Posted by
Jun 9, 2020
Best Delay Pedals

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The Best Delay Pedals: a Guide by Type

If you like delay, you were born in the right century. Humans have been making music for a very long time — some say as many as 35,000 years. But none of the gazillions musical compositions written between the dawn of humanity and the 1960s had a “delay effect” on it!

Of course, echo could be experienced in nature before then, but it was impractical for musical purposes (unlike reverb, which is achievable by placing the sound source in an empty room).

Delay is, therefore, a modern commodity, and if it’s true that it’s not the only sound effect born in the last century, we’d be hard-pressed to deny that it’s one of — if not THE — most fun and inspiring of them all. How lucky are we?

Delay Pedal-Mania is… Now!
Those who, more specifically, love delay pedals, are even luckier: the decade that just ended saw an explosion of devices and new technology that made this effect better sounding and more tweakable and portable than ever. In the last few years, things have gotten even more interesting with granular synthesis entering the arena, making echo and delay pedals one of the most inspiring and playful niches for creative musicians and effect designers alike.

Finding the Best Delay Pedals for Your Needs

A delay pedal simply replicates your guitar’s input signal. So why is choosing one so difficult?

The short answer is “variety.” Electronic delay, or echo, has been around since the late 1940s, when it was produced mechanically, using audiotape. In the roughly 70 years since then, it’s become available in a range of analog and digital circuits and with an increasingly varied set of features.

We’re not going to get into the specifics of how delay pedals work—you can go here for that—but suffice to say, delay has become one of the most common effects available today, even if it is available in an uncommonly diverse number of flavors.

So, what kind of delay do you need? The easiest way to find what you are looking for is to click on one of the overall categories in the list below and then look for the pedal that’s right for you in the sub-categories’ interactive galleries, which are organized by perceived popularity:

•  A Simple, Classic Sounding 3-Knob Delay Pedal
(2 categories: Analog and Tape-Style)
•  A Classic Delay Pedal with Advanced Controls
(4 Categories: Analog Compact, Analog Non-Compact, Tape-Style, Tape-Style w/ Lo-Fi controls)
•  A Do-It-All Workstation Offering Many Flavors of Delay
(3 Categories: Compact and Large Workstations, Tape-Style Multi Delays)
A Character Delay Emulating Non-Tape Vintage Units
(2 categories: Binson Echorec and Oil Can Emulations)
•  A Creative Delay Pedal
(6 Categories: Pitch Shifting, Ambient, Lo-Fi, Single Function, with Reverb, CV In)
A Truly Experimental Delay Pedal
(2 Categories: Multi-Mode Experimental and Granular Delays)
•  A Mini Delay Pedal that Fits in Any Board (separate page)
(Several categories)

The lists in this article are based on the ratings of each pedal from various online music stores

BEST CLASSIC DELAY PEDALS WITH 3 KNOBS

Many guitarists are looking for a delay to help them beef up their tone. They don’t need tap tempo or other frills—just a basic pedal that can deliver a range of delays for styles ranging from rockabilly to reggae to hard rock. If this sounds like you, you’ll be happy to know there are plenty of pedals out there that can fulfill your requirements, in the two flavors of analog (Bucket Brigade Chip-based) and tape echo-style delay (digital delays that emulate the warmth and “wow and flutter” of the vintage tape echos.

A. 3-Knob Analog Delays

All analog delays are based on the Bucket Brigade Device chip (BBD).

  1. MXR Carbon Copy
  2. Boss DM 2W Waza Craft
  3. Electro-Harmonix Memory Toy

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Analog Delay Pedals.
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B. 3-Knob Tape-Style Delays

These are simple digital delays that emulate the delay character of vintage tape echo devices.

  1. Dunlop EP103 Echoplex
  2. TC Electronic Gauss Tape Echo
  3. Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Tape Delay Pedals.
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BEST DELAY PEDALS WITH ADVANCED CONTROLS

If a basic echo pedal is too spartan, check out these analog and digital pedals, which boast tap tempo and additional features for creative sonic manipulation, such as multi-tap and low-frequency oscillators that can emulate the pitch fluctuations of vintage tape-based delays.

A. Advanced Analog Delays (Small Footprint)

In this list, devices that give you a bit more flexibility within the BBD analog format within the perimeters of a small enclosure.

