A tape echo is a delay device which records incoming audio to a loop of magnetic tape, then replays the audio over a series of several playback heads before it is erased again by new incoming audio. The first tape echoes became available to musicians in the early 1950s; since the 1970s they have largely been replaced by first analog and then digital delays.
Early delays used reel-to-reel tapes with adjustable heads; composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen made complex machines involving long tapes and multiple recorders. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, several sound engineers began making devices for use in recording studios and later more compact machines for live purposes. Les Paul was an early pioneer; a landmark device was the EchoSonic made by American Ray Butts, a portable guitar amplifier with a built-in tape echo which became used widely in country music (Chet Atkins) and especially in rock and roll (Scotty Moore). Several designs were made; the 1959 Ecco-Fonic had a spinning head, the Binson Echorec used magnetic recording discs. Many were temperamental, such as the Vox Echomatic. The most successful of the early machines was the 1959 Echoplex by Mike Battle, "whose sounds are still being experimented with today."
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