About 18 years ago, when I was just getting into the music production game and I had first started making note of what plugins the pro’s were using, I noticed Echo Farm. It was always nestled somewhere on the Pro Tools screen and it was very recognizable thanks to it’s lime green form. I also remember trying to find out how to get the source of these amazing delays I was hearing into my own, Mbox powered version of Pro Tools (the LE version, that is). Well, this was when I first sniffed a big, fat rat. At that precise moment in time I was made suddenly
and rudely aware of the enormous weight of the Pro Tools Illuminati and their gigantic, untouchable network of DSP chips. I searched high and low on my fractious, dial up internet connection discovering one by one, that all the best plugins were only available to the über-riche, TDM fraternity whilst the LE Proletariat had to make do with… well, the crap stuff. Moving forward a couple of decades to 2018 and the release of the legendary Line6 Echo Farm 3.0 update we find ourselves at an interesting point in hierarchical, engineering evolution.
“when I was just getting into the music production game and I had first started making note of what plugins the pro’s were using, I noticed Echo Farm.”
First of all, let’s just get over ourselves. Echo Farm almost looks like a glorious version of Windows NT that went correct. Mugatu would call this style, vintage geek. The low resolution of the plugin and the clunky controls are just not something we are used to feasting our eyes on these days – but what a glorious techno-kitsch-fest this plugin actually is. The second cool thing I noticed was the info screen that gives you a quick history lesson on whichever of the twelve Echo machines you are using.
So What is it, Exactly?
Echo Farm , in a nutshell, was the first fully equipped, Vintage Echo Box software plugin that was based on actual, real life Hardware processors. It was extremely popular with the first wave of ITB Pro Tools engineers like Multiple Grammy winner Charles Dye (of ‘Mix it Like a Record’ fame) and, because of it’s exciting menu of Digital Delays and Tape Echo’s it became a mixing staple in record time.
Above: Groundbreaking GUI – in the year 2000!
The modeled units in Echo Farm are as follows. Maestro EP-1 (EchoPlex) a tube driven tape echo. Maestro EP-3 also an Echoplex but with solid state circuitry replacing the tube. Boss DM-2 (Bucket Brigade circuit). Deluxe Memory Man based on the Electro-Harmonix processor (also a bucket brigade device). The unique thing with this one is that the sound came from chorusing applied to only the repeat signal. Dynamic Delay which, interestingly is based on the TC Electronics 2290 a processor that cunningly attenuates the volume of the repeats whilst the input signal is busy to prevent overcrowding in the delay signal. Finally there is the venerable Roland RE-101 based on the world famous Space Echo unit which was famous for having three, stationary tape heads, as well as being a bona fide staple of the real Dub artists (like Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry) who used to literally play the RE-101 like a musical instrument.
The Sweep Echo is a line6 original. In essence it’s the Maestro EP-1 with added modulation for the delayed signal. This comes in the form of a sweepable filter. Next up is the Lo Res Delay. This will bit reduced delay will go to as low a resolution as six bits. Digital Delay with Modulation. This is actually just a twist on the Deluxe Memory Man model. Ping Pong is a no brainer. It sounds really, really good – they suggest in the manual to set the Offset control to 12 o’clock in order to keep the left and right delays even. Reverse. Could this be my favorite module in the entire Echo Farm menu..? It’s very, very possible. One of the true useful reverse processors anywhere. It just sounds amazing from the first instantiation of Echo Farm. The smart money deffo lies in using 100% wet on the mix and timing out the phrases. Then you can render your processed signal and line it up to the start of your original phrase or solo.
“Reverse. Could this be my favorite module in the entire Echo Farm menu..?”
So What's it Like Then?
As with most delay plugins (or anything that features programmable modulation) there is usually a tempo sync button or in the case of Echo Farm, a Tempo Lock. It’s really as simple as it sounds unlocked the Tempo is changeable, when locked it can’t be changed. However, there is no knob or sliding control with which to change the tempo. So, to sync you must type in the value by hand. Quaint.
Engineering used to involve numbers. Lots of numbers. We used to have to work from a table numbers and corresponding bpms in order to set the correct delay for a track. On Echo Farm you can see the millisecond display to the left of the Tempo Lock and you can also quickly change it if you catch feels for a certain vibe that might be a little… off the grid. Manual manipulation of the Delay Time knob will usurp the Tempo Lock.
