Once you’ve ventured into the world of guitar pedals, you can hardly go back.
With so many different utility and effects pedals out there, finding the right one for your needs can be a real hassle.
Delay pedals offer unique and interesting possibilities when it comes to experimenting with your guitar sound. But choosing the best delay pedal isn’t that simple.
This article will focus on different types of delay pedals, their features, as well as delay pedal reviews.
Let’s get started!
- Digital vs. Analog – Which One Is Better?
- What About Tape and Modeling Delay Pedals?
- Controls and Parameters
- 3 Useful Features To Look For In The Best Delay Pedal
- 4 Cool Sounding Presets to Get You Started
- Top 10 Delay Pedal Reviews
- Conclusion Time
Digital vs. Analog – Which One Is Better?
First of all, it’s important to note that there are two main types of pedals in general. Digital and analog.
While different musicians prefer one over the other, there are a couple of main differences when it comes to performance and overall feel when you use digital and analog pedals.
Analog pedals take the signal that’s coming from your guitar and modify it via various electrical components.
This means the signal that eventually comes out of the pedal, and into the amp is altered, but still retains certain traits that make it sound very natural.
The bottom line with analog pedals is that they tend to offer a more organic sound, but are limited when it comes to versatility and the range of the actual effect being applied.
They function in a simpler fashion and can convey the original sound of the instrument more easily.
Digital pedals, like the name suggests, transform the analog signal of your guitar into a digital signal, alter it, and then switch it back into analog mode in order for your amp to understand it.
While this gives the circuitry more room for modulation, it also means that the signal loses its original features.
Cheaper digital pedals tend to sound artificial, while more expensive ones can mimic the sound of an analog one, but only to a certain point.
So, if you’re looking for a wide range of features, or simply more parameters you can play around with, digital pedals are your best bet.
Just keep in mind that the actual sound you’re going to get may stray from the original signal you’re feeding into the pedal itself.
At the end of the day, it’s really up to you, and your preferences, style of playing, and the rest of your pedalboard.
If you’re seeking a certain type of delay, and don’t really need much more than that, going for an analog model is your best bet.
They tend to focus on one type and give you the ability to shape your sound to great detail.
However, if you want to experiment with different types of delay, and don’t want to get a separate pedal for each one, a digital model will do the job just fine.
What About Tape and Modeling Delay Pedals?
Besides analog and digital delay pedals as the main two categories when it comes to this effect, there are also two other types that we need to talk about.
Tape and modeling delays may seem as too specific and probably not worth the hassle for some guitarists out there.
However, if you really want to play around and customize your sound, you should definitely consider getting one of these two, and here’s why:
Tape Delay Pedals
Tape delay pedals were first made in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. As the name suggests, they work by actually recording and playing back bits of the signal on and off a magnetic tape.
This not only created a unique sound, both in terms of the actual signal and the mechanism itself, but it also gave the guitarist more room for actually fine-tuning the effect.
It’s all about being able to accurately adjust and fine-tune the delay times. The delay/echo reproduction quality is quite higher than in most other pedal types as well.
If you are old enough to actually know how audio tapes sounded, you know what I’m talking about.
The “wow” and “flutter” effects that are unique for this type of mechanism give the sound an old school vibe.
Though there are a couple of tape delay pedals out there that still utilize the original mechanics, they tend to be pretty expensive and hard to maintain.
If you’re not that enthusiastic, going for a digital version is definitely an easy way of achieving more or less a similar effect.
Modeling Delay Pedals
Modeling delay pedals can be considered as a separate category, but actually, these are fully digital pedals.
What sets them apart from other types of delay pedals are the features that they provide.
Much like modeling amps, they offer the ability to replicate various different types of delay pedals and models from other manufacturers.
Different models come with various numbers of available presets and vary in quality of the actual reproduction.
So why not just go with a modeling pedal and have it all in one place?
Well, even though having multiple choices in one place is very handy, the overall feel and end result can rarely be of high quality.
Accuracy, dynamics, and intensity all tend to suffer in most modeling delay pedals.
It can range from details which only the pedal enthusiasts will notice, to more noticeable ones, which kind of define certain types of delays.
However, that doesn’t mean that modeling delay pedals are a bad investment.
The versatility and wide range of possibilities they offer can’t be matched by any other type of delay pedal.
Just keep in mind that the actual result will vary to a certain degree when compared to standalone pedals, focused on just one type of effect.
Controls and Parameters
Most delay pedals on the market share a relatively similar layout when it comes to controls.
Since you’re dealing with time and duration when you’re using a delay pedal, controls go along the lines of: Effect level – Feedback – Duration time.
Of course, different manufacturers name these parameters differently, and the level of detail you can achieve and set is also a variable.
In order to use the full potential of delay pedals, and integrate them into your sound, you need to understand what’s actually happening with the signal.
