10 Best Delay Pedals
If you ever wanted a nice echo to spice up the sound of your guitar, you should definitely be on the lookout for a delay pedal. But there’s a lot more to it – delay can be one of the most complicated guitar effects. It can give you ways to make your songs sound like soundtracks and help you play harmony all by yourself with a bit of know-how. If you’re into weird stuff, you can even dabble in ambient music with some freaky, glitchy signal chopping Red Panda.
There’s plenty of options to pick from, and we’ve selected a few of the best delay pedals currently on the market that will cover most of your needs.
Donner Yellow Fall Vintage
We’re gonna kick it off with one of the best budget picks on this list – the mini Donner Yellow Fall Vintage analog delay.
This mono pedal won’t blow you away with size, but it will pack quite a punch. Simple and quite sturdy, it has a few knobs for Echo, Feedback and Time with a maximum delay of 620 ms. This allows for a very nice versatile effect and the quality of the sound produced is surprisingly good. Oh, it also has True Bypass (not very common for this price range) and an LED indicator.
All of this combines for an amazing newbie-friendly package, just your simple clean delay, and no bull****. Decent analog delays are not easy to come by in this price range, and the Yellow Fall Vintage has just enough of everything. It’s great both for any beginner trying to make it in the big bad guitar world, or any intermediate player trying to save up some room on the pedalboard
TC Electronic Flashback 2
At first, TC Electronic based the Flashback delay pedal on the legendary TC 2290 digital delay widely used in studios. They managed to upgrade it since, giving it even more options until we got Flashback 2 – the most versatile pedalboard-friendly delay pedal in its price range.
The Flashback 2 features eight different delay types (including 2290) and three modes (eighth note, dotted eighth note, and both eighth and dotted eighth note), and the delay can last for up to 7 seconds. The MASH technology gives the footswitch other uses apart from toggling the pedal on and off – it’s pressure-sensitive and acts as an expression control. On top of all that, TC Electronic managed to sneak in a 40-second looper as well.
What’s even more interesting is TC Electronic’s TonePrint technology, which lets you create your own delay type through a mobile/PC app and import it directly into the pedal (they saved three spots on the type knob just for that). TonePrint also features delay presets made by artists from all around the globe, all easily downloadable.
The Flashback 2 is slowly becoming the staple delay pedal because of its versatility, customization options and most importantly – a great price tag, which helps separate it from the herd.
Boss DD-7 Digital
Boss have always been known for delivering high-quality, sturdy pedals at convenient price tags. Another Boss pedal made it on our Best Distortion Pedal article, and now it’s time for one of their delay pedal to get some spotlight – the DD-7 Digital.
This compact delay pedal comes with a delay time of up to 6.4 seconds, as well as a sound on sound loop feature with Hold mode. Other modes include 50ms, 200ms, 800ms, 3200ms, Reverse, Analog, and Modulate, the last two being a new feature – analog for that analog Boss DM-2 delay, and Modulate for chorus-type sounds. Other control knobs include E. Level, F. Back and D. Time.
External control is also present in a form of an expression pedal (which unfortunately doesn’t come as a package deal) which you can use instead of the knobs. What’s also a big plus is the two outputs – this pedal includes both mono and stereo, making it less gear dependent, and an ideal tool for a musician of any skill level.
Be it studio recordings, live performances or just jamming around, this pedal can be used for anything, you just have to play with the settings a bit and you’re all set.
Behringer Vintage Delay VD400
What is Behringer famous for? The low price tag on nearly all of their pedals. In the case of Behringer Vintage Delay VD400 – they really outdid themselves. We’d go as far as to say that it currently holds the title of best budget analog delay pedal out there.
It’s also quite simple to use, featuring three knobs (repeat rate, echo, and intensity) and it can deliver up to 300 milliseconds of delay, keeping your signal very clean at the same time. They also included split outputs, in case you favor different signal paths. The biggest drawback is the plastic casing, but treat it right and you will get that golden old-school analog delay that it produces for years to come.
The Behringer Vintage Delay VD400 may not be the best out there, but it will definitely meet the needs of anyone looking for that simple, organic analog delay at a great price.
MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog Pedal
Best Analog Choice
The MXR Carbon Copy is another full analog delay pedal that uses bucket brigade technology, giving you that well-known old school delay.
It’s very compact, stylish, and comes with three knobs – delay, mix, and regeneration. But don’t let its lack of configuration options discourage you, it’s a real gem for a musician with an active lifestyle (not a reference for running and gym, but playing actual gigs) There’s also an optional modulation switch on the top left of the pedal, as well as two internal trim pots to allow for more customization. It features True hardwire bypass and a max delay time of 600ms.
In short, if you’re in search of a simple, organic and subtle delay, and not something that’s too in-your-face and complicated that also comes at an affordable price, MXR Carbon Copy will be the perfect delay pedal for you. It is the best analog delay pedal in a slightly higher price range.
