The Review: DMB Lunar Echo
The Point: An all analog, bucket brigade delay pedal
The Damage: $299
Delay aficionados are a quirky bunch. There is no “perfect” delay, so it’s not uncommon to see multiple delays on a pedal board. The more the merrier. In fact, the idea of an all-delay pedal board is not a foreign concept to some players. And while digital delays far outnumber analog delays these days, there still exists the need for that “warm” analog bucket brigade type of delay. The DMB Lunar Echo is one such beast that adds a few twists to a familiar formula.
The Lunar Echo crams a lot of conventional and unconventional features into a relatively small package. It features an effects loop input (a/b/y cable needed), an expression pedal input, a foot-switchable toggle for on/off, and a foot-switchable “take off” control for on-demand oscillation. It has a healthy 500ms of delay time, a bit less in the Wrecked mode.
The controls are simple: level, tails (number of repeats), and echo (delay time). On the left side are two controls for the modulation’s speed and depth. Finally, there are two small toggle switches for “Hi-Fi” or “Lo-Fi,” and another toggle switch that decides whether you choose Tape, Wrecked, or the middle position Normal mode that turns off the modulation in the signal. It also sports a cool, almost Mountain Dew color you don’t see very often.
Choose Your Poison: Hi-Fi or Lo-Fi, Tape or Wrecked?
The Lunar Echo has a few extra features worth taking a closer look at. The Hi-Fi mode has a cleaner but quieter feeling to it, and I found it works well with added gain and/or fuzz. It sounded a bit subdued to me. The Lo-Fi mode rolls off more of the highs and has a warmer, stronger, and fuller tone. The delays are more prominent and last longer. I found myself using this setting most of the time.
The Tape, Wrecked, and Normal modes have a few differences in how they react to the modulation. The Normal mode takes the modulation out of the signal, whereas the Tape mode dials in subtle- to somewhat not-so-subtle modulation, but never over the top. If you crank the depth all the way and set the speed at noon or more, the notes bend up. The speed decides how long that bend will last while the depth controls how deep it will go. If you crank the speed all the way, you get a nice vibrato-like tone, which fades somewhat when the depth is turned down.
The Wrecked mode takes the modulation a step further, and then some. Start with the depth turned down all the way and speed all the way up. It’s like the vibrato sound in the Tape mode, only deeper. Now turn the depth up some and the bends in pitch became overly pronounced and wild. Go past noon and you’ll get this weird, almost percussive sound beating in time to the speed setting. Watch out! It sounds unpredictable, like a tape machine ready to explode. A fun effect, but I’m not sure how often I’d really use this mode, or this type of modulation. The Tape mode set on Lo-Fi was my favorite combination.
Oscillation, Thy Name is Wow
The final aspect of this pedal is the oscillation. With the echo knob set at noon or a bit less, and the tails set at three o’clock, you can make this pedal oscillate with a simple strum of a chord. And with the Tails set just a bit less, digging harder in to your playing causes it to oscillate as well. Finally, there is the Take Off switch. Depress this, and wild and loud oscillation will ensue. When you let go of the Take Off control, the oscillation may still continue, forcing you to quickly dial back the Echo or Tails controls. It’s pretty unique among delay pedals to oscillate via two different controls, possibly at the same time. By using just the Take Off switch, you eliminate the need to bend down and twiddle knobs while playing.
Lunar Echo vs. a Classic
When it comes to analog delays with modulation, the “gold standard” for a long time has been the Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man (DMM). The comparisons are fairly obvious: close in price, similar delay time, and both have chorus/vibrato modulation. How do they differ? The Lunar Echo is easier to power (9v versus 24v), the aforementioned effects loop and expression pedal input, and a separate foot-switchable oscillation mode. The Lunar Echo has separate speed and depth controls, while the DMM has a chorus/vibrato switch that gives you only a set speed for either chorus or vibrato that you can’t control. However, I do love the vibrato modulation on the DMM.
One trait of the DMM that turns me off when using it clean is the white noise that can surround each note. If you’re using dirt, it isn’t a big deal. But the Lunar Echo has very little white noise, and in the end, this this is what does it for me. You do have to spend more time dialing in the different options and combinations with the Lunar Echo, but it’s worth it.
The Lunar Echo is a special pedal. For an analog delay, it is pretty quiet. And with the added modulation controls, it will give you a realistic tape echo that goes from subtle to wild. There are some equally good digital based echo pedals out there as well, but if you want real analog echo goodness, and not a digital emulation of it, this may be your echoooooo.