Tuesday August 9, 2011

Best Delay Pedals

When you think of delay pedals, for most guitarists U2’s the Edge instantly comes to mind. Known for being a sonic architect rather than a guitar virtuoso, his instantly recognizable wall of sound is due largely to the modest delay pedal. A delay pedal is a great addition to your pedal board and some of the best delay pedals should add astounding depth to your playing.

Delay pedal effects have been around since the 50’s and through the decades legends such as Hendrix, Clapton, David Gilmour, and Eddie Van Halen have all used some form of delay. It wasn’t until the 80’s with both the introduction of the inexpensive Boss DD-2 digital delay and Irish rockers U2 that the delay pedal was brought to the mainstream guitarist. Now there are a multitude of modern delays. Delay pedals come in all shapes and sizes but can be broken down into three choices: analog, digital and a multi effects unit. And of those there are boutique or mass produced pedals.

Note for Newbies

If you’re absolutely new to delay pedals, the delay effect is one that echoes what you’ve just played e.g. delay, delay, delay… to fade. This is not to be confused with reverb commonly built into the amp. This effect is like singing in the bathroom (I know you do) with your voice reflecting off the walls.

The man, the myth, the delay pedal.

The man, the myth, the delay pedal.

Mass Production Delay Pedals

Mass production pedals tend to be, more often than not, digital. Most are commonly priced around $150, however high end ranges can get expensive like the at $249. Of the mass produced pedals you’re most likely to come across brands like DigiTech, Boss, DigiTech HardWire, Marshall, Vox, Electro-Harmonix, Maxon, Ibanez, Line 6, MXR and many of the cheaper brands like Behringer, Guyatone and Belcat. One of the best delay pedals that are built in large quantities is the MXR Carbon Copy which is analog. Dunlop has also acquired Way Huge so the Aqua Puss Analog Delay should count now as a mass produced pedal.

Boutique Delay Pedals

Boutique makers are known for creating some of the best delay pedals on the market. However this comes at a cost. Due to smaller runs and limited resources, a boutique delay pedal usually starts from $150 and up, with most costing over the $200 mark. But it’s almost guaranteed that a boutique pedal will be true bypass, to circumvent any tone suckage. Some of the most well known boutique delay pedal makers are: Fulltone, Plush, Diamond, Mad Professor, Subdecay, Pigtronix, Wampler, T-Rex, Homebrew, Empress, Red Witch, Lovepedal, Malekko and Tortuga to name just a few.

Digital Delay Pedals

Boss DD-7 Digital Delay Pedal

Boss DD-7 Digital Delay Pedal

A digital delay pedal is known for its clarity in reproduction of the repeats. Digital delays also have longer delay times than their analog counterparts. But don’t get caught up on long delays being better, as they can sound out of place and can even confuse your own playing. Short 15 ms to 1 second delays are the most useable. Long delays with 2 to 8 second times are probably not that practical, not even the Edge has them that long! Mass produced digital delay pedals tend to be a bit “smarter” than their boutique counterparts having functions like looper, tap tempo or different modelling features. The and HardWire Delay Looper DL-8 are two such pedals. Cheaper pedals may have lower quality sampling rate due to less onboard memory. Looper pedals will definitely have more RAM onboard. Boutique digital delays are less frequent, but they do exist, such as the oddly name Wampler Faux AnalogEcho, which is actually a digital stompbox based on the Princeton Technology’s PT2399 Echo Processor IC.

Analog Delay Pedals

Malekko Ekko 616 Analog Delay

Malekko Ekko 616 Analog Delay Boutique Pedal

Analog delay pedals are likely to have warmer echo repeats, though their delay times are much shorter at somewhere around 600ms. Most true analog delays will use bucket brigade technology “the stored analogue signal is moved along the line of capacitors, one step at each clock cycle.” – Wiki. Some also have a modulation effect where the sounds are doubled, the same as a chorus. Several digital pedals can emulate this as well. There are some inherent problems associated with analog delays such as clock noise - a whine on longer repeats. The Malekko Ekko 616 Analog Delay ($149.99) is said to eliminate this problem and it’s inexpensive too for a boutique pedal.