  1. Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy
  2. Chase Bliss Tonal Recall
  3. JHS Panther Cub V2

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Analog Delay Pedals.
Go back to list of delay types

B. Advanced Analog Delays (Larger Footprint)

These analog delays exploit a wider footprint to give you more controls, opening up extra creative features.

  1. DOD Rubberneck
  2. Electro-Harmonix Stereo Memory Man Deluxe 110-TT
  3. MXR Carbon Copy Deluxe

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Analog Delay Pedals.
Go back to list of delay types

C. Tape Delays with controls for Modulation

Tape-style echos differ from analog delays mostly for trying to convey – through added modulation – the “wow-and-flutter” produced by the rolling of the tape in the vintage unit. The pedals in this category let you fine-tune that effect with dedicated controls.

  1. Catalinbread Belle Epoch
  2. Wampler Faux Tape Echo
  3. EarthQuaker Space Spiral V2

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Tape Delay Pedals.
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D. Tape Delays with Controls for Tape Character (Lo-Fi)

Another characteristic of tape is the sonic degradation it conveys to the repeats when the tape ages. These pedals allow control over the lo-fi character of the repeats.

  1. Jam Pedals Delay Lama Xtreme
  2. Recovery Cutting Room Floor V2
  3. Pladask TÅKEN

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Tape Delay Pedals.
Go back to list of delay types

BEST DELAY PEDALS WITH MULTIPLE MODES

Guitar players with a decent budget don’t necessarily have to pick between an analog-style and tape-style delay. Many advanced delay units place a wealth of analog, vintage and digital tones at your service, along with features such as looping, multitap delay, “freeze,” tap tempo and additional reverb and modulation effects. As a rule of thumb, the more flexible these pedals are, the pricier and lesser compact they get.

A. Multi-Mode Workstations (Larger Footprint)

This list features the most comprehensive and flexible delay pedals out there. They are all DSP-based and stereo, and come at a cost.

  1. Source Audio Nemesis
  2. Strymon Timeline
  3. TC Flashback x4

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Multi Delay Pedals.
Go back to list of delay types

B. Multi-Mode Tape Echo Pedals

Unlike the devices in the previous list, these pedals focus on recreating the various flavors of vintage tape delay units (and some non-tape based ones) through modes emulating classics like the Echoplex, the Space Echo or the various effects producers learned to create out of a Studer tape recording machine.

  1. Strymon Volante
  2. BOSS RE-20
  3. Strymon El Capistan

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Tape Delay Pedals.
Go back to list of delay types

C. Multi Delay Pedals with Smallish Footprint

These are streamlined and shrunk versions of the flagship devices in the previous list. They normally share the same algorithms but have less controls and features.

  1. Electro-Harmonix Canyon
  2. BOSS DD-7
  3. TC Electronic Flashback 2

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Multi Delay Pedals.
Go back to list of delay types

BEST DELAY PEDALS IN MINI FORMAT

If your priority is size, this is your list, and you’ll find a lot of options in the linked in-depth article. Today’s mini pedals can pack a lot of functions, but the reduced real estate doesn’t allow them to be as deep as the delay workstations in the previous list. They tend to be more affordable than their bigger cousins, but in many cases also flimsier and impossible to repair.

  1. TC Electronic Flashback Mini 2
  2. Ibanez Analog Delay Mini
  3. Xvive Echoman

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Delay Pedals in Mini Format.
Go back to list of delay types

BEST EMULATION OF VINTAGE, NON-TAPE DELAY UNITS

Maybe you’re just hooked on the raw sound of echo produced by mechanical tape and oil can delays. Unfortunately, vintage tape delays like the Echoplex, Binson Echorec and Roland RE-201 Space Echo can be costly and difficult to maintain. Oil-can delays are even more troublesome—and more expensive, since fewer working examples survive. On the bright side, there are a number of entirely electronic pedals that can faithfully mimic the glitchy sounds of tape delay and warbling echoes of oil-can units.

A. Binson Echorec Emulations

Digital emulations of a vintage Italian magnetic drum-based effect unit from the ’60s (dear to David Gilmour among others) that introduced multi-tap delay.

