An Unexpected Journey

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Chapter One

Back in February 2013 (is it really over three years ago?) I started this blog with the idea of documenting a little project that I  had been working on since the previous November.

Little did I know, like Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit”, where my ‘unexpected journey’ would lead. In the next few posts I’m going to recount how this …

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November 2012: The First Prototype. It won’t win any prizes for good looks!

ended up with this …

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March 2016: The Blue Nebula

I’d been using a Zoom RFX2000 with the EFTP patches for a couple of years but my ears pricked up back in November 2012 when I heard a couple of demos by Dave Robinson of a new (to me) echo circuit called the eTap2hw which had been designed by Piet Verbruggen.

I couldn’t find anywhere to get a kit to try it our for myself so I posted a question on the ShadowMusic forum and discovered that the kit could be bought from Newtone in Piet’s homeland of the Netherlands. Even then I had to email the guys at Newtone to find out the price and order details.

I managed to order a kit and it went together without any problems thanks to the very detailed instructions Piet had provided on his Echotapper blog and it worked first time. I’d had a lot of experience since I was a young ‘un of building and designing electronics so that probably helped so before November 2012 was out I had a working prototype that, while not pretty (I’d built it in a die-cast box from an old project lying in my garage), it sounded just wonderful. Not only were the echo timings apparently spot on for the various vintage echo machines it was emulating but the unit had a nice warm sound that belied the digital signal processing that lay behind those emulations.

Having heard my prototype in action at the Northern Ireland Shadows Club, my good friend and el-president of the Club, Des McNeill, also started raving (nothing unusual there) about how good and ‘analog’ the eTap2hw sounded so we ended up buying another three kits, two for Des to build and another one for me. What had we started here!

It was now time to produce a proper housing for the eTap2hw’s we were building and Des’ skill as an aero modeller came to the fore here. Des and I worked out a design for the front and rear panels which he then had made up by a company in Belfast. By the time of our next Club meeting Des had his new enclosure built and the first kit assembled and ready to try out and it looked and sounded great.

The boxes Des designed and made (remember I said he was an aero modeller) were constructed beautifully from precision cut plywood, lined on the inside with aluminium foil for screening and covered on the outside with a lovely beige tolex.

These proved so popular with the Club members that Des ended up building five or six more of them and they are still in use regularly on Club days and by the guys who play gigs.

While I was delighted with the sound of my eTap2hw there was one thing I thought it needed to make it even better: a way to store the settings for individual tunes – mainly because I kept forgetting which echo to use for a given tune – TMB syndrome (too many birthdays!).

Thus began the next stage of the journey – automation, as will be revealed in Chapter Two.

 

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8 thoughts on “An Unexpected Journey

  1. ian Tomlinson

    Hi Phillip,
    I’ve got one ,made for me By “Ecca In Birmingham. It,s a great little machine. The Echo “Preselect option ” is great for playing a Live Concert,but Mine was made just before That was available. Bye the way I received your Story from “ShadowTonio”–My pal in Holland.

    Best Wishes

    Ian (Tommo Little Lever

    Reply
    1. guitarphil Post author

      Hi Ian,

      Yes Ecca has a part to play in the story too. I built a couple with valve-based preamps based on his design that used Chinese preamps off eBay which Steve Mitchell and I modified to improve the harmonics and frequency response to sound even better with guitars.

      Reply
  2. Zombie Minstrel

    Phil,

    I have been away from WP for over a year. It was such a pleasure to come back and see how far you have pushed forward with this project. Oddly enough, I believe I have passed by it on social media never thinking it could be you. Congratulations and well done lad!

    Reply
  3. Echotapper

    The development of the DSP code started around 2008 when I decided to use the Spin Semiconductors IC called fv-1. All was developed on a development board bought from Spin Semiconductors in the USA. The fv-1 processor was also available on a daughterboard called SKRM This daughterboard’s DSP processor with my code, was tooled at the DSP vendor and became part of the catalog of that vendor.

    The eTap2hw first kit was designed in 2009 with a revision 1 motherboard available in the first batch of DIY kits on 12-Feb-2010. The second revision of the motherboard was 17-Jan-2011. The DIY kit, with  all components, including the daughterboard became available thru a dutch ‘webshop’ called ‘Newtone’ here in the Netherlands for worldwide support.

    With help of the team the FET preamp was optimized including some improvements to the motherboard. Privileged to be part of this journey!

    Piet

    Reply
    1. guitarphil Post author

      Hi Piet ,

      I jumped on the bandwagon after your initial work and that of your Beta testers and early adopters.

      I’m so glad I discovered your eTap2hw – it’s given me plenty to keep my brain active during my retirement 🙂

      Phil.

      Reply
  4. Echotapper

    Hi Phil,

    You’re correct to emphasize the early adaptors as they became ‘instrumental’ within the continues improvement cycle making eTap2hw widely acceptable. In random order:

    Peter Nieuwenhoven, Roger Cook, Barry Davy, Johan Forrer, Lars-Göran Karlsson
    and Dick Crudas.

    Piet

    Reply

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