Best Guitar Effects is back with a round-up of the 20 Best Delay Pedals available in 2018. The market is filled delays, and we wanted to narrow things down to the pedals that stand out the most. We’ll start with a short guide to delay pedals and the types available before we jump right into our list.
What Is Delay?
Delay is an effect that records audio and plays it back after a period of time. The sound may be played back once or multiple times or played into the recording again to create the sound of repeating, decaying echoes.
Do I Need A Delay Pedal?
Delay is typically used to add more texture to a soundscape by filling in the spaces between your playing with more sound. Delay can be used to create the impression that multiple instruments are playing at the same time or used to add more rhythmic interest to your guitar parts. Being able to create additional layers of instrumentation by delaying your playing offers inspiring new possibilities that go beyond what can be achieved with a dry guitar alone.
Delay Vs Reverb
While a reverb pedal produces ambient reflections of your playing, a delay pedal produces repeats of your playing. These effects are similarly used to manipulate the time and space where your playing occurs, and they’re both often used at the end of the signal chain. Some newer hybrid delay/reverb pedals even combine both effects in one pedal for greater creative flexibility.
Using Delay With Reverb
It’s common to place a delay before a reverb, but sometimes it can be worth experimenting with reversing the order of these effects. Putting a reverb after a delay can create a space for your delayed signal to sit in, but putting a delay after a reverb can make the reverb sound even bigger and longer by adding more texture to a reverb and extending its decay. Experiment to find the best result for your music!
Types of Delay
There are many types of delay and ways to achieve such effects, but these are some of the most common styles of pedal you’ll find in modern guitar pedals.
Tape – Tape delay is an early delay effect used in audio recordings originally achieved by creating tape loops on reel-to-reel recording systems. Commercially available tape delay units included the Echoplex and Roland Space Echo. (The sounds of the Binson Echorec can be argued to fall into this category sonically although it used an analog magnetic drum recorder instead of tape to achieve its echoes.) Some pedal builders have attempted to create tape delay sounds using actual tape, but you’ll most commonly find modern tape delay sounds using DSP to recreate convincingly authentic tape echo sounds.
Best for: vintage tonality, spacious echoes, characterful delays
Analog – Analog delay pedals typically use BBD (Bucket-Brigade Device) chips to achieve delay effects. Such pedals are usually characterized by a warmer, darker, and more “colored” sound. They’re also typically noisier than digital delays; however, some builders have made great strides towards minimizing the noise and other drawbacks inherent in older analog delay pedals. A few classic examples of analog delays are the Boss DM-2 and Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man which originally used Panasonic MN3005 BBD chips.
Best for: warmer tones, classic delay pedal sounds, old-school mojo
Digital – “Digital delay” as a style of delay is typically known for achieving more authentic repeats of your playing, reproducing the sound and nuances of your original audio signal. They’re cleaner, quieter, and brighter sounding than analog delays although many digital delays seek to emulate the sound of analog pedals. While earlier digital delays often simply used digital IC chips (the Princeton PT2399 is still a popular choice in some modern delays), many modern pedals push the limits of DSP to go beyond what “digital” delays were previously known for. The TC Electronic TC 2290 is a famous digital delay rack unit.
Best for: accurate repeats of source material, clean and bright tones
Reverse – Reverse delay simulates the sound of recording audio and playing it backwards. Original reverse tape delay effects can be heard in songs like Are You Experienced? by The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Tomorrow Never Knows from The Beatles’ Revolver album. Delay pedals achieve reverse effects by digital means, playing the digitally recorded audio backwards. Use a fully wet (or “Kill Dry”) setting to simulate classic reverse delay sounds.
Best for: mid/late-60’s reverse guitar sounds, experimental textures
Modulated – Most modern delay pedals offer some kind of modulation to apply to your repeats. You’ll see such options on many analog and digital delay pedals, and tape delays often have “wow & flutter” parameters to simulate the warbling of old tape. Essentially, modulation is a separate effect applied to various types of delay, but some guitarists (like The Edge) have made this such an integral part of their sound that it’s worth mentioning as a specific type of delay. It’s typically an optional effect, so you can either reduce “Depth” or deactivate modulation if you prefer a dry delay tone.
Best for: delays with movement and more presence
Other Types of Delay – There are many other less common types of delay. Dynamic Delay ducks the volume of the delayed signal when you play. Pitch-Shifted Delay is becoming more common with many pedals offering various types of pitch effects on the repeats. Multi-Tap Delay (or Pattern Delay) offers multiple delay taps, often with various rhythmic placement and positioning in the stereo field. Some pedals offer a Hold or Stutter Delay functionality where repeats can be generated at length for glitchy, stuttering effects. Granular Delay, while more common in VST software plugins than in pedal form, is a style of delay that chops up your signal into pieces and delays them. Most of these obscure delay effects are found in DSP based digital delay pedals, arguably the most flexible type of delay for a wide variety of uses.
The pedals that made our list aren’t in order from best to worst, but as the author of this article, I thought it would be fun to list the first few pedals that have become recent favorites of mine. Regardless of your personal tastes, there should be a pedal here that’s right for you.
Here are the Top 20 Best Delay Pedals of 2018!
