It’s hard to determine a top pick from Strymon’s pantheon of master built effects. Yet, it is fair to say the Timeline and El Capistan are in the upper echelon of their delay offerings, which set a new standard for multi-function tape sounds. A new entry, however, has ruffled the ranks of the delay effect gods: the Strymon Volante.
This week on TPS, Dan & Mick took the new echo box for a spin to see how it sounded on its own and up against some other contemporary classic delay pedals.
What is the Strymon Volante?
As Mick noted, the term “Volante” is Italian for “wheel.” If you’re up on your delay typologies and history, this term connects into an entire realm of rotating echo effects. A few months back on our Riff City Sunday Papers, we covered the story of the origins of the Binson Echorec. Long-story-short, the Echorec machines emerged as early as 1953/54 when Italian designer Dr. Bonfilglio Bini developed a rotating drum style of delay, which pinged and panged away with a notably different accent than other classic tape delays, such as the Echoplex or Roland Space Echo. While there are a few pedals out there offering modern renditions of this sound, Strymon was yet to extend their echo offerings with an Echorec-inspired machine. Enter the Volante.
What Does the Volante Do?
As Mick summarized, the Volante has three built-in delay types: drum echo, tape echo, and studio tape. Within these, the pedal has three speed ranges (normal, half, and double), which will impact things such as wow-flutter in the repeats and octave dives. One of the notable ways the Volante channels the Binson past is by its inclusion of up to four tape heads, represented by selectable buttons, paired with an additional four buttons for the feedback levels associated with each head. As Mick noted, “It has this really cool feature, where you can change the spacing between the four heads.” One of the most brilliant features related to this heads is the ability to run the pedal in stereo by sending individual heads to either side of the mix. As Dan commented, “that is awesome, just awesome, wow!” Beyond this, the Volante includes a built in spring reverb, a sound-on-sound looper, and MIDI functionality, among other things. As Mick commented after a quick run through the Volante’s capabilities, “it’s pretty well fully-featured, which is quite exciting because Echorec type pedals have had a bit of a resurgence in the last few years.”
Does the Volante Sound Like a Vintage Binson Echorec?
As Dan observed, one of the true tests of the Volante is seeing “whether it sounds like the Binson Echorec,” in this case the Echorec Baby that is at home in the TPS studio.
One of the things Dan noted right away was how essential the Echorec preamp was to the overall sound of the signal. “It’s massive and just colors the whole thing.” The Echorec repeats are reminiscent of traditional tape sounds, yet have a hifi character all their own that comes from the metallic tape wrapped around the drum. On top of this, the Echorec has parameters for controlling the amount of signal going to the drum and the length of the swell of echo effects. Altogether, this makes for a brilliant and magical set of repeats unlike any other in vintage delay typologies.
After dialing a similar sound on the Volante, Mick commented that the low-cut feature made it possible to tailor the sound of only the repeats, which “straight off the bat makes it fatter sounding.” The ease of use factor also came into play quite quickly. Whereas for the Echorec, you more or less have to pick a setting then go with it, Dan noted “instantly you can change the speed of the drum here and the space of the heads.” For Dan, these two points alone were major assets in the sound and feel of the Volante. You can put it in the line of your signal chain, get the preamp sound when the effect is engaged, but otherwise have your guitar signal unaffected thanks to the analog dry-through path of the Volante.
Conclusions? As Dan summed up, “Strymon have done such a great job of voicing this, it is just so cool!”
Will it Replace Your Strymon Timeline or El Capistan?
While the Timeline is one of the more fully-featured delay effects on the market, Dan noted that drum echo algorithms aren’t part of its profile. The same goes for the El Capistan, which offers tape delay sounds. “The tape there does sound really nice, but it won’t do the multi-head thing.” Mick highlighted a key fork in the road in decision making between the Timeline and/or the Volante. “If all you use in the Timeline are tape sounds and you also want that drum sound, and you want to have more fully-featured tape, the Volante makes sense.” Dan added, that “the Volante also has a built-in spring reverb, like the El Capistan,” which might save on space on your board and streamline a rig. Mick brought the whole thing home to a simple question: “Do you want the extra sounds that the Volante does or not?”
Whether you’re in the market for a cutting edge delay pedal or one that does a throwback to echo sounds of yesteryear, head over to Riff City instore or online for your next effect!
TPS Rig Rundown:
Guitars: Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster, Fender Custom Shop ’63 Telecaster.
Pedals: Sonic Research ST-300 Turbo Tuner Mini, Tru-Fi Colordriver, Keeley D&M Drive, Dawner Prince Boonar, Catalinbread Belle Epoch Deluxe CB-3, Strymon Volante, Binson Echorec Baby, Roland RE-201 Space Echo.
Amps: Mesa Filmore FL-150, Supro Black Magick.