Harelip! Harelip!

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Harelip! Harelip!

Aaah!!! If only Electro-Harmonix had made a Wood-eye pedal, we'd be able to complete that old joke. Since they didn't, this month we'll take a closer look at the one part they did make: the Hare-lip Microphone Echo, one of Electro-Harmonix's more unusual pedals.

Before anybody gets offended, let me state up front that Mike Matthews didn't use the name Hare-lip as a derogatory term. He originally intended the name as a "taboo breaker", but it soon became another interesting name to add to the long list as well as an excuse for me to look offended when asked if I have one.

The Hare-lip, model # EH-3004, dates all the way back to the early 70's. In fact, the earliest mention I can find of it is from an old EH price list that expired Jan. 20, 1973. An old ad offers a glimpse of the function of this most unusually monikered effect: "Gives the singer echo effect electronically, and at one-tenth the cost of the mechanical tape echo units."

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The Hare-lip Microphone Echo was housed in the very cool first edition Big Muff Pi style box with the hip triangle knob configuration. (figure 1). The controls are (clockwise from left): Volume, Speed, and Echo. The power switch is located conveniently just above the Volume control and the box is connected inline via the two 1/4" jacks at the rear. No XLR connectors here, folks. This was a REAL MAN'S echo unit.

Plugging into the echo, the volume of the clean signal is set with the Volume control, while the Speed and Echo knobs set (what else?) the speed and volume of the echoed signal. A drawback is the click that is produced with each "Echo" but this may be less distinct on some examples and more pronounced on others. I have talked to at least one person who purchased one new and the click was so loud he feared for his speaker's safety (Sound familiar, Bruce B.?).

Although the echo was designed for voice, it can be used for guitar as well. This month's guest guitarist, Steve Woods of Roadworthy Guitar and Amp, tried the Hare-lip out and claimed to be less than enthusiastic about it. It seems that it doesn't really produce an authentic echo effect since when you stop playing, so does the Hare-lip. With Volume at a minimum and the Speed and Echo knobs at full, it CAN function as a cool tremolo pedal if you don't mind the click it produces. Steve was able to get a pseudo-echo effect while Travis-picking as well as an interesting effect using the pulses as a metronome. Mike Matthews describes the effect as a "hard pulse" as opposed to a tremolo's "soft pulse".

What hip vocalist would lug around a clumsy ol' echo unit that used (GASP!) tape when he/she could take advantage of the wonders of solid-state electronics? Apparently quite a few went with the tape instead, presumably for its more realistic echo, and by about 1975 the Hare-lip had disappeared from the catalog.

This time we've got two Hare-lips to compare internally. Inside Hare-lip #1, we find a basic circuit with only 4 transistors to speak of: a 2N3563 in the middle of the board and a row at the bottom consisting of (l-r) an SPT87-103 and two 2N5133s. Hare-lip #2 has the same basic circuit, but with a 2N5133 in place of the SPT87-103 and a couple of different capacitors. The pots of both are date-coded 1966 and are probably from the same batch as used on the early Big Muffs. Power is supplied via the standard 9 volt battery.

Need an echo for your vocals? The Hare-lip was priced to sell at a cost of $39.95 for a factory wired one, or you could build it yourself from a kit for $26.95 (anybody out there ever built any EH item from a kit?). Since it had such a limited time of availability, the Hare-lip seems to be fairly scarce today. One word of advice: DON'T USE IT AS AN ECHO!!! Use it as a tremolo.

Thanks to Jay Pilzer of New Hope Guitar Traders for Hare-lip #1 and Rod and Hank's Vintage Guitars for Hare-lip #2.