Electro Harmonix Memory Man Deluxe (the blue, 1970s version with Squelch knob) as Pre-Amp. Part One

Hello, no blogs last week but today a new article about the Electro Harmonix Memory Man Delay/Echo pedal.
Let me explain first what you can expect for the next few articles: Today an article about the Memory Man used as preamp. The next few articles will look at the Memory Man as delaypedal. There will be an article about U2 and the Edge, who is the most well-known user of this older delaypedal. I will give you some videos of U2 songs and explain you where he uses the Memory Man and how he uses it. This is somewhat a guess, as we all know how recordings get manipulated after the recording process, but I think I can be fairly close, because I do know the sound of the pedal, and the amps the Edge used at that particular time. The top-amp in the image of today’s article comes quite close to that sound. It is a 1960s Selmer and works quite well with the Memory Man.
Furthermore there will be an article about the Clone Theory, again a Electro Harmonix pedal from the 1970s, it is the one with the chorus-vibrato/vibrato-vibrato/vibrato-flange control at the back.
Both the older Blue Memory Man and the Clone Theory are not featured heavily YouTube. There are many videos of later pedals based on these models but not many of the models I mentioned here.

Okay, quite a few articles there, let me kick off with today’s pre-amp article. I have mentioned the term pre-amp before in previous articles. It its most basic form a pre-amp is another volumestage which can put extra volume into your guitar amplifier. This extra bit of volume can create some distortion.
The Electro Harmonix Memory Man is it it’s strickest sense is a delay/echo pedal. It is a very primitive delay pedal, which may be better at echosound rather than delay, because it’s maximum delaytime is very short. However, it is very easy to modify this pedal to get delaytimes as almost as long as a Boss DD3, but later on more about the delay function of this pedal. I will create another article which will deal with this function.
The uniqueness of the Memory Man lies in the fact that the level control, controls the overal tone and level of your guitarsignal. In other words, the levelcontrol on the delay will work as a master volume for your guitarsignal. Put the level at max and your guitarsignal will be boosted. 

    Controls on the Memory Man :

The Memory Man does have the controls you would expect from any standard delaypedal: Level which controls your overal guitarsignal. Blend- to get a mix of your direct- and effected level-, Feedback, which controls the amount of repeats you get from the delaysound. Delay, which controls the time of the delayed sound. There is an output for Echo and for Direct Sound, which is useful if you are using two amps. What is not usual is the Squelch control at the backside of the pedal. This control works as a filter, when engaged it cuts down on noise and the number of repeats. When using the pedal as pre-amp you want the squelch control to be off, as it gives you a somewhat hotter signal. Furthermore, there is a footswitch to switch the effect on or off. The pedal does have its own build-in transformer which operates on mains, which means you do not need an external powersupply, just put the powerplug into the mains and you are in business. The pedal is switched on by a small switch which is connected to an LED to let you know pedal is on or off.  Use the footswitch to put the EFFECT into your signalchain.

As mentioned before the Memory Man acts as a very primitive delaypedal: The controls are crude compared to any of the Boss Delay pedals. The soundquality of the delay is crude and raw as well. When you hear this pedal for the first time, and you are used to your crisp and clean digital delays, you will be in for a shock: The pedal sounds downright rude and harsh to say the least. However none of this is an issue when you put the pedal in the mix of a song. The overal sound can become part of your distorted tone and this may be the joys why guitar players like using this pedal!

   How To Get Distortion Out of the Memory Man?:

Simple really, put level at near max, blend somewhere half way –yes you do need this!!– Feedback halfway as well, and maybe a bit of delay to create a not-too-dry sound, all depending on your amp and taste of course. Squelch is off!
The result is a distortion which does not remind me of any particular pedal at all. It is a primitive sound, and reminds me most of the sound of raw punk: It is pure and not too far off from your original sound, just adds a little bit of bark and hiss to your tone.
I used a distortion pedal after the Memory Man, just to add a bit of crispness and to get a less dryer sound. Dry sound? Play through a mixer, and put the pre-amp up and listen to the kind of distortion you get, compare this to the sound of a pedal, or a distortion-channel of an amp. It is quite dry and needs something extra to create a more pleasing sound.  I tried a Boss OD-3 and SD-1 and found that the SD-1 was a bit better, more primitive if you like. I have to admit, this may have depended on my mood of the day. Anyway, the OD-3 was good at creating more brightness and treble to the sound. But then, my Selmer did not need any more of this sound as it does have enough treble of its own [Think any British amp for that matter: Marshall, Vox ect.]

  By-Pass and Older Pedals:

When you are familiar with discussions on the web about tone, you will know that by-pass is a hot topic: A pedal which can directly bypass your signal is a desired pedal because it does not colour your orginal guitartone when the pedal is not engaged. Guess what is the case with the Memory Man? This pedal does not bypass your tone at all! You can switch the pedal off, and although you may have switched off the delaysound, the level control of the pedal will still be active for your original, dry signal. This feature gives the pedal it’s unique character in being able to overdrive your original guitar signal with an extra bit of boost. Quite uncommon to find this feature on a Delay pedal.
There are other delay/sample pedals which do feature in-and outputs which control your  overal signal, but not many can actually overdrive your sound. The digitech PDS 2001, for example, does contain an out-and input control which is quite useful, but this is another pedal altogether, and will not do what the Memory Man does.

  Other Analogue Delays and Over Drive?:

Will any analogue delay be able to give you the sound the Memory Man does? Well the sound is a combination of the pedal not bypassing your tone and being able to overdrive this tone with a bit of extra signal. The fact that it is analogue is also a feature, but less important really. As far as I know, I do not know of any other analogue delays which are able to give you this sound. I also do not know if newer Memory Man pedals can create this sound. The key is in finding out if the pedal bypasses your sound or not. There are videos on You Tube about the predecessor of the Blue Memory Man, and these pedals are praised a lot for their overal sound and uniqueness.
Once you have found a Memory Man, check it out carefully to see if all works as it should. They can be repaired if faulty, although to replace the delaychip may be harder as they are harder to find these days.

Next time: The Memory Man used as a Delay, and U2 and the Edge with lots of videos from their first three albums. 

See you soon,
Eddie