- Effect level is pretty straightforward. Think of it as the parameter which simply allows you to modify how much the pedal is involved in altering the signal. It blends the dry, unaltered signal with the delay effect in the mix.
- Feedback adjusts the quantity of the feedback or the repeating signal. In other words, how long the note you’re playing is going to be repeated.
- Delay time/level is, once again, straightforward. By adjusting it you alter the duration of time which passes from the point of you playing a note, to it being repeated by the pedal.
If this still sounds too abstract, just search for a video on YouTube that explains how to operate delay pedals, and it will make much more sense.
These are the basic parameters when it comes to delay pedals.
As we’ve mentioned, more advanced models offer more room for playing around and adjusting the sound, but understanding these will definitely help you with choosing the right model for your needs.
3 Useful Features To Look For In The Best Delay Pedal
As with any piece of musical equipment, it’s important to have a good idea of what different models have to offer, and what makes them unique in comparison to others.
Besides the more or less standard delay parameters, here are a couple of features you may find useful, or even crucial for your needs, that some models include:
1. Tap Tempo
This is one of those things that I had no idea what they are used for, back when I first started tinkering with pedals.
Tap tempo allows you to manually input the tempo in which you are playing.
Though it may not be crucial, as you can simply time the right moment yourself, it’s very useful for keeping those rhythmic effects on point.
This feature can be controlled either via a footswitch or a knob.
Going for a pedal which utilizes a footswitch for this function is very practical for musicians who use this pedal for live performances, as it’s much easier to use it on stage.
A knob, however, allows you to accurately dial in a specific tempo.
If you find yourself using multiple settings often, maybe even in the same song, being able to save and use multiple presets can be a true lifesaver.
This is especially convenient when it comes to modeling/digital pedals, as they offer more than one type of delay effect from which to choose from.
Some pedals include this feature, but not all, so pay extra attention when buying one.
Sure, you could always get a standalone looper pedal, but having this option built-in a delay pedal is not just great for practice, but can make for some very interesting effects on stage.
Depending on the model and pricing, you can find delay pedals with integrated loopers with just basic controls, up to more advanced ones which offer various parameters in terms of loops.
Think about what you really want and need from a delay pedal.
Having all of the mentioned features packed in a pedal sure is handy, but also know that each feature will definitely make the price go up.
Try to find the sweet spot between the features you are bound to use immediately, and the ones you think you may need soon, so you won’t have to buy a new pedal in the near future.
4 Cool Sounding Presets to Get You Started
I’ve decided to include this part as a bonus for when you actually find and buy a delay pedal.
You can also try these out if you’re using a program like Amplitube or Guitar Rig!
As playing around with the knobs can get pretty confusing at first, here are some presets you can use, which will make for a good sound, and help you understand the different ways you can utilize this effects pedal.
The purpose of this preset is to mimic the natural delay between the two heads on old school tape recorders.
You can hear this effect being used by mainly rockabilly and country bands, but it’s versatile enough to be used in different genres as well.
It’s a quick and sharp echo, intended to add a warm flavor to your dry mix.
- Level: at around 12 o clock
- Feedback: minimum
- Time: around 12 o clock on most pedals (80- 140ms)
2. Double Echo Effect
This effect is mainly used to achieve a rich, more fortified impression.
It sounds like there are two guitars playing at the same time, helping the signal cut through the mix, and adding overall presence.
- Level: around 1 o clock
- Feedback: minimum
- Time: at around 11 o clock (50- 80ms)
3. Reverb Simulation
Why get a separate reverb pedal when you can simply use your delay?
In order to get a more “three- dimensional” sound, simply dial in this preset.
- Level: around 12 o clock
- Feedback: around 1 o clock
- Time: around 12 o clock
4. Dotted Eighth
There are many different presets you can use in order to achieve this effect, but I’ve found this one to be the most effective.
The sound you get is the same as playing a “dotted eight note” behind the actual note you’re playing.
I know, it sounds confusing, but try it out and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
This is a commonly used effect which can really add to the depth and complexity of melodies or solos you’re playing.
- Level: all the way up
- Feedback: minimum
- Time: around 2 o clock
It goes without saying that the mentioned presets are here to help you start exploring the amazing world of delay pedals.
Feel free to modify the ones mentioned, and you will be able to come up with your own in no time!
Use this pedal as an extension of your creativity and combine it with others to produce interesting and unique sounds.
And now, it’s time to take a closer look at our pick of the best delay pedals on the market!
Top 10 Delay Pedal Reviews
Delay as an effect covers a broad range of different pedals. We’ve tried to cover a wide range of various models, both in terms of price and features.
The best cheap delay pedal would have to be Donner Yellow Fall Vintage, with a straightforward design and low price.
Depending on what you’re looking for, the other models we’ve reviewed balance sound and build quality, features, and price in different ways, with each model offering a different approach to the delay pedal idea.
We hope that you found this article informative and helpful.
Thank you for reading and we’ll see you in the next one!