This year’s list of the best delay pedals is kicking off with the Meris Polymoon. Meris is a relatively new brand on the pedal scene, but with a series of 3 epic pedals released last year, Best Guitar Effects lauded the fledgling 3-person company as the Best New Pedal Builder of 2017. In short, Meris is doing awesome things, and the Polymoon is one of the boldest delay pedal releases in recent years. So what does it do? Well…
The Polymoon’s sounds range from simple digital delays to a whole signal chain of rack-quality effects stacked in series (with parallel signal processing if you use the pedal in stereo). If you turn the bottom 3 knobs of the pedal all the way to the left, you can use the top 3 knobs to dial in a simple delay sound. It’s solid and usable, and thanks to the Tap Tempo with quarter & dotted eighth note options, it’ll handle most basic delay duties with ease. By pushing the Alt button and turning the Feedback knob, you can use the pedal’s Filter to cut the lows for bright “dubby” delays or roll off the high end for darker, analog flavored repeats.
The bottom 3 knobs make things more interesting. Multiply adds in more delay taps in various patterns. You can use it to achieve ping-pong delays in stereo or patterns that bounce across the stereo field. It still sounds killer in mono, but the Polymoon is a must-try in stereo if your rig can accommodate it. The Dimension knob smears the repeats. At higher settings it can turn your delays into a reverb-like wash; small amounts provide a nice subtle diffusion that gives your delays a more ambient character. The Dynamics knob activates a pair of dual-flangers that can either respond dynamically to your playing or move via LFO. (Tip: With the delay Mix turned down, the flangers can still be applied to your dry signal.)
The dual-flangers are just one of the many modulation options the Polymoon has. The button on the lower right will add dual-barberpole phasers to your signal. You can have them locked in time with your tap tempo or churning along at a slow 0.1 Hz speed. The phasers make it sound as if your guitar is traveling through a wormhole in space. The Alt parameters of the two left knobs are Early and Late Modulation options, each being able to be either bypassed or set to 15 different active modulation options. There are options for standard chorus-like modulation, FM modulation, and Pitch modulation. Yes, you can select any of these options in the either Early or Late positions.
You can control every effect parameter of the Polymoon via MIDI. There are even a few surprise MIDI CC controlled parameters like Half Speed & Tempo (in addition to Time). The pedal also has 16 preset slots, but you’ll need to either use MIDI or the Meris Preset Switch (sold separately) to access them. The pedal can accommodate instrument and line levels, useful with synths or in the studio, and are several other global options for configuring the pedal to your needs.
The Polymoon has quickly become my personal most-used delay, and if you’re the kind of musician who can appreciate the myriad sound design possibilities this pedal offers, this forward-thinking instrument from Meris will like find a home in your rig as well.
The Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall and Tonal Recall Red Knob Mod are at the head of the pack when it comes to classic analog delay tones for modern guitarists. Utilizing reissued MN3005 chips, the Tonal Recalls revisit and refine the sounds made legendary by pedals like the Boss DM-2 and Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man. While these pedals offer a slew of features, perhaps the most commendable aspect of these pedals is how Chase Bliss Audio engineer, Joel Korte, has been able to achieve an impressively clean, low-noise analog delay signal that can be contoured to taste with their respective Tone knobs. This lets you dial in classic analog delay tones similar to your favored vintage unit but with less noise and grit than the rustic pedals of old.
While the specs of both pedals are similar, the RKM is notable for containing 4 MN3005 chips (this original Tonal Recall has 2). This doubles the possible delay times up from 550ms to 1100ms. The additional circuitry raises the noise floor slightly, but most users won’t mind. The oscillation of the Tonal Recall RKM is also improved to be “smoother” to accommodate the longer delay times with higher Regen (feedback) settings. The RKM can also be slightly brighter than the original Tonal Recall, but both pedals can still be darkened for similarly murky delay sounds.
The modulation section is noteworthy for guitarists who appreciate the subtle movement of certain vintage delays. In addition to Rate & Depth controls, there’s a waveform selection switch that provides Triangle, Sine, and Square options. Crank the modulation knobs and flip this toggle for some weird sounds. Keep ’em low with Triangle or Sine waveforms for classic modulation.
The pedals also feature presets (2 onboard, 122 via MIDI), tap tempo with 6 selectable divisions, True Bypass or Buffered Trails modes, exp/CV control of knob parameters, MIDI control of parameters & other functionality, and much more. The pedals’ “Ramping” options will let you automate the movement of knob parameters for evolving delay sounds and unique performance possibilities.
The Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall and RKM variation are among this builder’s most loved and universally praised releases, and fans of classic analog delay tones will find much to love in either version.
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When it comes to straight up digital delays, Free The Tone’s Flight Time is arguably the new king of mono digital delay pedals. With a knob-less interface that recalls both the TC 2290 and the time travel input panel on the DeLorean from Back To The Future, the Flight Time FT-2Y is at once a tribute to the past and testament of the future.
The Flight Time FT-2Y succeeds the FT-1Y by adding Line/Instrument level options, a convenient Preset Swapping functionality, and a MIDI Out/Thru jack for saving presets externally or connecting other pedals. Perhaps more notable are the internal changes. Free The Tone has refined FT-2Y’s analog circuitry, power supply section, and digital circuits and firmware to dramatically improve the pedal’s sound quality. The FT-1Y already sounded fantastic (with a notable user being David Gilmour who has been known to use two Flight Time units in his rig), but the FT-2Y produces an even more high fidelity sound.
