Hello Gearheads far and wide! I'm excited to share with you an incredibly cool modification available for one of my ALL time favorite pedals --- the Ibanez EM Echomachine! As many of you know, the EM5 holds a very warm place in my heart as it's one of my all time favorite delay pedals. It's a fantastic emulation of a tape style delay that is perfectly voiced and never seems to "get in the way" of your playing. I tend to leave my EM5 on all the time, creating a subtle bed as to which the guitar's voice can lay upon. If you'd like to read more about the circuit and it's supreme coolness, please take a look at Hidden Gems /// Ibanez EM5 Echomachine Delay.
The fine folks over at Xact Tone Solutions have come up with a modification and rehousing of the EM5 circuit that takes the already incredible sounding delay pedal and knocks it out of the park. The original Echomachine suffers a plastic fate, being enclosed in a cheap almost toy-like enclosure, and almost always, the on/off latching-style foot switch never works quite right. Many of us who love the EM5 just deal with the issue, as it's worth the tone. Well, now there's a much better option available. From the top notch rehousing work, down to the very cool graphics (that look just like the original pedal) on the face of the rehoused full metal and extremely sturdy enclosure. Sturdy new true bypass foot switches are added, making sure the EM5 can sound the best in your chain regardless of the rig being used. Greg Walton, partner/mastermind at XTS, also remarked that they fixed a slight volume drop that can happen when the original circuit is actuated. These are are all very worthy modifications that merit sending in your EM5 as is, but the buck doesn't stop there.
Cool graphics and new digs aren't the only features of the new XTS EM5. They have found a very musical modulation circuit and added it to the Echomachine. It's available via a new modulation knob on the face of the pedal and can create a beautiful warm chorusing modulation that gets mixed in to the delay repeats. It's similar to the type of warm analog modulation one might expect from an EHX Deluxe Memory Man or similar analog/tape replicators. Simply put, it's one knob that gets subtle movement all the way to sea-sick, over-the-top warble. Set moderately, it offers a beautiful element that sits within your delay repeats and makes the already incredible sounding Echomachine even more vibey and deep.
XTS have also included a HOLD/Repeat feature on their pedal. This allows you to create a huge swash of sound via infinite repeats by just tapping the new switch. This is a super cool addition and allows for all sorts of new creative ideas and soundscapes. It essentially "holds" the delayed note of the guitar and puts it through this infinite cycle of repeats. If you play lightly and sparsely, it all sits in this wide ambient bed of beauty. Dig in or use louder or dirtier tones and it starts to "run away" from you and you get huge washes of sound. It's a very cool feature and while it isn't needed for the utility type delay, it's a very fine tool for creativity induced moments. This feature is available as either a momentary or latching style switch, and is specified when you send your pedal in to be modified.
Imagine a world where everything you love and hold dear about your tools can be fitter, happier, more productive (sorry I had to include a Radiohead reference). Now realize that world is right within your grasp! The folks at XTS are constantly pushing the envelope of how to make what we guitarists use and need better in every way. It's almost like innovation via nostalgia. Taking into account the needs of working players and making that gear so much more usable and reliable --- and most importantly, sound so much better!
Whether you have an old EM5 Echomachine laying around, or you use it often, I highly recommend sending your pedal to the magicians at XTS. They've taken an already incredible hidden gem and somehow made it shine even brighter.