Custom Shop Solid State Tape Echo v2


The definitive How to Install a Tape Cart in a Fulltone SSTE (Hi-Res video) is live now on the Official Fulltone YouTube channel.

NEW FEATURES ON SSTE V2 (serial #429 and higher)

  1. The SSTE has always had a low-impedance JFET buffer on its output to isolate it from the affects of other devices and to alleviate the loading from other effects and the many feet of cable in your signal chain. SSTE v2 includes a Buffer Bypass switch to remove that JFET buffer and (makes it into a vintage Echoplex EP-3) get significant loading on the output which results in a considerable warming-up the echo repeats! Going for “Vintage?” Turn OFF the Buffer! I also prefer the sound of an SSTE with the buffer turned off. Note: All v2s, and even SSTEs (serial# 387 and higher) have this switch.

  2. The Preamp, Echo Repeats, and Echo Playback circuits are now completely isolated from each-other, allowing for:

    • only one repeat with Echo Repeats knob turned down all the way. Not possible on v1.
    • 100% wet echo (no Instrument sound present) with Instrument Volume set full counterclockwise. Crucial for studio use, when you want to feature or pan only the echo. Not possible with v1.
    • 100% Dry Instrument sound (no echo sound present) with Echo Volume knob set full counterclockwise.
  3. Echo Tone Knob replaces the old tone-switch for infinite control of the brightness of the echo repeats. This knob only affects the echo repeats, not your guitar (instrument) sound.

  4. Increased shielding around the Output jack area inside the unit.

  5. SSTEs now have a Buffer Bypass toggle-switch allowing a choice between "Buffered" or "Bypassed" output. Why? A SSTE without its output buffer is very much an early EP-3 Echoplex circuit. SSTEs & EP-3s have a pair of potentiometers on their output that cause an unhealthily-high output impedance, degrading the instrument's treble and the brightness of the repeats! BUT, some people like this effect, and I've had people ask me "Can you make yours sound more like an EP-3?" Apparently the EP-3's loaded-down output is an asset? All kidding aside, I get it, as I also prefer the sound of an SSTE with the buffer turned off.
    NOTE: v2 SSTEs (any SSTE #427 or higher) and SSTEs (serial# 387 and higher) have this switch, but not the previous features

In the early 80's I worked in music stores teaching Guitar and selling & repairing gear. One day a guy came in with a 70's Echoplex EP-3 tape delay asking $30 for it!. The owner of the store said he didn't want it so I bought it and thus was born a life-long love affair with tape echo. I used that solid-state Echoplex all through the 80's and early 90's. Everyone else showed up for auditions with a refrigerator rack full of cold, thin sounding gear, and more often than not I'd steal the gig using a pair of Blackface Fenders, a Plexi Marshall Half stack, a couple of homemade pedals and that trusty early version EP-3.

Why do Page, early Van Halen, Brian may, Steve Stevens, etc seem to favor those early EP-3's? Because of the sound and feel of the preamp. It's that TIS58 JFET running on 22 volts, but not just that. The first version EP-3's cut a bit of Bass and boost the highs a little, creating a beautiful sound and feel that no other delay, nor any of the "EP-3 preamp pedals" can accurately create when running on anything less than 22 volts. That's just what a loud 4x12 Marshall amp needs....less bass, and more clarity.

What is the downside to using an old Echoplex? No one knows how to adjust, optimize, or repair them, AND they produce a massive amount of hum that you just have to get used to. Nowadays no one will put up with that ever-present hum. Back then they had inferior recording-head technology, crappy tape, and didn’t have a clue how to lay out a circuit. There I said it. With all those wires strewn about, all up in the air, acting like antennas, and too many grounding points, instead of tying them all together to one…no wonder Echoplexes are so damned noisy!

Stop with the boring old stories, tell me about this SSTE!


  • 1/3 smaller than the original Echoplex (9.5" W x 7.25" D x 5.6" H) Handmade and bullet-proof.

  • 1/4" tape for FAT sounding delay, using the ball-bearing equipped Fulltone ETC-2 Tape Cartridge.

  • None of Hum found in vintage Echoplexes.

  • Optimal 1.1 mega ohm Input impedance and super-low 10K output impedance …SSTE has none of the issues that Echoplexes have driving long cables and is not affected by devices coming before or after, either. EP-3’s have a 200K-350K output impedance and no output buffer…that causes interaction issues!

  • True-Bypass toggle switch, which you won’t use much because of the SSTE’s low output impedance, but it’s nice to be able to bypass to check your levels.

  • 2 Tape speeds with a moveable Playback head to achieve everything from super-quick Plate Reverb emulations, to Rockabilly slapbacks, to a full 1 second delays. Manipulating a moveable playback head is the only way to achieve the Jimmy Page-like self-oscillating trick using a tape echo.

  • 2 Preamp Modes:

    1. EP-3 mode is the identical TIS58 JFET circuit of the first version (pre-serial #9451) Echoplex EP-3, offering that slight bass cut and slight treble boost favored by Page, Brian May, Steve Stevens, Tommy Bolin, etc. that works so well in high-volume stage situations.
    2. Full mode is dead-on, honest, full-range rich sound, just like your bypassed sound, in case you aren’t craving that unique Ep-3 color. Beautiful.
  • Separate Instrument Volume & Echo Volume control knobs - unlike the single “Mix” knob on an EP-3 which gave a fixed Instrument Volume and increased Hum as you turned clockwise. The SSTE’s Instrument Volume knob has a center detente at 12 o’clock denoting “approximate unity gain” and up to 15dB of clean boost available as you turn clockwise.

  • Echo Repeats - turn clockwise to add repeats, and easily go into self-oscillation around 1 o’clock depending on Record Level knob setting.

  • Record Level - small mini-knob adjusts how much signal smacks the tape. 3 o’clock is normal, above that and the Echoes get THICKER.

  • Relay-activated footswitchable Echo Cancel - unlike Echoplexes, the SSTE doesn't route the Echo signal through the echo cancel footswitch…which absolutely kills the delay sound if you use a cable over 6 feet in length. With the SSTE and using the (optional) Fulltone Echo Cancel Footswitch (ECF) you can use any standard guitar cable up to 500ft in length if need-be. And there’s no need to power the footswitch to see its bright Red & Green LED’s because the power is sent through that cable from the SSTE... Pretty slick, eh?

Additional Photos

Mike Fuller's favorite clean recording tone - Fulltone SSTE v2Fulltone SSTE v2 - ClosedFulltone SSTE v2 - InternalsFulltone SSTE v2 - Internal- no shroudFulltone SSTE v2 - internal - with shroudFulltone SSTE v2 - front viewFulltone SSTE v2 - top view with cartridge