Magnetic Monster.

When we decided to develop an effects pedal that delivers the sound and feel of our favorite tape echo machines, we knew we must relentlessly study and faithfully recreate every last nuance.

We spent months in the Strymon sound design labs with an intense focus on capturing the warm, saturated, distinctive qualities of tape echo machines. The result is our hand crafted dTape™ technology. Utilizing a ridiculously powerful SHARC DSP, every drop of processing power is harnessed.

El Capistan dTape Echo pedal

El Capistan tape echo delay pedal

Extensive control.

El Capistan provides three different tape machine types in one, each with three unique modes. With ten parameters to tweak, you get extensive control over tape quality, machine health and tone shaping.

Go from the sound of a pristine, studio-quality tape machine to the heavily fluctuating sound of a machine in need of service. Get the full bodied sound of fresh tape all the way to the gnarled qualities of worn out tape.

Because it’s DSP driven, you get a range of tape experiences unattainable with a traditional tape machine. All of this without the headaches of tape machine maintenance and repair!

Listen

  • Audio Clips 1
  • Audio Clips 2
  • Synth Audio Clips
  • Audio Samples

    • A Taste of Everything
      The first part uses the Single tape head, then Mode is changed from B to A at 0:15 and you can hear the machine double the tape speed. The second part changes machines to Fixed, adds more repeats and cranks up the Wow/Flutter/Crinkle for a dirtier sound. The Time knob is reduced to min starting at 0:42. The repeats are maxed at 0:49, and the Time knob is turned to max starting at 0:51.
    • Saturated Wash
      Single Head, Mode A with no Tape Crinkle, max Low Contour for a very high-passed repeat sound, ala magnetic drum units. High repeats generate a nicely saturated wash behind the guitar.
    • Dark and Dirty
      Fixed, Mode B. Maximum Delay Time results in slowest tape speed, resulting in the most exaggerated Wow/Flutter and Crinkle influence. This is a sick machine.
    • Dirty Slap
      Fixed, Mode A for a slapback on a distorted guitar. The natural warmth created by the slower tape speed allows the delay to sit in the mix nicely.
    • Power Guitar
      Single Mode A. Using the Tape Age knob, the bandwidth is reduced and a natural echo is created from the cranked power chords.
    • Wow & Flutter
      The Single Head, Mode B machine. By varying the Wow & Flutter, and Tape Crinkle controls from minimum to maximum in four increments, the range of 'machine health' possibilities is highlighted.
    • Rasta
      Fixed Head, Mode B. By adding a generous helping of Spring Reverb, we achieve a trippy reggae sound with regenerating repeats that continue to build as the rhythm continues.
    • Spaceship
      Fixed Head, Mode A. A great machine for sci-fi, the short repeats and varying tape speed can create some classic spacey sounds. In this clip a single note is played, and El Capistan does the rest.
    • Rastaship
      By overdubbing the rasta and spaceship clips, we get rastaship!
    • Baritone
      Multi Head, Mode C. With minimum Tape Bias, a regenerative brightness occurs offsetting the high-end roll-off from the playback head aperture. This along with maximum Low End Contour removes low frequencies from the repeats. The baritone's sound remains coherent with high repeats as the notes descend into the lower register. The spring reverb is employed for maximum ambience.

  • Audio Samples

    • Worn Out Tape
      Multi Head, Mode B. A good amount of Wow & Flutter along with a fair amount of Tape Crinkle. Tape Age is set at about 70% for a relatively worn out tape sound.
    • Magnetic Drum Wash
      Multi Head, Mode C. Tape Age set to minimum for a new tape sound. Bias is set at 75% and Repeats are cranked to get some regenerating oscillation in the background. Low End Contour is set at max, rolling off all of the low end, giving more of a magnetic drum style.
    • In Need of Service
      Fixed Head, Mode B. Wow & Flutter and Tape Crinkle are maxed, representing a very tired and sick tape echo machine. This one is in need of service!
    • Old Tape
      Fixed Head, Mode B. Tape Age is set at about 75%, indicative of older more worn out tape. Low End Contour is set at 75% as well, rolling off a lot of low end in the repeats. Wow & Flutter and Tape Crinkle are set at 50%.
    • Tape with Drive
      Fixed Head, Mode B. Running into an amp with a bit of drive and grit. Tape Age and Low End Contour are set at 75%. Wow & Flutter and Tape Crinkle are set at 50%. Repeats are cranked at the end to generate some runaway oscillation. Time knob is set to max, then to minimum, then to maximum again.
    • Dirty Multi Head
      Multi Head, Mode B. Running into an amp with a touch of drive. Tape Age and Tape Crinkle set to 75%. A hint of Spring Reverb is added as well.

