Here it is… the Best Guitar Effects 2016 update of the best delay pedals available today. In the tradition of our Fuzz Pedal, Guitar Compressor, & Guitar Synthesizer roundups, this article aims to showcase the very best delay pedals in the world today.
There are a lot of delay pedals out there for guitar players. Many of them are pretty decent. Some aren’t so great. And a few pedals are truly amazing delays that rise above the heap with the potential to take your music to the next level. These select few delay pedals are the best of the best.
The pedal market has expanded significantly over the past few years. That means more diligent research is required to find the best delay pedal(s) to suit your needs.
The goal of this article is to help you make the best decision when buying a new delay pedal. Your music will benefit from it, and you’ll be supporting great builders who make the best guitar pedals available for guitarists and effects using musicians.
Some builders have multiple delay pedals featured on this list. That’s because these companies offer more than one pedal that eclipses what the competition has to offer. Remember, it’s about showcasing the best delay pedals you can buy today.
The pedals aren’t listed in numerical order. Each pedal here has unique features that set it apart from the rest. But we’re starting the list with a couple new releases that are pushing the boundaries of innovation among delay pedals. You’ll also see a few old favorites that have proven their worth over the past few years. But in the end the best delay pedal for your needs can only be decided by you!
One last thing. While this list is a great starting point for finding the best delay pedal, please consider what your music needs most and be cautious of the excessive hype out there. There’s a lot of sponsored articles and biased content out there, but with diligence and persistence you’ll learn how to look past the clickbait to find sources for information you can trust. Good luck, and may you find the best guitar pedals to suit your needs.
Now here are the Top 20 Best Delay Pedals of 2016!
Source Audio Nemesis Delay
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 flexilibility, impeccible 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.
(UPDATE: this section edited to reflect last-minute product changes before its release.) We said after Winter NAMM 2016, “This is it. The guitar pedal the world has been waiting on for 30 years.” The Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall indeed lives up to the lofty hype everyone felt after NAMM… but it took a few twists and turns getting there.
The Tonal Recall draws upon the legacy of the iconic Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man and Boss DM-2 with its replica MN3005 bucket brigade delay chips. The Tonal Recall’s signature sound is characterized by repeats that are darker than a Deluxe Memory Man but generally brighter than a DM-2. I wouldn’t say this pedal nails the DMM sound as it is clearly darker even with the Tone knob maxed out. The repeats also dissolve into a gritty saturation, particularly noticeable with higher Regen settings in Long delay mode and when playing the guitar strings lightly. Tonal Recall offers a unique delay sound that’ll surely please anyone seeking a more “lo-fi” flavored analog delay experience. Designer, Joel Korte, had a last minute change of heart to update the pedal from its original “lo-fi” sound (heard in some published demos) to a cleaner sound more akin to what guitarists expect from a traditional analog delay. Essentially, this has taken Tonal Recall from being a cool, niche “dirty” delay to quite possibly the most versatile analog delay pedal ever made. It now encompasses a beautiful range of tones that fans of the Boss DM-2 & Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man will surely appreciate. After hearing both versions firsthand, I can’t stop saying “wow” in regard to the final, cleaner version. The Hold function can induce some that gritty saturation if you’ve still gotta have it. These changes realign Tonal Recall with initial expectations and will surely give the pedal a wider appeal.
Now combine this unique delay foundation with a modulation section that has 3 waveforms (square, sine, & triangle). Add in 6 Tap divisions. Then add options for Short delays (short enough for pseudo-Warped Vinyl style chorus!), Long delays, and a “Both” mode that uses both BBD chips to create a beautiful wash of smeared, “reverby” decay. Crank the Regen or push & hold the Tap switch for oscillating feedback, and you’ve got the new analog delay wet dream of ambient & lo-fi loving shoegazers.
The big draw of all Chase Bliss Audio pedals is their ethos of fusing all-analog effects with advanced digital control. This means dead-on tap tempo, savable & recallable presets, MIDI implementation, and more. Never before has an analog delay pedal offered MIDI control and preset selection, and that alone will be worth the price of admission for some.
And one last thing… the Ramp knob. Nearly all parameters (except Tone) can be modulated independently or simultaneously via the Ramping functionality. You’ve never heard an analog delay pedal make sounds like this. Guitarists looking for something truly unconventional and inspiring will appreciate the morphing analog delay sounds and less than pristine tonal character that you’ll only get with the Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall.
