Vintage echo is as popular as ever and one of the latest models on the market is the Dawner Prince Electronics Boonar. Promising to replicate both the features and sound of the legendary Binson Echorec, I just had to check out this one. Here’s my review.
Big Muffs, Tube Drivers, Electric Mistresses aside. If there is one effect that is synonymous with David Gilmour it got to be delay or echo. His lush ethereal tones wouldn’t have sounded nearly the same without echo and although David seem to favour modern units these days he has always tried to replicate the sounds and delay patterns of his old Binson units.
The Italian made Binson Echorec offered something different than most tape and echo machines of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Using tubes and a magnetic drum, the tone had a warm and organic character and the multiple heads offered a wide range of combinations and repeat patters.
An important factor was also the fact that technology in the early days of echo effects had its flaws and the constant need for maintenance, parts failing and ageing, meant that each unit sounded different, with lots of quirkiness and mojo.
Trying to replicate the tone of a Binson require not only the technical aspect but also to capture those characteristic flaws and ageing that makes these units so unique.
First of all the Boonar looks super cool! The box isn’t much bigger than an MXR but they’ve really managed to include every feature, including that “magic eye” level indicator and knobs and colours to match the original Echorec.
The controls are described in detail on the Dawner Prince web site but just a quick run through. The four main controls are:
Volume controls the overall volume of the repeats.
Bass/treble act as an EQ or tone control, adjusting from darker to brighter repeats.
Swell controls the number of repeats, from short to self-oscillation.
Drum speed controls the time of the repeats based on the number of heads that are selected. The Echorec could go up to aprox 300ms but the Boonar offer a full second.
While the Echorec had a single control for selecting the 12 playback head combinations, the Boonar feature four switches allowing up to 16 combinations. All four playback heads outputs are true analog.
The Boonar also feature two smaller pots located on the side of the pedal controlling the input volume and drum age or modulation, internal trimmers for trails/true bypass, dry volume and modern/original input impedance. There’s also an on/off stomp switch for single repeats or swells and the master on/off.
I’ve never played the real thing. A Binson isn’t that hard to come by but they’re ridiculously expensive and you probably won’t find one that doesn’t require a great deal of maintenance. My relationship with the Bisnon is basically from hearing and watching the Live at Pompeii concert film, early TV appearances and the Floyd albums from A Saucerful of Secrets to Wish You Where Here. Obviously, Syd Barrett and Richard Wright also used the Binson.
The Boonar might frighten off some due to the exhaustive amount of controls. Compared to the Catalinbread Echorec and Gurus Amps Echosex you really need to spend some time figuring this one out. But, that’s really what’s cool about it too and the fact that it has four controls for the playback heads, and not just one, allow you to both dial in those classic combos and some really cool new ones.
Sonically, the Boonar sound a tad brighter than what I’d expected. Again, I haven’t played an original Binson but the magnetic drum technology offered, unlike the common tape machines, a more pristine sounding delay. Still, I would have preferred the Boonar to sound slightly warmer and the bass/treble or tone control could also have done more to tweak the tone.
But the beauty of this thing lies in the details and compared to the other Binson inspired pedals out there, the Boonar definitely gets full score for the authentic sounding repeat patterns created by the multiple playback head combinations. David Gilmour mainly used two settings – a single-tap delay similar to your standard analog delay pedal and the swell mode, for those multi-tap repeats, with a reverb-like tail as heard on the intro on Time. The Boonar capture that ethereal sound and the multi-tap repeats is crystal clear and cuts through nicely.
David would also employ the input pre-amp to boost his tones and delay sounds. A small control on the side of the Boonar allow you to adjust the overall input (or pre-amp) to match your instrument’s output but it can also be used to drive the front end of your amp and for adding a dirty decay to the repeats, making them sound warmer and bigger. This is also great for playing slides, when you need a bit more sustain and body.
Another cool feature is the drum age or modulation. It sounds very organic and authentic and just a hint opens up the tone for those lush repeats. Cranking it all the way up adds a nice warble and the speed of the modulation is proportional to the speed or time of the delay so it blends perfectly with your playing.
There’s so much going on here and it’s almost impossible to cover everything. There are lots of great reviews out there so be sure to check them out for more details and sounds that perhaps isn’t typical of Gilmour.
I don’t really have any concerns here. As mentioned above, it could have sounded slightly warmer, with a darker decay but that’s more my taste and nothing towards any faults in the designs really.
The Boonar really is an impressive pedal and I’ve yet to explore all its features. The Catalinbread Echorec might sound warmer and more analog, but the Boonar is miles ahead when it comes to features, details in the repeats and organic sounding modulation. The Gurus Amps Echosex has an overall warmer and more analog tone, and they’ve also managed to recreate those percussive sounding repeats but it only offer a single tap delay and aren’t really meant to offer the full Binson experience.
The Boonar will be hard to beat and with the small footprint in mind, the full set of controls and more than convincing tone, you don’t need to look any further for the full Live at Pompeii and Dark Side of the Moon experience.
Check out DawnerPrince.com for more details.