10 Best Delay Pedals | May 2017

10 Best Delay Pedals
Best Mid-Range
★★★
Best High-End
★★★★★
Best Inexpensive
★★★
We spent 37 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Guitarists can produce densely overlaid textures of notes with rhythms complementary to the music, and vocalists can add a dense or ethereal quality to their singing with one of these delay pedals. We've included the finest models designed for use in pedal arrays, with an eye toward versatility, quality of overall tone, and durability. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best delay pedal on Amazon.
10
The TC Electronic FlashBack X4 offers a truly unique option in its tone print capability, which enables presets designed for the company by professional musicians familiar with the device. It comes with a handful preinstalled, but more than 70 are available free online.
  • includes a looper
  • 16 effects types
  • very large board footprint
Brand TC Electronic
Model Flashback X4
Weight 3.4 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0
9
The Jim Dunlop MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog has a classic, timeless design that works as well for musicians today as similar models have for decades. It includes rich, all-analog effects and a modulation knob, while its internal trim pots control width and rate.
  • up to 600 milliseconds of gap
  • bucket-brigade technology
  • snr suffers after a point
Brand Jim Dunlop
Model M169
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0
8
The Catalinbread Echorec Multi-Head is built around two main controls, namely its swell and program select. With the former, the box will follow your strum, reading and responding to it. With the latter, you can assign your settings to 12 head styles.
  • twist feedback in real time
  • full dry to wet range
  • no true bypass option
Brand Catalinbread
Model CAT ECHOREC
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
7
Brought to market by the same company that has created some of the most ubiquitous and lauded guitar pickups in the world, the Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail utilizes a true analog bucket brigade circuit to produce a sound that hearkens back to the early days of the effect.
  • bright blue indicators
  • small board footprint
  • mediocre modulation
Brand Seymour Duncan
Model Vapor Trail Analog Dela
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0
6
The Xvive Memory Analog was designed by the engineer responsible for the famed Electro-Harmonix Memory Man Delux. This unit takes that technology to the next level, with up to 600 milliseconds of gap time and a highly articulated blend control.
  • 900k input impedance
  • drive gain knob
  • excellent noise reduction
Brand Xvive
Model W3
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0
5
In addition to four dials set to control the most essential aspects of your effect, the Empress Effects Tape also boasts a selection of switches to tweak everything from tape age to filters and modulation. Its knobs are made of a notched steel for added durability.
  • true bypass ability
  • dedicated tap tempo
  • clean hi-fi sound
Brand Empress Effects
Model TapeDelay
Weight 12.8 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
4
The Source Audio SA260 Nemesis provides you with 24 different engines as the foundation for your effects, after the selection of which you can fine-tune everything from feedback time to modulation. Its tap function can follow quarter, dotted eighth, and triplet notes.
  • 128 recallable presets
  • additional settings via smartphone
  • midi throughput
Brand Source Audio
Model SA260
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
3
The Earthquaker Devices Avalanche Run has a useful ratio selector switch that provides you with one of six exact feedback subdivisions when synced with input from a dedicated tap button on the right side of the unit's face.
  • up to 2 seconds of space
  • five different tail lengths
  • swell responds to pick dynamics
Brand Earthquaker Devices
Model EQDAVAL
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0
2
The Boss DD-7 Digital uses analog-style dials but is packed with digital precision, meaning you get the best of both worlds in one package. You can set the tempo with an external stomp box, or press and hold to activate an internal tap switch.
  • great for fading in and out
  • loops up to 40 seconds of play
  • mono through line
Brand BOSS Audio
Model DD-7
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0
1
Among the slew of functions and settings on the Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo the most impressive is the tape age dial, which can take your repeated tone from exact replication quality to that of a magnetic ribbon that's naturally decayed over time.
  • snr averages at 115db
  • three head options
  • stereo quarter-inch outputs
Brand Strymon
Model Elcapistan
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

Delayed Reaction

In the 20 years since I started playing guitar, I've never given up the need to tamper with the sound of the instrument. I have gotten a lot more disciplined about the number of pedals I use to achieve this tampering, but there are certain effects without which I cannot live. Among those, is at least one delay pedal. In my current setup, I have two, one of which is pretty high up on this list, and the other of which is technically a loop station.

Delay is a rather magical effect, moreso than many others in that it creates the sense of additional instruments, of a kind of specter repeating what you've played on into the night. Some would argue that its digital form is a little less magical than the analogue origins the effect boasts, but we'll quickly see how both kinds of delay have their advantages.

That magic comes from analogue delay's refusal to convert the incoming signal into a digital sample. In other words, there's less computing, compressing, and recreating of your original input sound, preserving more of its artistic integrity. Instead of creating, accessing, and manipulating a sample as the digital pedals do, analogue pedals send voltages along a pattern of capacitors in a system that greatly resembles a line of firemen passing along buckets of water. That's why this kind of delay pattern is often referred to as a bucket brigade.

On the output side, digital delay offers a lot more options for manipulation, as a digital sample can endure more deconstruction than an analogue signal can before decaying. Some artists prefer the more natural decay of an analogue device, while others like the increased amount of options afforded to you by a digital interface.

Any delay pedal you select will at least give you control over the length of time between delay repetitions, as well as the intensity of the delay effect, often through simple dial controls on the pedal's surface.

Control Freaks

Your style of music is completely your own. Even if you're the guitarist in a Led Zeppelin tribute band, you still have your own unique way of playing the guitar that's at least a little different than what Jimmy Page was up to. Each of the pedals on our list offers a different set of options for the control of your delay output, and you should take stock of your musical style before making a decision.

I, for one, am an enormous fan of simplicity in delay, especially if I'm tracking and performing for a soundscape that has recognizable guitars in it. Sure, I like having a more complicated digital delay like the ones offered by BOSS when composing experimental music with a digital noise component, but my tastes in the sound of a guitar are distinctly analogue.

Look at your setup as it is. Let's start with your amp. Is it a tube amp or a solid-state creation? If you're pumping your sound through a tube amp, you're probably more in line with the analogue pedals on our list. Otherwise, a digital pedal might serve you just fine. Of course, if you're stuck on soild-state for money purposes, and you really want to get at that analogue sound, an analogue delay pedal would be a step in that direction.

But inside the debate between analogue and digital delay, there is the question of features and control. Analogue pedals provide a little less potential delay time, as manufacturers can only fit so many capacitors into a single pedal. Digital delay also offers pitch controls, reversal programs, and looping options that you might really enjoy. If you want a delay effect to continue more or less endlessly, you need a digital pedal.

If this is all getting a little heady for you, most of these pedal companies have samples for you to hear on their websites, which can give you an even better sense of their sound. Keep in mind, though, that they have tremendous control over that content, and the real-world application of the pedals might feel a little different.

Let's Go To The Tape

Delay as we know it started among the studio innovators and experimental composers of the 50s and 60s, who used closed loops of thin magnetic tape to track sounds and instruments and play them back over and over. They would stretch the tape, speed it up and slow it down, or denigrate it with other magnets to achieve additional effects on the sound.

In the 1970s, solid state analogue delay pedals became available as the introduction of bucket brigade processing chips allowed designers and manufacturers the ability to recycle and time their signal processes.

Later that decade, companies like Sony and Philips utilized an advanced form of Pulse-code modulation to advance the field of digital recording. As music and telecom industries worked to standardize frequency-binary correspondences, effects designers sought to incorporate the tech into their pedals.

BOSS's DD-2, introduced in 1984, was the first such digital delay pedal to utilize this new digital signal processing, and the complexity and variety of the effects made available by the innovation only grows today.



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Last updated on May 23, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.


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