Read the Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall review.
The competition is fiercely attempting to close in on Strymon’s commanding lead in the realm of multi-algorithm digital delay pedals. One major player has even attempted to create a spec-by-spec spin-off of this pedal’s winning delay formula. But 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. And the TimeLine happens to be the ultimate delay pedal in terms of complete MIDI implementation, allowing 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 of doom, the Strymon TimeLine covers all grounds with ease and efficiency.
Read the Strymon TimeLine review.
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.
Read the Eventide H9 review.
For a while it seemed like every pedal builder was cranking out an analog delay pedal with tap tempo. Well, the Walrus Audio Bellwether is one of the best ones that checks off on all the important features. Most importantly, it starts with great sound quality. Then it gives you 4 tap divisions. Bypass-able modulation with Rate & Depth knobs. Time, Repeats, & Level knobs are here. Then there’s the Tone knob which lets you roll off the high-end for super dark delays. There’s also a Tap In jack for a tap tempo remote and a TRS FX Loop, useful for coloring your delays with any other effect imaginable. (I like to grit up the delays by putting a boost, drive, or distortion pedal in the FX Loop.) Not to mention Walrus Audio has some of the coolest and most attractive pedal artwork in the business, so the added style will appeal to those you take pride in the choice pedals selected for their tidy pedalboards. The Bellwether is simply a rad analog delay pedal.
Read the Walrus Audio Bellwether review.
TC Electronic Flashback Triple Delay
Okay, the TC Electronic Flashback Triple Delay is truly an epic delay pedal. It basically takes the awesome delay sounds found in the Flashback X4 and Flashback Mini Delay and multiplies them by 3. Yes, you get 3 delay engines that can be used independently or simultaneously(!!!) in Serial or Parallel modes. In Serial mode you can create an absolutely mesmerizing wash of ambient echoes. In Parallel mode you can have all 3 delays occurring in their own little worlds of tandem repeats. Tap Tempo with 11 different tap subdivisions gives you unprecedented rhythmic control, so you could have that 2nd or 3rd delay hitting at just the right rhythmic moments. Very cool for unorthodox rhythmic patterns. And yes, any of the 12 onboard delays & 4 TonePrint delays can be assigned in any combination you can dream up. This pedal is an absolute beast, and nothing else like it exists on the market today. The Flashback Triple Delay is one of the most inspiring delay pedals any company has ever released. Big props to TC Electronic for creating such a unique and inspiring guitar pedal.
Yes, the Free The Tone Flight Time looks like the panel in Marty McFly’s DeLorean from Back to the Future. It also recalls the iconic TC 2290 Dynamic Digital Delay rack unit. Now take the cool retro looks and merge that with some of the most pristine digital delay you’ll ever hear. Don’t want it so cold and digital? Apply some High Pass Filter for a warmer analog-like sound. Need it brighter? Cut the lows with the Low Pass Filter. Bring in some Modulation with the Rate & Depth for some subtle 2290 style movement. Tap Tempo with 10 Sub-Divisions? Check. 99 Presets? Check. Trails savable per preset? It’s here. And all this is accessed via Flight Time’s micro buttons, an interesting interface among guitar pedals in that it does way with the traditional knobs we’re all familiar with. It all adds to the charm of this distinctive stompbox.
An interesting draw is the automatic BPM Analyzer functionality. Activating it with make the pedal listen to the music via a Mic on the pedal, and it will make minor adjustments to your tempo automatically to keep your delays in sync. This is handy in a live jam when your drummer is drifting a little. Surprisingly, it works. You can also Offset the delays from the time division for a more rushed or laid-back feel. Pro guitarists will appreciate all these little things, and complete MIDI functionality will let you integrate the Flight Time into any tour-ready rig.
Read the Free The Tone Flight Time review.
Simply put, the Strymon DIG is an immaculately sounding digital delay pedal. It’s one of the easiest to use and 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.
Read the Strymon DIG review.
