This is a tube tape echo much like the Mirano 3, with 4 playback heads, a separate output for the delay signal, a tone control and a cool “magic eye” for input level metering. In addition, it has a couple of extra features, such as on/off switches for each head, as well as a switch that stops the motor and disengages the pinch roller. It even has a funky typo on the front panel: Iwase Electoronic Co…. Loaded with features!
On the negative side, of course, is the fixed speed motor… This isn’t necessarily a big problem for most applications, but when trying to sync a delay to, say, a drum loop, it becomes an issue. You can always change the tempo of the loop to match the tape echo’s speed, but that can only be done to a certain extent without completely changing the feel of the track…
This is one of the oddest delays in ESTECHO’s collection: I haven’t seen another Iwase musical instrument before or since, and I couldn’t find any information about the company or the Voice Echo Machine, even after kanji searches on Google Japan. I know for sure that Iwase also manufactured mixers, because the delay signal is labelled “to Voice mixer out”, but I’ve never seen one. Perhaps the similarities between this unit and the Mirano units imply a connection between the companies, but I can’t be sure.
There are a few strange things about this machine that I don’t really understand. I haven’t done extensive testing on it, maybe I could figure out things if I did, so for now I can only speculate. The first oddity is the presence of an extra tube socket, which is wired to the circuit, but didn’t have a tube in it when I received the unit (and it works fine this way). There’s also a big hole with two smaller screw holes next to it (maybe for a can capacitor?) which has never been used. Check out the pictures below to see what I mean.
Next is a two-way switch located near the motor on/off switch on the front panel. I’ve played with it numerous times, but wasn’t able to notice any difference when using it. It seems connected to the pinch roller disengage mechanism, or the motor, but seems useless… The motor itself is a “hysteresis” motor made in Japan (see pic below), very quiet and sturdy. Here’s what Wiktionary says about hysteresis motors:
“a type of synchronous motor in which the rotor consists of a central nonmagnetic core around which are rings of material with a high degree of magnetic hysteresis; it generates near constant torque at varying speeds, even when starting”
I’m not quite sure what this implies for tape echos.
There are a few pots accessible inside the unit. One of them is used to tweak the dry signal input level going to the tape. Crank this one up and the tapes will saturate nastily… There are also screw pots for each of the tape heads, I don’t remember exactly what they’re for, but its either for the head return volume or feedback level.
Here’s a list of the Iwase Voice’s tubes; all of them are fairly easy to find and relatively inexpensive, except perhaps for the magic eye tube. Speaking of which, I couldn’t read the tube’s type easily, and didn’t feel like dislodging it from its position (it’s kind of tricky), so I don’t know what model the magic eye is.
- 4 x 12ax7 (triode)
- 6av6 / ebc91 (twin diode / hi-mu triode)
|Possibly late 60s
|Tension tape loop
|Individual on/off switch for each head, plus "echo", "repeat" and "swell" modes
|Output 1(mix/dry), Output 2 for mixer (wet only)
|Wet output only
|Capstan can disengage from pinch roller
|Tone balance knob for delayed signal
|This tape echo is similar to the Mirano units, but connection between the two companies in unconfirmed.