THE WATKINS / WEM COPICAT
c1961 Watkins Copicat
The most famous Tape-Echo Unit in Britain, and possibly in the
World, the Copicat also happens to be the first repeat-echo machine manufactured
as one compact unit. It was designed by Charlie Watkins in 1958, apparently
after he heard a similar sound effect generated by two linked studio quality tape
recorders for the Italian singer Marino Marini. Following its introduction, the
tape-echo sound revolutionised pop music during the late 1950's and early
1960's, being behind the guitar sound of the top British bands including The
Shadows. It also served a secondary purpose after being adopted for providing
echo on vocals - the two volume controls acted as a rudimentary microphone
mixer. These little machines sold by the thousand!!
What is perhaps most incredible about the Copicat is that it
is still in production after 50 years! Visit the WEM Copicat
Website to see the latest incarnation.
The path that the Copicat has taken since
1958 is illustrated by reference to its model variants listed below:
- c1958/59 WATKINS COPICAT (Mk I)
The very early Copicats had a rotary selector switch
for the playback heads instead of the push buttons. There is a picture of
Charlie holding Serial No 0001, on his website.
Both this (Serial # 110) and the one that Charlie is holding in the picture
have gold control panels.
- c1959 WATKINS COPICAT (Mk I)
a slightly later one than than the one above, as this one has a blue control
panel but still the all-rotary controls.
- c1960 WATKINS COPICAT Mk II (TURQUOISE/CREAM)
record head, three replay heads with individual push-buttons, and a permanent magnet mounted on the tape tension arm to wipe
the tape clean on every cycle. Echo signal record volume control (ECHO),
plus the facility for returning the playback signal back to the record head
(REPEAT), and two inputs with individual volume gain control. Oh....also a
switch for turning the tape-loop motor on/off and a footswitch for killing
the record head. All this powered by two ECC83's and one 6BR8 valves. Price:
£38-10-00 in 1962.
- c1960 WATKINS
COPICAT Mk II (TURQUOISE/CREAM)
- Early 1960's WATKINS COPICAT MANUFACTURED FOR
As well as manufacturing Copicats primarily for the UK
market, Watkins also supplied Guild Guitars Inc in the USA. The
"Guild" logo was prominently displayed, with "Watkins",
on the machine's control panel, and an all-turquoise livery for the case was
adopted instead of the usual turquoise/cream.
- c1963/64 WATKINS COPICAT (BLACK/CREAM)
black and cream case covering, plus a black control panel. Otherwise,
things look very similar to the turquoise/cream unit above.
- c1964 WATKINS/WEM COPICAT (BLACK/CREAM)
similar to the one above but with the logo on the case changed from Watkins to
1960's WATKINS COPICAT (ALL BLACK)
The same as the one above, but
with an all-black case covering. Also, no carrying handle was fitted to this
example and the lid-clasps are fitted in an unusual way. All very
- c1966 WEM CUSTOM COPICAT MODEL
A new style
case, with detachable lid. Still with its three valves inside !
- c1966 SHADOW ECHO
version of the old Copicat formula. Fitted with two playback heads.
- WEM COPICAT "POWERCAT" MODEL
would appear that this particular version of the Copicat formed part of a 15
watt (advertised as 30watt peak output) guitar combo/echo unit
combination which was marketed by Wem as the "Powercat". An advert
for this combination, featuring Bo Diddley as an endorsee, is included on
the linked picture page.
- WEM COPICAT Mk IV MODEL
The first major change - the Copicat goes
Solid-State in the late 1960's. It also now has a proper erase head instead of the permanent
- WEM COMBINED COPICAT & POWER AMPLIFIER
Mk IV Copicat combined with a valve power amplifier unit. The first (and
only) one we have ever seen !! Was this just a prototype ??
- WEM COPICAT Mk IV, WITH GUILD DISTRIBUTION
As mentioned above, WEM/Watkins supplied Guild in the USA with
Copicat units. This example is a standard Mark 4 but with Guild logo.
- 1977 WEM COPICAT "SUPER IC" MODEL
major change from the usual formula.............. a Copicat with four replay
heads! Also, a
combined erase/record (Z-Combo) head was fitted. A four input channel mixer
completed the transformation.
- 1977 WEM COPICAT "SUPER IC SOUND-ON-SOUND" MODEL
Copicat appears to be the same as the Super IC model above, with the four
replay heads and combined erase/record head, but it was also equipped with "Sound-on-Sound". Originally this model was
fitted with a tape cassette instead of the conventional tape loop and
tension bar. The cassettes seems to have proved problematic and hence most
machines were converted back to the simple tape loop.
- 1979/80 WEM COPICAT "IC 300" MODEL
similar in appearance to the "Super IC" model, with a four input mixing
facility, but back to three replay heads and individual erase and record
The storage box to the side of the control panel has now been re-located to
the rear of the machine.
- WEM COPICAT "IC 400"
The black-faced Copicat, still with three replay heads, but
now with a variable speed tape transport with a belt drive.
- WEM HALLE CAT
echo/reverberation/4-way mixer unit, that as well as being a 6-head tape
echo unit, also incorporated a Hammond spring-activated reverberation unit.
Each of the four inputs was controlled by individual volume, bass, treble,
and echo strength controls. The unit was aimed at studios, as well as large
- c1990 WEM COPICAT "GOLD VARISPEED" MODEL
- TYPE 1
A much more modern appearance, with smart blue
covering for the case and a rich gold control panel. Back to a two input
mixer, but with an "echo only" facility for use mixer effects.
- 1991 WEM COPICAT "GOLD VARISPEED MODEL -
Similar to the one above, but with a "PAD" push button
for each of the two inputs. This appears to provide the facilitate the
reduction of gain for each input by a pre-set amount without having to use the
rotary volume controls.
- WEM COPICAT "SUPER SHADOW" MODEL
Same as the Gold Varispeed, but with five playback heads instead of
- WEM COPICAT "SUPER SHADOW" MODEL
The side storage box disappears again, and provision is now
made for the output cable and footswitch by means of panel mounted jack
sockets. On this Type 2 version, a facility has been provided for "Tail-Off"
and "Mellow" additional effects, utilising push/pull knobs for the Sustain and
Swell rotary controls.
- PRESENT DAY WATKINS
A digital unit, but not one to be compared
to all the rest of the digital delay units.
Thanks, Michael Zimmerling !
Any problems with your Selmer or
Watkins/WEM Echo Unit? Don't mess about......go to the best!
John Beer of Amp-Fix, Wellington, Somerset has considerable experience with
these types of machines, as well as all types of valve amps. Click HERE to
make contact with John.
Also, visit John's AMP-FIX
WEBSITE where you will find very detailed descriptions of many of the
Copicats listed above.
Many thanks to John Beer for the advert scan