The Flight Time gives you plenty of options for crafting the perfect digital delay sound. You can set Delay level, Feedback, and overall Output level. Delay Time can me manually set in milliseconds or BPM or by using Tap Tempo and selecting from one of 10 subdivision options. You can set Modulation Rate & Depth for classic digital delay modulation effects. There are even dedicated Low Pass and High Pass Filters for creating a perfect delay tone to place in the mix. The unique Offset parameter lets you move the delay placement ahead or behind or a rushed feel or a behind the groove sound; this parameter is a subtle but very special aspect of the Flight Time that can enhance the feel of your delays and help place the repeats in your mix better. You can even flip the phase of the delays if needed.
There are some cool auxiliary features as well including a Trail function and the BPM Analyzer which activates an onboard microphone that will detect ambient rhythm sources and shift the BPM slightly to keep your delays locked in time. When I tested this function by playing along to recorded music and increasing or slowing the speed slightly, I was impressed that the BPM Analyzer actually worked as stated. This could be very useful when playing with a drummer who isn’t playing to a click track.
You can meticulously set the levels of all parameters and store them to 99 presets. You can also take control of most functions via MIDI. A novel Rec & Repeat function allows you to plug in an external foot-switch to gain use of very basic looping style functionality. I’m a big fan of the Hold function; while most of the Flight Time’s sounds are in a more traditional vein, the Hold could be used to trigger stuttering repeats at will. The only real drawback to the whole package is the fact that the Flight Time is mono only, but that’s perfectly fine if you’re running a conventional rig with one amp. And for live use it’s best to set up your presets and levels beforehand as you can’t quickly grab knobs for fine-tuning while on stage. But the precision with which you can craft your digital delays is second to none, and the Flight Time FT-2Y sounds flawless.
Dr. No Effects Moon Canyon
The Moon Canyon from Dr. No Effects was made in collaboration with Sarah Lipstate of Noveller and represents a bold artistic statement that goes beyond its aesthetic presentation. Just look at it – this is one of the most beautiful looking and artfully crafted pedals ever made and was clearly designed to inspire before you even plug in your instrument. Most importantly the Moon Canyon provides some unique sound design possibilities that warrant its inclusion on this list.
The Moon Canyon is actually a multi-effects pedal with delay being the final effect in the pedal’s signal chain. The delay circuit is based around a PT2399 digital delay chip, and the sound has been tuned to have a warm analog style character with a max delay time clocking in at a little over 500mS. The delay controls are simple enough with knobs for Repeats, Time, and Mix. The delays dissipate smoothly as you increase the Repeats, and as you push the knob past noon towards about 2 o’clock, the pedal will begin to oscillate for that runaway trails effect.
The Moon Canyon’s Reverb is placed before the Delay which goes against the convention of using delays before reverbs. But while this signal flow is less common and many guitarists seem to default to the standard “delay before reverb” pedal order, this aspect of the Moon Canyon is what contributes to its most unique sounds. The Reverb itself is a beautifully cavernous long reverb that also has a subtle modulation (which is more noticeable when you crank the Reverb knob and solo the effect). If you activate the Reverb & Delay together, you’ll feed the reverb into the delay, extending its ambience in a rhythmic pulse set by the Delay’s Time knob. In addition to the Delay’s ability to extend the Reverb decay, the Reverb will affect the sound of the Delay by imparting a diffused quality to the repeats which becomes more prominent as you increase the Reverb knob. Since the effects can be individually activated, you have performance flexibility to add Delay to extend the Reverb on a whim or play with a standard Delay before adding in Reverb to change the Delay sound; the foot-switches are also close enough together to quickly switch between both effects with a single stomp.
There are three other noteworthy features the Moon Canyon offers. The far right foot-switch activates a Drive section that brings in a very respectable 3-knob overdrive (with Tone switch) that is based around a JRC4558D chip, a revered IC that’s been used in the TS-808 and other noteworthy overdrive pedals. The Loop foot-switch activates an external effects loop that is placed between the Drive & Reverb, handy for adding in other effects. (I personally like to use the Moon Canyon’s Loop I/O to route the Drive and Reverb/Delay sections to two separate send & return loops on an effects switcher; this allows remote access to both the Drive and a Reverb/Delay combo setting.) The Moon Canyon also boasts two mono outputs for splitting the signal to feed two amps or separate effects chains. The Moon Canyon can satisfy your basic delay needs while adding some creative potential to your pedalboard.
GFI System Specular Tempus
The Indonesian builder, GFI System, has been impressing guitarists for the past few years with their ultra compact and powerful Clockwork Delay & Specular Reverb, each currently updated to V3 revisions. The Specular Tempus combines all of the algorithms from both of these pedals into one powerful hybrid delay/reverb combo.
The Specular Tempus gives you 13 reverbs, 13 delays, 3 delay & reverb combos, and 3 diffused delay hybrids for a total of 32 unique algorithms. You can save and recall up to 32 presets, configure the pedal for on-board tap tempo, send the pedal’s tempo to other pedals, and even use a 3-button foot-switch to control bank scrolling and tap tempo externally. There’s already a Send/Return loop, and of course, MIDI. The free SpecLab app for Mac & PC lets you access more functionality as well.
A trio of “Classic” delay modes includes Digital, Analog, and Echoes. The “Hybrid” delays take those 3 delay algorithms and diffuse the repeats for a reverberated delay sound.
