The EP101 Echoplex Preamp recreates the magic of the Echoplex EP-3’s preamp section, coating your guitar signal with secret sauce. What do we mean by that, and what’s the deal with the EP-3? Read on!
The Echoplex EP-3
The Echoplex EP-3 tape echo unit has become a legendary piece of gear among tone connoisseurs, but not only for its delay effect. Guitar players discovered that the EP-3 somehow sweetened up their tone, whether or not the tape echo effect was active.
Built using Field Effect Transistors instead of the tubes used by the EP-1 and EP-2, the EP-3’s preamp provided an organically warmer and fatter sound when players ran their signal through it. Guys like Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, and Eric Johnson made it an integral part of their sound, taking advantage of the way it warmed up the distorted tones of a cranked tube amp while taming high end harshness.
Nowadays, the EP-3 is difficult to get your hands on—a fully intact, working model could set you back more than $500. If you do get your hands on one, you will be presented with a few potential issues. First, they require a bit of maintenance. Second, their sound and behavior—from model to model and even from use to use with an individual unit—can be inconsistent. Finally, these things are the size of a small amplifier head. Eric Johnson has been known to put one right on his pedalboard—not everyone wants to sacrifice the real estate or lug another 15 lbs. of gear.
The EP101: Secret Sauce at Your Feet
But have no fear—the Echoplex Preamp gives you the sound of that prized box with none of its complications. Dunlop’s Director of New Electronics Jeorge Tripps designed this pedal with the exact same signal path as the EP-3, and to get the secret sauce just right, he used two of the finest EP-3 specimens to ensure that the EP101 nails that classic sound across its range. Now, you can get the EP-3’s sonic mojo in a small stompbox and gig with confidence that it will do what you need it to do to every time you kick the switch.
While the EP101 can boost your signal by up to 11dB, that’s not its main purpose, nor is it a clean, transparent gain boost like the Micro Amp. The EP101 is all about conditioning and sweetening up your tone—use it as a lead boost and crank the Gain control for increased output and some light asymmetrical clipping, use it as a second channel to change up your tone mid-set, or leave it on all the time. However you use it, the Echoplex Preamp will breathe new life into the sound of your whole rig.
Where should you put the EP101 in your signal chain?
As with any pedal, experiment with the Echoplex Preamp’s position in your signal chain. We do have our own suggestions, of course. For a great lead sound, try placing it after your overdrive and distortion pedals to add girth and a bit of volume boost. If you want the pedal’s active all the time or you want to use it as a second channel tone, try placing it either at the beginning or end of your signal chain. Also, got a Way Huge Supa-Puss Delay? Placing the Echoplex Preamp in front of that box will get you close to the EP-3’s tape echo sound. But again, we emphasize, experiment! Find your own sound. The EP101 will add a whole new dimension to your tonal palette.
Want to see the Echoplex Preamp in action? Check out our own demo below. After that, check out Sonic State’s discussion with Adrian Utley from Portishead, featuring a comparison of the EP101 and the EP-3.