Review: T-Rex Replicator

Digital simulations of classic tape echo are so commonplace that most players don’t have much reason to bother with magnetic-tape delay units.
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Digital simulations of classic tape echo are so commonplace that most players don’t have much reason to bother with magnetic-tape delay units. Unless, of course, you have an appreciation for the warm and enticingly characterful sound that tape provides. This ’50s-era technology certainly hasn’t gone away, either. Many players covet vintage tube and solid-state Echoplexes, and Fulltone’s Tube Tape Echo is an excellent modern unit that has garnered its own share of aficionados. Now T-Rex has rolled out the Replicator ($899 street), a Danish-made solid-state tape delay that features two playback heads: Head 1 is for longer delays (250ms to 1,200ms) and Head 2 is for short delays (125ms to 600ms). The heads can be used independently or combined, and an LED changes color to indicate the status: “Green” indicates Head 1, “Red” is Head 2, and “Orange” signifies both heads. The Replicator is also the first of its kind to feature a tap-tempo switch for changing delay times. Just remember that Head 1 syncs to the tapped tempo (1:1) while Head 2 doubles the tempo of what you tap in (2:1).

The Replicator uses a proprietary chrome-tape cassette that is easy to change.

The Replicator uses a special 1/8" chrometape cartridge (an extra one is included) that offers long service life and easy replacement: just remove a couple of knurled screws that hold the cover in place, and one more screw to remove the cassette. Housed in a thick aluminum casing with a brown anodized finish, the unit weighs 4.14 lbs and has a footprint of 9.25” x 6.5”. Power is supplied by a 24-volt external adapter.

The controls include Delay Level, Feedback, Delay Time (variable from 125ms to 1,200ms), Master Boost (ranges from unity gain to +20dB), Saturation (with LED peak indicator), and Chorus (varies the tape speed by small amounts, resulting in pitch modulation of the delays). There are footswitches for Tap, Chorus, Heads, and On/Off (a true hardwire bypass), as well as a Kill Dry switch for the parallel effects loop that mutes the direct signal. Make sure this switch is “out” if you don’t have anything connected in the loop, otherwise all you’ll hear is wet sound. Along with Input and Output jacks, the unit has two Expression Pedal inputs for external control of feedback and delay time.

I tested the Replicator using a Gibson Historic ’59 Les Paul, a G&L ASAT Classic with Duncan pickups, and a John Page Classic Ashburn S-style guitar. Amps included a Blackstar Artist 30 combo, a Mesa/Boogie Mark 5:25, and a Vox AC10. Simple to adjust for everything from slapback echoes in Head 2 mode to long ambient effects via the Head 1 setting, the Replicator sounds sweetly analog in all the right ways, and is able to deliver any number of repeats until self-oscillation occurs. Using both heads also gives a rhythmic feel to the repeats, which is really volume modulation created by the difference in output level of the two heads. As with all tape units, some mechanical noise is always evident, especially when the motor speed increases on shorter delay settings. Technically speaking, the frequency response is always better at shorter settings—long delay times require the motor to run slower, causing some loss of high-end—but the Replicator has compensation circuitry to make up for this, and unless you’re into really long delays, the high-end loss probably won’t be noticeable. The built-in booster ensures that you’re never short on output level (it can add a front-end boost to your amplifier too), while the Saturation control can be used to imbue the sound with cool, lo-fi grunginess when you crank it up. Being able to change delay times on the fly via the Tap switch is totally hip, although you can’t tap in short times—the minimum is 250ms. The Replicator’s chorusing is a neat feature, and while it’s not like kicking on a Boss CE-2, the pitch-shifted modulation definitely adds vibe and texture to the delay tone.

The Replicator is nicely made, has a lot of hip features, and it sounds very cool. Whether you’re a roots/rockabilly player looking for authentic slapback reflections, or you crave big spatial echoes à la Eric Johnson, this unit definitely warrants an audition.

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Kudos Excellent sound. Smart features. Rugged build. Compact size.
Concerns Not really a concern, but as with all tape units, heads and moving parts require occasional cleaning.