5 Best Delay Pedals 2020 (Product Round-up and Reviews)
If you’re a lead guitarist, there’s no doubt that you want your solos to sound as good as possible. Have you found that they sometimes sound a little weak, lacking substance? Well, a delay pedal could be exactly what you’re looking for.
Delay pedals add an echo, giving your sound some depth and making the most out of the notes you play. It’s been a staple in many guitarists’ pedal-boards, from Dave Gilmour to Jimmy Page to Eddie Van Halen.
So, now you know what a delay pedal is, key features to look out for and how to use one, it’s time to have a look at some of the best products on the market.
- 1 Top 5 Best Delay Pedals
- 2 1) TC Electronic Flashback Mini
- 3 2) MXR M169 Carbon Copy Delay
- 4 3) Boss DD-7 Digital Delay
- 5 4) Behringer VD400
- 6 5) Boss DM-2W Delay
- 7 What is a Delay Pedal?
- 8 Features to Expect on a Delay Pedal
- 9 Additional Features to Look Out For
- 10 Where to Position a Delay Pedal
- 11 Summary
Top 5 Best Delay Pedals
1) TC Electronic Flashback Mini
The TC Electronic Flashback is a petite pedal that has some exciting features. There’s an auto-tapping feature, which allows you to set the time of your delay by strumming your guitar, as well as seven seconds of delay time and Toneprint technology. Toneprint is software that includes customized tonal settings, designed to sound like legendary guitarists. Download it onto your phone or tablet and your guitar’s pickup will send the settings to your pedal! Futuristic! There’s true bypass on this pedal, too, so it won’t muddy your signal when it’s not in use and there are three, easy to use knobs: feedback, delay and FX level. The TC Electronic Flashback Mini will suit those who are comfortable using Apps and like small devices. It will be less suitable for old-school musicians.
- Very small and easy to use
- Includes Toneprint technology
- True bypass, so it won’t muddy your signal
- No battery option
- No button to flick between modes
2) MXR M169 Carbon Copy Delay
MXR’s M169 Carbon Copy is a completely analog pedal, giving it a rich, warm, vintage sound. It has three knobs: regen (feedback), mix and delay, which are intuitive to use and easy to twist. There’s also a modulation control, which can be used to emulate tape echo sounds. This pedal is slightly larger than the TC Electronic pedal, but it’s also able to run off a 9V battery and it’s significantly sturdy. It’s stomp-box sized, so will easily fit into a pedal board and you can trust it to endure a lot of stamping on. The delay time is up to 600 milliseconds, so it doesn’t have quite as many echoing options as some delay pedals, but if you are after a delay that sounds straight from the 70s or 80s, this will do the trick perfectly. Due to its analog circuitry and tape echo modulation effects, this pedal will suit those who are seeking a vintage tone. It will be less appropriate for those on the hunt for innovative technology.
- Modulation control emulates tape echo sounds
- Completely analog – providing rich, warm tones
- True bypass, so it won’t muddy your signal
- Quite expensive
- There’s no tap tempo feature
3) Boss DD-7 Digital Delay
Boss are renowned for making top quality pedals. This DD-7 Digital Delay is no exception. It has both stereo and mono inputs and outputs, plus an input for a tempo or expression pedal. There are level, feedback and delay time controls which are easy to use and clear. The pedal is a stomp box, so you can trust its sturdiness and readiness to gig. There are multiple modes, so you can flick between analog, vintage-style tones to modulate, chorus-y sounds. Another feature this pedal has is a ‘hold’ option. This enables you to record up to 40 seconds of sound that can then be played on top of, like a looper. The delay time itself is 6.4 seconds. The Boss DD-7 will suit creative musicians who want complete control over their effects. The price tag means that it might not suit beginners and the amount of feature might also daunt those new to effects pedals.
- Multiple modes allow you to switch between analog tones and modulated, chorus-like sounds
- ‘Hold’ function for loop-like feature
- Input for tempo/expression pedal
- Quite expensive
- Lacks analog warmth
4) Behringer VD400
Our budget-friendly option is the Behringer VD400. Now, before you’re put off by the name and the price (it’s cheap!), hear us out! The Behringer VD400 is an analogue pedal that produce a vintage, slap-back echo. It has a direct output as well as an output (which can come in handy when you need to export a clean signal to a sound engineer) and there are three knobs: rate, echo and intensity. This pedal is more than capable of the classic, 70s ‘bucket-brigade’ sounds and it’s also lightweight and, did we mention, cheap? The casing is plastic, so you’ll need to be careful if you’re gigging with it but it’s stomp box sized and can be powered off either a 9V adaptor or battery. The Behringer VD400 will suit beginners or guitarists on a budget who are looking for vintage, analog tones. It will be less suited to those who are looking for digital innovation. It might also be inappropriate if you gig regularly, due to its plastic casing.
