreak and PhaseMistress plugs and vice versa.As flexible as all modes were, I wished there were a way to apply time and amplitude envelopes across pattern repeats, not just echoes within a pattern. In Single Echo mode, for instance, I wanted a vocal line to have a short burst of echoes that quickly dropped to barely audible and then sustained infinitum (to be faded later in the mix). Thanks to EchoBoy's incredibly smooth and click-free parameter transitions, though, I was able to use Pro Tools automation to crank the Feedback knob to pick up the minute echo trails just as they were about to die.The I/O stage, though simple and featuring the obligatory attenuation knobs and accompanying LED meters, is not at all typical and deserves special mention. For starters, the controls are modeled to sound like those found on real analog gear, often inducing an attractive, messy quality to the sound. Second, the levels advantageously alter only the echo signal, leaving the dry signal unchanged and making it easy to mix tonal characters without affecting your wet/dry state. Third, depending on the echo style selected from a display below the I/O knobs, attenuation can sound dramatically different.In fact, echo styles are the secret weapon to what ultimately makes EchoBoy so flexible. With more than 30 style templates to choose from, you can quickly and easily change echo tone from the subtle warmth of high-end studio tape echo to the lo-fi warbly sound of classic tape-echo boxes like the Maestro Echoplex and the Roland RE-201 Space Echo or the limited-frequency-response delay of a Tel-Ray Oilcan, Electro-Harmonix Memory Man or Binson Echorec. There are even great analog and digital chorus/delays; distressed and limited echoes; and AM-, FM- and CB-styled radio flavors for special treatments. The style selected has a direct effect on the way that many of the other controls — including echo feedback, saturation, high-cut, input tone and more — will sound. Of course, in great SoundToys fashion, you can dig in and create your own styles by calling up the Style Edit pop-up. I found this window to be absolutely invaluable and really the most fun, as it allows you to be completely adventurous in sculpting the tonal response of the echo engine at a mechanical level.On conventional tape echoes, depending on how hard you hit the tape or how fast or slow the tape was moving, the sound of the echo would change drastically, losing high end and gaining noise and distortion on each consecutive echo. In EchoBoy — regardless of the currently selected echo mode, pattern and so forth — you can similarly hard-hit with the harmonically rich saturation, diffusion filter (similar to that found on high-end reverbs to add smear and density) and wobble parameters. Wobble adds a varispeed effect to the echo that is kind of like the wow from tape recorders and tape-echo machines. Want to add a subtle tape bump to a Lexicon-style digital delay? A dynamic 3-band EQ allows you to control how the tone of the echo changes with successive echo repeats.OLD-SCHOOL ROCKSAny veteran engineer will tell you that delays are often best if the echo part doesn't sound exactly like the dry signal. It is here that EchoBoy strikes gold, with its attention turned to being modernly retro rather than just another digital delay. Its power, of course, lies in being able to mix and match echo styles with echo modes, creating everything from the real to the surreal.The SoundToys coders may come from an audiophile background, creating the legendary H3000 and DSP4000 when they worked at Eventide, but EchoBoy sheds that nicey-nice forensic appeal and carves a beautiful new niche for itself as a decidedly funky remixing tool filled with organically rich, lush echoes and attitude to spare.SOUNDTOYSECHOBOY TDM > $495Pros: Perfectly marries classic analog echo machines and modern digital delay lines. Harmonically rich. Outstanding sound quality. Advanced Rhythm mode.Cons: Filtering and panning on each step in Rhythm mode not possible. Only works with Mac-based Pro Tools systems.Contact:www.soundtoys.comSYSTEM REQUIREMENTSMac G4/1GHz; 1 GB RAM; Mac OS 10.3.8; Pro Tools 6.9.1/LE 6.9; iLok; Pro Tools|HD or HD Accel system required for TDM/HTDM operation (HTDM also supported for Pro Tools|24 Mix hardware)
A NEW VINTAGE >EchoBoy TDM brings the sound of classic delay units to the Pro Tools platform with all of the modern touches one would expect in a high-end plug-in.