  1. Catalinbread Echorec
  2. Foxgear Echosex Baby
  3. Dawner Prince Boonar Echo

Check out our in-depth article about Binson Echorec-Inspired Pedals.
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B. Oil Can Delay Emulations

Digital emulations of a rather murky sounding and obscure delay device based on oil. There are only two pedals in this category.

  1. Catalinbread Adineko
  2. Old Blood Noise Black Fountain

Go back to list of delay types

BEST CREATIVE DELAY PEDALS

Delay is also the centerpiece for a range of stompboxes designed for adventurous guitarists (and other musicians too). These pedals excel at turning your input signal into textural machines or echoey, droning wash of sound, and usually include a number of other signal-bending features, such as filters, pitch shifters, and modulation, . If you’re looking for a delay pedal that can take your sound into another dimension, chances are you’ll find what you want among these machines. Most of the boxes here can do straight delay, but nearly all of them exist for the sole purpose of creating unorthodox effects.

A. Multi-Tap Pitch Shifting Delays

Assigning different pitch parameters to different delays in a multi-tap echo is an inspiring way to create unexpected parts. These stompboxes shine at this.

  1. Chase Bliss Audio Thermae
  2. EarthQuaker Devices Arpanoid V2
  3. Red Panda Raster

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Creative and Unusual Delay Pedals.
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B. Ambient/Sci-Fi Delays

In this list, a bunch of delay pedals that excel at creating otherworldly washes of sound, ranging from the ethereal to the sci-fi, ofter featuring a mix of reverb and delay.

  1. Earthquaker Devices Disaster Transport SR
  2. Old Blood Noise RÊVER
  3. Hungry Robot The Wash

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Creative and Unusual Delay Pedals.
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C. Creative Lo-Fi Delay Pedals

Lo-Fi artifacts add character to the signal, and the stompboxes in this list provide plenty of options to make your guitar sound less clean, often in a playful if not quirky way.

  1. Caroline Megabyte
  2. Demedash T-120 Videotape Echo
  3. Wampler The Doctor

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Creative and Unusual Delay Pedals.
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D. Creative, Single Function Delay Pedals

These pedals offer a unique take on delay. They are not very flexible, but what they do, they do it extremely well.

  1. BOSS Tera Echo
  2. Mr. Black Downward Spiral
  3. Catalinbread Csidman

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Creative and Unusual Delay Pedals.
Go back to list of delay types

E. Best Delay Pedals with Reverb

The Reverb+Delay combo is one of the most popular for creative guitarists with ambient or shoegazer inclinations.

  1. Keeley Caverns V2
  2. EarthQuaker Avalanche Run
  3. Wampler Ethereal

Check out our in-depth gallery about the Best Reverb + Delay Pedals.
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F. Best Delay Pedals for Synths with CV In (Great for Modular)

CV (Control Voltage) is a format that allows electronic musical instruments to talk to each other (like Midi, but analog), and it’s the standard for modular synths. The pedals in this list are both creative and CV compatible.

  1. Pigtronix Echolution2 Ultra Pro
  2. Empress Echosystem
  3. Meris Polymoon Delay

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Delay Pedals With CV In.
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BEST DELAY PEDALS WITH AN EXPERIMENTAL ANGLE

For the guitarist interest in pushing the traditional sonic boundaries, there are a few pedals that blend delay with more experimental effects like granular synthesis, filters and reverse effects. These are mostly textural pedals that are great at generating happy accidents, glitchy parts and quirky riffs.

A. Best Multi-Mode Experimental Delays

The pedals in this category offer several unconventional delay modes.

  1. Red Panda Particle V2
  2. Hologram Microcosm
  3. Alexander Radical Delay DX

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Delay Pedals with Creative and Unusual Features.
Go back to list of delay types

B. Best Granular Delays

Just like some sort of “dyslexic delay,” a granular delay chops us samples of audio, reorganizes these fragments in a different order, and then repeats these new patterns creating unexpected, often glitchy textural repeats.

  1. Chase Bliss Audio MOOD
  2. Red Panda Tensor
  3. Montreal Assembly Count to 5

Check out our in-depth article about the Best Creative and Unusual Delay Pedals.
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EDUCATIONAL VIDEOS

And finally, here are a few videos highlighting cool delay tricks to get your creative juices going (click for video)!