Standard Retail Price: $149.99
Typical Used Price: $60 to $100
Controls: Mix, Repeat, Time, Mod, Delay Pattern, Tape/Digital/Analog, Trails On/Off
Power: 9-volt battery or DC-1g adapter (not included)
Famous Users: Ritzy Bryan (The Joy Formidable); Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys); Dave Knudson (Minus the Bear)
Further Information: The Official Line 6 Website
The Echo Park by Line 6 is part of their ToneCore pedal series. What this means is that the little green portion of the pedal where the controls reside is actually a separate unit from the metal chassis that houses it--this allows players to buy one chassis, and then swap out ToneCore units on the fly. The intention was presumably to save users money by allowing them to buy the ToneCore "brains" cheaper, but most of them are cool effects and you'll want to run them in tandem, which there's no way to do other than with multiple chasses.
Anyway, this pedal is constructed like a tank. I would say it would easily compete with Boss for durability, though it's also substantially heavier. I'm inclined to construct a house out of ToneCore chasses; they would certainly outlast bricks.
For players who are used to Boss or Digitech/DOD-style simplicity, the control layout may look a little daunting. But fear not, the Echo Park is eminently user friendly after an initial learning curve is overcome. At first, it seems like this pedal has more features and sounds than anyone would actually use--and then you sit down and start playing with it, and you start coming up with cool guitar parts based around the different settings you're dialing in... and then you're hopelessly addicted to the Echo Park.
Ease of Use
Line 6 really set the bar high for user-friendliness while retaining a deep set of features with the Echo Park, in my opinion. The brilliance of this pedal is how many useful sounds--rather than cool-but-impractical settings--they managed to pack into a compact pedal design, while also making them ridiculously simple to access on the fly.
In the past, this would have required a unit with an LED screen and a series of deep menus and submenus; the Echo Park presents the user with 2 switches and 5 knobs, and that's pretty much all you need to naviagate a seemingly endless array of sounds, settings, patterns, and tones.
The basic layout is as follows:
- There is a 3-position switch that allows the player to toggle between a modeled Tape echo unit, a pure Digital delay unit, and a modeled Analog pedal. There are noticeable differences between each and being able to use different tones for different songs--or different parts of one song--is just one of many great Echo Park features.
- There is a 2-position switch that turns "Trails" on or off. Basically, this switch determines if echoes continue after you step on the pedal to turn it off (in the Trails On position) or if the echoes cease immediately when you step on the pedal to turn it off (in the Trails Off position).
- The "Mix" knob determines the balance between the amount of dry signal in your sound versus the amount of delayed signal. Turn it all the way to the left to completely eliminate the amount of echo present; turn it all the way to the right and you'll hear nothing but the echoes. At 12 o'clock, the volume of the echoes matches the sound of the guitar evenly.
- The "Repeat" knob functions like a "Feedback" control on other delays. In essence, it works like this: turning it to all the way to the left generates one echo repeat for each note played. Turning it all the way to the right generates a seemingly infinite number of echoes, which sends the unit into self-oscillation. I usually turn it up to about 9 or 10 o'clock, which gives something like 3 or 4 echo repeats per note played.
- The "Time" knob controls the tempo of the echoes, if you'd prefer to set this manually rather than by using the tap tempo feature. Turned all the way to the left, the pedal will create very slow echoes (2.5 seconds apart, to be exact). Turning it all the way to the right creates a very fast echo, so quick that you probably won't notice any echoes after the notes you play. Stop at points in between to find all kinds of cool delay settings, from 50s slapback to psychedelic drones. Note that this knob's setting is immediately disabled the second you step on the pedal's plunger for tap delay.
- The "Mod" knob controls the amount of modulation mixed into the delayed signal. (Note that one really cool feature of the Echo Park is that, like tape and analog delay systems of yore, it only applies modulation to your echoes, and not to your guitar's direct signal!) This has three different applications: in Tape mode, it controls the amount of "wow and flutter" on the echoes; in Digital mode, it dials adds a crystalline chorus sound to your repeats; and on the Analog mode, it adjusts the level of vibrato on each echo.
- Finally, there is the knob that allows one to select a delay pattern. There are eleven different options here and I won't waste your time describing them all--suffice it to say, my favorite is the dotted-eighth note, which lets you tap in the tempo in quarter notes as you play, but the echoes come out in triplets.
The Echo Park has two inputs (you can run your guitar straight in via the Mono input, or use the Stereo input too if you're coming out of another stereo pedal) and two outputs (same configuration).
Tap tempo is arguably the greatest achievement of this pedal, and I'm fairly certain Line 6 was one of the first major manufacturers of effects pedals to incorporate this feature into their delay units. The pedal plunger that turns the Echo Park on or off is the same one you use to tap in the tempo of your echoes; you simply push it down halfway (you'll feel a little click) to set the intervals, or push it all the way down (past the click-spot that marks the halfway point) to enable or disable the effect. If this sounds a little tricky, it can be at first. But it's very easy to adjust to--it just requires a slightly lighter touch than most effects pedals.
