Tuesday August 9, 2011
 

Digitech Delay DL-8 Review


The DigiTech HardWire Delay Looper DL-8 ($159.95) is a digital delay with up to 8 seconds of delay time, 11 delay types, tap tempo and 20 seconds of loop time. Digital delays are getting cleverer all the time and the is so feature rich that you could probably even replace a few basic pedals with it. HardWire pedals are the premium brand of DigiTech and they feature a few technological innovations over their standard pedal range including true bypass, higher voltage and constant voltage output to name a few.

Ease of Use

There are four knobs that allow for some serious options in tweaking.

  • LEVEL Knob – How much delay signal gets into the mix.
  • REPEATS Knob - How many times the delay repeats occurs.
  • TIME Knob – How long the delay lasts, anywhere from 15ms to 8 seconds depending on the TYPE.
  • TYPE Knob – Select from 11 delay types. See table below.

Also there are a few not so obvious options:

  • TAP TEMPO – Hold down the Foot Switch for 3 seconds, the LED flashes green then tap the pedal twice. To exit hold for 3 seconds again. Tap Tempo disables the TIME knob.
  • LOOP DELAY – Dial the TYPE knob to LOOP and hold down the Foot Switch. Play the passage while still held down and release when finished. The LOOP will play infinitely. Do the same again to do overdubs. Cancel by tapping the Foot Switch.
DigiTech HardWire Delay Looper DL-8

DigiTech HardWire Delay Looper DL-8

It’s the nature of a guitar pedal that has a lot of selections to be slightly less intuitive than something that has just two knobs. The DigiTech Delay is no exception. If you’re using this pedal “live” it’s a set and don’t touch it ever scenario. The delay “TYPE” knob is particularly fidgety, and the selection increments on the knob are tiny. When the pedal is on the ground the print is smaller than a contract for a time share apartment. Thankfully DigiTech provides a StompLock rubber faceplate cover that sits over the controls, to stop you accidentally screwing up your own settings. At home this isn’t going to be a problem and you can tweak it all day long.

DigiTech HardWire Delay Looper DL-8 Settings

DigiTech HardWire Delay Looper DL-8 Settings


The HardWire uses the same DigiTech battery compartment latch system, which ain’t as convenient as the standard Boss pedal. You’ll need to unclip the spring loaded Release Pins using the tip of a ¼” guitar cable (preferably unplugged). The entire Foot Switch plate comes away from the pedal chassis allowing access to the battery.  Boss pedals can be done by just undoing a simple screw. Also under the hood there’s a Tails Switch. When turned ON the DL-8 does not use true bypass but allows the delay repeats to continue when the effect is bypassed. Interesting but I wouldn’t want to sacrifice true bypass for this.

There are also two outputs so you can plug in two amps for some ping pong (where the delays alternate between the two outputs) on certain modes. Also the DL-8 has two inputs allowing for other stereo pedal to be chained in front of the delay.

Sound

If your impression of digital delays sounds being cold and sterile, the will make you think again. The repeats are clear though they’re not a precise sample of what was just played. They sound a little darker but I think this was done deliberately to help the voicing. Bumping up the LEVEL knob gets a wet tone almost equal to an atmospheric reverb. The tone gets so wet, in fact, that it’s hard to imagine anyone needing a separate reverb pedal, such as the HardWire RV-7 Stereo Reverb, unless they’re really hell bent on having a concert hall type echo. However, it does sound digital, but in a good way. Kinda like going into a mixing console with your own sound Engineer levelling your sound to CD. Analog purists might turn their noses but there’s the option to flick to Analog mode and turn down the LEVEL. This will achieve an approximation of a true bucket brigade pedal with warm, murky, fat analog tones, but it probably won’t fool any hardcore stompbox geeks. But unlike analog delays this pedal is extremely quite.

DigiTech HardWire Delay Looper DL-8 Side

DigiTech HardWire Delay Looper DL-8 Side


The Modulation is good enough to replace a very basic chorus pedal. Chorus pedals are a little bit 80’s so it’s nice to have the option to get that effect without taking up valuable space on your pedal board with another effects box.

I found I hardly used the Looper mode as much as I thought I would. It’s a “nice to have” but not something I’d use every day, others might find it more valuable. The actual sample rates are said to be of CD quality at 44.1 KHz however I didn’t feel it was that good.
Without a doubt the DigiTech Delay will enhance your clean tones. You don’t really need much else. Whether it’s an expensive valve amp or a cheap solid state practice amp this delay pedal will add a bit more character to your playing.