Digitech Obscura Altered Delay
Don’t let the fact that this pedal is digital mislead you. The Digitech Obscura is all about warm ‘n gooey flavors of delay. It starts with 4 different delays: Analog, Tape, Lo-Fi, & Reverse. Then you get a dedicated knob for Level and stacked knobs for Time/Repeats & Tone/Degrade. That’s a lot of control from such a small pedal. Then there’s a Trails switch. I know, awesome, right? And it even has stereo I/O. You can also hold the foot-switch for 3 seconds to activate the Tap Tempo mode. From here you can tap in your delay time to sync to the music or tap in various times to have the pedal warp the pitch of your repeats as it ramps to the new tempo speed.
The Repeat Hold function is super fun if you’re the kind of guitarist who likes to reach down and twist knobs to make crazy sounds. You can turn the Repeats knob past 3 o’clock to grab and continuously repeat a section of your playing. Then start messing with the Time, Tone, & Degrade knobs for chaotic fun. Activate the Tap Tempo mode to make things even crazier. So much fun. Try running guitars, drums, and all kinds of instruments into here. Be sure to sample or record the output as you can create all kinds of wild rhythms and glitched out sounds.
By the way, the delay types are all awesome. Tape is a favorite and has plenty of tape-style mojo. The Degrade adds some serious wow & flutter style warble. Analog is nice and warm with the Tone knob making it even darker. The Lo-Fi delay is nice ‘n gritty. Reverse is expectedly fun to play. Lots to like here. The Digitech Obscura Altered Delay is a great return to form for the company and pushes the boundaries of what can be expected in a single stomp delay pedal.
The Ibanez AD9 needs no introduction as it’s one of the classic 3-knob analog delay pedals. And just as Ibanez shrunk the venerable Tube Screamer down to become the TSMINI, the Ibanez ADMINI is a tiny format 100% analog delay pedal. All the warmth you’d expect from a quality analog delay can be found in this tiny gem. Delay Time ranges from a quick 20ms to a respectable 600ms. The Repeat knob’s range will go from a single slapback echo to full-on runaway oscillation. The oscillation starts early and manages to have plenty of usable range before it gets too out of control. It can even oscillate indefinitely and duck when you play over it while adding new textures to the layers. This pedal needs to be experienced firsthand to be appreciated fully. At the price Ibanez is giving these things away for, the Analog Delay Mini is a steal.
Read the Ibanez Analog Delay MINI review.
Rainger FX Echo-X Digital Delay
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 Binson Echorec is a legendary multi-head echo machine famed for its hypnotic delay effects. The Catalinbread Echorec is a digital delay pedal inspired by those iconic sounds. The Echorec pedal gives you 12 playback head combinations for plenty of interesting multi-tap rhythmic delay patterns. The pedal also has a varying and much longer delay time (up to around 1000ms!) that really lets the rhythmic patterns stand out. Cranking the Swell knob can take the Echorec into beautiful self oscillation. The Tone will let you change the color of your repeats from dark and brooding to bright and metallic.
The verdict is out on whether or not this pedal nails the Echorec sound; opinions on the matter vary greatly. But this pedal does pack some great delay tones, and it’s certainly much smaller and more affordable than a real Binson Echorec. Not to mention the longer delay times. This pedal was a labor of love for the Portland based pedal builders who realized this vision, and it’s a modern classic to many guitarists.
Read the Catalinbread Echorec review.
The Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail completely blindsided me in the best possible way. Seymour Duncan have delved into pedals in the past, but now they’ve seriously laid it down. The Vapor Trail is an all-analog delay in a standard-sized stompbox enclosure with a few twists. The Modulation controls (Rate & Depth) are on the surface of the pedal for easy access. The Delay knob contains an LED that blinks to give you an on-stage visual of the delay time. And there’s a TRS-jack for coloring the wet signal with any pedal you want to plug into it. Most importantly, the Vapor Trail uses high-end circuitry for a cleaner delay tone than comparable pedals while dripping with analog warmth. This is the first pedal to seriously challenge the MXR Carbon Copy as the best analog delay pedal at that $150 price point. The Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail is arguably the new king of standard enclosure, single foot-switch analog delay pedals with modulation.
Read the Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail review.
