The Best Analog Delay Pedals
We’ve covered the difference between analog and digital delay in more depth elsewhere in the guide, but in case you’re not into reading a ton of technical jargon: analog delay sounds warmer and more natural while digital more accurately replicates what you play. If you favor an organic tone over to-the-millisecond accuracy, analog is the way to go.
MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay Pedal
MXR is a brand that straddles the line between mass production and boutique. The MXR M169 combines the organic and chunky tone of famous analog delays without the associated fragility. The delay times, while not competitive with digital delays, can dish out everything from country slapbacks to Gilmour-esque sonic landscapes. The Carbon Copy was designed as a collaboration between MXR Engineer Bob Cedro and Way Huge pedals founder, Jeorge Tripps.
Interestingly, the MXR M169 also allows you to enhance the unit’s repeats with a modulation effect. You can modify the modulation effect by two inner trim pots. The effect is subtle, but it helps to add an extra dimension of depth to your tone.
While the Carbon Copy is an analog delay, the tone lies somewhere in between vintage analog delays and more modern digital configurations. This helps increase the unit’s clarity, which helps to keep the modulation setting from washing out your tone. However, the unit doesn’t have a dark tone that defines many vintage delays.
- Controls: Regen, Mix, Delay, Mod Switch, Internal Trim Pots for Width and Rate
- Delay Time: Up to 600ms
- Switching: True Bypass
- Power: DC Adapter and 9-Volt Battery
Positive reviews note how well the repeats sit in the mix with your dry signal. It's clear enough to be used as a slapback echo but warm enough for wide ambient soundscapes. Users also note that the simplicity of the pedal helped them focus more on writing than tweaking.
Some users noted the repeats are too dark. Others wanted more features like a tempo division switch and tap tempo. MXR addressed both concerns when they released the Carbon Copy Deluxe pedal.
The MXR M169 Carbon Copy isn't an emulation of anything that came before it but brings to mind the best qualities of vintage units in a compact and gig-ready pedal. For those who find the repeats too dark, MXR Also released a Deluxe version with a bright switch and other additional features..
Boss DM-2W Waza Craft Analog Delay Pedal
At time of publication the Boss DM-2W Waza Craft was the Highest Rated Analog Delay Pedal.
The Boss DM-2W is a reproduction of a famous delay pedal that was made commercially viable due to the increased availability of a certain chip. The expression input and the custom / standard selection switch adds more options on top of the original Boss DM-2 platform.
The expression input allows you to plug in an expression pedal and allows you to control the timing of the effect, so you can increase or decrease the delay time while playing.
The Custom / Standard switch is useful for those who have darker (more bass and mids) voiced gear. In standard mode, the pedal functions just like its predecessor, sporting a dark voice and a delay time of up to 300 milliseconds. However, in custom mode, the unit’s repeats have a brighter (though still distinctly analog) tone, and it boosts the maximum delay time up to 800 milliseconds.
- Controls: Repeat Rate, Echo, Intensity, Standard and Custom Mode Switch
- Delay Time: 20ms – 800ms
- Switching: Buffered Bypass (Reportedly)
- Additional Inputs/Outputs: Direct Output (Dry Signal) and Output (Mix)
- Power: DC Adapter and 9-Volt Battery
Rave reviews come from users who either owned the original and want to take one on the road and people who have never tried the original but love the delay's warm and lush tonality. Some comparisons were made with the MXR Carbon copy with the DM-2W being warmer and darker of the two.
Like other vintage-inspired analog delays, the DM-2W has a dark voice to begin with. It’s not mushy per se, but it doesn’t have the clarity of a digital delay. While the dark voicing is a selling point for many, it does somewhat limit the unit’s versatility.
If you want a piece of the legendary DM-2 pie, the DM-2W is a great alternative to the constantly rising price of original units in the used market. The pedal is perfect for adding a nice, musical sounding wash behind your playing. If you're after absolute clarity or overall features, there are others on this guide that may be more of your liking.
Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail V2 Analog Delay Pedal
Like other analog delays, the Seymour Duncan Vapor trail has some high-end roll off. However, what really makes this pedal unique is the capabilities of its modulation. A lot of delay pedals modulate their repeats subtly, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a lot of situations. The TRS send and return jack allows you to add different effects into the Vapor Trail’s repeats. This works with any pedal imaginable, including overdrive or even other delays. The Vapor Trail’s LED blinks in time with the repeat time. It’s not as handy as a tap tempo feature, but it makes dialing the repeat times in with your band easier.
- Controls: Mix, Repeats, Delay, Rate, Depth
- Delay Time: 15ms to 600ms
- Switching: True Bypass
- Additional Inputs/Outputs: Wet Signal Effects Loop
- Power: 9 or 18-Volt DC In or 9-Volt Battery
Users like the added features and controls for the modulation upfront. Some analog pedals that feature modulation either have the controls hidden or pre-set to a certain degree. Users liked being able to tweak modulation with extra controls while in a compact package.
One of the few flaws is that some musicians feel like the footswitch is too close to the control knobs. Others noted that the modulation still sounded digital; possibly a tradeoff for having more controls.
For the tweaker that wants to have more control over their delay sound while keeping pedalboard real estate to a minimum, the Vapor Trail V2 analog delay by Seymour Duncan can't be beat for features and size.
DOD Rubberneck Analog Delay Pedal
The DOD Rubberneck breaks the mold of typical analog delays by offering a plethora of options typically available in digital units such as specific controls for modulation and manual oscillation, regen control (DOD calls it rubbernecking - the common usage of the term is for distracted driving), and a built in tap tempo.
- Controls: Time, Repeats, Level, Modulation rate and depth, Tone and Gain, Tap Ratio, Tails, Rubberneck rate, Regen Rate, Tap Tempo
- Delay Time: up to 1.5 Seconds
- Switching: True Bypass
- Additional Inputs/Outputs: Send/Return 1/4" TRS, Footswitch Jack
- Power: 9-Volt DC Adapter
The DOD Rubberneck receives overwhelmingly positive remarks from nearly every user review. Many users praise its analog tone with the tweakability most digital units still struggle to offer. Players from blues, shoegaze to black metal have praised the Rubberneck's feature set.
The only few cons that we've found were pertaining to older or low quality "wall wart" power supplies not powering the unit correctly. To rectify this, be sure to have a regulated power supply that provides more than 150ma of current. Might not be a good fit for "micro pedalboard" setups.
The DOD Rubberneck was a surprise. The reviews I encountered were so one-sided that I had to go to my local music store and try it for myself. From my experience with it after an hour's worth of tweaking, I couldn't find anything that an analog delay like the Rubberneck can't do. Where other analog delays are more than happy to provide you with good tone, the Rubberneck one-ups the competition by giving you more control than you might think you need.
The Best Digital Delay Pedals
Digital delay pedals are the best choice for anyone looking for accuracy and tweakability. So if you need to dial in the timing of your delay with high-fidelity repeats, or if you prefer a delay pedal with more tweakability, you may prefer selecting from the ones we picked out below.
Electro-Harmonix Canyon Digital Delay and Looper Pedal
The Canyon Digital delay is a Swiss Army Knife of 11 delay sounds ranging from Echo, Tape, IC delays, to more experimental sounds like octave delays, sample and hold, and looper functions. Each setting has "hidden parameters" for additional tweaking such as wow and flutter for tape, modulation for their Memory Man delay model, or the range of pitch shift
- Controls: Level, Delay Time, Feedback, Delay Type (rotary switch), Note division switch
- Delay Time: up to 3 Seconds. 62 seconds loop time
- Switching: True Bypass/Buffered Bypass (switchable)
- Additional Inputs/Outputs: Tap Tempo In
- Power: 9-Volt DC Adapter
With the reviews we've seen, everyone has a different use for the Canyon. Users come from a variety of musical backgrounds, all finding a sound they like on the unit. Positive reviews are for the unit's versatility, tone and size. Great value for the price.
The built in tap-tempo was a hit or miss with a few reviewers. Fortunately, EHX was wise enough to put an external tap tempo jack to plug your favorite tap tempo pedal. Some users were also looking for stereo outputs and were disappointed that Canyon doesn't have them.
