ADA STD-1 Analog Stereo Tapped Delay

ada std-1 small pic

Last Update 02-21-2012

The STD-1 has the misfortune to share its acronym with the family of sexually transmitted diseases, which was not intentional as this device was on the market well before the acronym was established in popular culture.  Negative connotations aside, the STD-1 not just any analog delay unit.  Released in 1980, it found a home in professional studios but never found wide acceptance as most musicians misunderstood its purpose.  The STD-1 is a tapped delay, meaning that it has multiple delay outputs at enharmonic taps in the MN3011 bucket brigade delay (BBD).  This is not intended to be an echo unit as the longest delay time is 55.5ms.  Rather, it is designed for multi-voiced modulated delays (chorus, flange), doubling, ambience effects, and crude reverb.

Now you, dear surfer, are probably thinking "big deal, any delay can do that".  Ah, but herein lies the difference.  A garden variety analog delay is based around a BBD with a single output at the end of the chain.  The STD-1 uses the MN3011 which is a 3328 stage BBD with six outputs, one at the end of the chain and the other five at "taps" throughout the middle of the BBD chain hence the name "tapped delay".  These taps are non-harmonically related at 1.3ms, 2.2ms, 4.6ms, 5.8ms, 8.3ms, 11.1ms outputs whose delay times can be increased by a factor of five.  The purpose of non-harmonic taps was to emulate reverb as the multiple reflections of natural reverb are not a fixed time displacement.  Tapped delays were the predecessor of affordable digital reverb and some early 1980s guitar amps and devices did use the MN3011 for reverb.

This is not just a conventional delay unit.  Each of the six taps is assignable to the A/B (left/right) output field.  Feedback is interesting in that it can be tapped at tap 1, 3, or 6 and the behavior is dependent on the delay time.  At short delays it creates a resonance which is useful for changing the timbre of the signal, while longer delays it is designed to emulate reverb reflections.  A high cut control reduces the high frequency content to emulate natural sounding echoes.  The modulation section provices not one but two modulation sources.  This system produces complex chorus effects such as ensembles, realistic doubling, random pitch shifts, and sweeping ambience.

Subtle effects are amongst my favorite and this box excels at them.  The short delay taps are excellent for stereo imaging effects.  When you add LFO modulation to produce chorus/flange effects, the STD-1 provides up to six modulated delays all at different time delays.  This multi-voiced modulated delay configuration can sound a lot thicker and more complex than a conventional delay unit.  This is one of the best flanging units due to the resonant flanging made possible with the feedback architecture.  The regeneration system does nice work of making a tinny instrument into a fat resonant honker.  The ambience effects do a good job of lifting an instrument out of a dense mix.  Of the multiple delay units in my arsenal, none of them can pull off effects like this.  I have yet to find a digital unit that can duplicate the BBD effects of this thing.

Probably the sole celebrity attachment to the STD-1 is Allen Holdsworth - he used two of them in his guitar system.  Kirk Hammett of Metallica later used them.  This isn't a conventional delay unit and it didn't start to earn appreciation until ten years after it was discontinued.  Today they are in demand but they do not turn up for sale often.  They have held a decent value for over twenty years.  Guitar players and synthesists like them for their modulated effects, and the latter are attracted to the CV inputs for delay time and sweep speed.  The knobs on the unit pictured are not original.  There were two versions of the STD-1, one for instrument and one with balanced I/O for studio.  ADA put different knobs on the studio model which I preferred but the studio model is rare.  I landed the instrument version and replaced the knobs with a set I found at a ham radio festival that resembled the studio version, which actually looks a lot classier now.

This is a nice box for unique sounding modulated effects and ambience, just don't expect echoes or realistic reverbs.

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