The gradually diminishing echoes of a delay effect are essential to adding depth to your guitar’s sustain, whether you’re going for the quick hits of rockabilly slapback delay, or for the cascading extended repeats of players like the Edge and David Gilmour.
Like many other effects, today’s delay units can be either analog or digital, each with different strengths and weaknesses. Analog delay was originally produced with large magnetic tape units, and in the mid-’70s, Roland managed to put tape delay into a stompbox with their much-venerated Space Echo pedals. Around the same time, the EHX Memory Man utilized analog “bucket brigade delay” chips (BBD), which preserved the warmth and slight decay of tape delay, but in a smaller and more reliable pedal.
Digital delay really took off in the mid-1980s with units like the Boss DD-2, producing repeated delay phrases with a precision and clarity that analog tape and chips could not approach. Although some consider digital delay to be a bit cold and sterile, its cleanliness and open-ended versatility are key for ambient space-like effects that might be combined with reverb, tremolo, and more. In the last decade, high-end digital units like the Catalinbread Belle Epoch Deluxe and Strymon El Capistan have really been pushing the frontiers in creating warm, analog, tape-like sounds.
Whether you go for digital, analog, or maybe even both, keep reading if you want to see what 2019 has in store for your delay arsenal.
Boss has long been a pioneer in digital delay, from the no-frills DD series stompboxes to the comprehensive DD-500 unit. New for 2019 is the DD-200, a slightly more compact version of the 500 that’s also a great compromise between value and versatility.
The DD-200 has all the standard knobs that delay pedals come with: Time determines the length of a sample that is reproduced, Feedback controls the number of repeated samples that are thrown back at you, and there are also tone, depth, and level controls. But it also has a dial that selects different classic delay sounds from past decades: Analog, Tape, and Lo-Fi, all the way up to new-school Reverse, Shimmer, and Ducking effects.
Combine this variety pack of delays with the ability to save presets, MIDI compatibility, and inputs for external expression controls, and you’ve got an incredibly versatile delay unit for the price.
Joyo D-Seed II
A significant update to the earlier D-Seed, this year Joyo’s D-Seed II has doubled the options on its Mode dial with styles like Lo-Fi, Tape, and Space. The Time Beat control can take the delay time up to two seconds. The D-Seed II also now has capabilities in stereo, and its unique Ping-Pong switch even bounces back delay repeats between the pedal’s stereo signals.
Want to use it as a looper? Just set the dial to Loop mode and record backing tracks up to 3.5 minutes long. For a digital delay under $100, it does not get more loaded or versatile than this pedal.
Strymon has long strived to be ultimate end-all in high-end echo effects pedals—reverb and delay—and the Volante is no exception. This “Magnetic Echo Machine” also has a minimal auxiliary spring reverb feature, but it’s the delay that truly excels.
Foundational to this device are four separately adjustable delay heads, each with their own playback and feedback buttons. It’s possible to adjust these buttons so that one head will reproduce its settings in the delay of another head for an astounding versatility of ambient echoes. There are also three classic delay types—Tape, Studio, and Drum—with a combination of analog warmth and digital precision that you won’t find in many devices. The speed of the delay is controlled through a three-way switch rather than a knob. Plus, you can subdivide the spacing of the repeats by even eighth or quarter notes, triplets, and what Strymon calls the Silver and Golden ratios.
Add EQ knobs, stereo inputs/outputs, USB and MIDI ports, and tap-tempo/looping, and you’ll see how this just may be the ultimate delay pedal.
Eventide’s Rose delay pedal boasts a unique combination of digital delay with analog circuitry, and the result is incredibly warm delays with a lot of options. The delay can be adjusted to as long as 10 seconds, with options of doubling that time with its octave modulator, or extending it up to 50 seconds with the Delay Multiplier.
The Rose also features two option buttons. One of them gives you a choice of five adjustable factory presets, and the other has five different modulation “shapes” including a cool reverse delay sound that actually builds from lower to higher volume. If these are still not enough tweakable options for you, a lower-right Hotswitch lets you add tap tempo, A/B channel switching, infinite repeat, and more.
Supro 1313 Delay
If you’re looking for a warm, no-frills, completely analog delay pedal, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than the Supro 1313 Delay. Don’t let the four simple knobs and lack of preset modes fool you because this small stompbox contains premium components representing nearly a half century of analog development. The updated MN3005 bucket brigade chips are much higher voltage and more powerful than earlier BBDs, while still retaining an irreplicable analog warmth.
The Time, Level, and Repeat knobs will be familiar to most stompbox aficionados, but the Supro’s fourth knob, the Filter, gives you even more options in sculpting classic analog delay sounds, from the darker tones of early BBD chips to the brighter highs of 1950s tape units. If you’re looking to stick to the classics, look no further than this pedal.
Although the Beastie Boys have said that they can “get down with no delay,” most of the rest of us probably need some delayed gratification. Fortunately, the market is booming with all sorts of delay units right now, and you’ll be sure to find one that’s right for you. These pedals present a huge swath of delay options, from the crisp, clippy sounds of “Heartbreak Hotel” into an infinite swirl of cascading, repeating phrases.
- If you don’t mind dropping the cash, the versatility of the Strymon is without parallel.
- Units like the Eventide or Boss are a great hybrid between small stompboxes and larger, more options-laden units.
- For minimalist stompboxes, go with the Supro for classic analog sounds (though it has a hefty price tag), or the Joyo for incredible value in a digital package.