  • Audio Samples

    • Tape Echo Arpeggio
      Roland Juno 6 running into El Capistan. First short passage is in Bypass, then the pedal is engaged. Single Head, Mode A. Tape Age, Wow & Flutter and Tape Crinkle are all set around half.
    • Better Days
      Roland Juno 6 running into El Capistan. First short passage is in Bypass, then the pedal is engaged. Fixed Head, Mode B. Tape Age is set at about 75% for an older tape sound. Low End Contour is set at about half to roll off some low end. Tape Crinkle and Wow & Flutter are set at about 75% as well, for the sound of a tape machine that has seen better days.

Tape Adjustment and Tone Shaping

Click plus (+) for details.
  • Front Panel Controls
  • Secondary Functions
  • Ins & Outs
  • Time controls the delay time according to the Tape Head type.

    With Fixed and Multi tape head types, the Time knob varies the tape speed. With Single tape head type, the Time knob varies the position of a sliding record head. The full range of the Time knob varies depending on the Mode you select.
    Mix controls the balance of your analog dry signal and your wet signal, from 100% dry at minimum to 100% wet at maximum. The mix occurs entirely in analog.

    50/50 mix occurs when the Mix knob is set to 3:00.
    Tape Age gives you full control over the frequency characteristics resulting from tape bandwidth and head-tape alignment.

    Older tapes have a lower bandwidth and a warmer top end. Misalignment of the heads can greatly reduce the high end. Go from clean, crisp, and brand new to old, worn out, and misaligned.
    Repeats sets the number of echoes you hear.

    Set to zero to hear one repeat. Set to 100% and hear sustained infinite repeats and the accompanying regenerating saturated oscillation.
    Wow & Flutter controls the amount of pitch fluctuations caused by mechanical imperfections of the tape machine.

    Lower settings equate to a finely tuned tape echo machine. Higher settings reflect the periodic, pseudo-random motor/mechanical imperfections. Wow & Flutter also tracks to tape speed. Slower tape speeds deliver more pitch warbling, faster tape speeds provide more dimensional depth.
  • Spring Reverb controls the amount of spring reverb added to your signal.

    Go from completely dry to dripping springy goodness.
    +/- 3dB Boost/Cut lets you achieve a plus or minus 3dB boost or cut when the pedal is engaged.
    Low End Contour gives you control over the low frequency shaping of the echo repeats.

    Go from extended bandwidth to extremely high-passed, magnetic drum style repeats.
    Tape Bias allows you to make tape machine bias adjustments, from under-biased to over-biased.

    Higher bias levels result in reduced echo volume and limited headroom. Lower bias settings result in the cleanest echos with the most headroom.
    Tape Crinkle controls the amount and severity of tape irregularities, including friction, creases, splices and contaminants.

    Go from smooth and well-cared for all the way to chewed and mangled. Tape Crinkle characteristics track accordingly to tape speed.
  • Input – Plug your instrument in here. Default is mono input. Can be used as TRS stereo input by switching internal jumper.
    Exp – Connect an expression pedal and control any one knob with your foot. Or plug in a favorite switch to save and recall a preset.
    Left Output – Connect to your amp, mixing board, other pedals, etc. Acts as a mono output when only one channel is being used.
    Right Output – Connect to your amp, mixing board, other pedals, etc.
    Power – Maximum 9 volts DC center negative, with a minimum of 250mA current.

In-Depth

Sound designer Pete Celi takes you on an in-depth tour of El Capistan.
  • In-Depth Demo Part 1
  • In-Depth Demo Part 2

Tape Machines and Modes

El Capistan has three distinct tape machine types, each with three separate modes.
  • Fixed Head
  • Multi Head
  • Single Head
  • Fixed Tape Head

    Time knob varies the tape speed while the playback head is fixed in position.

    A – short delay with 1/16th note tap tempo
    B – medium delay with dotted 1/8th tap tempo
    C – long delay with 1/4 note tap tempo

  • Multi Head Echo

    2 of 3 playback heads are selected at once. Time knob varies tape speed.

    A – Heads 1 & 2 selected.
    B – Heads 2 & 3 selected.
    C – Heads 1 & 3 selected.

  • Single Head

    A – Tape motor at double speed. Higher fidelity with shorter delay times.
    B – Tape motor at normal speed. Lower fidelity with longer delay times.
    C – Sound on Sound mode with instant tape splice, bulk erase, and two tape speeds. A tape-style looper!

