Posted on Leave a comment

The story of Dr. Bini and the Binson Echorec

The story of Dr. Bini and the Binson Echorec

Disclosure: Audio Hertz is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.


BinsonEchorecThe Binson Echorec is one of those magical, mystical, undeniably beautiful sounding devices. It’s the kind of gear that makes you appreciate its existence– that some genius was able to design something so incredibly inspiring. It almost hurts me to write this now, knowing that I don’t have one of my own. It’s the holy grail of all guitar and delay effects units, and it’s not just hype. Praised for years by guitarists all over the world and made famous by legends like David Gilmore and Jimmy Page, the Echorec was the brainchild of Dr. Bonfiglio Bini.  Dr. Bini was an Italian engineer and the founder of the Binson HiFi Company. For Dr. Bini, quality was of utmost importance. Every single component, for every single unit, was made in house. When asked if it would be cheaper to use a third party for cases,  Dr. Bini replied, “sure it would have been cheaper, but then it would not be Binson stuff anymore.”

The Effectrode pedal company has more in-depth articles about the Echorec, but I’ve decided to summarize some of the information I’ve found there and other sources to help tell the story of a truly marvelous piece of gear.

Dr. Bini began manufacturing radios in 1940 from his first factory in Milan, Italy. He later moved on to television sets, before making guitar amplifiers, which led to his major seller: The Binson 3°. Over the years Binson made many different items from mixers to reverbs, to microphones and PA speakers. They even made an organ called the Binsonett (although it’s hard to find much information on them other than a few pictures). Most of these products are difficult to find today, especially if you live in the United States. Without a doubt, they are most famous for their Echorec delay units. During a time when studio effects were limited to tape delays, plate, and room reverb, Echorecs used a new technology developed by the founder, Dr. Bini, and the principal engineer, Mr. Scarano Gaetano. The two undertook a massive research effort to find a better medium of storing delay signals than magnetic tape. The result was the Echorec delay unit and their memory disc technology.

Echorec utilized memory disc technology, which used a drum recorder instead of a tape loop; this allowed for a better overall frequency response and did not leave the negative artifacts of tape, such as wow and flutter. The drum was meticulously wound with a steel wire and then milled flat. A motor drove the drum, and the heads placed in different spaces around it. Dr. Bini spent a lot of time figuring out the best position for each of the heads. Each was chosen so that the delay times were extremely musical.

The unique memory disc technology was the main contributing factor to the lush delays these units were capable of, but you can also attribute some of that to the preamp and internal electronics. These units were so well-made that just running it through the preamp without the delay engaged would enhance the tone of the guitar.

Echorecs were extremely expensive, some costing as much as a Fender Strat and more than an AC30. Think about that… You could either buy a new Fender Stratocaster or a Baby Binson, that’s how expensive these units were.

Check out this great video of the guys from That Pedal Show demoing a real Echorec vs. a few different modern clones,

Although Dr. Bini stopped production in 1986, he still stuck around the factory and in his free time would give tours. I can only assume this was truly a labor of love for the man, offering tours, even after retirement, shows that he genuinely enjoyed his work, his factory, and his legacy. His reputation confirms that. He would even sell off the leftover stock of the Echorecs– amplifiers, and mixers that remained.

David Gilmour
David Gilmour

David Gilmour is the most famous user of the Echorec, and it was arguably the thing that defined his sound the most. Syd Barrett, the original singer of Pink Floyd, was the first to use an Echorec. The story (as told by Gilmourish.com) goes, Syd went to watch an experimental electronic band named AMM and saw them using one. Enamored by the syncopated delay patterns and almost mystical warm sound, he began to use one himself. When Gilmour joined the band, he took Syd’s set up and expanded on the use of the device. The most famous song you can hear utilizing the Echorec is Pink Floyd’s “Time.” Gilmour toured with multiple Echorecs for years, but they were delicate and not the most practical for the rough life on the road. Each unit requires frequent maintenance, and many included a unique holder right on the case for lubricant.

So I’m sure you might be wondering… how do I get an Echorec? How expensive are they now? Are they still difficult to maintain? Are there any modern pedals that can emulate an Echorec?

Well, yes Echorecs are still expensive and even more difficult to maintain due to the ever-dwindling supply of parts and the expertise needed to repair them.

Value for Echorecs have a wide range and there were many different models for which the price varied drastically. The Echorec 2° is the most popular model and yields the highest demand and cost which usually averages around $3,000.

Echorecs are definitely for the most dedicated collector who will stop at nothing to achieve the ultimate guitar tone and doesn’t mind spending time and money along the way. Frankly, I can’t blame them as that’s a pursuit that I’m sure most of us can agree is worthwhile.

