Keeley Electronics’s new Magnetic Echo pedal offers imperfect digital delay—but that’s not meant as an insult. Indeed, Keeley designed the pedal to emulate the idiosyncrasies of tape and analog delay. On this front, Keeley has won the battle against the harsh perfection of so many digital delay pedals.
The Magnetic Echo’s delay isn’t the sort of crystal clear echo that one might normally associate with digital effects. Instead, Keeley has produced a pedal that more than ably reproduces the subtle quirks of analog delays, including signal decay. As the signal repeats, the highs and lows drop out, leaving only the mids. The result is something like the sound from a telephone’s earpiece. So pleasing was the Magnetic Echo’s warm decay that this writer now feels he cannot return to his usual digital delay pedal.
The Magnetic Echo offers between about 40 and 600 milliseconds of delay. The delay itself is controlled with three knobs—Time, Regen, and Level—which respectively alter the delay time, regeneration or repetition of the delayed signal, and the level of the effect signal in the overall mix. The lowest setting of 40ms creates a sort of flutter echo. Such a short delay works well when, during a performance, it’s a matter of enlarging one’s sonic presence in the room. The sound was reminiscent of an echo in a metal tube, but the Keeley’s delay is more pleasing to the ear than such a comparison implies. At higher settings, the Magnetic Echo will do any sort of effect from slapback to psychedelic solo style-delay.
Inside the pedal is a secondary chorus/modulation circuit that enhances the Magnetic Echo’s analog-like sound. The circuit’s Depth and Speed knobs even have their own little LED separate from the on-off status indicator light. This second LED flashes in time with the speed of the modulation setting. One can obtain and apply to the delayed signal a bit of warble when the Speed is high and the Depth is relatively low. Alternatively, one can dial in a nice chorus sound or even, in the lower Depth settings, introduce a bit of wow and flutter to the delayed signal. The modulation circuit won’t fool most people—it’s clear that a chorus-type effect is at work rather than actual mechanical idiosyncrasies—but the Magnetic Echo is interesting enough without comparisons to hallowed analog delays.
The Magnetic Echo could easily be the sort of pedal favored by more experimental musicians. Its relatively smooth transitions from short to long delay put the choppy, unnatural clipping of Brand X digital delays to shame. These same smooth transitions—obtainable by twisting the Time knob—drop or raise the pitch of the effect signal in a goofy way. Moreover, the regeneration/repetition control can easily lead one into feedback when the Regen knob is up around five o’clock. These more extreme settings might not find favor with the average working musician, but they hint at the Magnetic Echo’s more subdued charms.
Keeley’s new delay pedal offers the sort of warmth that rivals actual analog delay pedals. The Magnetic Echo is also quirky enough that it ought to warrant a listen by the more experimental delay enthusiasts of the world. However, the majority of delay users ought to be charmed by the Magnetic Echo’s simplicity and tone.
What we like: Warm, analog-like delay that can be both playful and useful.
Concerns: The control knobs were a bit hard to use because the indicators are painted on the side, rather than the top! Also, the control names are so tiny as to be illegible from more than a few feet away.