Delay is perhaps the oldest effect in the music industry, and it is one of the only effects that has thrived since its inception. From tapes to transistors, bucket-brigade and digital logic boards, delay has been there to provide space, rhythm, and movement to any and all sound sources. The history of delay on guitars is just as varied and interesting as the history of the effect itself, but for the purposes of this review, I will keep things to the point. The Vick Audio Hypocenter is the latest from the Gilbert, Arizona-based pedal outfit, and uses the Princeton PT2399, a digital delay chip that is meant to replicate the sound and character of old bucket-brigade analog delays. This delay is incredibly musical, and gives itself well to rhythmic and spatial applications. Does it succeed in creating a new voice in this never-ending world of repeats? Let’s find out.
BUCKETS ON BUCKETS
The Hypocenter, while digital in its core, is analog in its feel and response. Like I mentioned above, the PT2399, while being a digital chip, is created to replicate the lo-fi analog delays of yore. If I could compare this pedal to an existing delay, it would most like be the early versions of the Boss DM-3. It’s got the darkness and the lo-fi sound of the original Boss units, but a bit more reined-in to allow more musical applications, even at high feedback settings. Many delays will start howling and screeching with the feedback cranked, forcing you to cover your ears and wince in pain. With the Hypocenter, even the high-feedback sounds are very musical, staying at a nice even level while still creating those throaty and hollow feedback overtones.
ENTER THE CAVERNS
To truly test the strengths of the Hypocenter, I tried it on a number of sources to see how the repeats respond. On my pedalboard, I was half expecting the repeats to sound digital, with a good bit of high end rolled off. Many “analog” delays will do this at an attempt to sound tape-like or analog, with some doing better than others. Coming from the clearer, tape like delays of the TC Flashback to the darker and more lo-fi delays of the Hypocenter took a bit of getting used to, and required me to change the way I play to better match the sound. The trails had a very pronounced darkness to them, with a good bit of grit on the last few repeats. This distortion almost sounded harsh, and I would have liked to see that a bit more rolled off to be more conducive to my playing style. The repeats didn’t really add a space to my existing sound, they added a sound all of their own, which was good, but again required a bit of style adjustment. Distortions sounded big and cavernous, while cleans were pockmarked with a sort of raw-yet-refined characteristic.
The voicing of the Hypocenter is perhaps the most interesting part, especially when used on other sources. The repeats are very mid-forward, which obviously makes this popular with guitar players looking to cut through the mix. The problem is if you’re not careful, sometimes those repeats can clash in on each other, especially if you’re running more mid-heavy pedals. I find using a mid-scooped pedal like a Big Muff or a Tube Driver works best with the Hypocenter, as it fills out the sound nicely with a lo-fi grittiness. Just for kicks, I ran it after one of my synthesizers, and was pleasantly surprised. The darker sound added a sort of claustrophobic pattering, which was great for descending into feedback drenched synth madness.
WHAT WE LIKE:
Dark, cavernous, lo-fi delay. Mid-forward voicing makes it excellent for use with mid-scooped pedals. Works great on other instruments.
Delays can clash into each other if you’re not too careful. Mid-forward voicing can sometimes get in the way.