Being an owner of one myself, the Canyon has become an irreplaceable part of my gigging rig as it has with dozens of musicians. It's a versatile, feature packed digital delay in a small package; for the price, what more can you ask for? If you need even more features, EHX recently released a "Deluxe" version called the Grand Canyon.
Dunlop EP103 Echoplex Digital Delay Pedal
The Dunlop EP103 Echoplex is an attempt to recreate a vintage delay called the Echoplex. The Echoplex itself has attained legendary status for its usage in many landmark albums by bands such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Queen. Unfortunately, vintage Echoplex units were also very sensitive and prone to malfunction.
The EP103 is a digital reproduction of those vintage units by Dunlop which has a distinctly warm tone. The “age mode” switch adds more high frequency roll off and simulated tape wow and flutter. It also reproduces the gradual trailing off of a tape delay which compresses the tone as the repetitions continue. The mode also simulates the degradation of tape, so as you turn the volume knob up (when age mode is engaged) the tone gradually gets darker. While the pedal is true bypass, it gives you the option to change the bypass configuration so that the repetitions gradually trail off. The pedal also comes with tap tempo, stereo mode, and “wet mode” which removes your dry signal.
- Controls: Sustain, Volume, Delay, Age
- Delay Time: 750ms stock, 4000ms with tap tempo switch (sold separately)
- Switching: True Bypass and Buffered Bypass
- Power: 9-Volt Adapter
Many users praise the tonality of the repeats and the modulation from the simulated tape age. A few reviews noted the preamp of the Echoplex being sold separately as a plus because they can use the delay section without coloration.
The few negative reviews stem mainly from people who didn't like that the preamp is a separate purchase.
While the tone of the unit is a good approximation of the original Echoplex, Jim Dunlop also sells a preamp pedal which further models the tone of the Echoplex. You don’t really need this to get a good tone, but if you’re looking for the true Echoplex sound it might be worth considering. With that being said, expect to spend at least $120 on the preamp. This brings the total price up to somewhere in the neighborhood of $300, which still isn’t a terrible deal considering that the original echoplex can cost as much as $1,500. If you need a pedal to take you back to the 60s and 70s, the EP103 is definitely a trip.
Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo Pedal
The Strymon El Capistan brings classic tape delay and echo sounds into a modern digital format. Emulating every stage of the signal as it passes through an analog piece of gear like a tape echo is no easy task. The El Capistan employs powerful processor chips to handle every nuance in replicating a good tape unit. Controls for Tape Age, Wow and Flutter, Tape head and Mode support the usual Time, Mix and Repeats controls on modern delay pedals. A Tap tempo is included as a second footswitch; a feature that is impossible on vintage tape units.
- Controls: Time, Mix, Repeats, Tape Age, Wow & Flutter, Tape Head and Mode toggle switches, Tap Tempo
- Delay Time: Max 770ms for standard delay mode, 20s for sound-on-sound (looper) mode
- Switching: True Bypass (electromechanical relay switching) or Analog “trails” Bypass (selectable)
- Additional Inputs/Outputs: Input, Left out, Right out, EXP in
- Power: 9-Volt DC Adapter
Users note that the delays sound "lush" and "organic" with just the right amount of modulation by default. Accessing the hidden parameters opens up options for more experimental use. Reviews note its character to be dark and rich. The hidden parameter for low cut helps clear up the repeats.
Not the most user friendly device according to some users. Delay may be too dark for some.
The El Capistan is your ticket aboard warm slapback echos and lush soundscapes. While not the most versatile delay on this list, the richness and ambience the El Capistan brings to your pedalboard is worth the price of admission.
Strymon DIG Dual Digital Delay Pedal
The core design philosophy behind the Strymon DIG Dual Digital Delay is accurately reproducing the rack-mount delays of the 80s without the digital noise associated with those units. These units have a warm, high-fidelity tone different from the high frequency roll off from analog delays. The Strymon DIG has two delay lines that can either work together or independently of one another. These work to create different rhythmic variation in the repeats, like triplets and dotted quarter notes.
