More Guitar Pedals
Delay is a unique effect in that it has a place in every genre. Whether you’re looking for dry country slapback chunk or the smooth “filling out” effect you hear in metal. Essentially, if you play guitar you’re going to want to pick up a delay pedal at some point.
Because delay is such an essential effect, you’re going to want the best delay pedal that you can afford. However, what constitutes “the best” varies based on what you’re looking for and how you want to implement the effect.
So rather than go in blind, check out our recommendations! The products below are all considered to be among the best options available in their respective categories. If you’re still unsure which delay pedal is going to work best for you, check out the “Things to Consider When Buying a Delay Pedal” section which gives a more in-depth look at which delay pedal is best for a given situation.
- The Best Delay Pedals
- Things to Consider When Buying a Delay Pedal
The Best Delay Pedals
The Best Analog Delay Pedals
We’ve covered the difference between analog and digital delay in more depth elsewhere in the article, but in case you’re not into reading a ton of technical jargon: analog delay sounds more natural while digital is more accurate. If you favor an organic tone over to-the-millisecond accuracy, definitely consider one of the pedals below.
Ibanez ADMINI Analog Delay Pedal
The first thing to know about this pedal is that it’s a reissue of a classic design, and while it may be smaller than its inspiration the design of both is very similar. The original was discontinued due to a shortage of a certain type of chip, which in turn inflated the price of the original pedals.
- Controls: Repeat, Blend, Delay Time
- Delay Time: 20ms – 600ms
- True Bypass
- DC Adapter
The reason that pedal’s predecessor, the AD9, was such a hit was that the repeats it produced were a classic example of what analog-delay connoisseurs want out of a delay pedal. The unit’s repeats gradually degrade, filling out both the bass and mid frequencies (and rolling off the treble) as they do. This lends the pedal what’s been described as “a funky grit, between distorted and clean.” At its core, it’s a pedal with loads of character.
When looking at the ADMINI, there’s nothing that can really be called an objective flaw. The unit isn’t lacking in controls, and while its tone isn’t as pristine as many digital delays that’s actually a selling point in many situations.
A possible area of controversy is that this pedal is true bypass, so when you disengage the unit you’re going to lose and lingering repeats. However, because the pedal is true bypass you won’t have to worry about any tone coloration when the unit is disengaged.
Boss DM-2W Waza Craft Analog Delay Pedal
Like the Ibanez ADMINI above, the Boss DM-2W is a reproduction of a famous delay pedal that was once again made commercially viable due to the increased availability of a certain type of chip. However, while the Boss and Ibanez use the same chip they are two very distinct effects.
- Controls: Repeat Rate, Echo, Intensity, Standard and Custom Mode Switch
- Delay Time: 20ms – 800ms
- Buffered Bypass (Reportedly)
- Direct Output (Dry Signal) and Output (Mix)
- DC Adapter and 9-Volt Battery
There are two features which differentiate the Boss DM-2W from a lot of its competitors: the expression input and the Custom/Standard selection switch.
The expression input allows you to plug in an expression footswitch, which looks similar to a wah pedal. The expression footswitch allows you to control the timing of the effect, so you can increase or decrease the delay time while playing. It’s a cool feature if you utilize it, but it’s by no means a must have.
The Custom/Standard switch is useful for those of you who have darkly (more bass and mids) voiced gear. Like other vintage-inspired analog delays, the DM-2W has a pretty dark voice to begin with. It’s not mushy per say, but at the same time it doesn’t have the clarity of a digital delay. While the dark voicing is a selling point to many, it does somewhat limit the unit’s versatility.
To counter this, Boss updated their design with the Custom/Standard switch. In standard mode the pedal functions just like its predecessor, sporting a dark voice and a delay time of up to 300 milliseconds. However, when the switch is flipped into custom mode the unit’s repeats have a much brighter (though still distinctly analog) tone, and the max delay time is boosted up to 800 milliseconds.
While we wouldn’t call the Boss pedal overpriced, a potential flaw with the unit is that if you’re not going to take advantage of its extra features your money may be better spent elsewhere.
MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay Pedal
MXR is a company that straddles the line between mass production and boutique street cred. The pedals, while popular, are nowhere near as ubiquitous as some of their competitors. The company maintains a tight grip on their quality control process, and the reviews for their gear are reflective of this.
- Controls: Regen, Mix, Delay, Mod Switch, Internal Trim Pots for Width and Rate
- Delay Time: Up to 600ms
- True Bypass
- DC Adapter and 9-Volt Battery
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, are capable of dishing out everything from country slapbacks to Gilmour-esque sonic landscapes.
