Updated on 09/03/2021
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.
What’s 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)
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.
• 3-Knob Analog Delays
All analog delays are based on the Bucket Brigade Device chip (BBD).
- MXR Carbon Copy
A very popular, rich-sounding, three-knob analog delay based on the classic bucket brigade technology. It features up to 600ms of delay time with optional modulation controlled by two internal trim pots for width and rate.
- Boss DM 2W Waza Craft
Based on the vintage Boss DM-2, the 2W introduces switchable sound modes and greater versatility, with Custom mode offering a cleaner analog tone with over twice the available delay time (800ms). It features an expression pedal input to control the rate and a direct out.
- Way Huge Aquapuss MkIII
With its original, bigger brother selling used for around one grand (!), this mini version could be considered a bargain, although the delay time is only 300ms. It definitely does the job of adding depth and dimension to your tone.
• 3-Knob Tape-Style Delays
These are simple digital delays that emulate the delay character of vintage tape echo devices.
- Dunlop EP103 Echoplex
A simple but quality pedal that seeks to emulate the venerable Maestro Echoplex from the ’60s, one of the first tape echos. Tiny “Age” control makes the repeats increasingly degraded. It’s the only pedal in this list with remote Tap Tempo functionality.
- Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay
A high end, three-knob tape echo with about the same bandwidth as the classic tape echo unit. The three knobs control Delay Time, Delay Level and Repeats. The “Dual” version is not hand made but offers two echo circuits, Tap Tempo and Tone controls. It costs about the same. There’s a PCB and a hand-wired version of it
- Death By Audio Micro Dream
A compact version of the popular Echo Dream II (which also includes a fuzz circuit) the Micro Dream has the unique feature of getting more and more lo-fi sounding the longer the repeats, which sound warm and pleasant up to 400 ms.
DELAYS 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.
• 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.
- Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy
A mid-size, “lighter” version of the classic (and huge) Memory Man, with up to 550ms of delay time and selectable Chorus or Vibrato modulation with triangle or square waveforms.
- Chase Bliss Tonal Recall
Features a 100% analog signal path controlled by a digital brain, packing the unimaginable in a compact case: tap tempo, MIDI connectivity, presets (2 via footswitches and 100+ through MIDI), modulation controls (shape, rate, depth, and shape), wet/dry knob, a hold function to add self-oscillation and 16 DIP switches on the back panel for extra tweaks.
- JHS Panther Cub V2
Half the size of the Panther Cub V1 and Panther Cub V1.5, it uses eight Bucket Brigade chips for a maximum 1 full second of delay with modulation and separate tap tempo. The latest version includes Wet Mix, smoother oscillation and run-away and an active EQ.
• Advanced Analog Delays (Larger Footprint)
These analog delays exploit a wider footprint to give you more controls, opening up extra creative features.
- MXR Carbon Copy Deluxe
An expanded version of the classic Carbon copy with more delay time (1200ms), presets, tap tempo and subdivisions. It also sports and bright switch and exposed control for the modulation section (they were internal trim pots in the original).
- Electro-Harmonix Memory Man 1100-TT
The classic EHX delay with added Tap Tempo, 1100mS of maximum delay time, Expression Control and an Effects Loop. Five Tap Divide subdivisions deliver rhythmic variation. The Expression Pedal Input provides real-time control over Blend, Rate, Depth, Feedback and Delay. For more affordable versions of this same series (with shorted delay times or fewer features) look at non-deluxe and 550-TT versions.
- DOD Rubberneck
Over a second of analog repeats with tap-tempo, subdivisions, and tails. Double concentric knobs give you independent control of the Mod, Rate, Depth, Gain, and Tone of the delay. Double footswitches allow for extended features like user customizable momentary control of oscillation and momentary control of the dizzying pitch sweep.
• 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.
- Catalinbread Belle Epoch
A pedal recreation of the classic Echoplex EP-3, it emulates the original’s preamp color, self-oscillation character, saturation behavior, the decay of the repeats and the wow and flutter. The last three effects can be controlled through the Rec Leve, Sustain and Mod knobs.
- Wampler Faux Tape Echo
A versatile yet simple echo recreating the warmth and character of vintage tape units through a mostly analog circuit (clean signal path, modulation and filters are analog, while the delay line is digital). Delivers anything from slapback to washed out sounds. V2 offers also Tap Tempo and subdivisions.
- EarthQuaker Space Spiral V2
A dark and dreamy modulated echo with plenty of tone shaping features. V2’s flexi-switch lets you hold it for momentary operation or tap it to toggle on/off. The modulation section’s Depth and Shape controls interact with the delay’s main controls to deliver variable LFO shapes.
• 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.
- Jam Pedals Delay Lama Xtreme
A beefed-up version of the popular original delay with unusual functionality. 800ms of delay can be manipulated through a 4-Mode section that offers either Vibrato or “tape Age” character or Random repeats or Pitch shifting. Tap tempo with subdivision, hold function, kill dry, trails, and expression/CV input round up the list of features.
- Recovery Cutting Room Floor V2
A versatile, hand-wired pedal offering wild modulation, delay, freeze and stutter effects, with a lo-fi angle. The Wow knob controls both intensity and modulation parameters, while the Stability control acts in conjunction with it as a tape deterioration effect. The freeze button allows swelling momentary effects.