Many pro guitarists even have two or more delays on their pedal board. One set to long repeats while the other does the short ones for quicker changes. So you can have the best of both worlds and get an analog pedal to do the short repeats while a digital does the longer.

Multi Effects Units

DigiTech RP1000 Mulit-Effects Unit

DigiTech RP1000 Mulit-Effects Unit

Multi Effects units are digital modelling effects with one of the features usually being a delay. The big brands have cornered this market such as Boss GT and ME series, DigiTech RP series and Line 6 POD’s. Each unit also models hundreds of amps, cabinets and effects. The RP355 ($199.99) has several delay pedal models including the DigiTech Analog Delay, Boss DM-2, DigiTech Digital Delay,  DigiTech Pong Delay and an EP-2 Echoplex Tape Echo. The price is quite economical in comparison to a dedicated stompbox. A DigiTech RP90 Multi-Effects Pedal costs $99.99 compared to DigiTech’s own DigiDelay at $99.95, which only does delay.  Both are digital and the RP90 Multi-Effects will also have a more powerful processor. The down sides could be the quality of the samples, cheap DACs and also their ease of use.

Modelling Software

AmpliTube iRig on an iPad

AmpliTube iRig on an iPad

Lastly there is one other way to get a delay effect - using computer modelling software such as Guitar Rig, AmpliTube or GarageBand for Macs. AmpliTube even makes iRig for the iPhone or iPad. These applications give you a virtual pedal board. Guitar Rig provides several time based effects including a Delay Man (obviously modelling an Electro-Harmonix Memory Man), a Twin and Quad Delay and Psychedelay. These apps require having the device connected to your guitar path, which may require some specialized cables.

Guitarists and their Delay Pedals

  • David Gilmour - TC Electronic TC-2290
  • Eddie Van Halen - Echoplex-EP3, Roland SDE-3000 Digital Delay
  • Eric Johnson - MXR 1500 Digital Delay, Maestro Echoplex, Electro-Harmonix Memory Man Deluxe Delay
  • Paul Gilbert - Boss DD-3
  • Joe Satriani – Joe Satriani (of course), Boss DD-2, Chandler Digital Echo/Delay, Boss DD-7 and DD-3, Electro Harmonix Memory Man
  • Steve Vai – TC Electronic G-System
  • The Edge - Korg SDD-3000,TC Electronic TC-2290, Electro-Harmonix Memory Man, Boss DD-2

*Compiled from various sources and in no way intended to be complete.

Best Digital Delay Pedals

Joe Satriani Vox Time Machine, Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay Pedal, Wampler Faux AnalogEcho, Boss RE-20 Space Echo Delay and many more.

Best Analog Delay Pedals

Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man Delay, Way Huge Aqua Puss, Eventide TimeFactor, Retro-Sonic Analog Delay Pedal, Lovepedal Echo Baby Delay Pedal, Diamond Pedals Memory Lane 2 Analog Delay Pedal and many more.

Best Multi Effects Unit Delay

DigiTech RP1000 Guitar Multi Effects Pedal, DigiTech RP355 Guitar Multi Effects Pedal, Boss GT-10 Guitar Multi-Effects Pedal, Boss ME-70 Guitar Multi-Effects Pedal, Line 6 Floor POD Plus Guitar Amp Modeling Pedal and many more.

Best Mass Produced Delay Pedals

DigiTech HardWire Delay Looper DL-8, Boss DD-7, MXR Carbon Copy, Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler Pedal, TC Electronic Nova System Guitar Multi-Effects Pedal and many more.

Best Boutique Delay Pedals

Pigtronix Phi Echolution Loop Pedal, Plush Replay Tube Delay, Malekko Ekko 616 Analog Delay, Tortuga Effects Rain Delay, T-Rex Replica Delay Echo Pedal, Red Witch Titan Delay, Analog Man ARDX20 Dual Analog Delay Pedal, Diamond Pedals Memory Lane 2 Analog Delay Pedal and many more.

Best Cheap Delay Pedals

, DigiTech DigiDelay X-Series Digital Delay Pedal, Behringer DD400 Stereo Digital Delay Echo Pedal, Danelectro DE1 Tape Echo Pedal and many more.


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