Electro Harmonix Canyon
You’re in a search of a top quality pedal, and you look at Electro Harmonix Canyon. At first glance, you’ll think to yourself, oh, it’s a fancy looking pedal, small and relatively cheap for an analog delay pedal. I’ll pass. But you would be so wrong, my friend. Apart from the great looks, this pedal’s got a great many pleasant surprises.
The Electro Harmonix Canyon is very compact, and features 11 distinctive modes: echo, modulation, multi-tap, reverse, Deluxe Memory Man (replica of Electro Harmonix legendary analog pedal effect), tape, reverb + delay, octave, shimmer, sample and hold, and finally, the loop mode, with 62 seconds record time. There are three more knobs – FX level, delay, and feedback. The Canyon also features a tap/divide button, with which you can choose rhythmic subdivisions for tap tempo. When it comes to tap tempo, there’s also a tap input on this little guy, giving you an option to tap in your desired tempo while playing.
Changed your mind yet? Sure you did. Electro Harmonix Canyon is, in fact, a great delay pedal, with such a wide range of effects to play with that they’ll satisfy even the most advanced of musicians. Give it a go!
Line 6 DL4
If you’re looking for a real vintage sound at the reach of your foot, as well as a bit of customization, the Line 6 DL4 is the perfect pedal for you.
With a maximum delay time of 14 seconds, this sturdy looking stompbox gathered up a total of 16 vintage modes: digital delay, lo-res, analog with modulation, analog echo, sweep echo, multi-head, tape echo, tube echo, auto-volume echo, reverse, ping pong, stereo delays, rhythmic delay, digital with modulation, and finally, the loop sampler, with 14 seconds of recording. It features 4 more adjustable knobs – delay time, repeats, tweak, tweez, and mix, giving you full control over your vintage sound.
Although it looks like a kid’s toy at first glance, with its green and curvy body – it’s far from it, really. This big boy is a real vintage masterpiece for the advanced guitar player, well worth its price tag.
TC Electronics Flashback X4
Top Value Pick
This big boy is the slightly older, but more accomplished brother of the Flashback 2 we reviewed earlier. Bigger is sometimes better, and in the case of Flashback X4 – it’s one of the best stompboxes ever made by TC Electronics.
This pedal is packed full of high-quality features – it has a whopping 16 delay types, three presets, a 40-second looper, tap tempo and 4 TonePrint slots to load up presets from some of your favorite songs, or your own recordings. The transition between presets is very smooth and the quality of the tone is impressive. All wrapped up in a pretty blue box that, despite its somewhat intimidating appearance is actually very user-friendly.
The TC Electronics Flashback X4 is everything you’ll ever need in a delay pedal, it’s very fun to use, and it will make you fall in love with the delay effect all over again. I’d even recommend it to newcomers with a slightly bigger budget – you won’t need another delay pedal after this one.
All behold Her Majesty, Empress Echosystem!
This delay pedal comes with a grand amount of delay options – digital, tape, analog, multi, mod, filter, ambient, delay + reverb, reverse, stutter, lo-fi, and whisky – and it also rocks two delay engines, that allows almost endless combinations (single, dual-parallel, dual serial, left/right). You’ll be able to import your own tone prints into this pedal (via SD card slot), and the differently colored LED lights will show you which one is active at the time of use. Apart from the regular advanced delay pedal knobs (delay time and ratio, mix, output, feedback, tone), Empress added Thing 1 and Thing 2 knobs, that will adjust a completely different option for each of the many modes.
The Empress Echosystem can be used in both mono (via the left input/output) and stereo (right and left). A control port has also been added if you favor expression pedals to play with different functions of the pedal on the fly.
While definitely not for the average player who’s looking for a simple and effective pedal, the Empress Echosystem will be a real treat for the advanced crew who’d like to invest a little more. It can be used in all genres and situations, in studios, gigs, jams. The only downside to it, in our humble opinion, is the big learning curve that you have to go through, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to dub yourself the Emperor of Delay.
Red Panda Particle
When we’re creating top lists, we always try to present you with a variety of products, so that every type of musician can find themselves in at least one of them. The following delay pedal is not for everyone, and it is, in fact, one of the most bizarre pedals that we’ve ever seen or heard. For the brave and adventurous among you, we’re happy to introduce the Red Panda Particle.
It works with granular and pitch shifting, which means that it cuts your signal into tiny bits (grains) and shifts your pitch, sometimes beyond recognition, to create a truly unique soundscape. It features 5 delay modes – random, random pitch, reverse, LFO, and density – which doesn’t sound like much, but combined with the 3 pitch modes (detune, density and LFO), it’ll be able to produce sound effects like no other pedal out there. On top of that, you will be able to adjust the grain size with the chop knob, as well as control your pitch shift with another knob. The delay/pitch knob controls the delay time (up to 900 milliseconds, depending on the mode that you choose), and there are also feedback, blend, and param knobs, the last one controlling some parameters for each of the modes.
Like we said, this pedal is not for everyone, and it’s certainly not the best delay pedal in the world, but it’s the most unique one we could find and just for that it deserved a place on our list.
