As an engineer in my mid-40s, Eventide is one of those iconic companies I grew up with. First seeing gear ads in magazines and studio shots, and then hearing stories about Brian Eno [Tape Op #85] or Tony Visconti [#29] and his famous "fucks with the fabric of time" quote. I was in high school at that time, and gear like that seemed so magical and esoteric – ten feet tall and out of reach. Even once I started working in studios in my 20s, it wasn't like EVERYONE had an Eventide H3000 – the few times I did get to really use Eventide gear were mind blowing. Nothing I'd ever heard sounded like that. I remember soloing the H3000 on a vocal and feeling so excited that I could hardly contain myself. Upon releasing the Solo button, I was stunned by how small my mix sounded in comparison. I learned about placement and processing that day in a profound manner. There's truly great gear, and then there's gear that teaches you something while elevating your process. Every Eventide device I've used has done so, and thusly became profoundly essential equipment in my life.
A decade and a half (or so) later, I was lucky enough to get one of the first Eventide H9 Harmonizers [#107] while mixing FOH on a Deerhunter tour and immediately starting using it for performances. That night I texted Eventide mainstay Ray Maxwell and begged him to ship another one to the next gig. The rest was history. That box has been sitting next to me pretty much ever since. From Eventide's SP2016 [plug-in, #129] to the MixingLink [#102], these guys have changed the face of audio engineering countless times, so when I saw the EuroDDL at NAMM last year I flipped! I had only briefly heard the DDL-500 [#111] 500 Series delay, but main homie and fellow Tape Op Reviewer Eli Crews told me (and all of you) to get one. I'd been using Eurorack modules in the studio and in FOH applications for a few years so the EuroDDL was right up my alley.
The EuroDDL incorporates the delay approach of the very first digital delay Eventide made for The Grateful Dead at Watkins Glen in '73. Yes, you heard correctly. Eventide made the first digital delay that delayed the sound of extension speaker towers at Watkins Glen some 200 feet from the stage to give the stage sound time to travel through the air and catch up to the electrical signal hitting the towers. We take this for granted now, BUT... Eventide invented it, and did such an insane job, so they decided to bring back this minimally digital approach 45 years later. So how does it sound? In a word: stunning. This is due to the fact that the circuit is 100% analog, aside from the delay. It seems to impart beauty and class to everything I send it.
So once my EuroDDL arrived, courtesy of the heroic Nalia Sanchez at Eventide HQ in New Jersey, I literally threw it into my Make Noise Eurorack skiff and got to work. On that day I was mixing the new Bars Of Gold album for Equal Vision Records. I began by sending vocals, and the occasional snare or organ stab to the EuroDDL in typical fashion. The result was totally pleasing and unobtrusive. The high quality of the delay is immediately apparent, but never sterile or typical. I then began to dig deeper. Using a clock and envelope from Make Noise's MATHS synthesizer module, I was able to get choppy and strange chirping effects, beautiful looping sounds both forward and backwards with a whole host of other effects ranging from super pleasant to way out there. All this is due to the insane amount of flexibility via CV control on the front panel.
The EuroDDL ranges from .0011 to 10 seconds (!) of delay at 192 kHz. This stretches to 160 seconds as you downsample via the combination of the Multiply button and the Encoder knob. The Encoder knob also adjusts delay time by the millisecond, making it a vibe-y sounding Phaser/Flanger at short delay times if you have an LFO on hand. Hold and turn the same knob while adjusting delay time coarsely. Press and hold the Tap button while turning the Delay knob for instant tap division access that stays LOCKED as you adjust. Do the same with the Multiply button to set the multiple of the delay time. You get a few octaves of pitch down via sample rate when you do this while looping via the Infinite Repeat button. Applying a tempo synced sequencer to the Multiply jack in this state is particularly gratifying. Realizing that much of this is switchable via gate or trigger, and controllable with CV, starts to open up all kinds of synced processing possibilities. Syncing this to a DAW by using a Roland SBX-1 Sync Box or a Mutable Instruments Yarns interface is a snap. There's also a Reverse button, a Feedback invert button, a switchable low-pass filter that sounds gorgeous, and a Kill button that mutes the input to the delay buffer while leaving your dry signal untouched (super handy for letting trails and tails fade naturally). All of these controls are also switchable via trigger or gate signal. There's a 20 dB boost as well, and it sounds killer when pushed. There's also a post delay, pre LPF, and a pre feedback insert that's handy as hell. EuroDDLs have ton of super useable features that are easy to understand and access, thanks to its simple, uncluttered design and layout.
Control voltage theory is beyond the scope of this review and I'm certainly no expert, but I'll give you an example of what I get into. Let's say you send a piano part to the delay, tap (or clock) the perfect tempo into it, and set the feedback to your liking. Then let's say you send a gate signal to the Infinite jack or engage via its switch looping what's in the delay buffer. Once this happens, you tap Multiply for your preset delay change. Push and hold the same button and turn the Encoder knob counter clockwise to pitch shift it down while reducing sample rate. Another trigger signal to either jack defeats them, and the thing syncs to changes with no artifacts. The above applies to the Tap button (clock in jack) too. I've NEVER used any delay EVER with a more stable tap circuit, and while holding the Tap button and turning the encoder, you can access tap divisions. Again, it's never even once exhibited ANY of the typical digital artifacts associated with most digital delays. I've pushed this box hard, in crazy directions, and it's never even flinched. This makes the EuroDDL hands down the most musical and accurate delay I've come across. It literally never skips or hiccups, and when it does jump, it's a human error thing and sounds musical.
The few examples above are but a microscopic scratch on the surface of a new universe of sonics. If this all seems over your head, it's not: this delay has taught me about control voltage and clocking! Having something tactile that you conceptually understand (such as a delay to feed different modular signals into) is a fantastic Rosetta Stone into a limitless and seemingly abstract world. At $399 you could easily buy the EuroDDL, a Eurorack skiff, a MATHS module or similar, and a MIDI to CV module that combined would give a very powerful time-based production tool of the highest order for less than what a decent rack-mount box full of presets will cost you. I absolutely LOVE the EuroDDL! Chapeau (hats off) to Eventide for making another fearlessly innovative and inherently musical device that retains a nearly infinite array of sound while remaining totally intuitive. Indeed it is a beautiful portal into the vast world of modular synthesis, and by opening this door the EuroDDL proves finally that the Eurorack format can be inclusive rather than daunting and exciting rather than intimidating. The EuroDDL is a direct link from the origins of digital delay to the undreamed of the future! Space is the Place!