There was a time when I thought digital delays sounded horrible--sterile and flat—so I preferred to stick with analog delays that may have lacked clarity (and sucked tone in bypass) but at least sounded interesting. The day came, however, when I needed tap tempo for a song and found a digital delay that sounded really nice—clear, open and deep, it accurately captured my tone. So I changed teams, and I was happy to leave behind the analog murk.
Recently, however, I’ve come across some digital delays that emulate analog pedals and realized that a benefit of the “analog sound” is that it sits nicely behind the guitar’s clean signal. This enables the effect to be present in the mix without cluttering—or being buried by—the actual guitar part. The Hotone Eko, a diminutive digital delay voiced to sound like an analog delay, offers this benefit in spades.
The Skyline has very basic features, chief among them perhaps being the pedal’s footprint (although the sound quality is nothing to sneeze at—more on that in a moment). This thing is tiny, and can fit just about anywhere. The two knobs on the face are for blending the signal, “Echo,” and determining the number of repeats, “Repeat.” The giant knob at the head of the pedal determines the delay rate, and acts as a flashlight when activated, as light shines through the knob. The Mod button adds modulation to the delay signal.
Sonically, the Eko worked wonderfully. The delayed signal had weight and stood out distinctly from the original signal (the Eko sends the clean signal through an analog bypass, so no coloration) without clogging the music. The Eko has a maximum delay of 500 milliseconds; in the past, I’ve felt pedals with the same limitations didn’t offer enough delay to create the ambience I hoped for, but the Eko seemed to have gobs of delay on tap.
I’m pretty finicky when it comes to modulation in my delay, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I wasn’t crazy about Eko’s: There’s enough warble to be distracting without capturing the “natural” decay of an analog delay. Also a potential bummer: the fact that the knobs are hard to manipulate—either because they’re tiny or, in the case of the Repeats knob, because of the placement. However, for those who set it and forget it, this should be a non-issue. Another beef that falls into the “not a big deal” category (and may fall into the “that’s awesome!” category for others): I’ve been considering buying an inexpensive standalone delay to use for momentary feedback oscillations. The Eko seemed perfect for my purposes (I need tap tempo for my primary delay), but when set to full feedback it never got out of control. It’s a bummer for me, but maybe not for others who might (understandably) worry about such things.
What we like: This digital delay offers the benefits of analog-voiced delay in a remarkably pedal-board friendly footprint.
Concerns: Modulation aside, I have one notable concern: The footswitch does not inspire confidence.