Ever since we put out the Epoch Boost, we noticed much to our delight, that many folks are buying it with the Belle Epoch Tape Echo. This realization sent us down a rabbit hole discussing specific uses and merits of each Epoch Family pedal–we concluded that the Epoch Boost-Belle Epoch pairing actually makes a lot of sense even in a world where the Belle Epoch Deluxe exists. More on that later. Here’s the skinny: We are selling the Epoch Boost and Belle Epoch as a Limited Edition Box Set. Only 500 will be made, each with a unique serial number. We got great feedback on the Epoch Boost’s color scheme and readability, so it made sense to have the Belle Epoch Tape Echo match it–Epoch Family style.
Alright, let’s get geeky for a second. The Belle Epoch was modeled after the EP-3 and the preamp is an approximation of the Echoplex preamp and it sounds really really close. The Belle Epoch Deluxe, however, is not an approximation; it has the exact EP-3 specs in it–using the “later" mode preamp circuit. The Epoch Boost also has the exact EP-3 specs, but uses the "early" mode pre. The "early" and "later" mode differences are slight but they are noticeable, one with a flat frequency response and the other a brighter one.
So why are some people buying the Epoch Boost and the regular Belle Epoch instead of just the Belle Epoch Deluxe? It boils down to specific needs and modularity. One of the awesome things about the Belle Epoch Deluxe is that you can pop it into trails mode and have the preamp on all of the time, sweetening up your tone even when the delay is bypassed, but wherever the Belle Epoch Deluxe lives in your chain, the delay and the preamp live together and cannot be separated. That’s where the idea for this box set comes in. Let’s say you want the Belle Epoch delay but want the option to put the EP-3 style preamp (Epoch Boost) somewhere in the chain that isn’t tied to your delay. Maybe you want it at the beginning with the boost cranked to make everything after it sing, or at the end; always-on to refine your entire sound. Some people like using the pre to fatten up their signal before stacking with their dirt section. In this configuration, your options are only limited by your other gear.
A bit about pedal chains
When crafting a signal chain, think of pedals in four categories: Dirt, Modulation, Spatial and “other.”
Believe it or not, “other” is first. This includes anything that needs a cleaner signal or depends on playing dynamics.
Dirt boxes are next, and whichever order sounds best is best. Put your highest headroom pedals at the end.
Modulation pedals take dirt easily and so they go next. Spatial pedals include delay and reverb, and are typically placed in that order.
Some devices such as our Belle Epoch and Epoch Boost are meant to emulate a very specific piece of equipment used in a very particular place. The Echoplex was used in studios right before the amp and so both like being closest to the end of the chain.
You’ve heard the rumors: Some of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest tones were achieved without pedals. Not so fast! While that’s technically true, some of the most venerable guitar gods relied on an old tape echo unit to help achieve their legendary tones. This unit is the Maestro Echoplex EP-3. While some guitarists made great use of its echo effect, others dragged one to every gig just for its magical preamp. This preamp circuit was wired always-on, and so even those using it as an echo effect received significant tonal enhancements from the preamp circuit as well. Everyone from Eddie Van Halen to East Bay Ray of the Dead Kennedys relied on the EP-3 preamp to take their sound to previously unreachable heights. And now you can also, with our Epoch Boost.
PREAMP: Because the "Early" EP-3 models total less than 500 units, it's very likely that most people have never experienced the sweep of this control, but here goes. Instead of being a standard volume control, the Preamp control pans between two different signal paths: the combination of the preamp and the mixer circuit, and something similar but different. The result is a volume control on the first half, and a rudimentary frequency enhancement on the second half. Anything above noon on the Preamp control will gently push different frequency bands, with the most perceived loudness halfway between 2 and 3 o'clock. Think of it as a pickup selector control or or a very unique EQ control.
BOOST: While the Preamp knob and accompanying circuitry gives you the magic, the Boost control takes the versatility to the next level. When set all the way counterclockwise, the signal is at unity gain (plus wherever the Preamp knob is set); there is no boost happening. As you roll it up, the Boost control sets the gain level of the preamp, adding a ton of sparkle and volume which can shake hands with the most stubborn of amps. Set your amp right on the verge of breakup, set the Boost to taste and watch even the most sterile rig spring to life.
