Echo Pitch review – versatile and creative delay effect app at a budget price

Download from iTunes App StoreRunning the Music App Blog as a one person enterprise alongside my other forms of gainful employment does mean that there are never quite enough hours in the day to keep up with all the interesting new iOS music app releases. When time does permit, therefore, it’s nice to do the occasional ‘catch up’ review…. and that’s what I’ve got for you today in Echo Pitch :-)

The app is developed by Avi Bortnick and Maximos Kaliakatsos-Papakostas and first appeared on the App Store back in December 2016. However, at that stage, it was stand-alone only and it wasn’t until March this year that v.1.1 added both Audiobus and IAA support, making the app a much more interesting proposition for most iOS musicians.

We do have a number of good iOS ‘delay’ type apps available already. From the bread and butter delay options that are supplied with most DAW/sequencer apps, the delay ‘stomp boxes’ often included in most virtual guitar rig apps, through to dedicated delay-based effects apps from other developers. Yep, there is plenty of choice….   so how does Echo Pitch – with its very modest UK£1.99/US$1.99 asking price – stack up?

Echo Pitch – just how creative do you want to get with your delay and pitch-shifting effects?

Let’s get creative

Delay and echo effects are an established part of music production and are often used in fairly routine ways to add some ambience to a sound – a vocal or a lead line, for example – as an addition to, or instead of, reverb. However, if your delay app allows it, more extreme settings can be used to get into a more creative zone and, when it comes to ambient music styles, wild and wonderful uses of delay can be an essential part of the toolkit.

While Echo Pitch can most certainly do fairly standard delay treatments, I’m not sure that’s really what the development team had in mind as its primary intention. No, this is much more in the ‘let’s get creative’ bracket of delay apps. Indeed, not only does Echo Pitch offer four very flexible delay lines each with their own set of delay controls, it also offers a ‘master delay’ (yes, you can add delay to all the delays) and each of the four primary delay lines can also be re-routed back into each other.

Oh, and each of the primary delay lines also offers pitch-shifting applied in real-real time (so you have a harmonizer) and there is a mini guitar amp sim and reverb effect also built in. Sound interesting?

The app includes support for Audiobus and IAA… but not yet for the AU format.

The app currently requires iOS9.3 or later, is a 5MB download, is universal (although obviously designed more with the iPhone UI in mind given the portrait orientation of the graphics) and, as mentioned above, now includes both Audiobus and IAA support. And, at just UK£1.99/US$1.99, this is a pocket-money price for what, on paper, sounds like a pretty creative delay tool.

Now you see me… me… me…. me….

OK, so we should perhaps keep the price in mind a little when looking at the Echo Pitch screenshots. The UI is perhaps best described as ‘functional’ rather than a thing of great beauty. It gets the job done – the main delay line controls are housed on two screens that you can toggle between using the large arrow button located top-right – while a further screen is accessed via the ‘grid’ icon located bottom-right. I’ll come back to that in a minute.

It should also be noted that the UI is – currently at least – portrait only. That’s fine in itself but a bit of a faff if you happen to be using the app via Audiobus or IAA and really want your iOS device placed in landscape mode.

The second page of controls includes tonal options to colour the sound of the delays.

The control layout itself is pretty straightforward. Each of the four main delay lines feature, time, pitch, feed(back), level (and on the second screen), drive, pan, hi-cut and low-cut dials. The first screen offers the Master Delay controls as well and that applies a further delay line to the output generated by the four separate delay lines…. yes, this can all get a bit bonkers but it’s fun when it does :-)

The second screen includes the (very simple) amp simulator controls and the reverb. These are effective enough in their own right and mean that the app is great for just plugging in an audio source such as your guitar (best to be done via a dedicated audio interface and an iRig HD served me perfectly well during my own testing) and experimenting with the app’s settings.

You also get a preset system (supplied with a small selection of presets but you can save your own), a ‘wet only’ button and a tempo control. The delay Time knobs are all set as musical intervals relative to the selected tempo. As yet, there is no Ableton Link support but this would be an obvious and welcome addition for the development team if the app gains some user traction.

The Grid button allows things to get even more interesting as you can route one delay line back into another…..

The ‘grid icon’ button opens up the separate ‘delay routing’ panel. This 4 x 4 grid allows you to route the output of one delay line into the input of another. So, for example, the top-left button – D1->D2 – sends the output of delay line 1 into delay line 2. Yes, you can activate as many of these buttons as you like at the same time….. at least until there is so much audio feedback that you have nothing but noise…. be warned, things can get out of hand and your speakers (and ears) might suffer!

Can you hear me…. me…. me…. me….?

If you set zero level for delay lines 2,3 and 4, and set the pitch value for delay line 1 to the ‘u’ (unity; 12 o’clock) setting, what you get is a pretty standard delay/echo style effect that sounds pretty good and offers you hi/low EQ cuts to colour the sound to taste. If that’s all you got for your UK£1.99/US$1.99, I don’t think you might have too much to complain about.

