Best Delay Pedal Options (Digital & Analog Delay Pedal Review)
There are many great delay pedals on the market and to be honest it was a pretty tough decision putting together this list. The below review is our pick for the top 5 best delay pedal options. The review includes a mix of digital delay pedals and analog delay pedals, as well as two cheap delay pedal options for the budget conscious guitar player.
History of the Delay Pedal
Before getting into the details on the best delay pedals we chose for this review, lets take a look at what a delay pedal actually is. More advanced players can feel free to skip ahead.
The delay pedal is essentially the same effect as an echo or repetition of a certain sound or signal. It is like yelling “HELLO!” in a big valley or empty hall. As cliché as it is if you listen carefully enough you will be able to hear hello being repeated even though you only said it once.
Similarly to the reverb pedal, using large spaces in nature was one of the first and most rudimentary ways to create delay, and due to that the effect has been reproduced as a recording technique throughout history. Early composers used different types of rooms to create delay effects, similar to how different rooms were used to create reverb. The effect caught on and people began to experiment with different techniques to create delay or echo.
Initially, delay was introduced in the recording realm in the 20’s and 30’s using an analog reel-to-reel magnetic tape recorder. Engineers figured out that if you recorded a sound live onto a magnetic tape and then at the same time turn on the play back system. The result is an echo or delay effect.
Essentially the sound gets recorded magnetically on the tape and the tape moves towards the play back system. Depending on the speed of the reel you can control the time period of the delay. This is due to the fact that it takes a certain amount of time for the magnetic recording to reach the play back system.
Engineers started to recognize the power and potential of the delay effect and started experimenting with different ways to produce the effect. Through that development came the use of electronics to create delay and the modern day delay effect was born.
Today, and for this review, we will focus on the two main types of delay pedal options, analog delay pedals and digital delay pedals. The two types of delays are very similar in terms of practicality but have some distinct differences in terms of tone and sound. This is the same as other types of analog pedals vs digital pedals such as a tremolo or a chorus pedal.
As a rule of thumb, digital delay pedals are crisper and cleaner sounding and analog delay pedals are warmer and have a more vintage sound. There can be benefits and drawbacks for each pedal option so you will need to know your sound in order to pick the best delay pedal for you.
Best Delay Pedal Options (High Quality Pedals)
Probably one of the most popular delay pedals on the market, the Boss DD-7 is a digital delay pedal but has a mode that models an analog pedal. Like all boss pedals the DD-7 is constructed using industrial parts so it is made to last.
The pedal itself has a large boss style stomp switch and 4 knobs for
· Analog: models the tone of the DD-2. It is a warmer sounding delay that is full and while not quite a true analog delay it does a pretty good job of emulating it.
· Modulated: modulates the signal to produce a chorus/phaser type of sound within the delay. If you are going for an “airy” type of sound this is definitely a good setting.
· Reverse: reverses the signal and produces a backwards delay. Jimi Hendrix used this type of effect in an amazing way to produce some backward sounding solos.
· Hold: acts as a loop so you can experiment with different harmonies, or looping effects. However, it should be noted that if you are looking for a loop pedal then you might want to search elsewhere. The DD-7 allows for a 40 second loop but you cannot store any presets.
One great feature that was added to the DD-7 when it came out was the tap delay time where you can tap the pedal to set the delay. Tapping the pad that comes with the pedal though is a bit tricky for live settings because as soon as you disengage the delay it forgets your tempo. However, you can buy an external pedal that you can plug into the DD-7 and control the tempo at any time through it.
All and all this is a great pedal and you get a lot of bang for your buck because of all of the different types of delay options within it. It also comes in at a fairly solid price so wont necessarily break the bank account.
The Flash Back delay pedal is a great sounding unit with plenty of versatility and options. Like Boss TC Electronics design a solid pedal built to last. However, the Flash Back has a few more delay options then the DD-7 has.
The pedal includes 9 different types of delay, a loop option and a tone print option where you can download signature delay sounds from the TC Electron website. It also includes a click button switch, delay switch (for breaking up the delay into quarter notes, dotted quarter notes and eighth notes), as well as 3 knobs. The knobs control the effect level, delay time and feedback of the delay.
The different delay options are chalked full of some really interesting sounds to experiment with:
· 2290: This is a basic clean digital delay. Very crisp and keeps the delayed signal free from any muck as it repeats.
· Analog: like the DD-7 the Flashback has an analog setting. The delay is warmer and fades away a bit quicker then the 2290 option.
· Tape: the tape delay setting emulates the warmness of using an actual tape delay. Can be a great option if you want the sustenance of a digital delay with the warmness of an analog delay.
· Lo-Fi: the lo-fi option is a really cool delay effect that produces a really gritty sounding delay. Lo-Fi meaning low fidelity, making it a bit grittier.
· Dynamic: This setting is dynamic to the way you play the guitar and when used correctly can offer some really interesting sounds.
· Modulated: Like the DD-7 the modulated setting modulates the signal to produce a chorus/phaser type of sound within the delay.
· Ping Pong: this setting can be used if you are using the stereo outputs. It “ping pongs” the signal from the left speaker to the right speaker.
· Slap: this is a similar tone to what the slap back reverb would sound like we reviewed previously. But has more sustain on the delay then a reverb would… being it is a delay!
· Reverse: this reverses the signal producing a backward sound, just like we explained above with DD-7.
· Loop: a 40 second loop setting.
· Tone Print: this setting is pretty awesome because you can print different kinds of delay sounds from the Internet to get the perfect sound you are looking for.
The Flash Back is a great delay pedal option and very versatile. It comes in at a comparable price to the DD-7 and would be a great pick due to the different options of delay that come stock. If the regular flashback isn’t enough for you, TC Electronics offers 3 different kinds of flash back delay pedals with multiple presets as well as looping options.
This is a truly analog delay pedal and because of that it puts the analog settings on the DD-7 and Flash Back to shame. It has very warm repeats and as you stack more sounds on top of each other you can hear the repeats get broken up in true analog fashion.
Analog delay pedals aren’t for everyone or every type of music though. Since it is truly analog when you overload the signal it can start to sound a bit off, or if you plug too many pedals in to your chain and activate them it can have a dubious effect. But for a lot of players, analog is the only way to go.
The Carbon Copy is a pretty simple to use pedal. It has a click button type switch, three knobs controlling regeneration, mix and delay time, plus it also includes a button for modulation so you can get those nice sounding chorus repeats.
You can hear the Carbon Copy in action in the below video from Pro Guitar Shop Demos:
Best Cheap Delay Pedal Options (Behringer and Donner)
Like in some of our previous reviews, we like to throw in a couple of cheaper options for beginners or guitar players who aren’t ready to throw mega bucks in to their gear. Although it goes to say you do truly get what you pay for, these two delay pedals are a great bang for your buck!
The VD400 is a strong contender for the best cheap delay pedal on the market. It has one delay option that is a fairly clear digital delay sound. It has three knobs to control the repeat rate, echo and intensity.
Like all Behringer pedals it needs to be taken good care of in order for it to really last, but if you can do that then you have a good sounding delay pedal at an amazing price!
This is an extremely simple but great sounding delay pedal for the price it comes in at. I think I like the tone of the delay repeats from the Donner over the Behringer VD400, but both are good cheap delay pedals.
The controls on this pedal consist of a large knob for controlling the time of the delay repeats. It also has two smaller knobs to control echo and amount of feedback. All and all a great sounding pedal but on the cheaper side!