The Cooper Time Cube

April 22, 2009 11:16:11 AM PDT

The original Cooper Time Cube was a UREI-branded, Bill Putman/Duane H. Cooper collaborative design that brought a garden-hose-based mechanical delay to the world in 1971. The limited feature set of 14ms, 16ms or a combined 30ms delay meant it was less flexible (and popular) than tape-based delays such as the Echoplex or later electronic units, and only 1,000 were ever made. However, the CTC was noted for its uncanny ability to always sit perfectly in the mix and was used on many hit records, such as “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus and “Low Rider” by War, for its spectacular short delay and doubling effects. Since its early discontinuation, the CTC has grown a very strong cult following and finds a home in such prestigious studios as Blackbird and Sunset Sound. Top engineers such as Richard Dodd swear by the CTC for its unique sound.

The Cooper Time Cube sends live audio through long pieces of tubing, not unlike a garden hose, to create a time delay. The 2' x 2' plywood housing is filled with coiled tubing, Shure mic capsules (of the SM57 variety) at both ends of each line used as speakers and pickups, and a series of tooled aluminum blocks with "tuning screws" at various places to tune the delay to a relatively flat response. The whole delay mechanism is suspended on springs within the housing to maintain "acoustical isolation," and is then filled with packing peanuts, which stay in the housing, even after shipping!

The 2 RU unit allows access to the provided UREI 1109 line amplifiers, and thus to the independent delay line input gains. A meter is provided to view the delay output, plus four TRS jacks for front-panel signal access and routing (this was common on certain UA and UREI products). The rear of the unit provides permanent barrier strip connections.

The UAD Cooper Time Cube Mk II
The original Cooper Time Cube
The rear of an original Cooper Time Cube
The Complete Cooper Time Cube Hardware

The Cooper Time Cube sends live audio through long pieces of tubing, not unlike a garden hose, to create a time delay.

Inside the Cooper Time Cube

The Cooper Time Cube Mk II is a feature-enhanced improvement on the original delay system design. While the Cooper Time Cube Mk II plug-in retains the all-important mechanical delay sound of the original hardware, it goes much further by offering all the necessary features expected from a modern delay device: Delay, Decay, Pan, and Volume controls plus Tempo Sync and Automation for each of the two independent delay lines. The distinct sound of the single- or double-hose coil is preserved regardless of delay setting, and either sound is available at the flick of a switch. The CTC Mk II also incorporates other enhanced tone-shifting features such as the Color switch, which presents the user with the original (A) or “leveled” (B) frequency response, plus tone controls and a 2-pole high pass filter. Lastly, a switch is presented for soloing the Wet signal, and the Send switch allows momentary interruption of the signal being sent into the delay system.

UA recently interviewed Vance Powell, who won a GRAMMY® award this year for best engineered album, and he confessed that Blackbird Studios (where he works much of the time) has five Cooper Time Cubes, some with modifications to extend the delay time.

Check out the video to hear the Cooper Time Cube in action.

— Dave Crane