What can I say about the Empress Effects Vintage Modified Superdelay? I love this pedal! Few pedals can do so much in such a small enclosure, and this pedal is among the premium boutique delay pedal elite. The Vintage Modified Superdelay makes some alterations to 2 of the 3 available Tape Delay modes for an even more vintage vibe than the original Superdelay. The extra grit and thicker modulation produce an even more authentic tape delay experience for those who really like it dirty. The other modes offer a wealth of pristine delays, and there’s just something about the tone of this pedal that gives it an especially unique character among the many delays I’ve played. Those who’ve played one know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, definitely try this pedal. Oh, and be sure to check out the Reverse Mode C (Octave Tap!) and try using Rhythm mode to create custom multi-tap delay patterns. Simply awesome!
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.
Read the Red Panda Particle review.
The EarthQuaker Devices Disaster Transport SR is the ultimate lo-fi delay pedal. It features 2 separate delays that can be used in series, parallel, or series/parallel with optional modulation on Delay A and optional reverb on Delay B. These effects may be combined in countless ways to produce some of wildest lo-fi modulated delay you’ve ever heard. The Disaster Transport SR may look complex at first glance, but it’s surprisingly easy to come to grips with. You’ll discover that this pedal is an instrument unto itself and a haven of tone for those who appreciate beautiful and quirky lo-fi delay textures. Indy art-rockers and experimentalists will definitely appreciate this pedal. I could see it becoming the defining signature pedal for the guitarists it inspires and being the foundation for entire albums of sprawling guitar extravagance.
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.
Read the Strymon El Capistan review.
I was already blown away by the delay sounds offered by the Flashback X4, but the TC Electronic Flashback Mini Delay takes this awesome catalog of delay tone in the opposite direction. With a mini pedal enclosure that’ll fit on any pedalboard, the Flashback Mini is the ultimate pedal for those who want the single ultimate delay sound in a small space-saving pedal. Out of the box the pedal has a nice warm, analog-style sound with some high-end rolloff on the repeats. Want a different delay flavor? You can download custom sounds from an ever-growing library of TonePrints. Want to build your ultimate signature delay sound? Use the TonePrint Editor for PC, Mac, or iPad to create your own one-of-a-kind delay and access it anytime from tiny little box of magic. And mark my words… while this pedal was only just released a couple weeks before this writing, you’re going be seeing the Flashback Mini Delay appearing on a lot of pedalboards for years to come.
I have to give a nod to the Ibanez ES2 Echo Shifter, easily one of the coolest looking delays I’ve seen since the Moog MF-104M Analog Delay. The super affordable ES2 has a lot going for it besides its low price. This analog delay sports up to 1000ms of delay time, has tap tempo, modulation, and that awesome Delay Time slider that just begs to be used in real-time. Flip the Oscillation switch and you get instant runaway delays. Then go nuts with the Delay Time slider and trip out. This pedal would make a killer jam companion in the recording studio. The Echo Shifter is one idea I’d love to see Ibanez expand upon in a Made In Japan premium version with tap divisions, deeper controls, and even higher build quality for improved reliability. In the meantime the ES2 is a killer analog delay with tap tempo for guitarists on a budget, and seriously, you’ve gotta love those real wooden sides. Classy style and epic tones for the win.
Read the Ibanez ES2 Echo Shifter review.
Pigtronix Echolution 2 Ultra Pro
The Pigtronix Echolution 2 Ultra Pro is quite unlike any other digital delay pedal on the market. It fuses analog and digital technology to create delay sounds that are entirely unique to this pedal. It has a wide array of features including staples like tap tempo and 5 different multi-tap divisions (including Phi, the golden ratio, which Pigtronix was first to implement in a delay pedal with the original Echolution). Any 2 tap divisions can be used at once for a total of 15 multi-tap patterns. A host of effects can be applied to your delays including filters, modulation, ducking, reverse, a halo “shimmer” effect, octave jump, freezing, and bit-crushing. You also get true stereo ins and outs and a ping pong mode as well.
The Pigtronix abbreviated slogan “F.A.T.” once stood for “Futuristic Analog Tone”. I’m glad they shifted perspective and changed the meaning to “Futuristic Audio Technology” to better encompass the inclusion of digital audio elements into their designs. The Echolution 2 Ultra Pro is a testament to the new motto and the greatness that can be achieved by integrating classic analog sounds with modern digital innovations. Get F.A.T.!
Should any other pedals be included? Did we miss your favorite delay pedal? Tell us what’s your favorite delay in the comments below!
That concludes our Top 20 Best Delay Pedals of 2016. Thanks for reading!