Electronic Audio Experiments' John Snyder on His Brand-New Pedal: The Sending Analog Delay

Editor's note: The Electronic Audio Experiments Sending Analog Delay is a brand-new, hand-built pedal. Pedals from the first run of 50 are available for pre-order now, exclusively through Reverb. EAE will be donating 10 percent of its gross sales from this pre-order to RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services). Continue reading for an interview with the pedal's creator, John Snyder.

Sometimes it feels like we are stuck in an arms race where every new delay pedal that hits the market attempts to offer a feature set deeper than the last. John Snyder—the mastermind behind Electronic Audio Experiments—has bucked the trend, spending the past year and a half engineering a stompbox that simply strives to be the most tonally rich delay ever created.

Electronic Audio Experiments
Sending Analog Delay
Pre-Order Now on Reverb

Sending is an all-analog delay and discrete preamp with tap tempo control and an FX loop to add effects to the delay's repeats. It features the familiar trio of Time, Feedback, and Mix controls, as well as a set of Pre and Post knobs for dialing in your preamp gain, and a tap tempo footswitch that's capable of pushing past the 1000ms ceiling found on the Time knob, all the way up to 2000ms. Overworking the delay chips like this gives you access to troves of aliasing and grime on the delay line, or, more simply, instant lo-fi delay.

John spends his days working toward a PhD in electrical engineering at Boston University, with a specialization in integrated nonlinear quantum optics. The devices he creates there split lasers—yes, split lasers—into quantum entangled particles, with the ultimate objective of using them in a quantum computing network. (To very briefly explain: An individual photon, when split, will become two "entangled" particles that act as if they are still connected, even when separated by great distances.)

This advanced knowledge of electronics and physics allows a level of pedal design we do not come across everyday. We were fortunate enough to talk to the revolutionary young designer about his inspirations behind this device, what the design process was like, and just what makes the Sending so special.

Where does the inspiration for Sending start?

Delay is my favorite effect. I have been obsessed with delay ever since I got an MXR Carbon Copy when I was a teenager. I've tried so many different takes on delay, analog delay, digital delay, modeled delays, tape delay with tubes in them, weird oil can shit. You name it, I've played it at some point. And analog delay is the one I keep coming back to.

My favorite is the vintage EHX Deluxe Memory Man (with the MN3005 Bucket Brigade chips) because of the modulation and because of the preamp. And of course the SAD1024 BBD one because they just sound really clear. [It] was always this sort of thing I was chasing.

The DMM preamp sounds really good through a dirty amp, but it sounds really fizzy on its own, or if you overdrive the Moogerfooger delay it has sort of a fuzzier characteristic to it, which i really like, but it doesn't like high output pickups. Why do people like the Echoplex so much that they will just go out and buy an EP booster? Because you have this very sort of dialed in thing.

There are all sorts of things like this, and what I ended up realizing—the common thread with all this—is that the difference between a good delay and a great delay is the preamp.

You put all that together and I'm like, "OK, what can I do to make the pedal that would kick all the other delays off my board?" That was kind of where it started—but I guess where it finished was over-engineering the crap out of certain parts of the design.

Electronic Audio Experiments - Sending Analog Delay Demo by aBunchOfPedals

What were your goals with this preamp, and was it designed specifically for this delay?

Yeah, so I started this preamp on its own and was like, "That sounds fine." Then I got it to sound good on its own, and put it into a Boss DM-2 clone as a testing platform. I realized the preamp circuit wasn't the whole thing—the mixing circuit also had to have some interesting clipping on it. Then you have the preamp, the delay line, and the mixer all contributing their own coloration to it, and that all just kind of went together.

When you turn up some gain controls, they cut high frequencies, because you don't want it to get harsher at high gains—great. Others, you turn up the gain and it gets brighter at high gains, like a DOD 250 [preamp], and that will get you a tighter set of high gains—also great. I wanted neither of those to happen, because you want a delay to not color your playing in any sort of way, you've got a sound and you just want to add echoes to it.