INTERNAL HI-Z BUFFER: For those of you running tons of true-bypass pedals or extremely long cables, our super-transparent internal buffer will recover any treble lost on the way to the amp. It is factory set to OFF, and occurs BEFORE the EP-3 circuit.
The Epoch Boost requires a 9VDC supply with 18mA of CURRENT. You can, of course, give the Epoch Boost more current than it needs. However, because of the charge pump circuit, do NOT run the Epoch Boost on anything higher than 9V. Bad things will happen, including and not limited to your warranty being voided.
- Pocket-sized reproduction of the “early” EP-3 preamp
- Up to 20dB sparkling, dynamic boost on tap
- 22V regulated internal power from your standard 9V supply
- NOS Sprague Orange Drop capacitors just like the original
- Close approximation to original TIS58 JFET
- Biased a tad hotter than the stock unit for extra warmth
- Internally switchable hi-Z input buffer restores high end lost due to cable capacitance
- Super-sharp embossed enclosure
- Accepts 9VDC center-negative power ONLY
You can run the Epoch Boost at the beginning or end, either as a tone shaper up front or a final coating of tone before the amp.
Eric Johnson used to run his Echoplex before his BK Butler Tube Driver, preferring the sound of a saturated echo, while East Bay Ray of the Dead Kennedys put it right on top of his amp, dead last in the chain. With that said, no rules are ironclad, so feel free to experiment!
The Catalinbread Belle Epoch Tape Echo, has tape echo sounds so authentic you’d swear there was tape inside the pedal! Inspired by the Maestro Echoplex, EP-3 model, perhaps the most famous tape delay ever, the Belle Epoch features everything we love about the EP-3 in a small, maintenance free pedal format. We felt that a “tape echo” pedal was much more than just a standard digital delay with some “filtering” on the repeats. There are a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle traits of the Echoplex that needed to be implemented in order to be authentic. The preamp, the self-oscillation character, the ability to control the “record level” of the signal hitting “tape”, the wow and flutter, the way the repeats decay, the way the circuit interfaces with the amp and other pedals – all these things were important to get right. The original unit was used as a musical instrument unto itself and this is what we captured with the Belle Epoch.
MIX: This control replicates the functionality of the Echo Volume control on the EP-3 and uses the same basic passive mixer circuit. Set at minimum to get dry only. Set at maximum to get wet only. You’ll find that you’ll probably want to run the Mix control lower when running the Belle Epoch into an overdriven amp or a dirt pedal due to the fact that the signals will be compressed and therefore bringing up the level of the repeats.
Tone/Record Level: This control sets how hard the “tape” or delay line is hit. It does not affect your dry signal and only affects the initial first repeat. Turning the knob while repeats are playing will not affect them. In practice, you’ll want to use this control in conjunction with the Mix control to set your balance for the delayed sound vs.your dry signal. You may find that you will end up presetting the Mix control (typically from 9:00 to noon) and controlling how present the repeats are with the Tone/Record Level knob.
With the Tone/Record Level knob set low, the initial repeat will be very quiet, thin, and airy. When set high, the initial repeat will be very loud, thick, and slightly distorted. If you like the sound with the Tone/Record Level set high but want the repeats to be quieter, just back down the Mix knob. Conversely, if you like the airy, light tone of the knob set low, but want it louder in the mix, just turn the Mix control up. Use both of these controls together to get your sound and balance! Noon is a good starting point for the Tone/Record Level and then you can adjust it up or down to get what you’re looking for.
SWAY/MOD: This control sets the amount of random tape wow and flutter effects in the echoes. At minimum, there is no wow and flutter. For the most realistic tape warble, set this control fairly low - 9:00 to 10:00 is a good sweet spot. Of course, you can crank it up and get some serious pitch warble going! Also, with really short delay times you may want to set this control lower for the most realistic tape sound. With longer delay times you can get away with a lot more.
