For many guitarists these days, “rack” is a four-letter word. In our golden age of guitar pedals, the term is often uttered to signal something of an archaic or even over-indulgent past era of effects. Yet even in our present day, several rack effect units still loom large. Contenders for the top spot on this list include the iconic TC Electronic 2290 and unforgettable Korg SDD-3000.
When most people think of vintage delay effects, their minds automatically go to antique tape or classic bucket brigade analog technology. Spools and spindles whirring away or circuits blipping into the darkened distance undoubtedly offer up some blissful echoes. Yet as digital crept into the guitar gear domain and walls of rack gear stood in studios and on stages in the 1980s, a revolution took place in the world of delay. Suddenly there was the potential for control over numerous parameters and the opportunity for deep customization. And, of course, who could forget those crisp repeats. When done right, these sounds are as moving and emotive as any tape or analog box.
The Korg SDD-3000 Digital Delay was one such rack effect that made its mark on gear and music history. This piece of rack gear hit the market in 1982. Whether or not you’ve heard of it, I’m willing to bet you’ve heard it. While many of us associate the guitar sound of U2’s The Edge with a dotted eighth note echo on an Electro Harmonix Memory Man, on many tracks he’s playing through a cascade of effects, with much of the delay sound brokered by the Korg SD-3000.
So what makes this little retro box so special? If you know anything about almost any iconic echo box from the past—tape, analog, or otherwise—you’ll recall that a major part of their sought after sound is found in a specialized preamp. The SDD-3000 is no different. The unit has an attenuator preamp section that results in a slight, yet welcome, tonal change to the sound delivered to the digital delay section. With prices on these vintage units climbing, in 2008 Korg rereleased the effect in stompbox form in consultation with The Edge’s guitar tech, Dallas Schoo.
As the 1980s ticked on and many makers pressed into the digital echo revolution, TC Electronic entered the game with the release of TC2290 Dynamic Digital Delay + Effects Control Processor in 1985. While this rack unit was revolutionary for its 32 second delay time (huge, right?), as the name suggests, delay wasn’t all that came on board. Additional effect features included sampling, looping, phaser, flanger, compression, and a whopping five effect loops. As it turned out, this one too ended up being Edge-worthy and found its way into his pantheon of tone.
Like the Korg SDD-3000, the TC Electronic TC2290 goes for soaring prices on the used market. Rather than a resurrection, reissue, or redesign, however, TC Electronic did what they do best to offer this effect to a new generation: make the sound available to everyone by blasting it in via TonePrint. So, if you’re curious to experiment with this iconic effect, fire up your smartphone and patch it in to your Flashback Mini or Flashback 2.