    Tape speed is fixed while the Time knob varies the position of a sliding record head.

Sound on Sound

  • Sound on Sound
  • Just like one of our favorite moving head tape echo machines, El Capistan gives you a Sound on Sound mode, but with some cool new features. When you enter the mode (Single Tape Head, Mode C), the machine is already recording, just like a traditional tape echo machine. We go several steps further by giving you instant tape splice and bulk erase functions. It’s like having a built-in tape-style looper!

    To set the length of your tape, press Tap once to set your splice ‘in’ point, and press Tap again to set your splice ‘out’ point. All of the tone shaping knobs are active and affect your loop as it plays back and re-records. Press Tap a third time to completely erase the tape. You get 20 seconds of tape in slow speed, 10 seconds in fast speed. Check out our video demo below.

Specs

  • Sound Design
  • Ins, Outs, Switches
  • Audio Quality
  • More
  • Sound Design

    • Hand crafted dTape algorithms deliver meticulously nuanced recreations of tape echo systems.
    • Three tape machines in one: Fixed (one fixed playback head), Multi (multiple playback heads), and Single (sliding record head)
    • Each tape machine has three modes for extremely flexible echo options
    • Five tape adjustment and tone shaping knobs: Time, Mix, Tape Age, Repeats, Wow & Flutter
    • Five “hidden” knobs for extensive tone tweaking: Tape Crinkle, Tape Bias, Low End Contour, Spring Reverb, +/- 3dB Boost/Cut
    • Sound on Sound mode with instant tape splice and bulk erase. A built-in tape-style looper!
    • Press and hold Tap for instant Infinite Repeats
  • Ins, Outs, Switches

    • Stereo output
    • High impedance mono input (internal jumper enables selectable TRS stereo input) Please read this FAQ for more info on the TRS input.
    • Expression pedal input with selectable control over any knob parameter
    • Connect an optional Favorite switch to save a favorite preset
    • Tap Tempo and Bypass footswitches
  • Audio Quality

    • Ultra low noise, high performance 24-bit 96kHz A/D and D/A converters
    • 115dB typical signal to noise
    • Analog dry path for a zero latency dry signal that is never converted to digital
    • Premium analog front end and output section
    • Super high performance SHARC DSP in a compact form factor
  • More

    • True Bypass (electromechanical relay switching)
    • Selectable Trails Mode with high quality, transparent Analog Buffered Bypass
    • 9V center negative DC supply included, 250mA current draw
    • Strong and lightweight gunmetal gray anodized aluminum chassis
    • Crafted with love in the USA

Reviews

  • One of the most ambitious and clever applications of DSP we've seen in a stompbox.
    Jordan Wagner
    Premier Guitar
  • The Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo is one of the most outstanding delay pedals I’ve ever played and offers some of the most inspiring tape echo sounds you’ll ever find in a compact stompbox.
    Gabriel Tanaka
    Best Guitar Effects
  • If you’re looking for the best tape echo delay pedal around, the El Capistan should be at the top of your “must try” list.
    Gabriel Tanaka
    Best Guitar Effects
  • It really doesn’t get much better than this.
    Jordan Wagner
    Premier Guitar
  • El Capistan’s unprecedented feature set, versatility, excellent sound quality, and capacity for hands-on real-time control put it in a class by itself, which is why it earns an Editors’ Pick Award.
    Barry Cleveland
    Guitar Player
  • Hands-down the best sounding tape echo effect this reviewer has yet heard.
    David A. Evans
    Tone Report Weekly
  • It’s a tall task to wrangle in and completely capture the expansive sonics, eccentric quirks and randomness of a tape echo machine, but Strymon’s El Capistan does a mind-blowing job.
    Adam Cooper
    GuitarGeek
  • El Capistan can – without question – hold its own among all of the classic delay units of yesteryear.
    Adam Cooper
    GuitarGeek
  • The tonal range and character of the repeats is very adjustable so you can have fairly bright clean-ish repeats or use the knobs, particularly tape age, to dial in something much darker and mushier that melts naturally into your sound.
    Trevor Curwen
    Guitarist
  • All in all, a fantastic, great sounding little box that delivers on its promise with no exceptions.
    Alex Maiolo
    TapeOp
  • ... a joy to use, even under the pressure of a performance.
    Alex Maiolo
    TapeOp
  • ...signal-to-noise is an impressive 115 dB, so these double as a studio option.
    Alex Maiolo
    TapeOp

Awards