There are 10 “Esoteric” delay options with many of them offering entirely unique sounds. The Spectral, Filter, and Formant modes provide coloration and texture to your delays; I particularly like the envelope-controlled Filter algorithm. The Spectral mode sounds almost flanger-like while the Formant mode adds a throbbing, vowel-like effect to your repeats. The Transposer & Ambiental modes add pitch-shifting to your repeats. The Transposer lets you choose from intervals including Unison, Sub-Octave, Minor 3rd, Perfect 4th, Tritone, Perfect 5th, and Octave. The Ambiental mode, possibly my personal favorite delay mode, is a stereo algorithm that lets you use a “Glitter” parameter to gradually color the repeats with either a Perfect 5th or Octave voicing for a shimmer like effect; the first couple repeats will ping-pong across the stereo field before resuming straight through the middle channel. It’s a very unique algorithm. The Dual Stereo, Dual Dotted, and Dual Gold algorithms make further use of the stereo possibilities, and the MultiTap 3 & MultiTap 4 modes each provide 4 multi-tap delay variations to round out the pedal’s delay offerings.
Among the host of Reverb modes you’ll find 3 more “Hybrid” delay options: Reverb+Digital Dly, Reverb+Analog Dly, and Reverb+Echoes. There are many excellent reverb modes available as well with a few standouts being GFI System’s signature Spatium algorithm, their beautiful 70’s Plate mode, and an excellent Shimmer that’s among the best around. The Voices and Swell modes are great Shimmer variations, too, and the Anti-Shimmer in “Doppler” mode produces some interesting vertigo-inducing pitch descension.
The best thing about the GFI System Specular Tempus is the fact that if you’re not sure whether to get a delay or reverb next, this pedal can fill the duties of either very well with some solid options for use delay & reverb together. It’s also a great choice for a positioning between the delay and reverb you already have on your board for expanded ambient possibilities. And if you just want the excellent delays without the reverb, the GFI System Clockwork Delay V3 is also well worth considering.
Catalinbread Belle Epoch Deluxe
The Echoplex EP-3 needs no introduction among tape delay connoisseurs. The legendary sounds of this machine’s smooth delay echoes, runaway oscillation, and sought-after pre-amp coloration give the EP-3 a reputation that has long spoken for itself. Catalinbread already found success with their Echoplex inspired Belle Epoch (Eric Johnson is a noteworthy fan and user). But Mr. Howard Gee sought to go further than any other pedal builder before and create the most accurate sonic reproduction of the iconic EP-3 in pedal form. His swan song of Echoplex emulation is the Catalinbread Belle Epoch Deluxe, the final word in attaining true EP-3 tone from a stompbox.
All the expected EP-3 amenities are here, from the juiced up 22-volt power rail and (late spec) JFET preamp to the articulate delay section that emulates the sound and feel of the Echoplex without the tape and associated maintenance. How does it sound? In a word: beautiful.
The Belle Epoch Deluxe’s primary controls for the delay are Echo Delay (delay time), Echo Sustain (feedback/regen), Echo Volume, and Record Level which sets the input signal level for when it hits the record amplifier. This unique control ranges from complete silence all the way up to a hot overdriven sound. It’s great for saturating the sound as it hits the delay; once it starts repeating, the delay signal will smoothly dissipate in a pleasing diminuendo to silence. The Echo Sustain can be set higher (around 1-2 o’clock before it starts oscillating) to really get those nice long decay times. The controls are highly interactive, particularly how the Record Level affects the Echo Level and likewise the decay from the Echo Sustain. As you refine the setting of one parameter, you’ll want to play with the others to get things just right. Luckily, it sounds pretty epic no matter where things are set; it’s just a matter of managing your levels and oscillation. And speaking of oscillation, there’s a dedicated foot-switch to kick on spires of oscillating repeats at will.
The left two knobs warrant some brief explanation. The far left knob selects one of six programs from the Echo Program Matrix. The Depth knob controls the depth of the accompanying unique modulation for each selected program. The Echo Programs include the Classic EP-3 tape voicing, a Dark “analog” voicing inspired by BBD analog delay pedals, a Roto-swirl setting that sounds like an EP-3 running through a Leslie, a Manually Sweeping Resonant Filter voicing that can produce wah-like sounds and other filtered tones, and two Deluxe Memory Man inspired modes, one for chorus and one for vibrato. An expression pedal is a must if you want to make the most of the sweeping filter mode or control the speed of the Roto-swirl’s rotating speaker effect. And a pedal is generally useful for adjusting volume on some settings or controlling the delay time, especially in combination with runaway oscillation.
This isn’t to be misconstrued as a review verdict or to heap more hype onto an already GAS-inducing pedal, but if you love tape delay, you need to try this pedal for yourself. And if you’re an EP-3 fan in any way, you likely need this pedal.
Empress Effects Echosystem
The Empress Effects Echosystem is the successor to the Canadian builder’s famed Superdelay pedal. And rather than simply add stereo and a few other improvements to its mono-only predecessor, the Echosystem lets you use one delay or two at once in dual parallel, dual serial, or panned left/right in stereo. Not only that, but the pedal gives you dozens of delay algorithms categorized into various types, and any combination of two (even two of the same) can be used together. Needless to say, this pedal is deep.