Interestingly, the MXR M169 also allows you to enhance the unit’s repeats with a modulation effect. The modulation effect can be modified by two inner trim pots. The effect is subtle, but it does help to add an extra dimension of depth to your tone.
While the Carbon Copy is an analog delay, the tone is considered to be somewhere in between vintage analog delays and more modern digital configurations. This helps to somewhat increase the unit’s clarity, which helps to keep the modulation setting from washing out your tone. However, the unit doesn’t have the dark tone that defines many vintage delays.
Way Huge WHE702S Echo-Puss Analog Delay Pedal
The Echo-Puss Analog Delay Pedal is a minimalist’s wet dream, sporting a simple yet powerful user interface and a warm and vibey sound. The unit utilizes LFO circuitry to modulate its repeats, which is further controlled through the depth and speed controls. You can also use the tone control to set the tone of your repeats, with the tone becoming brighter as the knob is turned clockwise.
- Controls: Delay, Feedback, Depth, Speed, Tone, Blend
- Delay Time: 20ms -600ms
- Hardwire Bypass
- DC In and 9-Volt Battery
The controls of the Echo-Puss aren’t really that unique, but the pedal definitely has a signature tone. It’s not an attempt at trying to nail down the elusive tone of a piece of gear from decades ago, it’s a solid entry to the world of analog delays in its own right.
If you’re a Way Huge fan and you’re trying to choose between the Echo-Puss and the Aqua-Puss, the basic difference between the two is that the Echo-Puss is considered brighter while the Aqua-Puss is considered to be fuller. The Aqua-Puss also has 300ms in delay time.
Because the Echo-Puss is so clear and bright for an analog delay, one of its main selling points is its ability to remain clear in a mix. An effect’s ability to contribute to a greater whole is what defines a great effect, because there are more instruments in a band than just a guitar.
Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail V2 Analog Delay Pedal
Like other analog delays, the Seymour Duncan Vapor trail has that high-end roll off which defines this type of effect. However, what really makes this pedal unique is the capabilities of its modulation (and the effects ease of access!). A lot of delay pedals that modulate their repeats do so more subtlety, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a lot of situations. However, having higher levels of modulation on hand opens up new (if limited) possibilities. It’s a good addition to your rig if you’re an effects heavy guitarist.
- Mix, Repeats, Delay, Rate, Depth
- Delay Time: 15ms to 600ms
- True Bypass
- Wet Signal Effects Loop
- 9 or 18-Volt DC In or 9-Volt Battery
Another cool feature of this pedal is its TRS send and return jack. Basically, this allows you to add different effects into the Vapor Trail’s repeats. This works with any pedal imaginable, including overdrive or even other delays!
Something that many musicians will find useful is that the Vapor Trail’s LED blinks in time with the repeat time. It’s not quite as handy as a tap tempo feature, but it does make dialing the repeat times in with your band significantly easier than it would be doing it by ear.
The only possible flaw is that some musicians feel like the footswitch is a bit too close to the control knobs, though to be fair that’s a pretty petty complaint.
The Best Digital Delay Pedals
As stated elsewhere, digital delay pedals are the best choice for anyone looking for accuracy. So if you need to dial in the timing of your delay with a high-degree of fidelity, odds are one of the pedals below will be your best bet.
Boss DD-7 Digital Delay Pedal
Many of Boss’s overdrive and distortion effects have received lukewarm reviews, but when it comes to modulation the company has always knocked it out of the park.
- Controls: Level, Feed Back, Delay Time, Mode
- Delay Time: 1ms to 6400ms
- Stereo Input/Output
- Buffered Bypass
- AC Adapter or 9-Volt Battery
The best part of this pedal is how flexible it is. Using the “Mode” control you can select between analog, reverse, and modulation modes. The analog mode in particular is a useful feature if you’re looking for a combination of warmth and accuracy.
Reverse delay is a niche effect which reverses the repeats, which outputs what you play backwards. It’s a great way to get volume swells without a volume pedal. The effect isn’t widely used, but a good example of it is “Lounge Fly” by Stone Temple Pilots.
The DD-7 comes with an input jack for an expression control, which allows you to adjust the timing of repeats on the fly. The unit also packs tap tempo, which makes dialing in the effect based on the tempo of your band a breeze.
The pedal also comes with a looping feature, though it is minimalistic compared to more advanced loopers. The unit allows you to record up to 40 seconds of audio which, while not comparable to a true looper, does increase the flexibility of the unit.