- Pladask TÅKEN
An asynchronous, dual-head delay with random modulation and a powerful send/receive-loop. The Head knob
sets the balance between the two ‘tape’ heads from 100% ‘short’ to 100% ‘long’. Internal switches can add
more resonance and high pass filtering. It offers four routing options through send/receive-loop.
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.
• 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.
- Strymon Timeline
Loved by many, it’s lush sounding with deep functions, without being overly complicated, a studio-grade unit that includes 12 “delay machines” delivering anything from classic tones to cutting edge ones. 200 presets, a routable 30-second looper, and Midi implementation.
- Electro-Harmonix Grand Canyon
Marries 12 delay modes (up to 3 seconds) to a Looper function with 16 minutes of recording time. Other features include tap tempo, nine tap divide settings, 13 presets, programmable EXP pedal settings, trails option to let the delay tail fade out naturally when the pedal is off.
- BOSS DD-200
With its 32-bit and 96 kHz sampling rate, the DD-200 offers a more dynamic and detailed sound. It offers 12 delay modes, six knobs for on-the-fly control, customizable footswitches, tap tempo, and four presets slots. There’s also a 60 second phrase looper. Supports external footswitches, expression pedal, and MIDI.
• 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.
- Strymon Volante
It offers emulations of three specific vintage delay pedals, inclkuding the Binson Echorec (“Drum mode”). The controls aren’t exactly the same as the original, but the sonic recreation is extremely faithful, and the various controls actually expand on the limits of the vintage units.
- BOSS RE-20
A digital replica, in pedal format, of the legendary Roland Space Echo Delay by the same manufacturer. It features 11 Classic Echo and Echo + Reverb modes and the same controls as the original.
- Strymon El Capistan
A lush stereo emulation of a vintage Tape Echo device, in a cleverly simple box. It offers three Tape modes emulating different reading head configurations (Fixed, Multi and Single) and three ways to slightly tweak each one of them. Separate controls for Tape Age and Wow and Flutter. Sound on Sound mode allows you to use it as a looper.
• 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.
- Electro-Harmonix Canyon
A Tap Tempo-enabled, Mono, compact, multi-mode delay (up to 3 seconds) that does it all, including looping, shimmer, trails and subdivisions. Creative guitarists will appreciate the Sample & Hold Function is “glitch” at its finest. It allows easy access to extra parameters through the Secondary Knob Mode.
- BOSS DD-8
A Stereo In/Out digital pedal with up to 10 seconds of delay featuring 11 modes, from the usual classics to creative modes like Glitch, Reverse, Shimmer, Mod Warp and also a Loop mode. Tap Tempo and Hold functions are integrated within the only footswitch. Includes Trails option and external connectivity for remote tap tempo and expression pedal.
- Walrus Audio Mako D1
A creative Stereo in/out, multi-function delay in a compact case with five, studio-grade, high-fidelity, custom-tuned programs.
Each delay program can be customized with modulation, tone, decay age and subdivisions then saved to any of the 9 on-board preset slots or 128 via MIDI.
MINI DELAY PEDALS
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.
- TC Electronic Flashback Mini 2
Don’t let the three knobs (Feedback, Delay, and Level) fool you, this mini-delay can get a lot of different sounds through TC’s Toneprint app, which allows to upload and tweak presets in many flavors and transfer them via USB.
- Ibanez Analog Delay Mini
It features two smaller knobs for Repeat and Blend, and a significantly larger Delay Time knob in the middle. The range of delay time is 20ms to 600ms. True bypass switching provides the shortest, most direct signal path, as well as the cleanest tone. 100% Analog Circuitry allows for the warmth of tone that players desire from analog delays.
- Xvive Echoman
A mini delay designed by the same electrical engineer who created the EHX Memory Man Deluxe. Features two Xvive proprietary BBD3005 chips, giving you up to 600 msec of delay time with no aliasing distortion and added modulation.
EMULATIONS 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.
• 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.
- Catalinbread Echorec
A digital recreation of the first Binson Echorec that takes the delay time up to 1k milliseconds, it includes all 12 combinations of the original unit’s “Switch” knob and adds a “Tone” control like in version 2, renouncing though the magnetic head on/off “Channel Selector.” An internal trim pot controls the intensity and randomness of the modulation.
- Foxgear Echosex Baby
A shrunk and stylized version of the Guru Amps Echosex delay pedal, which was inspired by the vintage Binson Echorec. Features an “Age” knob which adds vintage character to the repeats
- Dawner Prince Boonar Echo
It faithfully recreates the character and functions of the Echorec 2, sharing the same analog signal path as the original but with high voltage driven FETs as tube emulators and a DSP unit recreating the magnetic memory drums. A footswitch allows you to switch from Repeats to Swells. With a 1k ms delay time s, it replaces the 12 positions of the “Switch” knob with an increased 16 combinations. A Drum Age knob on the back panel emulates the character of worn out units.
• 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.
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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• Delay Pedals with Reverb
The Reverb+Delay combo is one of the most popular for creative guitarists with ambient or shoegazer inclinations.
• 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.
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.
• Multi-Mode Experimental Delays
The pedals in this category offer several unconventional delay modes.
Check out our in-depth article about the Best Delay Pedals with Creative and Unusual Features.
Go back to list of delay types
• 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.
If you found this article useful, please rate it!
And finally, here are a few videos highlighting cool delay tricks to get your creative juices going (click for video)!