Updated on 05/11/2020
Check out also our list of Ambient Reverbs. If you are looking for more “normal” delay pedals you may want to read these articles: Best Analog Delays, Best Tape Delays, Best Mini Delays and Best Multi-Mode Delay Pedals.
A Guide to the Best Delay Pedals with a Psychedelic or Experimental Twist
Delay is one of the most loved effects for guitar, and can serve a range of purposes from subtle slapback to wild self-oscillation swells. If you’re looking for a cool delay pedal that can take your sound into another dimension, chances are you’ll find what you want among the machines listed in this article. Most of the boxes here can do straight delay, but nearly all of them excel at creating unexpected sounds and textures or washes of echo.
Jump-to-List Table of Content
• Best Multi-Mode Experimental Delays
• Best Granular Delays (Sample Based)
• Best Experimental Pitch Shifting Delays
• Veritable Sci-Fi Machines
• Creative Lo-Fi Delay Pedals
• Other Creative Single Function Delay Pedals
• Advanced Delays with Unusual Features
• Best Delays with Reverb
As usual for our lists, mouseover or first tap will open a description of the pedal, while a click or second tap will open a video
Best Multi-Mode Experimental Delays
Let’s start with a few digital devices that give you a LOT of options through a series of delay modes that are far from traditional (for effects of this kind that also cover more traditional delays, don’t miss our other list of the Best Multi-Mode Delay Pedals). Thanks to the variety of functions they offer, these devices can be true mines of new sounds and textures for players interested in sound design, ranging from granular synthesis to pitch-shifted or reversed repeats, etc.
Best Granular Delays (Sample Based)
If regular delays simply repeat a sound over and over, while advanced ones also apply filtering and modulation to the repeats, digitally sampling the guitar signal and then reorganizing its parts temporarily seems like the next logical step in the evolution of this effect. The latter process is also called Granular Synthesis, and it’s what the stompboxes in this list focus on (although they can do a lot more than just that). You’ll find here some of the most “out-there” effects ever created. This list shares a lot of pedals with our Best Glitch and Stutter Pedals one, so if you are into this kind of device, make sure to check that article too.
Best Experimental Pitch Shifting Delays
Experimental, creative pitch-shifting delays are all the rage these days. Many players find these pedals inspiring because they facilitate the creation of complex sonic textures and can easily transform a simple part in something that sounds almost magical. These effects are evolutions of harmonizer and pitch shifter pedals, but instead of just adding pitch-shifted notes to the ones you are playing, they add delay to them as well (and sometimes other effects), with the newest models going deep into the myriad of controls offered by the advanced modern delay pedals.
Veritable Sci-Fi Machines
The creative use of delay became prominent during the Psychedelic ’60s, a musical era that reveled in mind-blending sci-fi atmospheres and that has been extremely influential in the following decades. If you play psychedelia-influenced music you owe it to yourself to check out these truly “out-there,” spacey delay effects.
Creative Lo-Fi Delay Pedals
Delay and Lo-Fi are effects tied together from birth: early delay devices used magnetic recording tapes that would progressively degrade, therefore acquiring lo-fi traits like hiss, flutter, and high-frequency loss. With the advent of the digital era, the palette of Lo-Fi sounds expanded to include digital sonic artifacts like dithering, aliasing, and bit and sample rate reduction. The pedals in this list offer the whole spectrum of lo-fi artifacts combined – of course – with a delay circuit.
Other Creative Single Function Delay Pedals
The pedals in this list are simpler than the ones you’ll find in the other categories, but offer an interesting if not unique take on delay.
Advanced Delays with Unusual Features
While in this list we don’t include do-it-all multi-mode delay workstations (many of which can replicate a lot of the effects tackled in this article), there are some advanced delays that deserve to be mentioned for their unusual features that open up some creative and spacey tone possibilities.
That’s it as far as our lists are concerned. Here are a couple of interesting videos related to this article’s content!