As with all of my reviews, I've approached the Echo Park in several contexts: one is solo playing, another is recording, and the third is playing in a live band. In each scenario, this Line 6 unit absolutely shined.
In terms of solo applications, the Echo Park never fails to sound great. In fact, it makes practice a lot of fun because it opens up a world of experimentation via the various models, settings and delay patterns that are available. I was reminded of a quote from The Edge of U2, who described how he incorporated echo into his compositional process when writing guitar parts once he really started to find out what he could do with the effect. I found myself delving deeply into the Echo Park's features just because it was so easy to do, and the result was a plethora of new ideas as well as a refinement of older ones.
In a recording scenario, I initially had some problems with the Echo Park because I was unaware that using a Line 6 power supply would resolve noise issues. Unfortunately, prior to obtaining the DC-1G cable, the Echo Park was unusable in the studio because of the buzzing it created even when the pedal was turned off. However, once I ordered the Line 6 proprietary power supply, the signal cleared up instantly and the sound was just beautiful. (Update: Voodoo Labs' Pedal Power 2 Plus is an ideal power supply if you're looking to run juice to several pedals simultaneously, as it includes a port that is set up specifically for Line 6 pedals.)
This is a good place to mention a quirk of the Echo Park: when it's turned on, there is a small but noticeable volume boost. There will be a certain percentage of the guitar-playing population who will strongly dislike this, but I'm not one of them. In fact, I love the little hint of extra gain it adds to the signal--and since I rarely turn my Echo Park off, I don't notice the discrepancy between the dry sound and the effected one.
The reason I mention the volume boost when discussing recording with the Echo Park is because it's the one situation where I had to account for it. Playing alone, it's a non-issue; playing in a band, it's kind of an advantage. In a studio, however, where microphones are carefully placed and settings are adjusted specific to a certain sound, I didn't think to compensate by having the engineer work with the pedal on first--which would have been a good idea, because if the mics are picking up a hot signal well, a slight volume dip will generally not be a problem. However, a sudden boost in signal can result in unanticipated, unwanted distortion. So, note to anyone who will use the Echo Park for recording: make sure you set up relative to the sound when the pedal is on!
Finally, in the context of a live band mix, the Echo Park is a lifesaver. With so many features and sounds that are very easily accessed, I find that there's not much I can't achieve with this pedal. From standard uses like dotted-eighth note patterns and ambient swells to weird, experimental textures like backwards guitar and self-oscillation, Line 6 really threw in everything and the proverbial kitchen sink with the Echo Park.
The quality of the sounds is another aspect of the pedal's performance that I'd like to praise. Honestly, this pedal does a better impression of analog delay than any other digital unit I've ever played through, and while I've never used an actual tape delay, I'm willing to bet it apes those very closely, too. And let's say for just one moment that it doesn't--well, the Echo Park's "Tape" setting is still a tremendously useful, musical sound. It just makes a guitar signal thicker and adds a lush ambience that I can't achieve with any other pedal in my arsenal.
Using the "Mod" (Modulation) knob makes it easy to dial in just the amount of texture you're looking for; the only sound in this pedal that I'm not extremely fond of is the chorus effect that the Mod knob mixes in on the Digital delay model. But then, I'm not wild about chorus to begin with, so maybe it, too, actually sounds great.
The tap tempo is the only feature that I've known other guitarists to struggle with. It's unusual in that the same pedal-plunger that is used to turn the pedal on and off is the one used to tap in the echo intervals. The trick is, when you push down on the plunger with your foot, you'll feel it click through two "notches"; the first, halfway down, is the tap tempo--whereas the second, all the way down, is on/off. Basically, this means you have to tap the pedal fairly lightly with your foot in order to tap in the tempo, and really lean on it to enable or disable the effect.
It takes a little practice, but the benefits of mastering this system are tremendous--for one thing, unlike analog delays with tap tempo, adjusting the tempo of your echoes on the fly doesn't result in a warped, out of tune sound as the circuitry does its thing. That gives you the freedom to adjust your tempo on the fly very easily. In fact, you could stand there tapping in the tempo along with a drummer who fluctuates for the entire duration of a song, and it'd have no discernable effect on the pedal's sound! The other immediate benefit that comes to mind is the pedalboard real estate saved by not having this pedal be larger to accommodate a separate tap tempo switch.
Nobody has invented a perfect compact digital delay pedal yet, but the Line 6 Echo Park is about as close as I can imagine. You won't find a better value for your dollar in terms of the seriously wide array of easy-to-use features coupled with great sounds.
It may take some time to get used to the way the pedal's tap tempo feature works, but in the end, it's worth making the adjustment. At one time, without any hesitation, I would have called the Echo Park my "desert island delay." I've subsequently found better pedals, but I could play a show with one of these and feel great about the results. You could do no better for your first echo unit, and while mine is no longer my primary pedal, I'll keep it forever as a great backup.