Review: Ibanez ES2 Echo Shifter

TO BE HONEST, WHEN I FIRST SAW THE Ibanez Echo Shifter ($149 street), I didn’t even care what it sounded like.
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TO BE HONEST, WHEN I FIRST SAW THE Ibanez Echo Shifter ($149 street), I didn’t even care what it sounded like. It looked so freaking cool with its wood paneling and that awesome slider that I was pretty sure I was going to love it no matter what. I was right. This groovy pedal—combining the best of old-school and new-school—is capable of killer delay effects and pretty much sounds great no matter how you set the controls.

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The soul of the Echo Shifter is an all-analog signal path, and it uses digital technology for the tap tempo function. This best-of-both-worlds ethos adds up to some very hip applications and sounds. The echoes themselves have that warm, rounded-off character that makes analog gear so sought after. Rockabilly slaps, long repeats with lots of feedback, and subtle background effects all sounded great into the front end of a PRS 2 Channel combo. The Tap button made it easy to get rhythmic repeats happening for U2 or Gamma-era Ronnie Montrose- style delays. (Hip Jude Gold Tip: When a tap temp doesn’t have rhythmic subdivisions— and the Echo Shifter does not—but you still want to get that dotted eight-note Edge trip, here’s what you do: Think sixteenth-notes, as in “one-e-and-a, two-e-and-a,” and tap on the “one” and the “a.” Try it—it works.)

The Modulation section is engaged by a mini-toggle, and is implemented in an interesting way. Instead of simply adding chorusing to your repeats, the Depth knob actually modulates the delay time, and when you change the echo rate, you change the pitch. It takes some getting used to because it can do very subtle pitch shifts or drastic, lurching jumps of a full-step or more on each repeat. Both can be really cool and useful, but if you crank the Modulation Depth, you may want to back off on the Mix knob. Interestingly, noises—like scraping your fingernails on the strings—really benefit from some of the more extreme mod settings.

And speaking of extreme, the Delay Time slider and its partner in crime, the Oscillation toggle, will let you create sounds that are absolutely out of this world. Adjusting the slider changes both the length and the pitch of the repeat, and you can move it with your foot in real time. It’s a blast no matter how many repeats you have dialed in, but the real fun begins when you crank the Feedback control or, better yet, hit the Oscillation switch. That creates a runaway train of self-oscillating, infinite-repeat madness that you can then tweak with the slider for awesome end-of-the world sounds. These can tear your head off with volume, so again, you may want to lower the Mix control, but these effects will blow your mind. Slather some Modulation on them—why not? It’s fun and addictive.

Major props to Ibanez for designing and releasing this cool pedal. It would be easy to think that the world doesn’t need another delay unit, but that’s obviously not true. With such hip features, great sounds, good looks, and musicality, this is a pedal that you simply must try.

Kudos Great features. Killer sounds. Excellent real-time tweakability.
Concerns None.