- Eventide has been in the delay game for just about as long as anyone. The company began life as an OEM and made delay boxes for functional rather than artistic purposes. The BD955 Broadcast Delay was built for catching obscenities on air, while the 1745 DDL provided a practical alternative to tape delays and their operators for recording studios. Even the now-classic Harmonizer series, starting with the H910, found its first use in television broadcasting, where it was used to re-pitch reruns that were sped up to fit in more commercials. It's a quirky origin story but far from unusual in the history of electronic music, which was founded on repurposing technology for artistic purposes. The H910's successor, the H3000, and the DDL series went on to become studio staples, with fans including everyone from Brian Eno and Throbbing Gristle to Eddie Van Halen.
In recent years, Eventide has been adapting its classic algorithms to plug-in form and has repackaged some of its greatest hits into compact, cheaper products. UltraTap, the company's latest delay plug-in, doesn't fall squarely into either camp. The new plug-in is more or less identical to the UltraTap effect found in the H9 multi-effects unit, right down to the graphical interface. So the UltraTap is redundant for musicians and producers who already have access to an H9 pedal. But if the €400 price for the H9 is too steep for you, the UltraTap plug-in is particularly appealing—it's available at a fraction of the cost.
The UltraTap is a highly flexible tape-style delay with both straightforward and unique controls. An array of knobs and switches (not to mention a virtual ribbon controller) offer a wide range of manipulation options, with up to 64 delay taps that can be compressed or scattered any which way over the delay time. Spread controls the temporal spacing of the taps: turning the knob to the left will group taps towards the beginning while turning the knob to the right groups taps towards the end for a speeding-up sound. Taper, meanwhile, controls the volume fade of the taps.
Having these two controls independent of each other makes it easy to quickly construct some pretty out-there delays. But things get even stranger when you start playing with the Slurm control. It's an initially confusing parameter until you figure out it's a portmanteau for tape slur and smear. Eventide describes Slurm as combining "slowly varying (random) multi-voice detuning (micro-pitching) modulation AND smearing/slurring via a very small-reverb-like diffusion." I can't say I picked up on all that when using the effect, but it certainly sounded a lot richer than many other tape distortion effects I've used. In practice, it seemed that turning Slurm clockwise created subtle but shimmering chorus. Beyond 12 o'clock, the so-called slurming (and a fair amount of lowpass filtering) becomes more pronounced and begins to function as a reverb.
Some of the UltraTap's other features are more familiar but no less useful. The Width control lets you dial in ping-pong panning and the Tone knob works exactly how you think it would. The last of the recognisable parameters is Chop, a pre-delay "chopping" tremolo with triangle, saw, ramp, square and sample-and-hold LFO options. Straightforward enough, but Chop's other function as an auto-volume processor took me a bit longer to wrap my head around. You can set it to create swells of different intensities or as a triggered gate but in practice it was tricky to control. Chop also has a Ribbon mode, where the ribbon strip functions as a gain control for the signal as it enters the "Tap-machine," as Eventide calls it. By default, the ribbon is mapped to receive mod-wheel CCs so this setting might be fun to play around with using a keyboard controller. Without one, it's not particularly useful.
The bank of signal-processing knobs is bookended by a pair of in/out gain controls, each offering up to 12dB of boost and 60dB of attenuation. The bottom of the window is dominated by the ribbon controller and buttons for on/off, tap-tempo and a Hotswitch function that allows you to quickly toggle between two presets. Among the three, tap-tempo is a particularly welcome inclusion because you can switch the effect's tempo sync between the internal tap tempo, the host software's clock or turn off tempo-sync altogether. In either of the sync modes, the Length knob switches from showing the delay time in milliseconds to note lengths, giving you a wide range of time divisions and possibilities for rhythm-mangling.
If this all seems a bit overwhelming, the UltraTap has no shortage of excellent presets to get you started, spanning everything from conventional delays and reverbs to intense tremolos, glitchy swells and wild modulation effects. A Mixlock button allows you to keep the wet/dry mix constant as you flip through presets, which turned out to be quite handy. In addition to seven banks of factory patches (including those from the H9 pedal), there's an impressive selection of presets from the likes of Chris Carter, Colin Newman and others. Although a lot of these felt like variations on a theme, some patches were very impressive and really pushed the sound-altering capabilities of the UltraTap. Carter's presets in particular are great demonstrations of how to incorporate the ribbon controller. In general, the ribbon works as one giant macro control for as many settings as you want. Setting the ribbon's control range for a parameter is easy and intuitive but it takes trying presets that make use of the ribbon in creative ways to appreciate it.
Despite being marketed as a multi-tap tape delay, the UltraTap is a surprisingly deep sound manipulation tool. Sure, you could use it as a normal (though high-quality) multi-tap delay but that would be selling its many other abilities short. Like so many of Eventide's effects, the UltraTap feels like one of those versatile sound processors that could easily work on every channel of your mix. After a few weeks with it, I still feel like I've only scratched the surface of what's possible. Not bad for a delay plug-in that costs less than €100.
Ease of use: 3.9