Forgoing the deep menu-diving of some other multi-algorithm delay pedals, the Echosystem gives you knobs for the units tweak-able parameters all on the surface. The Thing 1 & Thing 2 knobs control unique parameters that are unique to each algorithm. Other than that you get standard delay controls for Mix, Feedback, Delay Time/Tap Ratio, Tone (which may also vary per algorithm), and an Output control to set your overall volume level.
The Echosystem gives users 35 presets for saving your complex multi-algorithm delay creations. You can assign an expression pedal to control multiple parameters at one. It even lets you use MIDI to take control over nearly every function. Empress Effects recently updated the pedal with a Looper that can be used with the delays, greatly expanding on the Echosystem’s creative potential.
This pedal has so much going on for it that it was crowned the best guitar pedal of 2017. If you prefer to keep things simple the Echosystem may not be for you, but all the options it has and with Empress Effects continually adding new algorithms by user popular vote, for many guitarists this may be the last delay pedal you ever need.
The idea behind the Avalanche Run V1 delay & reverb was to take the simplicity and sweet sounds of the best-selling Dispatch Master and expand on the options and usability (w/ Tap Tempo, Tap Divisions, etc.) while still maintaining ease of use (no Menus!). The Avalanche Run V1 was a big hit upon its release, quickly becoming what could arguably be considered the pinnacle representation of an EarthQuaker Devices pedal. The Avalanche Run V2 Stereo Reverb & Delay refines their flagship pedal with several notable improvements.
While the V1 had similar delay & reverb sounds, the Avalanche Run V2 now features a true stereo reverb which creates a bigger expanse of sound when running the pedal in stereo. The V2 also features EQD’s new “Flexi-Switch” functionality on the Activate foot-switch; this lets you press and hold the foot-switch for momentary operation so that you can use the delay/reverb on very short segments of your playing. Try this with the Tails Mode to apply repeats to certain notes that will then cascade over your dry playing. As with the V1, you choose between True Bypass mode and 5 different Tails Mode options.
An interesting V2 update change has been the increase of enclosure width to be slightly wider than the V1. While some pedalboard space obsessed guitarists might initially glare at this, I think it’s a refreshing contrast to pedals that squeeze foot-switches so close together and so close to the edge of pedals. If you’re not using a MIDI effects switcher and actually plan to step on the foot-switches of your pedals during live performance, you need a reasonable amount of space between foot-switches to be able to activate effects without accidentally stepping on others. (This enclosure width with additional foot-switch spacing has also been implemented on the new EarthQuaker Devices Pyramids pedal, so expect this to be the norm on EQD’s dual foot-switch DSP effects pedals.)
But aside from the Avalanche Run V1 vs V2 changes, what really makes this pedal such an inspiration machine are its killer delay modes with the optional reverb for incredibly lush ambience. The pedal gives you Normal, Reverse, & Swell modes. The Normal is a standard hi-fi digital delay; you can use the Tone to roll off the high-end if you want a darker, more “analog” sound. The Reverse is a killer backwards delay; it’s a must-try with expression control for switching between normal and reverse delays at will. The Swell is a great ambient digital delay that swells in your repeats while you play; shoegaze fans will dig this one. My favorite mode is the Reverse, particularly for using like a standard delay but with the different textural sound of the backwards echoes. It’s killer with the reverb for floating, cloud-like ambience. The reverb itself is like a large room or hall for a nice, full sound, and you can use the reverb’s Decay & Mix to dial in something subtle or massive.
The Avalanche Run V2 is one of EarthQuaker Devices’ best pedals and still one of the best delay pedals available.
While many builders have encroached on Strymon’s commanding lead in the area of multi-algorithm delay pedals, make no mistake, the Strymon TimeLine is still the boss when it comes to immaculate delays in a single self-contained pedal.
The Strymon TimeLine felt like a second coming in the world of digital delay and DSP processing. With a hulking colossus of a processor and an engineering team who knows how to make the most of it, Strymon dropped a bomb on the pedal world when they released the TimeLine. With 12 of the best delay machines the world has ever heard (and an excellent 30-second Looper) there is a breadth of delay sounds on tap that few pedals can even hope to contend with. The TimeLine is also a standout delay pedal in terms of MIDI implementation; it allows you to control any parameter or function (including all Looper functions) from any MIDI-compatible controller, pedal switcher, or sequencer/DAW such as Ableton Live. Whether you just want to drop it on your pedalboard and play or integrate it into your mad scientist MIDI guitar rig, the Strymon TimeLine covers all grounds with ease and efficiency and still holds its own in a sea of formidable competitors.
Chase Bliss Audio Thermae
Chase Bliss Audio already pushed analog delay farther than any other builder with the universally acclaimed Tonal Recall and Tonal Recall RKM, and they’ve somehow managed to do it again. The Chase Bliss Audio Thermae is an analog delay and pitch shifter that utilizes 4 MN3005 chips to achieve some unbelievably amazing delay sounds unlike any that have been heard before.
The Thermae is a complex pedal that may initially seem overwhelming not only for delay pedal novices but even those already familiar with Chase Bliss Audio’s other master-crafted pedal designs. But after you wrap your head around the basics, you’ll be in for some of the most original and beautiful sounds you’ll ever hear from a delay pedal… even if you still don’t quite understand exactly how you’re achieving the sounds you’re hearing.
Here’s brief explanation of what the Thermae does and how it works…
With the Int 1 & Int 2 knobs pointed up at noon, you’ll essentially have a standard analog style delay. Instead of setting tempo with a “Delay Time” knob, you tap in your tempo with the left foot-switch. Standard stuff, but it sounds killer. You can use the resonant LPF to sweep the tone all the way down to silence, and pressing and holding the left foot-switch induces self oscillation.
