30 Pedals in 30 Days 2015: Fuchs Plush FX Replay Tube Delay

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TheToneKing.com BFF Andy Fuchs, the namesake of Fuchs amplifiers, had a mission: give players all of the tone and vibe of a classic analog tape delay unit without the fragility and reliability issues inherent to those units.  In this installment of 30 Pedals in 30 Days 2015, TTK travels to Fuchs Audio Technology’s Clifton, New Jersey, facility to show us the result of Fuchs’ effort to make this concept a reality.  We here at TheToneKing.com think he’s hit it out of the park with the Plush FX Replay Tube Delay.

First, a little history.  Back in the early days of electrified guit-boxes, effect processing was an entirely different ballgame.  Guitar players still loved up spicing up their tones with effects like tremolo, reverb, and echo, but the idea of a “compact” effect hadn’t been fully realized and some atmospheric effects like reverb and echo were generated in natural chambers or via ways that would seem positively Rube Goldberg-esque in today’s environment of DAW plug-ins and pedals the size of Matchbox cars.

One popular way in the early days of adding delay/echo effects was to use audio tape.  The concept is simple; a guitar signal is fed into a running tape machine specially designed for the purpose, which records the sound and plays it back at designated intervals.  Just like the compact delay pedals we know and love today, these relatively bulky units could generate anything from rockabilly slapback to extended trails of psychedelic bliss.  The analog tape and tube preamp (some tape delay units also had solid state preamps) designs of these units also resulted in warm, musical tones even when the echo wasn’t being used; legends like Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen found that old tape delay units used as preamps had a magical effect on tone.

The downside of these units is that they were giant pains in the ass when it came to maintenance.  Now, you younger whippersnappers may not have much experience with tape, having access to all sorts of digital black magic this day in age, but tape-based appliances have several components that require regular cleaning and tune-ups.  I used to clean the heads of my Tascam 424 PortaStudio with a Q-tip and lighter fluid.  Tape could also wear out and get crinkly, and tubes of course need regular changing/maintenance.  For a touring band, a tape delay unit could be a major pain to keep running properly and reliably.

While the clean, pristine tones and convenience of digital delay ruled the roost for a while, players in recent years have discovered the vibe and soul of the tape delay sound.  Lots of manufacturers have come up with some really good tape-emulating units, but the Plush FX Replay Tube Delay is really something special in our eyes.

The Replay Tube Delay nails the tube delay sound by incorporating a real tube, running at high power, to add warmth and roundness to both the delay tone and the straight guitar sound, just like the old tape delays used to do.  Though the Replay Tube Delay incorporates digital technology to generate the delayed signal, the dry guitar signal remains segregated from the digital side of the pedal; the two signals are mixed back together through the integrated vacuum tube.  Users can easily keep tabs on the input level with input level and peak indicators.

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A major source of tape delay’s appeal comes from the character it gets from it’s components “breaking in”; fluttery, wobbly artifacts and softer high-end tones that pop up as result of the tape aging play a critical role in the musical nature of tape delay.  The Replay Tube Delay provides wow and flutter controls to help players dial just the right amount of age needed for any particular musical situation.  Shorter delay and regeneration (repeat) settings result in big, syrupy modulated tones that range from subtle and psychotic.  Plush FX also added a unique “Fidelity” control, which lets you add as much or as little progressively sultry “darkness” to the repeats.

The Replay Tube Delay also adds the features modern players expect from delay effects that aren’t available on vintage tape delay units, like tap tempo capability and up to one second of delay time available.  There’s also a set of “wet loop” ins and outs that enable players to add additional effects to the delayed signal and expand the voice of the Replay Tube delay even further.

This writer believes that the old aphorism “everything old is new again” is quite applicable to the current state of gear.  There are more ways than ever to achieve the tones of our dreams, like modeling sims and software plug-ins, but we have never taken our eyes or ears off the sounds and gear of the past.  Thankfully, there are manufacturers out there who are bringing use gear that is faithful to the classic tones we love, but still understand the needs of modern players.  Fuchs’ Plush FX Replay Tube Delay gives today’s players a strong connection to one the earliest and most hallowed effects, tape delay, without all the swearing about cleaning record heads and fixing slipping belts.

 

 

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