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 were considered to have a warm, though specific, tone. Think warmer in general, rather than the progressive roll-off of high-end frequencies you get with an analog delay.
- Controls: Time, Time 2, Mod, Repeat, Type, Mix 1, Mix 2
- Delay Time: 20ms to 3200ms
- Switchable 1/4" - TRS Input, Stereo Output
- True Bypass
- 9-Volt DC Adapter
The Strymon DIG Dual Digital, as suggested by the name, has two delay lines which 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.
The repeats of the DIG Dual Digital can also be modulated through a three-position switch, one of which is no modulation, one is light modulation, and one is deep modulation. You can also further modify the response of the modulation through a “hidden” switch contained in the unit’s housing.
An interesting feature of this pedal is that the input signal has an analog path which runs through the housing. Basically, your guitar’s signal runs straight through the pedal and is never converted to digital. This means that while the delay itself may be digital, your original tone remains unaltered.
Lastly, you can also select a “trails” mode. The trails mode keeps your repeats running while the pedal is engaged, letting them fade off organically rather than being suddenly cut off. Though, switching to this mode does change the output of the unit from true bypass to buffered bypass.
Eventide TimeFactor Twin Digital Delay Pedal
It’s really hard to review this pedal, because if you ask “What does it do?”, the first answer that springs to mind is “Just about everything.” The delay types that come with the unit are: digital delay, vintage (analog) delay, tape echo, modulated delay, band delay (like modulated, but you can change the filter), multi-tap, and reverse delay.
- Controls: Mix, Delay Mix, Preset Control, Xnob, Delay Time A and B, Depth, Speed, Filter, Feedback A and B
- Delay Time: Up to 3000ms
- Stereo Input/Output
- True Bypass
- AC Adapter
Unlike the T.C. Electronic pedals above, the Eventide also comes with a more feature packed looper. The Eventide’s looper allows for 12 seconds of audio, with a dubbing and speed control. Feature wise, the onboard looper is similar to other entry-level loopers (though still not comparable to a good dedicated looper).
Looking at the controls on the looper, it’d be understandable if you feel a bit overwhelmed. But while you have a lot of parameters to dial in, should you purchase this pedal you’ll adjust to them pretty quickly. The xnob is the only complicated control, because it’s usage varies based on the delay model selected (though the various functions are all described in the user manual).
If the features above weren’t enough, the Eventide also comes with an expression pedal input as well as a stereo and mono output. The unit also comes with a tap tempo functionality.
In summation, this pedal will take a bit of time to figure out. It’s more complicated and a bit less varied than T.C. Electronic’s TonePrint software, but at the same time the parameters available are easier to control because the unit has physical controls rather than a digital interface.
Also, take care if you buy this pedal used. Eventide has released several iterations of the pedal. The features will vary based on which model you go with.
Strymon TimeLine Multidimensional Digital Delay Pedal
The Strymon TimeLine Multidimensional Digital Delay is meant to take the place of a studio delay. Whether or not it actually does that is up to debate, but you would be hard pressed to say that this pedal isn’t packed full of great features.
- Controls: Value, Time, Filter, Repeats, Mix, Grit, Speed, Depth, Type
- 12 Delay Types
- Delay Time: 2ms to 2500ms
- Stereo Input/Output
- True Bypass
- 9-Volt Adapter
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, a bit like an auto wah), lo-fi (sounds like a junky tape delay), dTape (intricate modeling of tape delay), and dBucket (recreation of analog delay).
The TimeLine is very similar to the Eventide in that you have a ton of different delay models available, all of which have been engineered with a greater degree of care than what you generally get from user presets.
However, the pedal is still a bit complicated when compared to many of the delays above. Many of the controls in the bottom row change from one preset to the next, and the manual (while informative) is a bit long and technical.
Though while the unit may take a while to wrap your head around, the pedal is considered to be incredibly expressive. The unit’s emulation of vintage delays is another selling report, as their reportedly one of the best digitally-modeled examples of the effect available.
For one reason or another, these pedals didn’t quite make the cut for the main list. However, due to their popularity and rave reviews we decided to include them in their own section.
EarthQuaker Avalanche Run Digital Delay and Reverb Pedal
The EarthQuaker Avalanche Run is a deceptively powerful pedal. The Avalanche Run is great for musicians looking for a plug-and-play unit that, while flexible, won’t take hours of experimentation to wrap your head around its features.
