Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Memory Lane Review

The Memory Lane (1) from Diamond Pedals is an all analog bucket brigade delay with tap tempo and modulation.

I've been in love with the sound of analog delays (vintage Boss DM-2, Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man, Ibanez AD line) for a while now. While the sound is vintage, analog delay has been making a come back recently in my listening catalog - Hillsong United, Coldplay, Robby Seay Band, and Mutemath namely. Analog delay has a really warm sound that breaks down the more it repeats (unlike digital delay that sounds the same but softer as it repeats) and and make some beautifully ugly oscillation (repeating on itself and making noise). The line6 DL4, Echo Park, and the new Boss DD-7 have a mod of the Boss DM-2 (called analog delay in the line6 world) and the DL4 also has a mod of the EH Deluxe Memory Man (analog delay with mod in line6 speak). But a mod is a mod and I don't think they sound as good as the real thing.

The problem with the real analog delay pedals I mentioned earlier is that none of them have tap tempo. They only have a dial to chose the speed. Maybe I just lack some skill that lets you perfectly set a delay time in a live situation, but when I get 4 clicks before a song starts I don't have time to be twisting and guessing, I need to step on something! So my requirement was a true analog delay that also has tap tempo. After a long search, the only one I could find was the Memory Lane. After months of debating on whether it's worth the money (about $450 for version 1) I decided to get it and trust me when I say it's worth every dollar!

Here's what all the knobs and buttons do:

Delay: sets the delay time if you're not in tap mode
EQ: a tilt EQ - like a tone knob for the delays only that gets emphasised more with each repeat. If you twist it left the delays will get darker with each pass until it becomes a throb. If you twist right it will get brighter and brighter until it's just a click. You won't get to the extremes until at least 9 repeats I would say.
Level: Controls the number of repeats
Mod/Tap switch: controls whether the button in the bottom right taps a tempo or turns the mod on and off.
Depth: Controls the depth of modulation which is a vibrato - bending the pitch (of the delay) sharp and flat to give it the feel of a tape wabble.
Speed: Speed of the modulation
Mix: How loud the delays are compared to the original signal
Expression Pedal: which is on the right side and butted up against my DL4 so I'm obviously not using it. This is basically an effects loop so you can put other effects on the delays or hook up a volume pedal to control the level (number of delays). I may hook up a vol pedal eventually but for now I'm ok.
Stereo output: One for just delay and one for just original signal/mix of the two. If nothing is plugged into the delay only plug the other switch will be a mix. I only have one amp live so I'm using the mix but in the studio I plan to go stereo.

-Absolutely beautiful analog delay
-Tap tempo
-Behaves as I would expect and I'm instantly able to get the sounds I want
-I can easily control oscillation and start/stop oscillation consistently
-Great craftsmanship and quality parts

-Only 550ms (half a second) of delay. The DM-2 only has 330 and the EH Memory Man only has 550 so it's on par. I assume this is a limitation of bucket brigade delay.
-Center positive 15V power supply. It comes with a 24V power supply but to use my VooDoo Labs Pedal Power 2 I had to get a cable from voodoo that combines 2 outputs to make a 18V cable AND get a crossover cable from center negative to center positive (almost every pedal is center negative). At least the Memory Lane is internally regulated to 15V so sending it 18V works, otherwise I'd have to use their wall wart power.

-When I'm in tap mode I have to leave the delay knob fully left. If I have it anywhere else it makes a noise in time with what the knob is set to. This might be unique to mine but it really doesn't bother me since I always use the tap.
-Tap only works in pairs. It's like there's an on/off switch in it. This is going to be hard to explain... say you tap on, off. It works and figured out how long it was on for and sets the tempo. If the switch is already in the on position though, you tap off,on it thinks you set a tempo from whenever you hit on last (maybe 5 minutes ago) and automatically sets itself to 550ms since that's the max it can do. I just noticed this and haven't had a chance to experiment. The solution is to always tap in pairs so it never gets off, or always tap in 3's so at least two of the taps are good.
-I read that some people think it oscillated too easily. I'm not sure what they're talking about, it's been exactly as I would expect. Maybe because I actually want oscillation if I set the level high enough.

Thoughts on the Memory Lane 2: Diamond has stopped making the Memory Lane 1 and will be shipping the ML2 shortly. It comes with dotted eight delays as well as the ability to set two temps - one tap and one by knob. It also costs about $150 more from what I've seen. I like digital dotted eighths and I don't care about the extra tempo so I definitely don't want to pay for the extra features I wouldn't use. I literally scoured the earth for a shop that had the ML1 still for sale and found two. In the world. There were no used ones on ebay and about 3 on craigslist from other cities. There might be an influx of used ML1 on the market soon - which will be good for people who want the function without the price tag.

Conclusion: While there are a few quarks and oddities I'm overall thrilled with this pedal. The circuits are all top quality and the sound is simply amazing. To get this kind of sound and be able to control it with a tap is very much worth the price in my opinion. This is THE best analog delay available.