There isn’t much info going around on the Japanese Mirano company: apart from a line of tape delays, a fuzz pedal and a booster pedal, I couldn’t locate anything else online. For reasons I ignore, I do know that they later became the Hawk Corporation, who produced a few more delay units such as the amazing HE-2250.
No doubt one of the most sought-after features of the Mirano 3 is its tube circuitry, which in itself makes it appealing. Using an electric guitar plugged directly in the unit made it warmer and fuller sounding, although I couldn’t overdrive my guitar through it, even with the Mirano and guitar volumes at maximum. The delayed signal can be overdriven easily, but not the dry signal, so I guess you would need a signal boost at the input to do so, at the expense of a clean delay. Nevertheless, I’ve used it as a clean preamp on occasion.
The delays themselves sound very nice and decay beautifully, albeit not cleanly, especially with a loud input signal. The Mirano can self-oscillate, and the 6-position “mood” switch provides a good palette of settings. The input level is read through a glowing magic eye tube, which pulsates in sync with the signal amplitude; although not an essential feature, I find this magic eye very cool to stare at.
Perhaps the unit’s weakest point is its fixed motor speed, which makes it hard to dial in a synchronized delay. That, and the fact that the motor is also spinning a cooling fan for the tubes (see pictures below), which can get pretty noisy. I don’t know how quiet these units were at the time of original purchase, but mine isn’t suitable for a quiet studio.
One more negative is that the pinch roller never disengages from the capstan, even when the unit’s turned off (although you can turn just the motor off if you’re using the Mirano as a preamp). This could potentially be a source of problems for the pinch roller if, for example, the Mirano is left in storage for many years. I’ve seen many pinch rollers permanently difformed by such a situation.
Despite these flaws, the Mirano is a great machine in a class of its own, rivaling perhaps the most famous Echoplex tube echos.
There are many other Mirano echo models, some of them I’ve only seen pictures of, such as the 3R, 3R-S & 4R models. I have one more Mirano echo in my collection, the T-4.
Although my Mirano was in great cosmetic shape when I purchased it, I had a nasty surprise when I turned it on for the first time: the motor was terribly loud! The sound of the motor spinning was so loud that it almost drowned out the sound of my playing. Obviously some maintenance was in order…
After the usual tape path cleaning and loop replacement, I opened up the unit and stared at a big motor with a fan attached to it, as well as forty years of sticky dust on the electronics and tubes. I decided to apply a few drops (two or three max) of sewing machine oil on the motor shaft where I could access it, waited a few minutes, then turned it on again. It was better, but still a bit noisy. The next day, I turned the Mirano on again, and this time it was a quiet as it can be. I guess the oil needed a long time to spread along the shaft and properly lubricate it.
Here’s a list of the Mirano 3’s tubes:
- 6BM8 (triode + pentode amplifier)
- 6AR5 (power pentode (used as erase oscillator?))
- 6×4 (rectifier)
- 6av6 / ebc91 (twin diode / hi-mu triode)
- 6da5 / em81 (magic eye tube)
- 3 x 12ax7
Fortunately, all of them are fairly easy to find, and relatively inexpensive, except perhaps for the magic eye tube, which I’ve seen for sale for 10 to 20$US (August 2008).
|Date||Possibly late 60s|
|Transport type||Tension tape loop|
|Head selection||6-position "mood" switch, plus "echo" (one repeat only) and "repeat" mode|
|Outputs||Output 1(mix/dry), Output 2 for mixer (wet only)|
|Wet output only||Yes, through Output 2|
|Pinch roller||Fixed to capstan, doesn't disengage|
|Tone control||Yes, for delayed signal|
|Remote Control||On/off jack|
|Related models||Model 3R has an extra input, while Model 3R-S has an echo mode, "swell". See also Mirano T-4|