Guitar Gear Review: Malekko Ekko 616 Dark – Lush Seas of Brooding Waves

Have you ever been playing through your favorite analog delay and thought to yourself, “Man, this pedal sounds great…but I’d really like the repeats to be less hi-fi and darker.”? Yeah, me neither. Well, somebody at Malekko did, and the result of that idea was the Malekko Ekko 616 Dark: An analog delay pedal that is in touch with the dark side of tone.

At first glance, the pedal has a lot going for it: A Vader-esque jet-black paint job, plenty of tiny knobs to not only tweak the delay itself but the onboard modulation as well, and a really…really fun name. (Just say “Malekko Ekko” without grinning like a moron.) All of these things, as cool as they are, pale in comparison to the buckets of tone that this pedal is capable of producing. From barely-there atmosphere to full-on oscillation chaos, this pedal delivers in spades. Let’s talk turkey.

The pedal arrives in a brown cardboard box without any instructions on how to use it; kinda like drugs, but without the paranoia. The control layout is simple enough and pretty self explanatory: Time (how long it takes for your signal to be repeated), Mix (Level of the effect), and Regeneration (The number of repeats) take up the center real estate while the top of the pedal has a push-button to toggle the modulation on and off, a speed knob, a depth knob, and another wildly useful button to switch the pedal from true-bypass to buffered bypass depending on what your pedal chain consists of. Admittedly, the black-on-black style of the pedal makes the controls astonishingly hard to see, but after spending five minutes with the thing you’ll remember the layout just fine. It isn’t difficult.

To start, I dialed in a clean tone on the Hoverstack and ran just the pedal in my chain. The guitar was an LTD that I got through a strange chain of events and slapped a Whole Lotta Humbucker set in. I was instantly impressed by the subtle variations in the repeats. They begin with your typical analog goodness but slowly disintegrate into a dark palette of tones that allow your playing to sail over a lush sea of brooding waves. The modulation has a wide range and helps to add everything from a slight shimmer to something akin to a raygun. I set it to a slow chorus with the depth at about 11 o’clock and was blown away. The shining pulses were almost hypnotic and the repetitions filled out the soundscape as they slowly died and faded into strange and unique frequencies that encourage you to paint with a different brush as you jump outside of your comfort zone and into another dimension of playing. I had to see what other flavors it could produce.

I needed reverb. So, I dug out the EHX Cathedral and dialed in an incredibly lush plate reverb with plenty of pre-delay to make the notes bloom. I stepped on the 616 Dark and was instantly beamed into space. Notes bloomed and decayed like a field of Lilies, rhythmic pulses broke away from the time signature and formed their own symphony of sound. It was orchestral. Again, the modulation, (this time with the speed at zero and the depth maxed), evoked an almost Pink Floyd type of warble to further fill-out the atmosphere. I had become my own worst nightmare – an over-boozed and under-sexed one man shoegaze act and I loved every goddamn minute of it.

For posterity’s sake, I dialed in some slapback delay then went to town on my own bastardized brand of Rockabilly, and it sounded like you’d expect a high-quality analog delay to sound but it still sounded sinister. It’s harder to pick out the nuances of this pedal on shorter settings and with more gain but you immediately notice their absence once you switch to another delay.

Another thing I noticed was that in buffered mode the signal is noticeably brighter. Do with that info what you will.

Simply put, The Malekko Ekko 616 Dark is the only analog delay that matters. Take your other, similarly priced analog delays and sell them to the needy so you have an excuse to buy this instead. Malekko has always been an innovator, especially when it comes to time-based effects and this variation of their formula proves that. At this point, I don’t think I can live without it.