However, you can then bring in the other delay lines, re-route the delays lines into one another, and add that master delay. Feed the app with a suitable melodic line – and I did most of my testing with a guitar hooked up to the audio input – and you can create some absolutely fabulous ambient-style effects.

Indeed, with all these delay possibilities, even a few notes can create a rich, layered, soundbed. It works great for simple melodies and just as well with simple arpeggiated chords. If you are into atmospheric and ambient music styles, I’m sure Echo Pitch would be a bit of a treat. And the sound quality is, to my ears at least, absolutely up to the task.

Want a simple delay effect? Echo Pitch can do that without breaking a sweat…..

Of course, you can then also dial in the pitch-shifting for each delay line. This can be adjusted in semi-tone steps to a range of +/- 1 octave. There are two ways to approach this though. First, you can just have pitch-shifted echos. However, second, by setting the Time knob to the ‘-‘ setting (effectively, no delay), that delay line acts more like a harmonizer than an echo and the pitch-shifted audio accompanies your audio input signal in real-time.

With four possible harmony notes, you can create some quite complex voicings (and you might well need some serious music theory to know exactly what might, or might not, work). However, you don’t have to go the whole nine yards; just apply one harmony voice and there is still plenty of scope to get harmonically creative.

The quality of the pitch-shifting seems pretty good and, even with a full octave shift, I didn’t experience too much by way of audio artefacts. Usefully, if you occasionally need to squeeze a bass line from your standard 6 string guitar, if you just use one delay line as a harmonizer pitch-shifted down a full octave, and also engage the ‘Wet Only’ button, your standard guitar audio is muted and you just hear the ‘down an octave’ audio. The end result might not stand up to really close scrutiny if exposed within a mix but it does a decent job even if only used as a temporary audio source until you can get your hands on a real bass guitar.

In use

The presets, even though they are relatively few in number, demonstrate Echo Pitch’s obvious creative potential. That said, it is pretty easy to start experimenting yourself and, with a combination of multiple delays, a bit of pitch-shifting, and some re-routing of delay lines between themselves, even a few notes can go a heck of a long way. Incidentally, the master delay line also includes a basic ‘looper’ function so, if you want to, you can capture a short section of the audio output, allow it to loop, and then improvise a little over the top; very effective.

The preset system is easy to use.

I had no problems – portrait orientation aside – using Echo Pitch within Audiobus or via IAA (although you do have to launch Echo Pitch first before your IAA host apparently); it behaved well. Don’t expect miracles from the amp simulator option; it works but is not particularly flexible. I did most of my own testing with Mobile POD sat in front of Echo Pitch and any of the popular virtual guitar rig packages are likely to give you better basic guitar sounds to apply Echo Pitch’s real trick too.

That trick is, however, pretty impressive. While I had fun with my guitar, the app performed the same magic with a synth patch or three (all routed within Audiobus). Whatever your musical preference, if creative use of delay is part of your sound, then Echo Pitch is most certainly well worth giving a try.

There are, of course, are some refinements that could be made….. It would be great to see Ableton Link support added so Echo Pitch could follow a wider project-level tempo. Equally, AU support would be most welcome even if only for the convenience it offers rather than any desire to run multiple instances of the app (which might be just a bit on the bonkers side).

The app includes IAA support and this worked well in Cubasis and AUM for me…. just make sure you look in the right section of the IAA app list :-)

However, for AU support to be offered, I guess the other obvious refinement required would be support for landscape use of the UI. I can’t think that would be such a big deal and, in fact, you might then get both of the main pages of controls for each delay line on to a single screen. Fingers crossed the development team might think this was a worthwhile option for a future update.

In summary

What can you really expect in a delay effects app that only costs UK£1.99/US$1.99? Well, probably nowhere near as much as Echo Pitch actually offers. Yes, the app might be a little rough around some of its UI edges but, in operational terms, it seems solid enough. It also sounds pretty good and, as creative delay effects go, it is one of the more imaginative options (perhaps put it along with apps such as apeDelay, Dedalus, Deregulator and Vandelay?) I’ve used under iOS.

OK, OTT creative delay effects might not be everyone’s thing, so this is perhaps not a ‘must have’ app for every iOS musician. But for those ambient sound folk, at such a modest price, Echo Pitch is well worth a speculative punt, even if only for occasional use.

Anyway, plenty of creative bank for buck is offered so, if you want to a practical demonstration, then check out the video below for a quick demo…. and hit the Download button to find out more via the App Store…..

Echo Pitch

Download from iTunes App Store


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    Comments

    1. Hi John!
      Thanks for finding the time to review one of my favorite apps!

      Yes, it took a while (after my original review request,) but I just knew that when you finally had the time, I would learn (from you) new ways to get the absolute most out of this cool little app!

      As usual, your developer tips were also inspiring. There are just so many IOS music artists who instantly dismiss any music app that only works in portrait mode. Your interface idea would solve their problems, and also make the app even more useful for fans like us.

      Thank for the hints, and hope the development team takes your ideas to heart and make a great little app a hugely popular success!

    2. Sounds great. I do find the iPhone only (not universal) very off-putting though. I haven’t owned an iPhone for years. iPad 2 air for music making.

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