ECHO SUSTAIN: This controls how much delay signal is fed back to the delay line to get multiple repeats. From minimum up to around noon you’ll get a fixed number of repeats with a great decay curve. Above noon you start to get into infinite floating repeats and then into self-oscillation.
The Belle Epoch will generate self-oscillation tones by itself, without any guitar signal present at the input, when the knob is turned from around 2:00 on up. The Echoplex did this too and this was an important attribute for us to dial in!
You’ll notice that up until the self-oscillation point the repeats get successively thinner as they decay. But from the self-oscillation point on up, the output from the pedal will be VERY loud. This is how the Echoplex behaved too and is part of its mojo! High settings of the Echo Sustain control are not for the faint of heart! As you get into your self oscillation jam you can turn the Mix control down to keep things somewhat sane.
ECHO DELAY: This controls the delay time, from about 80ms all the way up to 800ms. It was designed to be manipulated in real-time, as you are playing, to get the same sounds as an EP-3. You’ll notice, especially when the EchoSustain is turned up a bit, that the echo sound “lags” a bit, much like how the Echoplex behaves when you move the slider back and forth. If this knob worked in a linear fashion like on a standard delay pedal, you’d miss that bit of authenticity in response!
Use this knob together with the Echo Sustain knob to play complete soundscapes without touching the strings on your guitar!
Under the hood
Gain Trimmer: This sets the gain of the preamp. It is factory set just above unity gain. At maximum gain, you’ll be treated with a gloriously huge fuzzy boost that sounds amazing into a cranked amp or foundation overdrive. You’ll still be able to clean up from your guitar’s volume knob if you run it this way! If you choose to adjust the internal gain, do so carefully, when adjusting trim pots, it is important to recognize that you must use the correct tool for the job and do very careful work. Trimpots are much more sensitive to adjustments than the knobs on the outside of the pedal. Use a #00 Philips screwdriver, make sure the tip is seated correctly and only make 1/8 turns at a time.If the the trimpot doesn't seem to move, it is at it's full rotation. Do not attempt to force it beyond these full clockwise and counterclockwise positions or you will destroy the trimpot.
The original EP-3 did not really boost so much as color and saturate the sound slightly. The all-discrete preamp in the Belle Epoch gives you the same benefits but with added gain control and more touch-sensitivity!
Buffer / True-bypass Switch: From the factory we ship the Belle Epoch in true-bypass mode. You can use this switch to set it to “buffer” mode. (It’s not really a buffer, it’s a discrete preamp, but non-true bypass mode is commonly referred to as “buffered” mode.) So, in “buffer” mode, the Belle Epoch’s preamp is always in the signal.Besides always having the great discrete preamp in your signal path, this mode offers another benefit - “trails”,meaning when you turn of the pedal from the footswitch, the remaining repeats will keep playing but any further playing will not result in any echoes.
To power the Belle Epoch use a 9-18V DC Negative Ground power supply that can deliver a minimum of 70mA. No, you can't run it on batteries! We recommend that you try it on both 9 volts and 18 volts to see which voltage you prefer. But for the best Echoplex-like response, definitely try it at 18 volts!
APOCH BOOST Measurements
- Current draw: 2mA
- Input impedance (no buffer): 750K
- Output impedance: 100k
- Dimensions: 4.33” X 2.36” X 1.93”
- Weight: 0.4 lbs
BELLEEPOCHTAPE ECHO Measurements
- Current draw: 60mA
- Max Delay Time: ~700ms
- Dimensions: 4.33” X 2.36” X 1.93”
- Weight: 0.4 lbs
- NAME: Epoch Set
- TYPE: The Epoch Boost is a boost/buffer with the exact EP-3 preamp specs. The Belle Epoch is a EP-3 style tape echo.
- RELEASE DATE: October 1st
- QUICK PITCH: The new look Belle Epoch Tape Echo and the Epoch Boost in a limited edition box set. Only 500 will be made.
- TOTAL BOX WEIGHT: 1.41 lb
- BOX DIMENSIONS: 6.5" X 5.5" X 2.5"