How Do Delay Pedals Work?
In a nutshell, the name is pretty self-explanatory. The delay pedal stores a sound for the specified amount of time then releases it. The sound being released can be set to one or multiple repeats, a fade-away echo or you can even invert the sound for a reverse delay effect. The options are plentiful, and some pedals can even run multiple effects at once.
What to Look For When Buying a Delay Pedal?
I don’t think anyone would berate you for not knowing how to pick a delay pedal – there are literally hundreds of them and there are many options you may want to know about – so we’ll go with a few major things to consider when you’re making your pick.
The delay pedals can range from $50 to over $1000, and even though that the more expensive ones tend to be higher quality – they don’t necessarily have what you’re looking for. Some stompboxes in the $100-$200 range may be very similar to the $200-$300 range in terms of what you want to get, so you can save yourself some cash along the way. So, pick your budget range and check out some of the other features.
Maximum Delay Time
Are you looking for that faint echo or do you want your delay to last for up to 4-5 seconds? Most pedals have a short delay that’s counted in milliseconds, but some can go for a lot longer, and it doesn’t depend on the price – just your preference.
What it basically does is allows you to tap in a tempo for your song and then play in rhythm with the delay. A lot of the more affordable pedals lack this cool option, so take that into consideration.
Computer/Phone Connectivity Option
A lot of modern pedals have a USB port that will let you edit a tone print using the software on your computer, then load it up into the pedal. Some of them will even connect to your phone for pretty much the same purpose. If you think that sounds kinda complicated – it is, and if you’re into that sort of thing, have at it. For those that just want to use a couple of effects while playing – you can save a few bucks by skipping this option.
Mono or Stereo
This doesn’t come up very often, but it becomes relevant if you’re using more than one amp. If you only use one, you’ll be ok with a mono pedal. If, on the other hand, you have more than one – a stereo delay pedal can give you a really nice surround feel while playing.
Types of Delay Pedals
Probably the biggest distinction when it comes to sound output and greatly influenced by the type of music you play. As it always is with guitar effects, there are many flavors out there, but we’ll go more into detail about the two main types – analog and digital.
Analog Delay Pedals
If you’re a blues player looking for that simple, smooth vibe sounding effect – you should look no further. Analog delay is where it all began all the way during the ’50s with Scotty Moore rocking those slapback rockabilly riffs (using basic tape delay), but it got really really popular and widespread during the ’70s. Jimi Hendrix’s iconic All Along the Watchtower is practically hard to imagine without those distinct analog delay sounds.
Although analog pedals are more expensive then their digital counterparts, they are less precise and only offer some basic effects, but if you love your classics and want that organic tone – it’s the way to go.
Digital Delay Pedals
Unlike the analog stompbox that will record your sound with some diffusing on the side, the digital pedal will convert your guitar sound to digital and output the delay with perfect accuracy. But in this perfection lies its weakness – ask any Borg and they’ll know what I’m talking about. The more effects you lay on, the more it will sound like a Borg drone collective. This will, however, fit with some types of metal, so there’s that.
The digital age has done guitarists a great many favors, and one of them is making digital delay pedals cheap and very reliable. So if you’re suffering from a thin wallet – resistance is kinda futile.
On the far end of the digital spectrum lie the digital delay processors. They are the high-end version that can offer you almost endless customization, but their price is such that if you can pay it – you probably really need it.
Quick “How to Use” For Delay Pedals
The question most often asked is where does the delay pedal go in the signal chain. To get the most out of your delay pedal – you need to place it at the very end of your signal chain so that it can add delay to all of the effects previously added to your guitar sound.
There are three basic knobs all delay stompboxes have:
- Level – Basically the equivalent of your volume knob. Highest means the volume of the echo/delay is the same as your guitar output volume. Lowest means you don’t get any delay at all.
- Feedback – The knob that lets you set the number of repeats
- Time – The essential knob of the delay effect. Analog is roughly capped at around 300 milliseconds, digital can go way above. The knob is often set to count in milliseconds because quick delay times are both most common and most effective.
Tips ’N Tricks to Get You Started
Now that we’ve covered a whole range of things about delay pedals, starting with history, options, advice on how to buy, Star Trek (mandatory) – what do you do when you actually get one, unwrap it and plug it in?
The simplest advice I can give you is this – play around with it! It’s meant to be fun first and foremost. It will take some time and patience for you to get used to the effect, to figure out what kind of delay you want and how it fits into the type of music you play. If you grow to love it, you’ll want to get one with more effects next time.
A Few Last Words
We tried to cover the best delay pedals for any price range. The market for delay pedals is ever-changing, so be sure to check out our list from time to time – as we’ll be updating it with new products.
Jason Swartz is CEO of Alliance Talent, he’s helped stars like 2 Chainz, Lil Jon, and Ludacris earn anywhere from $150 to $500K a year in passive income through this proven methodology.
Both guitars have been played by guitar legends such as Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Root, and Keith Richards.