If you don’t have $3000 to spend, you’re in luck. Auditory has a plugin version that sounds really good. It only cost $£49 and is worth every penny.

Related articles:
EMT 250 and the birth of digital audio
The “your mixes sound bad in the car” phenomenon
[Even more] Things I wish I learned sooner about audio engineering
Things I wish I learned sooner about audio engineering

Posted on Leave a comment

Why trying to be perfect is detrimental to your growth as an audio engineer

Large diaphragm condenser microphone

Recording and mixing are two forms of artistic expression. Like drawing or painting, there’s a lot more to being proficient than just having natural talent. Innate talent will only get you so far while hard work and practice will get you further. A combination of both is when true genius happens. But there’s a reason there are so few geniuses. It’s rare that someone posses both the talent and dedication to become great at something. The vast majority of us have mediocre talent and average work ethic. For a lot of people that are naturally talented at something, they will try something out and discover they’re good at it, but their lack of work ethic stifles their progression into the next level of proficiency. Their natural talent made it easy to get started but when they reach the top of their talent limits and don’t keep up with the practice their progress diminishes.

I’m speaking from experience: my perfectionism and desire to be great is what ended up holding me back. I’ve touched on this in “Things I wish I learned sooner about audio engineering,” but there was a big part of me that was subconsciously steering away from making music for fear of being bad or creating something that I would not be proud of. I’m very opinionated and have strong feelings towards everything from fine art, music, food, to even things I don’t care about, like interior design or architecture… you name it, I have an opinion about it.

Now, this harsh opinionated mindset works well when trying to figure out which EQ or compressor I want to use for certain specific scenarios, but it holds me back when I’m judging my work. It turns out I even have a strong opinion about myself! In the back of my head, I always feel that everything I do can be better. None of my work is ever finished.

Da Vinci said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

If you’re one of these people that has trouble finishing a project, a song, a mix, an arrangement, well, welcome to the club. This is a common occurrence with artists of all types, and it’s so common that Leonardo Da Vinci spoke about it over 500 years ago.

A consummate professional knows when to abandon his work. He knows when to move on, when not to let his emotions get to him when he has a project that has a deadline and needs to go out. You have to get the work done and move on. It’s the only way to get better. I had to learn that I’m not going to magically turn each one of my productions into an amazing song every time. I’m certainly not going to make that happen by slicing the drums up a million times and spending hours tuning the vocals. That kind of stuff doesn’t matter when it comes to the bigger picture. You learn from each mix and every tracking session, but no single thing ‘s going to make or break a mix or production. There’s not a single technique that’s going to take your skills to the next level. Everything is made up of small wins; small things eventually accumulate and add up to something much bigger.

I also used to wait for inspiration to motivate me to start working. I would wait for my brain to magically tell me to go make music. I don’t think anyone is constantly inspired. Inspiration comes and goes. Spurts of inspiration happen, but it’s rare. I need to push myself to start working. A real professional is someone that’s going to hone their abilities whether they feel inspired or not. You can’t wait for the perfect moment or the perfect setup or the perfect piece of gear to start working on a mix or project. You just have to show up. Showing up and starting is half the battle. Making art feels daunting whether it be an album or a painting, conceptually it feels impossible.

Many times artist and creators are surprised at how their work ends up the way it does. It’s almost like we serendipitously end up with the finished product, but we aren’t sure how we got there. It makes us feel like a phony because we don’t know how we did it. Then there’s always this underlying fear that we won’t be able to get to that same place again. It’s hard not to feel like that one great recording, or mix or song we made was just a stroke of good luck, and we wouldn’t be able to do it again. Since we don’t know exactly what we did, we certainly don’t know how to replicate it. So we go into the next project with our fingers crossed, hoping that we can recreate that same magic again, sometimes we do, and other times we don’t.

Perfectionism will affect every aspect of your creative process, but it will affect you most when it comes time to stamp something finished. Trying to create something that’s “perfect”  won’t let you declare any project completed because there’s always something you can do to make it better

So what should you do?

Work on projects and finish them. The goal shouldn’t be to make a perfect product; the goal should be to finish it. Whether it’s good or bad doesn’t matter. There are always going to be people that have an unfavorable opinion and negative attitude, try not to listen to them. Work within a time frame and stick to it. It’s better to work on 50 good projects in a year than one perfect project. The only way to get better at recording and audio engineering is by doing more of it.

Related articles:
How to survive as a working audio engineer
[Even more] Things I wish I learned sooner about audio engineering
EMT 250 and the birth of digital audio
The “your mixes sound bad in the car” phenomenon