Binson echos are perhaps most famous due to their association with the British band Pink Floyd. In the late sixties and early seventies, they were the Floyd’s preferred echo machines; the band used them for everything: vocals, guitars, organ… Around 1970 you could easily spot three of them on stage, although they weren’t quite the same as the EC3 in design. The Echorec models used by Pink Floyd were tube units, and had a much more stylish yellow enclosure.
The EC3 may not look as cool, but it has plenty to offer. It has great versatility in playback/feedback head selection; there are individual buttons for each head’s playback and feedback, which makes it possible to have all sorts of delay colors. The repeats are very stable due to the rotating drum and direct drive (there’s no drive belt).
The Binson’s magnetic support consists of a thin metal film wrapped around a rotating drum. This, according to Binson, will last forever, never needing replacement. It seems to hold true for my unit.
The EC3 had two echo modes: “repeat” and “swell”. The repeat mode is the standard mode, while the swell mode automatically activates all four playback heads, producing a reverbish sound. At the back, there are many input and output jacks, and with the help of three buttons on the front panel, you can select which input gets a delay, while the others stay dry. It also has a TRS 1/4″ jack at the back called “input/output”, which I guess is to be used as some sort of “one cable send effect loop”, but I’m not 100% sure as I haven’t tested it thoroughly.
My EC3 sounds really great, it really has a different sound than my tape delays. Although this model lacks any tubes, and is not as good looking as the earlier, yellow Binsons, I have a feeling it’s more reliable than the older models.
There are a few things that could improve the EC3, in my mind: first of course is the fixed speed motor, which is always a bit frustrating in echo machines; also, my EC3 has a low output volume and not much headroom at the input, so setting the volumes properly can be tricky.
Finally, there’s the fact that I can’t separate the dry signal from the wet. Even if it had three outputs, they’re all exactly the same, so I can’t get a 100% wet signal out of the EC3 unless I modify it, which I did (see below). Perhaps the “input/output” jack at the back is a PA send and return that outputs the wet signal only back to the PA. I didn’t bother trying it, as I didn’t want to deal with a TRS jack + splitter…
Technical Info / Service Notes
Prior to opening up and inspecting the EC3, I did a fair amount of research on the net, and found out that, for many Binsons, the rubber insulation of the internal wiring has degraded over time and needs to be replaced, otherwise adverse effects such as short circuits and noise can appear. I was very apprehensive when I opened my EC3, but as it turned out mine was OK. The wiring issue probably applies to older units, and perhaps those with tubes, because of added heat stress, are more prone than others.
My EC3 was very clean inside and out, so I didn’t do any detailed cleaning and oiling. The folks at binson.com sell detailed cleaning instructions for the drum and head area, as well as schematics for all the Binsons. They also provide repair services and a bit of info on the Binson company and products.
As it turned out, getting a 100% wet signal from the Binson was pretty easy. You can tap the signal straight from one of the lugs of the tone pot. It’s a strong signal, and doesn’t hamper the mixing pot’s (labelled “volume” here) function, so if you prefer to use only one output, you can still have the dry & wet signals on the same jack, or turn the pot to zero for a dry only return.
I simply soldered a wire from the tone pot to a hijacked output (I don’t need three of them anyway…), and that did the trick. Doing so allowed me to get a strong delay signal without overloading the input stage, so now my Binson has become much more useful and better sounding. Quick, easy and effective!
|Binson (Milan, Italy)
|Each head had an on/off switch for playback (single repeat) and feedback
|3 (all similar)
|3 (same signal)
|Wet output only
|not without modification
|110v / 220v (Switch inside unit)
|Binson PE series (rackmount, with more playback heads)