While the first part of this review was dedicated to the design of the Ibanez ES3 Echo Shifter, now it comes to the crunch: the sound of this brilliant delay pedal.
The Ibanez ES3 scores with classical analog delay sounds. According to custom of analog delays, they are brighter with short delay times and get darker and washed out the longer the delay time is adjusted. The mix pot allows to create a beautiful delay background which embeds the guitar signal marvelously into a dark drifting.
Actually, the ES3 sounds different from the ES2. Maybe, it is a pure subjective feeling for the mix pot of the ES2 adds a bit more of the delay signal while it is maxed. The mixing ratio of the ES3 with a maxed mix pot is rather a 50/50 proportion.
The repeats of the analog delays or the ES3 are emphasized the lower mids and remind me somehow of the Carbon Copy Deluxe or the Deluxe Memory Man. Whereas the sound of the ES2 with more upper mids reminds of the Rubberneck or the Deluxe Memory Boy.
The slightly “scooped” sound of the ES3 fits perfect into the mix and I really like it a lot although in total the repeats of the ES3 stay a bit more in the background than the repeats of the ES2.
The modulation can be adjusted quite well with the pots for speed and depth and creates a marvelous 3D-effect via the slight chorus effect which makes the signal even more vivid. It is also possible to simulate a Leslie.
For those who love to experiment, the range pot ought to be perfect for it allows to create crazy pitch effects.
To be able to adjust the modulation perfectly, a pulsing LED for the modulation would have been a nice feature, but even without this “nice-to-have”, I really like the modulation a lot.
By turning the time slider all the way down, the pedal can also be used quite well a chorus or even a flanger (by adding more repeats). Actually, I was able to find a setting that reminded me of a spring reverb. But be aware: a short delay times, a high number of repeats and a dynamic style of playing might lead to oscillation.
For the predecessor was completely analog, the digital delay is the innovation of the ES3 Echo Shifter. The repeats sound very percussive and provide a proper frequency range.
Because the sound of the digital delay is a bit brighter than the analog sound, the repeats are louder. Therefore, it is possible to use the analog delays to thicken the sound and add some digital delays for rhythmical parts.
With the speed pot turned up, the LFO of the modulation creates diverse wave-forms and thereby acts a bit different from the modulation of an analog delay.
The full sound and the well-designed modulation enable the user of the digital setting even to produce a tape delay. I would not have been surprised if the labeling of the toggle switch would have been “analog” and “tape(emulation”.
Time slider and oscillation
The oscillation and the playing with the time slider make the Echo Shifter pedals unique. The oscillating signal easily overdrives, does not get too loud and can be controlled very well by using the time slider. The possibility to activate the oscillation via the footswitch makes this function even more attractive for guitarists.
Remarkable is also, that the bug of the predecessor, that the tapped delay time got lost while you deactivated the pedal, has been eliminated.
The Ibanez ES3 Echo Shifter is a compact delay pedal that combines a true analog sound with a nice sounding digital delay. It provides tap tempo and modulation and has numerous great sounding sweet spots. Unfortunately, such pedals are still a rarity, although they are, regarding the little space on every pedalboard, so important.
With the ES3 Ibanez created a perfect allrounder which offer especially for the analog delay features like its oscillation and the slider function that will delight adventurous guitarists and synth players at the same time.
At the moment, this pedal is available for ridiculous 179€. A brilliant price/performance ratio that might make some boutique pedal manufacturers get envious.