Fulltone SSTE - Solid State Tape Echo - Review and Thoughts

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by 909one, Jul 8, 2015.

  1. 909one

    909one Member

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    Last week I snapped up a SSTE on eBay. Got it for the original price, mint, only used for a little bit.
    Received it in the mail on Monday. Got a chance to play it at home, and in a rehearsal at louder volume. Here are my thoughts:

    First off, let me preface this by saying I've never owned a real tape echo. I've own(ed) various analog and digital delays that emulate tape machines, Timeline, H9, Ibanez AD-80, Deluxe Memory Boy, so I have a good idea on what to look for, but never had the real thing to compare.

    My expectations on this unit were through the roof, based on the limited demo videos out there. The CME video sounds particularly great, I watched it a bunch of times. When first firing up the unit, I was a little thrown off. First off, the repeats sound a lot dirtier compared to my current analog delay of choice, a vintage AD-80. I'm guessing that's just the inherent sound of a real tape echo. Second, there was a noticeable hum, but I used the included ground lift plug, and that got rid of that. Third, on the slow speed there was a significant warble on the repeats. I don't know if this is inherent to all tape units, or if this is a problem with this one. But, I noticed the pinch roller is warbling the arm with the spring tensioner back and forth about a 16 of an inch as it moves along the path, which makes me think this is the culprit. And lastly, I noticed the instrument gain knob doesn't boost much past unity, maybe 2db. I was under the impression the preamp offered a significant amount of boost. With these issues, needless to say I was slightly disappointed. First day after playing it, I didn't come away thinking I had made the best purchase.

    Second day (yesterday) I fired it up again after work. I decided to remove the pinch roller to take a look at it, and when I put it back on, I flipped it over. This seemed to alleviate some of the warble. I brought the unit to my rehearsal, and my thoughts changed completely. First chord I hit it was instant delight. Everyone in in the room was amazed. I kept it on the whole rehearsal, switching between a slap sound, and longer delay sound. It has this unique quality of enveloping the notes in a way I've never experienced. On the vintage mode, with high end rolled off, it just sounds like the greatest reverb ever, but better. YOu can't really hear the attack repeats as much, so no need for a tap tempo, it just sounds like the greatest wash of sound. And it feels amazing to play. It really does feel like you are playing another instrument. You dig in and it gets a little distorted. You fall back and it stays clean. I was playing lapsteel and with volume swells it sounded heavenly, instant Lanois. I am completely stoked on the sound. I could just play this unit with no other effects and be happy. I understand now why digital doesn't compete.

    So, for those of you that have these units, what's your experience? Are you noticing warble? How does the instrument gain knob work for you?
     
  2. drgmc2

    drgmc2 Member

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    What was the serial number of your unit? If it is number 86 or less, Fulltone will send you a new capstan roller that will fix the warble. Have fun, I cannot stop using my unit either.
     
  3. Pester

    Pester Member

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    Is there a way to have the ep-3 preamp in the signal without using delay on the SSTE?
     
  4. blues bird

    blues bird Member

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    Yes it is: you can disable the delay with the foot switch.
     
  5. FAC

    FAC Member

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    You should be able to get cleaner repeats by backing off on the record level (then you may need to raise the echo volume a bit to compensate depending on how far you back the record level down) or more distorted repeats by cranking the record level. All tape echoes will have a certain amount of warble, but on a new unit, it should be relatively subtle, just adding a touch of "modulation" to the repeats...it should not be a strong pitch bend-like warble (so maybe get the new parts installed, as noted previously). Also...you might want to get a new tape cartridge from Fulltone...they apparently figured out what was causing some of the units to bind up...it was the cartridge... and will get you a new one if you contact them.
     
  6. Pester

    Pester Member

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    I think the footswitch does the same thing as Bypass Echo switch on the unit. It sounds like it disables the preamp and the echo.
     
  7. Plexihead

    Plexihead Member

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    No, it disables the echo, not the preamp.
     
  8. warren3333

    warren3333 Member

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    Bump. Any more users thoughts ?
     
  9. Texas_Blues

    Texas_Blues Member

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    If you're looking to get a great solid state tape echo, just talk to echoplex pete and he can get you an Echoplex ep-3 for around or less than SSTE costs and in great condition and newly serviced.
     
  10. warren3333

    warren3333 Member

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    I like the smaller size of the SSTE, but the few YouTube clips that there are suggest that the FTT is slightly warmer...
     

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