Object, Instrument, Technology

Copicat tape echo

Watkins Electric Music
Date of
ca. 1975–1980

The Watkins Electric Music (WEM) Copicat tape echo creates audible repetitions of sounds by using an endless tape loop. As an electronic effect for rock musicians, it was popular during the 1960s, undergoing a series of modifications in the decades following its creation by Charles Watkins in 1958. It is notable for its successful combination of several distinct areas of audio technology: electronic recording, the use of endless loops, and the use of an intermediate storage medium (tape) to achieve delayed playback. By means of multiple tape heads set up in a row, the Copicat permits different amounts of delay between recording and playback, as the tape needs more or less time to reach the position after it has passed the recording head. Tapping into the specifics of human perception of repeating sounds, the Copicat enables a whole range of effects, from simple echoes, where the repetitions are still distinguishable, to dense, wobbling sound landscapes. According to a 2008 oral history interview with Watkins, the Copicat was inspired by the complicated technical setup, involving two tape recorders, that was employed by the Morino Marini Quartet. Endless loop tape recording arrangements were also widely used for artistic purposes, in aeronautics (as crash recorders), and in other domains during the second half of the twentieth century.


National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM): Interview with Charles Watkins, May 16, 2008

Collector’s website listing Copicat models produced between 1958 and 2009


Nikita Braguinski

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