You can also modulate your sound by toggling a three-way switch, one of which is no modulation, one is light modulation, and one is deep modulation. You can also change the response of the modulation through a “hidden” switch in the unit’s housing.
An interesting feature of this pedal is that the input signal has an analog path that runs through the housing. Basically, your guitar’s signal runs straight through the pedal without digital conversion. This means that while the delay itself may be digital, your original tone remains unaltered.
Last, you can also select a “trails” mode. The trails mode keeps your repeats running after bypassing the effect, letting them fade off organically rather than being suddenly cut off. Though, switching to this mode changes the output of the unit from true bypass to buffered bypass.
- Controls: Time, Time 2, Mod, Repeat, Type, Mix 1, Mix 2
- Delay Time: 20ms to 3200ms
- Switching: True Bypass
- Additional Inputs/Outputs: Switchable 1/4" - TRS Input, Stereo Output
- Power: 9-Volt DC Adapter
"Pristine" is how multiple reviews describe the quality of the Strymon DIG. Users love how they could immediately access great sounds without diving in too much into complicated menus or settings common in digital rackmount units. It was very easy for some users to tweak more complicated delay patterns. Stereo mode makes the delay sound larger-than-life
It was hard for us to find any negative reviews but as with all Strymon effects, price may be steep for some.
The Strymon DIG is the one of the highest rated delays on our list and for good reason; it's pristine and high fidelity repeats, various features and depth of controls are wrapped up neatly in a pedal that's as simple or complex as you want it to be.
Strymon TimeLine Multidimensional Digital Delay Pedal
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Digital Delay Pedal.
This is the top of the line digital delay offered by Strymon. The unit includes a variety of delay models, including: digital, dual delay, pattern (selectable repeat patterns), reverse, ice (plays sections of the input signal at certain harmonic intervals, like an octave or a fifth), duck (reactive delay that changes based on your dynamics), swell, trem (delay with tremolo), filter (filters either input or repeats, like an auto wah), lo-fi (sounds like a junky tape delay), dTape (intricate modeling of tape delay), and dBucket (recreation of analog delay).
- Controls: Value, Time, Filter, Repeats, Mix, Grit, Speed, Depth, Type
- 12 Delay Types
- Delay Time: 2ms to 2500ms
- Switching: True Bypass
- Additional Inputs/Outputs: Stereo Input/Output
- Power: 9-Volt Adapter
While the unit may take a while to wrap your head around, users consider the pedal to be expressive and immensely versatile. The unit’s emulation of vintage delays is another plus for users, noting that the sounds in the unit are some of the best digital models in the market.
Users note that the TimeLine has a steep learning curve. Reading the manual is necessary to make the most of all its features.
If you could only have one Strymon delay pedal, this is it. It compiles some of the best aspects of Strymon's other best-selling pedals and more. Just be sure to read the manual; you might not want another delay for a long time.
Things to Consider When Buying a Delay Pedal
Luckily for musicians, most effects are simple. Once you wrap your head around a few terms, you will not be going in blind. While there is much more to learn beyond this, particularly creative uses for effects, we hope that this gets you on the right path for making a selection.
Analog Vs. Digital Delay
The differences between analog and digital is a hotly debated topic. Some musicians swear by analog pedals, and others feel that digital is the way to go. So really, just like any other piece of gear one design isn’t objectively superior to another.
Sticking to the facts, an analog pedal is a device which changes an analog current in a certain way and is subject to variability in your playing style (i.e. dynamics). A digital pedal uses a microprocessor, like what’s on your computer, to change your signal.
Analog effects tend sound more organic than their digital counterparts, but digital effects have more accurate reproductions of your input. Analog’s responsiveness (not that digital isn’t responsive to your playing, it’s just less responsive than analog) is a huge selling point with distortion and fuzz pedals, but many musicians prefer digital delays because they can tweaked with greater fidelity.
Delay Time and Feedback Explained
Delay time is measured in milliseconds, which works out to 1000 milliseconds for every second. The higher you turn the delay time control the longer the time that the signal from your guitar will be captured. For example, if you dial in 500 milliseconds of delay time you’ll be capturing half a second of what you play.