The will especially sound great with any type of distortion, be it an Ibanez Tube Screamer type distortion, Metal or Overdrive. Again, really all that’s needed to achieve some good tones is an excellent distortion and delay. Also it has no problems with either single coil or humbucker pickups. There are no unwanted background noises or clicks. Just keep your playing tidy as the delay will repeat your mistakes!

Delay Types Opinion

0.5 Seconds – 15 ms to 500 ms (milliseconds)

Probably the most useful setting and what most people will stay on.

1 Second – 500 ms to 1 sec

Still useful but with longer delays. Eric Johnson “Cliffs of Dover” type delay.

2 Seconds – 1 sec to 2 sec

Still longer delays. Useful if you ARE The Edge and are playing “Where the Streets Have No Name”.

8 Seconds – 2 sec to 8 sec

Not really useable in everyday situations. Just too damn long. Play a note and wait 2 seconds before you hear it will most likely confuse you when soloing.

Reverse

Useful if you ARE Jimi Hendrix and are playing “Castles Made of Sand”. Otherwise kinda gimmicky.

Modulated – chorused delay

Good enough to replace a very basic Chorus pedal.

Analog – vintage bucket brigade analog delay

OK sounding warm delay sounds but not quite as good as the real thing.

Slapback – 80 ms to 150 ms

A short sounding delay reminiscent of Stray Cats rockabilly style.

LoFi – low-fidelity delay with limited bandwidth

The repeats get darker as they go on and have some plated reverb type effect going on as well.

Tape – classic tube tape echo

Darker repeats, quite close to analog.

Loop – create infinite stereo loops up to 20 seconds

A basic looper function but the sample rate sounds kinda low.


Construction

As mentioned there are some clever technologies built into each HardWire pedal. The chassis and all metal knobs are definitely a grade above the normal DigiTech stompboxes. The pedal is also a bit wider than a standard pedal. The High Voltage operation uses a special circuitry to increase the voltage above normal pedal operation to remedy the clipping noise found with high output pickups. The Constant Voltage operation uses this same circuitry that boosts the pedal to keep the voltage constant allowing for even operation with batteries.

DigiTech HardWire Delay Looper DL-8 Cover Removed

DigiTech HardWire Delay Looper DL-8 Cover Removed

Note the Tails Switch bottom left


And now for the bad news, my delay pedal developed a particular nasty backwards looping sound. I can only describe it as when someone is turning the time knob while you are playing, which gives you a reverse time bending effect. I took it back and it was sent to DigiTech for repairs. They (according to the shop) replaced the “time pot” circuit. I’d always thought that the sampling was done on a DAC. Thank goodness DigiTech has a 6 year warranty. All was OK until several months later the pedal did the same thing again. The pedal was serviced once more and this time the whole PCB (Printed Circuit Board) was replaced.

Haven’t had any problems of late but its kinda once bitten twice shy scenario. I did a search on the Net and haven’t found anyone with the same problem so I’m assuming it was a one off. The shop guys assured me that this was quite unusual for a DigiTech pedal let alone a HardWire one. Pretty sure it wasn’t the power supply or anything, other pedals would surely have died too if it was dodgy voltage. The power supply was over 1000mA which should be more than sufficient to drive this. If you need stable power DigiTech sell an optional power supply, the PS200R for around $17 or better yet get yourself a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus at $169 if you’ve got cash to burn.

Summary

The is a feature packed delay pedal with loads of tweaking options. Some of these modes can even replace the basic effects such as a looper, chorus or even a reverb. However few of these modes are not that practical. There are some questions with reliability; however I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

Overall the DigiTech delay has no problem in getting an Edge type delay sound, just plug in a Strat and if you have a Vox you will nail it.

I demoed this pedal with the MXR Carbon Copy ($149) but walked out with this. It’s about the same price, but the Carbon Copy was a one trick pony whereas the DigiTech Delay looked like more fun. However if you are after simplicity the MXR is great. The bottom line - not many pedals can take on the DigiTech Hardwire Delay with its huge range of options, host of features and a reasonable price tag.

Pros

  • Great tone
  • Clear delays
  • True bypass
  • Stereo
  • Long delay time
  • Lots of modes
  • Modulation
  • Tap Tempo
  • Looper function

Cons

  • May sound too digital to some
  • Hard to adjust live
  • Reliability questions (maybe just a one off)

Video Review

 

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