One of the most popular effects in the world of music is the use of delay (with the Memory Boy being a popular representative). Its implementation is simple and straight forward – take the signal, double it and play the copied one back a bit behind the original one causing a very well known echo sound – but trying to control it and tweak it as you would other effects is not as easy as it might seem, at least not back then when it was first introduced. Way back when rock ‘n roll was still in its infancy, delay was purely an in studio effect that had to be done manually through a series of tape loops using analog systems that involved manually changing the speed of the echo by adjusting the length of tape. Although this setup was a bit time consuming and the constant looping of analog tapes caused problems with sound fidelity during recording, the pure natural tone of analog delay was still highly regarded.
Nowadays, digital progress has made the delay effect a much simpler process for both live and studio work, giving players the option to tweak all the little things that would have been a pain in the ass to do back in the ‘50s with just a twist of a knob and a stomp of the foot, and just as it was when music went from analog to digital, there are plenty of musicians out there that swear by the sound of the old school. With that said, those of you who just have to have the warm and organic sound of analog delay should definitely check out the little brother of one of the more popular delay pedals out there. Created with affordability in mind but without sacrificing what made the Memory Man a success, the Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy makes for a superb analog delay pedal at a price you won’t soon beat! Read on and check out some of the finer points of the Memory Boy!
The Features of the Memory Boy
The first things that you will probably notice on the Memory Boy are the four main control knobs; you have Delay, Depth,Blend and Feedback. Delay is pretty self explanatory in that it controls the amount of delay time in the effect. Give it a little and you will get a slight reverb effect on your tone or turn it all the way up for a heavy dose of echo. The Memory Boy features delay time from 30 ms up to 550 ms which isn’t bad at all but doesn’t rank with the best of them. Also, it should be said that since it is an analog pedal, you are limited in the amount of delay that is organically possible – unlike digital delay pedals which are can give you theoretically limitless delay time although it won’t sound anywhere near as vintage or natural as analog. The Depth knob controls the amount of modulation you want on your overall sound. Turn in clockwise and you will increase the amount of modulation and counter clockwise to turn it off. Modulation pretty much combines your signals in order to create a reverberating effect much like a phaser pedal will, although the execution here is not as fluid. Blend is your wet/dry control knob which allows you to choose between a wet signal, a dry signal or both. Set it on full blast for a completely wet signal, all the way off for completely dry or anywhere in between a combination of both. And finally, feedback controls the amount of signal that is circulated from the output of the delay block to its input. Essentially, turning the Feedback knob clockwise will increase the amount of echoes. If your turn all the way clockwise, you will get the Memory Boy to self-oscillate which sounds like a ton of consistent reverb. If you only want one of two echoes for every note you hit, keep below the 2 o’clock.
Besides the four control knobs, the Memory Boy also features two extra switches. The first on lets you select between Vibrato, Expression Pedal and Chorus. This switch pretty much controls the modulation rate but far quicker and more pronounced than the Modulation knob – which is more for fine tuning. Select Chorus for a slow modulation rate, Expression Pedal for a medium rate and Vibrato for a fast rate. Also, if you have an expression pedal with you (pretty much a volume pedal but for the effect), you can manually control the amount of modulation, essentially letting you switch between Chorus and Vibrato at varying degrees like how you would use a volume pedal. The shortest delay will come with a toe up position while compressing your foot all the way down will turn it up.
And finally, we have the triangular and square waveform option. Honestly, I found little use for the square waveform in that it was way too “unique” to be able to use for most styles of normal sounding music. But anyways, in order to use either the triangular of square waveform, the Depth knob must be turned up all the way. On Triangle, you will get a smooth and continuous sound much like you would with a chorus pedal. Square on the other hand causes the sound to jump between two delay times which creates a temporary pitch shifting type of effect. You can check both out but as for myself, it’s staying on Triangle permanently.
The Mechanics of the Memory Boy
If you are familiar with other similar sized Electro-Harmonix pedals, then you will find the casing on the Memory Boy to be very familiar. These pedals are built tough and as long as you don’t go spilling beer/soda/favorite beverage on the thing or go tossing it on a concrete wall, it should last you a good amount of time. The pedal is large and heavy enough so that it won’t move around too much when placed free on the floor without a pedal board.
If you are familiar with pretty much most other single effects pedals then it should come as no surprise that the Memory Boy is powered by your standard 9 volt battery or an ac adapter – which is not included, much like most other pedals. One thing that must be said is that this boy has an appetite for power and will go through 9 volt batteries fairly quickly. Not one battery a gig or anything but enough so that springing for the ac adapter will be well worth the investment, and unfortunately, you might have to spring for an “official” ac adapter because the Memory Boy doesn’t seem to play well with third party adapters. I hooked it up to an adapter in had lying around that fit the power input but for some reason, the thing went crazy with interference noise! Too much power maybe? Anyways, I happened to have a 9 volt Boss power brick and it worked perfectly so you’re going to want to stick to a precise 9 volt ac adapter.
All in all, the Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy is a solid delay pedal that can definitely hold its own. Although there are slight problems with power supply and a few extra features that most probably will never use, they can be easily overlooked by the things that it does do right. Unlike digital delay pedals which do tend to focus on the plethora of extra features, those looking for an analog delay, like the Memory Boy, do so because of its natural organic sound, meaning that the extra features that this pedal has that I mentioned will probably never even be used will not take away from the overall strengths. Coming in at about half the price of its beefier older brother the Memory Man, the Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy is definitely a solid choice for anyone looking for some organic analog delay!