One of the very first albums that really blew me away and changed my entire perception of what the electric guitar could do, was Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Some of my fondest memories are walking to school through the cold desert, watching the sun peak over the golf courses and suburban homes, and listening to the massive tones and intimate guitar work of my favorite guitar player to this day, David Gilmour. During my first forays into gear-land, the Binson Echorec would constantly come up as the key ingredient in his early tones. The little Italian machine known for its quirky architecture held a near mythic reverence from me, and still does. Whenever a new Echorec style pedal is announced, I become as excited as I did the first time I listened to the solo on “Time,” waiting to see if the secret sauce to that timeless tone will finally be unlocked.
The Boonar is the latest pedal from Croatia-based effects outfit Dawner Prince. Like I mentioned above, it is based on the legendary Binson Echorec, an echo machine most famously used by David Gilmour on Dark Side of the Moon, Live at Pompeii, Meddle and many others. While most echo machines at the time employed a tape loop or similar mechanism, the Binson Echorec used a magnetic drumhead, which was very unique for its time. The original Echorec featured four different playback heads; each spaced out differently to give you a different delay time. You could combine them to create haunting, dark, reverb-like tails, or use the famous Swell control (unique to the Echorec) to create repeats that bubble beautifully into each other. The Boonar is very much like an Echorec for the 21st century, with FET inputs to simulate tube-like dirt on the repeats, and a digital DSP unit controlling the virtual magnetic head. There are a multitude of controls here for tweaking the dank and cavernous delay to something musical, or to something completely wild and unheard of. Let’s dive in to what this little unit can do.
The design is very clearly inspired by the original Echorec, which is a nice touch that really makes this pedal feel more fun and authentic. There are controls for Volume (mix), a bass and treble EQ control, an Echo/Swell control (number of repeats), and Drum Speed (delay time). Beneath that are four depressible LED switches representing the four playback heads found on the original Binson. Left of the true bypass switch is another switch for toggling either Repeats mode or Swell mode. On the back is a pot for changing the drum age (the older heads were known to modulate on the repeats) and next to the input jack is another pot for controlling input gain. Being the ambitious and experimental type, I switched on all four playback heads, cranked the EQ control all the way to the bass side, maxed out the volume, and set the repeats to near self-oscillation. The repeats were warm and bubbly just as I expected them to be, completely drenching my signal in a beautifully cavernous tone. However, even though the bass was cranked all the way, I found this unit to have a very slight bright sheen, but that can be easily fixed by adjusting the drum age. Engaging just the first head for a bit of slapback, I was rewarded with wonderfully accurate early oilcan tones, with just a hint of grit and darkness that makes this tone invariably European (as opposed to the brighter early Americana oilcan tones). When I switched to Swell mode, and enabled heads 1 and 3, things got really interesting. When I set the drum speed fairly high and played a note, it gave me a wonderfully dank almost mandolin like tone; the repeats almost played my guitar by themselves. This is quite possibly my favorite setting on the unit, and worked wonderfully set behind a backdrop of washing synths and huge Hammonds.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably asking yourself “But does it do David Gilmour?” Well, the answer is a little complicated. I am used to using a standard delay, so the controls on this one take a little bit of getting used to if you’re more familiar with a TC Electronic Flashback or MXR Carbon Copy. The playback heads combined with the swell settings make it a little hard to just set and forget right out of the box. But that’s a good thing, since it forces you to experiment. Where would the timeless tones of David Gilmour be had he not experimented and squeezed every bit of potential out of the unit? The short answer is, yes, but don’t be frustrated if you don’t get it on the first try. This pedal has a bit of a learning curve if you’re used to standard delay pedals, but once you hit that sweet spot, I guarantee you’ll be playing until your fingers bleed.
What We Like:
Dark, cavernous, and unpredictable. Huge range of tones available from slapback all the way to self-oscillating madness. Controls and sound stay true to the original Echorec format
Can have a bit of a learning curve. Even with the Bass EQ cranked, it still had a small bright sheen to it.