So if you want transparent saturation (which is an oxymoron, but bare with me) you have to get something with at least a psycho-acoustically flat response. It was this balancing act of gain and frequency for different things.

Were there any circuit inspirations for that "transparent" preamp?

Electronic Audio Experiments Sending Analog Delay (Photo by aBunchOfPedals)

The preamp part is not something I got from any specific person. It was just from me reading a lot of old textbooks and being like, "Oh, well I like this old microphone preamp design from the '60s, or this discrete phono preamp." Things that sort of looked like discrete op-amps but aren't.

I wanted something like the console-grind [a type of distortion created by recording studio consoles' clipping] but didn't want it to sound like a Neve, and I didn't want it to sound like a Tascam. I just sort of took that abstract concept of console distortion and applied it to a delay. So taking those [ideas] and trying to see something that can be a good circuit citizen and drive the rest of the delay circuit gracefully.

Did any particular music inspire Sending, where you first heard a sound like this?

I don't remember what post-rock band it was—they all kind of do this to an extent—but when a post-rock band has that perfect mix of overdrive and delay, with tremolo picking, it sounds more like a string section than tremolo picked guitar. [Like] those parts in a Mono song—it doesn't sound like there's reverb there or like it's a big cave. It's just kind of a wash.

To the best of my understanding a lot of that comes from the use of an SIB Echodrive [a series of delay pedals with a preamp tube in it, made by SIB], where it is very grainy sounding, it's very dense. You don't need these big space ambient delay times.

Mono - "A Speeding Car"

Why use the recently reissued, and expensive MN3005 chip?

I already like a lot of the analog delays that exist already, and I could have just used a bunch of the MN3205 BBDs like the Maxon AD999 uses, but running numbers I was like, "There is no way this is going to work out." If I was to go analog, the MN3005 was the obvious choice.The MN3005 run a higher headroom.

There is a reoccuring theme in a lot my pedals—being able to have a lot of headroom—because I like synthesizers and I also play a Travis Bean [guitar] with stupidly hot pickups. You put those two together and pedals have to take the heat, that is a very personal sort of crusade that I have just imposed on people.

Now, I also considered the PT3299, because that chip is readily available, it sounds amazing, you can do a lot with it, but I sort of realized I'd end up competing with the Caroline Kilobyte because that's my favorite PT2399 delay, and, frankly, I think it sounds so good I didn't want to come at in any sort of way.

If that pedal's been invented, I don't want to reinvent it, whereas in the analog world there is still more to cover that haven't found anywhere else. [And] obviously there is the Chase Bliss stuff, there's the Deluxe Memory Man with tap tempo, and then there might be a couple of [MN3005] tap tempo analog delays in the market, but I don't really know of that many.

How would you compare it to any of the new MN3005 delays?

People have said, "Well, this thing costs as much a [Chase Bliss] Tonal Recall, why should i get this?" Well, I ask, "Can you make a Tonal Recall sound like this one?" Just from a simple euphonic guitar standpoint, I had a vision in mind that was literally what I wanted, and if what I do is the sound for you, congratulations, you've made it! Welcome to my wild ride. If you've found your home elsewhere with a delay that has more sounds rather, than a sound that it just leans into super hard, well that's the joy of pedals—you could pick, or do both if you really crazy.

Just put a Tonal Recall in the Sending effects loop.

Yeah put the Tonal Recall in the effects loop, lose your mind!

John asked to publicly acknowledge some people who helped him realize this dream pedal: Sarah Bogosh, aka Bad Ponies Illustration, for artwork. Korey at FY!EP, Adam and Jen from Stompbox Sonic, Jake from Defeater/Dreamtigers, Ricky from Foxing for beta-testing a bunch pedals, Ian at collector//emitter, and Cathy from datachoir for demo work. Evan and the Reverb team. Andy Pitcher (why, thank you John).

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