- Controls: Time, Repeats, Tone, Mix, EXP, Decay, Mix, Ratio, Reverse/Normal/Swell
- Delay Time: 0ms to 2000ms
- Stereo Input/Output
- True Bypass
- 9-Volt Adapter
An interesting feature of the Avalanche Run is its EXP control, which allows you to control what an expression pedal does while plugged into the pedal. It controls things like the timing, amount, and volume of repeats. You can also use the EXP control and a footswitch to change between the pedal’s modes.
Speaking of which, the Avalanche Run comes with three different delay modes: reverse, normal, and swell. Normal is your standard delay, reverse reverses your input signal, and swell mimics volume swells. You also edit the rhythmic subdivisions of your repeats with the ratio control.
While delay is definitely the main focus of the pedal, its reverb functionality is also pretty handy if you’re not in love with the reverb you get from your amp (or if your amp doesn’t have reverb to begin with). Reverb is controlled through the mix and decay controls, with mix controlling the volume of the reverb and decay controlling its length. It’s not quite as powerful as a dedicated reverb pedal, but it’s definitely still useable.
The unit also comes with true bypass construction, a tap toggle switch, as well as stereo and mono outputs.
Dunlop EP103 Echoplex Digital Delay Pedal
The Dunlop EP103 Echoplex is an attempt to recreate a vintage delay called the Echoplex. While the Echoplex itself has become a little-known piece of gear with the advent of widespread digital delays, at its time it was revered. Unfortunately, vintage Echoplex units were also very sensitive and prone to malfunction. Because the EP103 is a reproduction of a vintage tape delay, don’t expect the clear sound you get with a standard digital delay. The EP103 has a warm tone, especially when “age mode” is activated.
- Controls: Sustain, Volume, Delay, Age
- Delay Time: 750ms stock, 4000ms with tap tempo switch (sold separately)
- True Bypass and Buffered Bypass
- 9-Volt Adapter
The pedal’s age mode reproduces the gradual trailing off of a tape delay which, to a greater degree than a non-tape analog delay, “squashes” 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 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 $1500.
While the pedal is true bypass, it does give 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” (modulates the repeats).
Things to Consider When Buying a Delay Pedal
Luckily for musicians, most effects are pretty simple. Once you wrap your head around a few terms you’re not going to be going in blind. We’re not going to tell you that this article is going to turn you into a delay connoisseur overnight, because unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. However, you will have the information you need to make an informed purchase.
Analog Vs. Digital Delay
The difference between analog vs. 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 modifies 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 modify your signal.
Analog effects are generally considered to sound more organic, but digital effects are more accurate. 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 be dialed in with a greater degree of 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 knob higher you’ll get more repetitions.
Another thing to be aware 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 pretty self-explanatory.
The Pros and Cons of True Bypass
True bypass is a design configuration where your output and input are directly connected. 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.
When it comes to delay pedals, the main tradeoff is that when you disengage a true bypass delay pedal your signal is suddenly cut off. When you disengage a “hard bypass” pedal (which is when your guitar’s signal still passes through the pedal, even when it isn’t engaged) or buffered bypass (same as hard bypass but the signal is boosted) the delay effect gradually trails off.
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, which makes it come through two amplifiers. This makes it sound “wider” and more full. The tradeoff 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, but the difference between the two is actually pretty simple. The easiest way to illustrate the difference between the two is with the following: Imagine you’re standing at the top of a canyon, and you yell into it; how does the sound change?
Echo is the reproduction of the “yelling into a canyon” effect. The sound modulates overtime, changing in both volume and frequency. Conversely, you can think of delay as an effect where your signal is stored and then repeated. The confusion comes from manufacturers who refer to effects that should be called echo (certain types of delay allow you to modify parameters which generally define an echo effect) as delay.
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 big room.
In summation, reverb is a non-distinct sound, delay is a series of distinct repetitions where your sound isn’t modified, and echo is a series of repetitions where the sound changes over time.
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 cause. However, a lot of these interactions are very specific and limited in use.
When placed before a pedal, delay can cause a jump in output. A similar phenomenon occurs with other modulation effects (chorus, phase, wah, etc.). Because of this, delay is generally placed at the end of a signal chain (or before reverb, if you’re using a reverb pedal as opposed to reverb built into your amp).
With that being said, never be afraid to experiment, just do so with the knowledge that your results are going to vary (and won’t always sound so hot!).
Best Delay Pedal Selection Methodology
We looked at all the delay pedals (excluding multi-effects and multi-modulation pedals) available from major online American retailers and put the 40 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 9,600 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.