A classic and sought-after tone polisher, the EP-PRE is based on the Echoplex 3 Tape Delay preamp. If you already like your tone, imagine an extra dimension in harmonics and essence, whether playing electric guitar/bass or acoustic. The accompany demo tackles a number of instances and with various pedals (drives, delays, modulations) and preamps/amps. The EP-PRE includes two settings, based on the older (bright) and later (dark/warm) versions of the Echoplex, and this provides flexibility depending on what gear you’re using. For instance, if a tone is trebly or thin, the ‘dark’ version on the EP-PRE will make it sound fuller and richer; on the other hand, if a tone sounds too muddy or flat, the EP-PRE’s ‘bright’ version adds sparkle and upper harmonics.

The EP-PRE improves tone two-fold. First, the phase response of the circuit makes the EP-PRE effective in how it works with and enhances other gear. Second, the type of JFET used in the pedal is very similar to the original TIS58 found in the Echoplex 3 (which has long been out of production, but Peter Clinch, the engineer of the EP-PRE, discovered a limited production of JFET that came very close to the T1S58). To Peter’s knowledge ClinchFX is the only pedal manufacturer using this particular JFET.

Generally the EP-PRE should be placed after drive pedals, but before delays, reverbs and modulations (personal preference may dictate otherwise). The chicken knob controlling Volume does not increase volume very much and likely no more than a few decibels. Rather, the effect kicks in around 8- to 9-o’clock and once past that point the ‘effect’ from the EP-PRE becomes more prominent, as though increasing in mix. The result of that extra mix is not as significant with a clean tone or how it affects delays, reverbs and modulations, but is obvious with drives, distortions and dirty amps, viz., they sound more hot-rodded and aggressive.

You select the Version of pre-amp tone by the toggle switch located in the back of the unit (protected by a bezel to prevent accidental damage or flipping). Flipped up provides a brighter and older version of the Echoplex 3 preamp, whereas flipped down is a more current and warmer version of the preamp. Generally, I prefer the brighter version with an acoustic, but my drive pedals and amps vary – some tend to be either darker or brighter and seem to enhance differently with each version. Digital delays, reverbs and modulations sound good with either version, but in different ways (whether wanting a brighter or darker richness to the sound).

Developed and sold since 2008, the EP-PRE is a much desired pedal used by world-class musicians. A favorite of Pete Thorn’s, the EP-PRE is one of those pedals that you turn on and forget; it’s that simple to use and that effective. The amount of tweaking is negligible, as once you find the sweet spot (typically between 9- and 12-o’clock) there’s not much more to consider. However, an improvement in tone is only one element of the EP-PRE – the Echoplex preamp circuit was designed to boost and improve the quality and depth of a tape delay sound, and the same is true of the EP-PRE. There is a noticeable ‘richness’ and depth in delay/reverb/modulation quality that is apparent upon first listen. Consequently, if you want your digital effects to sound more organic or authentic, this is the pedal.

ClinchFX’s quality control is first rate in its parts, but also considering every pedal is tested and ready for shipping prior to payment. Peter Clinch also includes a preloaded Velcro on the pedal’s bottom, covered by a rubber protective strip (to prevent damage to floors, wood pedalboards, etc., if not using the Velcro). The protective rubber strip/pad can be removed and replaced repeatedly as needed. Finally, the power input is compatible with both 9VDC and 12VDC power sources (standard 2.1mm DC plug with centre negative) while drawing only 5mA of power – or you can use a 9VDC battery (not included).
At $149 USD (includes shipping to North America, with a Belgium distributor servicing Europe) the EP-PRE has a typical price, but is a worthy investment considering how well it improves a guitar’s tone and pedal effects; it will bring value to your pedalboard, rather than merely take up real estate with infrequent use. The EP-PRE does exactly what it’s supposed to, and its only limitation may be lacking more of a boost when turning up the volume – but that’s where the EP+ enters the picture, a different version (EP-PRE + Boost) of the Echoplex preamp by ClinchFX.