Feedback is how many times the signal is reproduced. So, if you turn the feedback knob higher you’ll get more repetitions.
Another thing to know of is that companies label their controls differently. Every delay unit has a setting for feedback and delay time, and many have settings for the volume of the repeats. If you’re ever unsure what certain controls do, odds are you can find a description on the company’s website. However, most controls are self-explanatory.
The Pros and Cons of True Bypass
True bypass is a design configuration where your output and input hardwired. This means that your signal does NOT pass through the pedal's circuitry beyond input and output. Because of this connection, when you disengage the effect your sound passes through it unaltered. There is a slight volume and high-end frequency loss once your signal path (your cord and pedals) reaches a certain length due to capacitance.
With delay pedals, the main tradeoff is that when you disengage a true bypass delay pedal, the repeats get cut off. Most modern delays, particularly digital delays offer buffered bypass where your signall passes through the circuitry and gets conditioned to push the signal further without any high frequency loss. This also enables the use of delay trails that persist even when the unit is turned off. The trade off for buffered bypass is how your signal will interact with the amplifier. Many people experience a change in the responsiveness of the tone.
Neither configuration is objectively superior to another, and don’t let anyone tell you your tone is going to suffer if you use a buffered or hard bypass pedal. You can adjust your EQ to compensate for frequency loss should it occur, and any loss in dynamics is so subtle it will be unnoticeable to your audience.
Delay pedals are available in two configurations, mono out and stereo out. Mono out means that your pedal only has one output, whereas stereo means that it has two.
The main benefit of stereo output is that you can run two outputs with your effect to send it through two amplifiers. This makes it sound “wider” and fuller. The trade-off here is that using a stereo setup is more expensive. A mono output is simpler than a stereo output, and while the sound is different to a stereo rig it isn’t inferior.
The Differences Between Delay, Echo, and Reverb
Delay and echo are often confused with one another. Manufacturers often interchange the two terms. From a technical standpoint, Echoes are usually shorter in interval while delays have longer times. Another distinction that may apply to most pedals is the presence of modulation. Echo pedals are often paired with some form of modulation or frequency filtering on the repeats. Delays, particularly digital delays, have more fidelity.
Reverb on the other hand, is a different implementation of delay. Reverb is characterized as a random and blended repetition of a sound that is produced quickly after the sound is made. Your brain doesn’t notice that the sound is a series of repetitions, so it makes it sound like you’re playing in a room or space.
Delay’s Place In Your Signal Chain
There’s no hard and fast rule with pedal placement, because some musicians like the interaction that certain configurations can give rise to.
The way musicians used to use delays and echoes before the advent of distortion pedals, effects loops and a/b switching, was to plug their guitar into the input of the effect, then patching the output to the amplifier. This use is commonly heard from the 60s and 70s. Eddie Van Halen famously used an Echoplex in front of a roaring Marshall Plexi to get his signature "Brown Sound". Jimmy Page used it to create psychedelic effects especially while using a violin bow on guitar. Settings for these usually involve having the delay signal low in the mix since overdrive distortion accentuates all the sounds from the repeats.
With modern circuitry and distortion pedals, it has come to be more accepted to put overdrive/dynamics pedals first before modulation and delay. Amplifiers during this time also started to implement effects loops that go in between the preamp of the amplifier and the power amplifier. Rackmount effects also came to be popular during the 80s and 90s. This results in a clearer, hi-fi sounding ambience commonly heard on 80s rock music and beyond.
Best Delay Pedal Selection Methodology
This guide was first published on August 8, 2017 written by Mason Hoberg. The latest major revision was published on September 25, 2019 written by Raphael Pulgar with some of Mason Hoberg's original work included.
We looked at all the delay pedals (excluding multi-effects and multi-modulation pedals) available from major online American retailers and put the 43 most promising on our short-list for detailed examination - you can see them in the Music Gear Database. We then gathered information from experts and users via online sellers, forums, YouTube, blogs and major publications, and processed those data with the Gearank Algorithm to produce the Gearank scores out of 100 for each pedal - over 13,400 sources were processed. Finally, we selected the highest rated analog and digital pedals to recommend above. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.