Flipping the Modulation dip-switch on the top of the pedal allows access to the killer mod section. You get controls for mod Speed & Depth, a flip-switch for selecting triangle, sine, and square shapes, and a middle toggle control at adds glitchy warbling anomalies to the modulation for some extra bubbly textures. This is a unique difference from Tonal Recall and Chase Bliss Audio pedals that feature “ModuShape”, and it’s a really fitting addition to the weird sounds Thermae can make.
With the Modulation dip-switch in its normal “Off” position, the Int 1 & Int 2 knobs and their adjacent toggle-switches offer some wild sound design possibilities. The two knobs control a pair of pitch-shifting intervals that range from -2 to +2 octaves. The row of 3 flip-switches will set the tap-division of the delay and 2 sequenced pitch-shifting intervals. The sequence repeats at the tempo set by the Tap Tempo foot-switch (or MIDI Clock/MIDI Taps). The real complexity is in trying to wrap your head around intentionally creating sounds you think you want to hear, but I’d recommend not thinking about it too much and just enjoying the endless happy accidents you’ve stumble into. Just remember to save those discoveries as presets!
The Thermae is without a doubt the most original and innovative release from Chase Bliss Audio and definitely one of the most inspiring pedals to consider if you’re looking for something different than your run-of-the-mill delay pedal.
DOD is a beloved classic pedal brand that has been on a big upswing in the past few years thanks to the efforts of Tom Cram and a team of talented individuals. DOD pretty much rose from the dead with its moniker appearing on several solid pedals in recent years, the greatest of which is arguably the DOD Rubberneck Analog Delay. Not only is it the best pedal in the DOD renaissance lineup, but it’s arguably the best analog delay pedal in the $200-300 price range.
The Rubberneck is loaded to the brim with features including some you won’t find in any other pedal. The most unique aspect of the pedal is its namesake “Rubberneck” feature that lets you stretch and compress the delay time to shift the pitch of your delayed signal up or down an octave, fitting for a pedal from a sister brand of DigiTech, the brand responsible for the Whammy.
The 3 large knobs provide controls for Time, Repeats, and Level. The smaller dual-concentric knobs give you control over modulation Rate & Depth and Tone & Gain, the latter parameters being particular useful for coaxing the best delay tonality and saturation out of this pedal. There’s also a tap division flip-switch and another switch that lets you activate delay spillover Tails and mute the dry signal. Pressing and holding the Tempo/Regen foot-switch activates oscillation, and a small mini-knob next to the foot-switch sets the onset for the regeneration. The Rubberneck effect is initiated as a momentary function of the Effect On foot-switch with the Rubberneck Rate mini-knob adjusted whether delay time is stretched or compressed and how quickly it happens.
Aside from all that surface control, there’s a Send/Return jack on the back that allows you to use a TRS cable to insert other effects in the delay chain. Another jack allows connection of the DigiTech FS3X Footswitch to remotely control Rubbernecking, Modulation on/off, and Tap Tempo/Regen.
The DOD Rubberneck is one of the most feature-packed and versatile performance analog delay pedals ever seen and an exceptional product that showcases the dedicated passion of Tom and the talented team who spared no attention to every detail when bringing this pedal to life.
The Electro Harmonix Canyon Delay & Looper is an incredibly versatile and value-packed multi-algorithm delay pedal. It gives you 10 excellent delay modes and a capable Looper. It also gives you tap tempo with selectable sub-divisions.
While the pedal has many modes, it’s the quality (not the quantity) of them that makes the EHX Canyon a standout value. It has modes that emulate the venerable EHX Deluxe Memory Man, a great Tape setting, Echo for a straight digital delay, Mod for rack-style modulated digital delay, Multi for multi tap delay effects, a solid Reverse delay that intelligently detects your playing to generate its repeats, a Delay + “Verb” mode that applies a plate reverb to your repeats, a killer Pitch Fork inspired Octave delay mode, a Shimmer mode that also draws on EHX’s killer pitch algorithms, and a great Sample and Hold mode that can achieve some awesome stuttering delay effects. Add to that a 62 second (!) Looper, and you’ve got a sure-fire hit pedal.
The Tap In jack that allows users to tap in a tempo via an external foot-switch may be the selling point that tips the scale in favor of this pedal over other single-stomp delay pedals. As great as the Canyon’s modes are, it begs us to wonder what a flagship EHX multi-algorithm delay with presets, MIDI, and a cooler name with less cringe-inducing artwork would be like. (Please, EHX, don’t call it the “Grand” Canyon. Ugh.) But the Canyon shows that EHX is more than capable of creating plenty of world-class delay algorithms. The Canyon has one of the best pedal releases of 2017 and is easily among the best affordable delay pedals you’ll find in 2018.
The Source Audio Nemesis Delay is a pedal I’ve been looking forward to for quite a long time (…since Winter NAMM 2015, Summer NAMM 2015, & Winter NAMM 2016). It’s a powerhouse digital delay pedal in a reasonably compact format that features 24 delay engines (12 onboard, 12 accessed via Neuro app). That’s a pretty big deal already. Then there’s Stereo I/O, Tap Tempo, Hold a.k.a “Freeze” control, and complete MIDI functionality with up to 128 presets recallable via MIDI. And that’s just scratching the surface really.