- Easy to use
- Analog, vintage tones
- Fewer options than a digital pedal
- Plastic casing
5) Boss DM-2W Delay
The fifth and final pedal to make our list is another offering from Boss. The DM-2W Delay is a remake of the classic Boss DM-2 that was discontinued in the 1980s. The DM-2 is still sought after today due to its distinctive warmth and the DM-2W does a great job of recreating that, with some extra features. In ‘standard’ mode, it sounds just like a DM-2, delivering lush, warm tones that are made by its ‘bucket-brigade’ circuitry. The three knobs are the same: rate, echo and intensity, and they’re just as easy to use as on the older pedal. This new version of the DM-2 also contains a ‘custom’ mode. ‘Custom’ mode has more delay time and gives the signal a cleaner tone. There’s an input for an expression pedal, to give your foot control over the delay time but it’s not the same as a tap tempo. There’s also a direct out, as well as the standard input and output. Anybody who is a fan of the DM-2 will be happy with a DM-2W. It delivers warm, classic tones in a new, reliable pedal with the additional bonus of extra features in ‘custom’ mode. Boss do it again! It’s quite pricey, so beginners or those on a budget looking for a similar tone, might opt for something cheaper (cough, Behringer!).
- Classic tones identical to the DM-2
- ‘Custom’ mode for increased delay and cleaner tone
- Expression pedal input
- It’s quite pricey
- There aren’t options for tap tempo or extremely long delays
What is a Delay Pedal?
Delay pedals record the audio input from your guitar, then play it back after a selected period of time. They’ve been popular since the 1950s, which saw the birth of tape echo machines. These used tape to record the audio and play it back and were quite bulky devices! As well as being bulky, they were notorious for breaking down…
Following on from tape echo machines, were the more reliable, smaller, solid state delay pedals that became available in the 1970s. These used technology called a ‘bucket-brigade device’ to store the analogue signal from the guitar and move it along a line of capacitors, giving an echoing effect. These ‘bucket-brigade’ pedals have a warm, natural delay sound that’s still sought after by many guitarists today.
By the 1980s, digital delay pedals were being used. These pedals convert an analog signal to a digital one, which can then be modified. Digital pedals are generally capable of much more than analog pedals, but something is lost in terms of richness and warmth.
Features to Expect on a Delay Pedal
There are some features you can expect to find on most delay pedals.
A rate control can be adjusted to determine how fast your echo will be. Some guitarists like to get it exactly in time with their song, whilst more wild guitarists go for and extremely fast or even extremely slow echo. It’s up to you to experiment and find out what speed is right for you and your playing.
The feedback control (sometimes called ‘regen’ or ‘intensity’ decides how many repeats you have of your signal. Do you want your guitar to echo, echo, echo, echo, echo? Or just to echo, echo? Fiddle with this until you find what’s most appropriate.
Level or volume can be found on every delay pedal. This is to control how loud your affected signal will come through. If you want the delay to be very subtle, turn this down, but if you want an obvious echo it will need to be quite high.
Additional Features to Look Out For
There are some features that can make a delay pedal stand out from the rest.
Some high end pedals feature multiple modes, allowing you to switch from modern to more vintage sounds.
This can be a superb feature for session musicians, who need to shift their style frequently.
True bypass is another feature to look out for. It means that there’s no circuitry between your input and your output. This enables a clear sound whilst the pedal’s in use and also means that it won’t muddy your signal when you have it in bypass.
Tap tempo, or even strum tempo, can be found on some digital delay pedals. This allows you to set the speed of your echoes by either tapping the pedal or strumming your guitar. It is an excellent tool in the recording studio.
Modulation knobs on delay pedals can adjust the pitch of your affected signals. This can create a chorus-like, surreal effect that works excellently in psychedelic music. In analog pedals, you can even adjust the circuitry of your built-in modulation, if you’re that way inclined.
Where to Position a Delay Pedal
Now you’ve got your pedal sussed out, where should you put it?
It’s completely up to you, of course, but it makes the most sense to have it towards the end of your chain (close to your amp). This way, it can pick up the sounds of all of the effects your guitar has gone through before it, and echo with those.
Some guitarists do prefer to put their delay pedals early in the chain, to experiment with how the echoing signals will impact on later pedals.
As you can see, there are some great delay pedals out there!
If you’re looking for something analog, you have the DM-2W by Boss, Behringer’s VD400 or the MXR Carbon Copy delay. Those seeking the sounds of the 70s-80s can’t go wrong with either the DM-2W or the VD400. The DM-2W is of higher quality but the VD400 is a good budget option and both have three intuitive controls for rate, volume and intensity. If you’re looking for a sound that’s even more vintage than the 70’s, the Carbon Copy delay will provide you with sounds akin to a tape echo!
Those looking for something more modern, we recommend the TC Electronic Flashback Mini or the Boss DD-7. TC Electronic’s pedal will suit those who like compact devices and would enjoy the option to use an App to install new effects. The DD-7 will be perfect for gigging musicians who like to create strange sounds and recording musicians who need clarity and preciseness of tempo.
We hope that the information and mini-reviews here will help you to find your dream delay pedal. Have a great time creating echoes (echoes, echoes, echoes)!