The Tempo Control itself is also pretty simplistic and again, I love the fact that everything is on display all the time. I don’t know when plugin devs started creating pages of tabs and menus but this feels great to me. If you so wish you can use the TAP control to manually catch a groove, otherwise it’s best to set your bpm and then choose the timing from the Note Value buttons.
“you can also quickly change it if you catch feels for a certain vibe that might be a little… off the grid.”
Of course we’re all going to have our favorites but here are a couple of mine: Lo Res Delay. I just love the sound of the bit reduction on this module. The further you move the BIT REDUCTION control clockwise (to lower the resolution) the more you adjust the TONE CONTROL to compensate for the darkening of the delay signal.
“I just love the sound of the bit reduction on this module.”
The RE-101 Space Echo module has an almost addictive, whimsical response but it will bite back hard if you can muster the courage to ride the REPEAT control. This will bid you entry into a barely controllable world of cascading feedback delay, perfectly sweetened with a kind of pastoral saturation that is always perfect for the track. Epic.
“This will bid you entry into a barely controllable world of cascading delay feedback.“
The Reverse module might seem limited and gimmicky in nature but that’s only because it is. However, when that moment comes and you say to yourself – I wish a had a beautiful, textured Reverse effect that doesn’t sound like a just reversed a sample – then this your guy.
“…a beautiful, textured Reverse effect…“
Uuuuurgh! What an absolutely perfect Echo setting. The Deluxe Memory Man module on Echo Farm is simple, audio seduction. Love at first tweak. The way it decays, the coloring of the saturation and the subtlety of the modulation are just sheer perfection. Adjustment is achieved via a user adjustable Sine with DEPTH and SPEED knobs.
“The Deluxe Memory Man module on Echo Farm is simple, audio seduction. Love at first tweak.”
I like Sweep Echo for Breakdowns or Middle Eight’s in a song. A moment where the beat might have been dropped out and you can really feel any change in the air molecules around the singer. This is where it comes in to it’s own with the saturated filtering of the delay that can bring out a nuance or emotion in that fractional moment which accentuates the words, by uncovering their true meaning in the repeats.
“…the saturated filtering of the delay that can bring out a nuance or emotion in that fractional moment…”
There’s nothing really special about the Boss DM-2, Bucket Brigade style delay. It’s actually quite unremarkable. So why in a favorites list? Because every song needs a perfect, Vanilla delay and this is it. It always sounds good in any setting or mix. You literally can’t go wrong with the DM-2 Module.
“It always sounds good in any setting or mix. You literally can’t go wrong with the DM-2 Module.”
Finally I nominate the Maestro EP-3 module. I just love the way that the quality of the decay seems to hunt for it’s better self whilst as it seemingly evaporates behind your ears. The repeat signal gets brighter at the expense of the body of the sound, which is incrementally high-passed from the repeats as it decays. This is a very characterful sound.
“I just love the way that the quality of the decay seems to hunt for it’s better self whilst as it seemingly evaporates behind your ears.”
In this day and age what is the point of Echo Farm? I believe that the essence of Echo Farm 3.0 is very clear. Here we have one of the most popular, easy to use, best sounding and publicly familiar Echo plugins ever developed. There is no other reason for its existence. The upgrade price is only $50 if you still have your TDM license so why not?
I love that when you first instantiate it in your DAW that you take a sneaky look around and feel the same flush of pride as when you might buy a used Rolls Royce from the 1980’s for $6k. Like it only took me 18 years to figure out the cheat code to own the legendary Echo Farm. Welcome to the TDM Illuminati. Finally.
“Here we have one of the most popular, easy to use, best sounding and publicly familiar Echo plugins ever developed.”
Compatible on Mac OS X 10.10 or newer
Audio Units compatible application (Logic, Digital Performer Ableton etc.)
VST3 compatible application (Cubase, Bitwig)
AAX Native (Pro Tools 11 and above)
NB: Line6 Echo Farm is 64bit only for all mac applications
Compatible on Windows Win 7 or Later
VST2 or VST3 compatible application (Cubase, Nuendo, Sequoia etc.)
AAX Native (Pro Tools 11 and above)
NB: Line6 Echo Farm is 64bit only for Win 10 and above
- The Sound of Hit Records
- Backward Compatibility
- Easy to tweak
- No presets unless using AAX
- Tiny, non-resizable GUI
- No Global Shaping Controls