The Neuro Mobile app offers incredibly deep control and preset management along with access to the 12 additional delay engines. Any of those delay engines can be downloaded and “burned” to any slot on the rotary encoder knob. The extra delay engines are definitely worth exploring as you’ll find a dark and warbly Oil Can delay, a Complex Rhythmic delay that offers more multi-tap variations, a high-passed Dub delay, and much more.
The real genius of the Nemesis Delay is in the sheer amount power it offers from its simple-to-use surface knob layout. No menu diving needed. Couple that with world-class delay sounds, and the Nemesis Delay is a winner if flexibility, impeccable sound quality, and ease of use are paramount to you. And should you want to explore everything this pedal has to offer, the MIDI functionality and Neuro Mobile app possibilities are a huge bonus when you want to get adventurous and want to dig deeper.
Be sure to explore the Intensity knob with each delay type as it functions differently in each mode. For example, in Analog Delay mode, the Intensity will act as a tone style control, giving you range of Dark, Warm, & Bright sounds. In the Shifter Delay the knob will select from pitch shift options including -1 Octave, +Minor 3rd, +Major 3rd, +4th, +5th, & +1 Octave. This gives you deeper control from the surface of the pedal without the need for menus.
Source Audio have been doing great things for about a decade now, but the Nemesis Delay will no doubt be the pedal that takes this ambitious builder to new levels of success. It was a long time coming, but the Nemesis Delay was well worth the wait.
Yes, the Eventide H9 Harmonizer is much more than a delay pedal. It’s the ultimate multi-effects stompbox. But if you were to use the H9 on your pedalboard for just its delay sounds alone, it’s still an exceptional value and may replace any other delay pedal you currently use.
A standard H9 comes preloaded with the Vintage Delay and Tape Echo delays. Additional delays can be purchased from the H9 Control app. An H9 Max comes loaded will all algorithms gives you all 9 acclaimed delays from the Eventide TimeFactor… and then some. The H9 exclusive Ultratap algorithm is a one-of-a-kind multi-tap delay that’s inspiring to behold. Then there’s also the recently released SpaceTime algorithm with fuses the TimeFactor’s Vintage Delay with a huge plate reverb and some modulation for good measure to create an outstanding all-in-one algorithm that’s an excellent last effect in your signal chain.
And let’s talk about the Eventide TimeFactor. I still remember when the pedal was first announced. Yes, I joined the many guitarists whose jaws collectively hit the floor when first hearing that Eventide would be bringing their acclaimed studio effects expertise to stompbox pedals. The TimeFactor was one of their first guitar pedals and is still going strong today. The biggest draw of this pedal is its use of twin delay lines across all 9 of its cutting edge delay algorithms, allowing rhythmically complex and tonally diverse delays that no other pedal can match (except the H9, of course). Its brilliant knob layout makes dialing in syncopated twin delays a synch, too. There’s also a dedicated (and recently refined) Looper, and I personally like “hacking” the pedal for series operation by cascading one delay into the other and using it in my amp’s effects loop. But if you don’t need the looper and want the amazing algorithms of the TimeFactor plus a whole lot more, the Eventide H9 Harmonizer might be the way to go.
Simply put, the Strymon DIG is an immaculate sounding digital delay pedal. It’s one of the easiest to use twin delay pedals out there and has plenty of options for creating complex or subtle rhythmic delays. It has 3 modes – adm, 24/96, 12 bit – that each offer a difference in character, adapting this pedal to different styles of playing. Tap tempo, expression control, and stereo outputs (and optional stereo ins via TRS cable) add extra utility. Be sure to try the secondary functions as you can further tweak the tone, change the delays from series to parallel, and even activate a ping pong delay mode when using it in stereo among a few other things. The DIG is Strymon’s magnum opus in the realm of 80’s rack delay emulation.
SolidGoldFX Electroman MKII
The SolidGoldFX Electroman MKII is a modulated digital delay that has a unique sound and character quite unlike any other digital or analog delay. Using a pair of PT2399 digital delay chips the Electroman MKII utilizes these chips in tandem with a unique modulation section and “Color” control to produce a refreshing flavor of delay is hard to classify yet is incredibly musical and pleasing to hear. This pedal may be the best use of the PT2399 chips from a perspective of rating the tonality of the delays produced.
The Electroman MKII excels by giving you plenty of control over dialing in your delay voicing. In addition to the typical Repeats (feedback), Time, and Level controls, the aforementioned Color knob gives you a wide range of control over the voicing of your delay and seems to be highly interactive with the Flutter knob which dials in the depth of a beautiful modulation that falls somewhere between the sounds of a classic analog delay pedal and a warbly tape echo.
The flip-switches bring even more options. The Mode switch selects between a standard delay and a Dual Mode with a 2nd delay at half speed to affect the rhythmic feel of your repeats. The Warp switch adjusts the onset intensity of the Warp function (activated via momentary foot-switch). Speed gives you 3 choices of modulation speed. The Tails switch gives you optional delay spillover.
The Warp function is a big draw, having its own dedicated foot-switch for kicking in the self-oscillation at will for as long as you hold the foot-switch. This gives you great musical control over the effect. If you still want more varied delay sounds, use the TRS Send & Return jack to add other effects into the wet signal path for unlimited tonal possibilities. Until SolidGoldFX strikes again with an MKIII, the Electroman MKII will like remain one of the best and more original PT2399 delay pedals.
