The Utopia tape delay simulator by Anasounds delivers fresh, tasteful tone in an artfully designed housing. This thing sounds nice, and I’m not just saying that because it’s hand-made in Nice, France. (Yes, I understand that “nice” and “Nice” are not pronounced the same way.) The Utopia is the first French-made pedal I’ve reviewed, and I must say that I’m impressed. I'm led to believe that future pedals from France live up to the build and tonal quality of the Anasounds pedal.
Anasounds aimed to create an analog tape delay, and, at least sonically, they’ve come very close. In truth, the Utopia is a digital pedal, which relies on the trusty PT2399 chip. Now, before the reader tosses aside the Tone Report out of disgust at the thought of another digital effect, might I persuade this gentle soul that the Utopia’s tone is better than most digital delays on the market. In fact, I’d say the tone is downright analog and might even fool the best ears out there.
Readers can be forgiven for the impulse to prefer analog-only delays in this age of digital this-and-that. I would even claim that one of the disappointing aspects of the recent boutique effects boom is the prevalence of homogenous digital delays that sound, well, digital. It’s as if every pedal used the same program or code to delay the signal.
To the great credit of Anasounds, the Utopia produces a delay with the warmth and response of true analog delay. In this regard, its tone is much closer to the wonderful History Lesson Pt. II (reviewed in Issue 156) than it is to the inferior Brand X digital delays. A tip of the hat goes to engineer Alexandre Ernandez for choosing a superior circuit for superior tone.
As for the parameters, this little box will give 400 milliseconds of delay right out of the box, though with the twist of the “DLY” knob, a guy can obtain a classic short-delay, slapback echo effect. Watch out that the “RPT” knob isn’t knocked into the highest setting—a runaway train of feedback can build on itself and surprise even the nimblest-fingered guitarists in the land.
The delay was warm and lengthy enough for all but the craziest of space-rock solos. I had great fun playing with the RPT knob, bringing the unit to the edge of infinite repetition and feedback. I heard textures which reminded me a great deal of songs from Radiohead’s The Bends and OK Computer.
In truth, the Utopia actually offers 600ms of delay, but only after a small adjustment of the unit’s internal or “deep” controls. The majority of the internal controls adjust the quality of the unit’s tasty modulation effect. Depth, rate, and tone are all controlled internally.
I appreciated Anasounds’s decision to provide deep control of the unit’s parameters, but I also wished that I did not have to open the housing to make adjustments. Many guitarists and pedal enthusiasts appreciate the ability to quickly and easily change the depth of a modulation effect on the fly. Perhaps an updated Utopia pedal could provide easier access to these controls.
Despite my minor reservations, the Utopia’s warm, warbly modulation is superior to so many Brand X effects. At low RPT levels and moderate DLY levels, the MOD circuit added what sounded like a bit of phasing to the signal. In this way the MOD added a sense of spaciousness to the signal which worked wonderfully for arpeggiated chords.
So, if readers are in the market for an intriguing new tape-like delay, consider the Utopia by Anasounds. Very likely it’ll be the first French pedal on the board, but based on the designs of Anasounds, it likely won’t be the last!
What We Like: Excellent, analog-like tone and pleasing, analog-like modulation; enough delay for texture or total freak-outs; and a basic, yet aesthetically pleasing design.
Concerns: Perhaps on the next model, the Utopia 2, the modulation controls could be moved from the interior of the pedal to the face of the pedal.