Stompbox Fever(14)

March 14, 2005

The good folks at Electro-Harmonix got so tired of being inundated with requests to reissue the legendary 16 Second Delay that they finally capitulated. Almost. The reissue ($990 retail/$349 street) looks a lot like the original and sports many of the same features—but there are several major differences, most of which are technical improvements. For starters, the original 16 seconds of maximum delay time, which was considered to be ridiculously long back in the ’80s, has now been increased to a generous 240 seconds. Next, audio resolution has been upgraded from 12- to 16-bit, and recording is now at 31.25kHz (which is a considerable step up from the original). Other significant differences include changing the looping format to Bars, Beats, and Tempo instead of seconds, and the addition of a MIDI output, which sends start/stop and tempo information to external MIDI devices such as a drum machine or sequencer, allowing you to jam along with them in lock sync. A very useful Input Gain slider has also been added.

Original features that have not changed include Course and Fine delay time sliders (which can also change a loop’s tempo in half-second increments and pitch over two octaves), a great sounding Sweep (modulation) section for chorusing or flanging loops, a reverse playback switch, individual sliders for dry and delay output levels (but not individual outputs, as included on the original), and a relatively “warm” overall sound. The 16 Second Delay also sports true bypass switching, operates on the included AC adapter, retains the loop in memory after powering down, and doubles as a great sounding analog delay and chorus/flanger in Short Delay mode.

Looping with the 16 Second Delay is fun and easy. In Single Loop mode, once you finish recording a loop the unit enters Play mode, allowing you to play over the loop without overdubbing onto it. In Continuous Loop mode, the unit enters Overdub mode once the initial loop has been recorded. Either way, you set the initial loop length in bars of four beats each using a slider that ranges from half a bar to 32 bars. Since you can’t tap in the end of the loop, you have to visually determine the length by watching two flashing tempo LEDs, or use the built-in Clix metronome function, which gives you a four-bar count-off. Problem is, there’s no dedicated metronome output to run to headphones, so if you’re performing live your audience will hear the click at the beginning of every piece. On the other hand, you can lower the Feedback control to create a dynamic loop that fades out gradually as you overdub new material, emulating old DDLs and tape-loop systems—an important function most other looping pedals don’t offer.

Despite the 16 Second Delay’s limited 15kHz bandwidth it sounds very good, only getting trashy after lots of overdubbed layers—and even when it transitions into lo-fi territory it still sounds cool. If you’ve always wanted one of these but couldn’t afford the $800-plus for a vintage unit, or you’re a new looper looking for a vibey pedal, I highly recommend that you try this thing out … out … out …

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