There are lots of delay pedals that try to emulate the sounds of a classic tape echo, many of which do a pretty solid job, but the Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo is without a doubt the final word in authentic sounding tape echo delay in a compact pedal. With 3 different tape machines, each with 3 different modes of operation, there’s a huge foundation available for building the ultimate tape echo sound. While the 5 surface knobs make it easy to dial in your tone, there are 5 more “hidden” knob functions (including reverb!) for 10 total adjustable parameters. And while it certainly sounds amazing, it’s the tap tempo that really pushes this pedal over the top for me. Once you’ve dialed in the ultimate tape echo sound, you’ll always be able to sync it right along to the music via tap tempo without fiddling with sliding heads or tape speed. The El Capistan is a marvel of modern technology and the ultimate tribute to the tape echo machines of old.
Rainger FX Echo-X
What happens when the mad genius behind the Dr. Freakenstein fuzz pedal decides to make a delay? Apparently, you get the Rainger FX Echo-X Digital Delay. This little monster is one of the more original and adventurous interpretations of a digital delay pedal I’ve come across. The Echo-X is an ambient digital delay that smears your repeats into long cascading trails of atmospheric bliss. You can use the included Igor foot controller to modulate the Rate or Feedback or even use it in Send mode to have only certain portions of your playing feed into the delay effect. Very fun. You can also adjust the input signal going into the pedal and overall output volume in addition to the standard 3-knob delay controls of Rate, Feedback, & Level. It’s also worth noting that the Echo-X’s compact form-factor has top-mounted jacks for super convenient placement on any tightly packed pedalboard. A killer design from one of the true punk outliers in the pedal game. Rainger FX nailed it.
The Red Panda Particle is the ultimate wildcard on our list. With so many delay pedals remaining grounded in the past, this pedal blasts forward into uncharted territory. Using granular synthesis, the Particle chops your playing into tiny samples and warps your signal, often beyond recognition, in wondrously magical ways. This pedal is for those truly adventurous guitarists who want radical new ways to manipulate their sound. The Particle packs all kinds of otherworldly, ambient delay effects, wild machine-like glitch delay sounds, a great reverse mode, and plenty of sounds that cross pitch-shifting with delay for a playground of twisted delay phantasmagoria. It’s been around for a few years, and while we’d love to see an update with tap tempo, presets, and MIDI functionality, the Particle remains one of the more original and inspiring delay pedals around.
TC Electronic Flashback 2 Delay
TC Electronic has been at the forefront of delay innovation for decades. From the legendary TC 2290 to pedals like the Flashback X4 Delay & Looper, Flashback Mini Delay, and Flashback Triple Delay, this builder’s delay algorithms have long been held in high regard.
The Flashback 2 Delay takes their standard-sized stereo delay & looper pedal to some interesting new places that warrant a closer look even if you’re already familiar with TC Electronic’s previous delay releases.
Let’s start with the delay modes available on the surface of the pedal. The lower right knob starts with the classic 2290 mode, recreating the sound of one of the most renowned digital delays ever made. The ANA mode delivers a pretty convincing analog delay sound complete with some subtle modulation. The TAPE mode is another classic delay variation with subtle modulation movement for a sound similar to the wow and flutter of aged tape. DYN is a dynamic delay that ducks the repeats while you play; as you play more softly or rest, the delays swell up in loudness. The MOD mode adds modulation to the classic 2290 sound; select the ¼ note + dotted 8th subdivision and you’ll have a convincing setting for The Edge’s Where the Streets have No Name sound. The CRYS setting features the excellent octave sounds from the Sub’n’Up, resulting in one of the best shimmering octave delays I’ve heard. RVS achieves an excellent reverse delay sound; use a Reverse TonePrint with “Kill Dry” On for classic psychedelic solos. The LOOP setting turns the pedal into a Ditto Looper style looping device. The last 3 options have default TonePrints already stored, but you have easily save and recall artist TonePrints or use the TC Electronic TonePrint Editor to make your own sounds.
The TonePrint Editor is huge draw here, and I applaud TC Electronic’s decision to make space on the surface selector knob to store 3 TonePrints. The app gives you immense control over tweaking the sound of your delays, even offering multiple modulation options, various stereo options with some templates, the ability to overwrite and set up to 3 parameters to be control from the pedal’s knobs, and more. There are over 50 delay templates to choose from with some recalling the sounds of other classic delays. Templates including BinsonEchorec, Echoplex, MemoryMan, RE101, CapstanDelay, and many, many others provide great starting points for tweaking your own sounds. I recommend the many “Dual” and “PingPong” variations if you’re into stereo delays.
Perhaps the coolest new selling point of the Flashback 2 is TC Electronic’s new MASH functionality which lets you press down on the foot-switch to activate real-time expression control over various parameters. The various onboard modes and TonePrints already have some default MASH options to give you a taste, and you use the TonePrint Editor to assign up to 3 parameters to be controlled by MASH. It’s a killer performance function that is not to be overlooked or underestimated. Try creating your own “Space Echo” inspired TonePrint and use MASH to crank the Feedback and Delay Time to send your delays out of orbit.
That concludes our Top 20 Best Delay Pedals of 2018. Thanks for reading!
Tell us your favorite delay pedal in the comments!