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Catalinbread Belle Epoch Echo + Formula No. 5 Tweed Deluxe Overdrive Pedal

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Quick Overview

The Formula No. 5 was inspired by old tweed amps, most notably the 5E3 circuit. The character of the 5E3 is very unique...

Belle Epoch

The Catalinbread Belle Epoch Tape Echo, has tape echo sounds so authentic you’d swear there was tape inside the pedal! Inspired by the Maestro Echoplex, EP-3 model, perhaps the most famous tape delay ever, the Belle Epoch features everything we love about the EP-3 in a small, maintenance free pedal format. We felt that a “tape echo” pedal was much more than just a standard digital delay with some “filtering” on the repeats. There are a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle traits of the Echoplex that needed to be implemented in order to be authentic. The preamp, the self-oscillation character, the ability to play the pedal as an instrument unto itself, the ability to control the “record level” of the signal hitting “tape”, the wow and flutter, the way the repeats decay, the way the circuit interfaces with the amp and other pedals - all these things were important to get right.

Belle Epoch: At a Glance

  • Based on the epic EP-3 tape echo.
  • 80-ms-800ms of real-time adjustable delay.
  • Go from a single repeat to self-oscillations.
  • Dial in a variety of wow/flutter tape modulation.
  • 100% wet/dry mix & record level control.

Technical Specifications

  • 2.34" x 4.39" pedal
  • 9v-18v Negative Tip DC Power
  • 61 mA draw

Control Surface

• The MIX control replicates the functionality of the Echo Volume control on the EP-3 and uses the same basic passive mixer circuit. Set at minimum to get dry only. Set at maximum to get wet only.

• The TONE / REC LEV control sets how hard the “tape” or delay line is hit. It does not affect your dry signal and only affects the initial first repeat. Turning the knob while repeats are playing will not affect them. In practice, you’ll want to use this control in conjunction with the Mix control to set your balance

• The SWAY / MOD control sets the amount of random tape wow and flutter effects in the echoes. At minimum, there is no wow and flutter. For the most realistic tape warble, set this control fairly low.

• The ECHO SUSTAIN controls how much delay signal is fed back to the delay line to get multiple repeats. From minimum up to around noon you’ll get a fixed number of repeats with a great decay curve. Above noon you start to get into infinite floating repeats and then into self-oscillation.

• The ECHO DELAY controls the delay time, from about 80ms all the way up to 800ms. It was designed to be manipulated in real-time, as you are playing, to get the same sounds as an EP-3. You’ll notice, especially when the Echo Sustain is turned up a bit, that the echo sound “lags” a bit, much like how the Echoplex behaves when you move the slider back and forth.

Front & Center

The Belle Epoch was designed to be run in front of your amp in the same way the Echoplex was designed to be run in front of your amp. They share almost identical input and output circuit topologies, including the passive unbuffered mixer circuit of the EP-3. However, we tuned it to have a lower output impedance than the EP-3 to not load down the output as much while still retaining the open non-buffered output interface. A buffer does just what the name implies - it isolates one circuit from the next and can create a “disconnected” feeling that is subtle but a player who relies on touch-sensitive dynamics in his rig will appreciate the difference of not having the buffer. Having said that, the Belle Epoch will perform great in almost any pedal stacking situation. But for the most authentic Echoplex-like experience, we recommend that you run it before any foundation overdrive type pedals and after fuzzes, treble boosters, and the like. For the most awesome experience, try playing it right in line before your cranked up tube amp.

Formula No. 5

The Formula No. 5 was inspired by old tweed amps, most notably the 5E3 circuit. The character of the 5E3 is very unique. It has very minimal power filtering, low plate voltages, elemental tone stack, and does next to nothing to control the low end between gain stages, not to mention the under-rated output transformer and speaker. The entire system runs inefficiently resulting in a loose bass, greasy mids, cutting treble, and incredible grit – none of these qualities were ideal or intentional back in the day. In spite of this, over the past five decades the amp inspired some of the coolest, most sought after guitar tones ever recorded.

We’ve captured the unique qualities of these amps in the Formula No. 5. For this circuit we felt cascaded JFET gainstages yielded the best result. They have a softer sound than MOSFETs. JFETs also have much more natural attack/decay than diode clipped rigs which are pingy on the attack and fizzy on the decay. We chose capacitor types that enhanced the midrange and burnished the treble.

We’ve recorded some clips that highlight the qualities of the Formula No. 5. For an amp we used a Quad Reverb (basically a 4x12 Twin) VOL=3.5, TRE=6, MID=6, BASS=3, REV=2, MAST=10. The microphone is a Royer 121 placed 3" from one of the cones.

Let’s start out by presenting a reference clean sound with a Tele. Big & clean all day! Keep coming back to this clip as necessary to clear your pallet! Next is a general gain sound of a Tele into the Formula No. 5 with the Gain at 3 O’clock, Tone at noon. This showcases the “loose bass, greasy mids, cutting treble, and incredible grit” mentioned above quite nicely. Listen to how chords decay – just like an amp. No pingy attack. No fizzy decay. Now we’ll demonstrate the amp-like clean up with a Tele into the Formula No. 5 with the Gain at 3 O’clock, Tone at noon. I usually leave my Formula No. 5 on all the time and get my clean sound by rolling back the instrument’s volume knob. Like the 5E3 the Formula No. 5 GAIN and TONE are highly interactive. The tone circuit is such that it functions as a bright cap or treble rolloff depending on where the GAIN is set. The higher the gain the TONE becomes nullified and less effective. Conversely, the lower the gain the more effective the tone sweep becomes. We felt this behavior was crucial to reproduce for an accurate tweed-in-a-box. The Formula No. 5 can run at 9V or 18V. At moderate gain settings you will find an increased bass tightness and volume at 18V.

The difference between a great dirt box and the average run of the mill distortion pedal is how well it respects your pickup position. Here is a showcase of a humbucker equipped LP: First, is a little boogie, starting off clean and a bit sterile, but when the Formula No. 5 is engaged you can hear how well it encourages the playing attitude. Next, is the LP in the bridge position, demonstrating how well it retains the bridge pickup character. The final humbucker clip is the LP neck position. Listen to how sweet and singing the Formula No. 5 is while maintaining articulation and detail.

In addition to pickup position a great dirt box respects your pickup type. The following set of clips showcase the Strat.

The bridge position has a vocal quality that can cut through a mix.
The middle position is a tad fuller than the bridge with every bit as much detail.
The neck position is noted for its fullness yet glassy character, the Formula No. 5 does not obscure this!