Stir of Echoes
It has been duly noted that we are all (and by all I mean every human being currently living on planet Earth) barely six degrees away from Kevin Bacon. Well, it would seem that in the land of In The Box delays most of our plugins are barely six degrees
away from an EchoPlex. I honestly don’t know if that’s strictly true – but how do you pick a go-to, vintage sounding delay from the morass of copy-cats out there? Well recently, the McDSP EC-300 came to our attention so we decided to take a look.
“how do you pick a go-to, vintage sounding delay
from the morass of copy-cats out there?”
What's All This Then?
The EC-300 is definitely a very interesting addition to the vintage delay paradigm. It is essentially three different types of units packaged in a quite beautiful interface. Each is designed to grab you attention and give a sweet, user friendly environment in which to do ‘that thing’.
Those three environs are of course, Analog, Digital and Tape. The logic being that each of these has it’s own unique flavor that it will impart to your track or vocal. However, we already have a plethora of delays, both modern and classic to choose from. So why the EC-300?
“The EC-300 is essentially three different types of units packaged in a quite beautiful interface.”
Above: It all starts here…
Magnetic really does bare more than a passing resemblance to an EchoPlex but, that is a really beautiful thing. In fact, just pulling this plugin up in your DAW is an inspirational action. As with all McDSP plugs the EC-300 feels both modern and classic at the same time. Everything is accessible from the single face GUI and the options-bar along the bottom gives you access to some basic, but very useful, Global functionality.
“…the options bar along the bottom gives you access to some basic, but very useful functionality.”
For a start, it’s where you can switch between the three different types of delay under DELAY TYPE on the far left. Next up you’ll see DELAY CHARACTER which allows you to pick the type of tape style (when using the Magnetic interface), CLEAN or SIM when using DIGITAL (SIM is short for Simulation, which we’ll touch on later) or TONE TYPE when using the Bucket Brigade aping Analog module. Next you have the TEMPO CONTROL
where you can sync to host bpm or simply free-ball it in milliseconds and finally comes the (now) ubiquitous TAP for tempo button which I have always found to be far more worthwhile in concept than reality. Next up is a horizontal GROOVE slider to pocket your delay of choice and on the far right of the bar is the DELAY MODE selector which gives you a choice of SINGLE, DUAL or PING PONG modes in all modules.
“…on the far right of the bar is the DELAY MODE selector which gives you a choice of SINGLE, DUAL or PING PONG modes in all modules.”
I’ve always been very particular about tape delay simulations because tape delay, more than almost any other effect is ALL VIBE. Of course, Soundtoys EchoBoy is an accepted modern classic and it also has some very convincing tape delay chops but the EC-300’s Magnetic module brings something extra to the table. It’s not just the really sweet width control with its divergent needle VU, or the incredibly useful, super responsive and therefore very effective ducking control. Perhaps it’s the Wow and Flutter dials or maybe a combination of all those.
Above: Adjusting Magnetic’s Width
Above: … Be careful!
It can get extremely (read as all caps) lively when injudicious input is applied to the FEEDBACK control. However it is equally responsive without some of the latency that has annoyed me on other emulations. This means that I was supremely confident midi-mapping that knob to my controller and becoming my alter ego, Baby ‘King Fatty’ Brown. I must have spent almost an hour dialing up triplet Delays and riding them into oblivion when I was actually supposed to be mixing a track for Jamaican Reggae Artist, Yung JR (Bassick Records). So, to addend my own statement… Yes, it’s vibey!
Above: Sweet Saturation
“…it is equally responsive without some of the latency that has annoyed me on other emulations.”
To be honest you either like the tape delay sound or you don’t. I do and subsequently began falling in love with the EC-300 almost immediately. The texture is amazing. Pure lo-fi distress, very convincing and surprisingly appropriate over a huge range of differing production and mixing tasks.
“…I began falling in love with the EC-300 almost immediately.”
Moving on to the Analog module it swiftly became apparent that the ducking compressor and width control are provided for all modules, which is great. The four modulation controls on the other hand, are only provided for the Analog and Digital modules, though you could look at modulation as a form of updated Wow and Flutter…
Three in One
Is a three in one delay unit a good idea? We think so. Each of the units or modules feels very different from the others and, even though there are Global controls that you can access from
anywhere, those have nothing to do with definitively different timbres exhibited by each of the EC-300’s modules..
The sound of the Analog module is definitely characterful – like a pair of worn out jeans. The ducking control on all modules may be switched to simple compression if one wishes to crush or squeeze the delay at source and it proved extremely effective on the Analog module.
Above: Meters have a very
convincing movement and feel
“The sound of the Analog module is definitely characterful – like a pair of worn out jeans.”
Above: Switching to Dual Mode on the Analog Module
Phenomenally quick to dial in and with a tight set of logical and easy to adjust controls the Analog module is certainly easy to work with. The Analog sound, however, was not really my cup of tea. This,
just like music itself – is an entirely subjective opinion as I appreciate the quality of the sound – it’s just that I prefer vintage tape and vintage digital to the almost ‘bitcrushed’ feeling of the Analog module.
“Phenomenally quick to dial in… the Analog module is certainly easy to work with.”
Switching over to Digital mode will present you with a refreshing, metallic blue interface and, upon opening the beautifully animated ‘lid’ latches (as in all modules) greater depths of skullduggery are revealed. The focal point is the EQ and speaker Simulator which occupy a greater percentage of the exposed real-estate. We are reliably informed that the massive amount of impulse-based environments are pulled straight from McDSP’s Futzbox plugin (which we’ll be looking at later this year).
Above: EQ and Speaker Sim in Digital Mode
Above: Digital’s central panel
With everything from a tin can or length of PVC pipe to a fax machine and countless cell phones you are probably starting to get the idea. It’s a really fresh take on Radio/Phone voice – the EQ trick that we love to use to keep ad libs or backing vocals away from the Mains. It works extremely well and there is an enormous amount of material in the very well organized preset drop down, the result of which gives you excellent articulation and separation from the source material. This is a really worthwhile twist and, combined with the surprisingly flexible EQ and on board compressor makes for a powerful unit.
With adjustable BIT DEPTH and SATURATION under the FIDELITY heading the Digital module is by far the best equipped of the three. Soundwise it is everything you’d expect and would probably be my first call module if I could stop effing around with Magnetic..!
“This… really worthwhile twist… combined with the surprisingly flexible EQ and on board compressor makes for a very powerful unit”
All in all the EC-300 is a great sounding, incredibly well equipped plugin but it’s not without some caveats that we’d like to see addressed in future updates. In Pro Tools’ AAX version you have a well stocked drop-down menu of excellent presets but, they are nowhere to be found in the VST version which is a huge shame because it will stop a lot of people reaching for this awesome EchoBox. The animations are generally very slick and the plugin looks fantastic but when the lid opens to reveal the hidden controls
that animation is not smooth at all and flashes white pixels around the area – not cute when you’re with clients. On the plus side McDSP provide a very 2019 appropriate re-sizable interface that you can drag from the bottom right corner. Brilliant. As always though, we’d love to see a full screen option. At $129 big ones we think it’s reasonably priced and certainly, in this niche it is a smart purchase. The EC-300 is definitely in the highest echelons of the genre. This is absolutely what a great vintage delay should sound like.
“…the EC-300 is definitely in the highest echelons of the genre. This is absolutely what a great vintage delay should sound like.”
Compatible on Mac OS
HD v6: AAX DSP/Native, AU, VST
Native v6: AAX Native, AU, VST
Compatible on Windows
HD v6: AAX DSP/Native, AU, VST
Native v6: AAX Native, AU, VST
- Low CPU hit
- 3 era's for the price of 1
- The sound
- No presets in VST format
- Shaky GUI