With all the best will in the world, even the most creative guitarists can only go so far before they begin to experiment with their sound. This journey often leads them to the world of guitar pedals, and one of the most popular modulation effects is the delay. Essentially, a delay pedal is a simple effect that records and plays back any music that is played through it.
This can be done fast or slow, and depending on the settings you use, it can create a subtle and short or a large, atmospheric sound. The trouble is deciding which to buy, as they can range from cheap £20 models up to and way over £100. This guide and list aim to help you find the perfect pedal for your needs, whether you can be found jamming shoegaze, country, metal or ambient.
In our buying guide, we’ll be looking at the main features you should consider when it comes to finding the right delay pedal. From the age-old analogue vs digital debate to the ease of use and extra functions, by the end, you should know exactly what you want.
If you’ve scrolled through any guitar forums or YouTube videos before landing here, you’ll no doubt have heard many conflicting things about whether a digital or analogue delay is ‘better’. Frankly, the fact of the matter is, they both have a lot to offer. Let’s take a look at each of them.
A digital delay is controlled by a microchip and works using an algorithm that produces a bunch of 1s and 0s. Therefore, you can expect to get the same sound every time with no colouration, which is why it’s often thought of as the perfect delay.
There are other benefits too, such as longer delay times and a better probability of processing this, as well as other bonus guitar effects. The argument against delay is that this perfection takes away some of the unique character of the effect, and therefore, of the guitarist.
Analogue delay pedals, on the other hand, have plenty of character. To understand how this works, imagine a ticking clock, whereby every tick uses the previous tick to create the sound.
Over time, this could potentially add some imperfections and colourations. Some players prefer this as it has a thicker, more natural sound.
However, the issue with these thicker sounds comes if you play with high gain and heavy distortion, as it can cause some unpleasant results. Also, due to the simple technology utilised, analogue pedals tend to produce shorter delay times.
While there are many pedal features to consider, none are more convenient than tap tempo. This function means that a player can tap a switch on the pedal in time with the song, which will then set the delay accordingly. This means you'll be able to easily switch up the delay time while playing.
Without it, you’ll have to manually bend down and turn the knobs to change the delay. This isn’t too much of an issue if you’re only noodling around at home, however, it's not ideal if you're playing live.
Alternatively, you could look for a pedal which allows you to input an exact time for the delay. This feature tends to be found on the higher-end digital products but is a useful function if you play live regularly, as you can save it as one of the presets and with a few clicks of a button, you'll be right back there.
As with all music equipment, the range of delay pedals spans everything from the beginner-friendly to the pro, so it’s important to recognise your level and how much time you’re willing to put into learning this new piece of equipment. After all, some of the professional products are like learning a new instrument altogether!
When it comes to identifying which is easier, it’s pretty easy to do – the more knobs and dials, the more complicated the stompbox is going to be. Ordinarily, one can assume that analogue delay pedals will have fewer controls, which is one of the biggest reasons people opt for this instead of a digital model.
To help with classifying this in our ranking, we have created a section called 'complexity' in the specification table. In there, we’ve determined whether each pedal is easy, medium or difficult to operate.
While there is something to be said about creating your unique sound, there’s also a good argument for finding a pedal that offers a range of presets. These can help a player focus on creating music instead of spending their time engineering the perfect delay sound.
Again, this feature is more common on the higher-end, more expensive digital delays. Usually, the company will provide some blank presets so that you can create customised sounds and then save them to the pedal, preventing you the hassle from having to figure them out every time.
It’s worth noting that while this is more common on digital pedals, there are a few analogue ones that implement this function their systems, so don't despair if you've settled on this variety.
The final factor to look out for is the material. Now, if you’re only planning on using your pedal at home, then it’s not so important. But if you want to get out and about with it gigging, then it can soon become a key consideration.
Most pedals are made with metal casings. This covering ensures that it can take the rough and tumble of being tapped, stood or stamped on. It also means the pedal will be OK if the sound engineer is less than delicate when helping you get your gear on or off stage.
Budget pedals, on the other hand, can come in plastic casings. This means they’re less durable and resilient when they’re getting stomped. Of course, this can be reduced somewhat if you’re continuously careful, but we all know how easy it is to get caught up in the music. On the positive side, plastic-cased pedals are much lighter.
Whether you’re planning on building a mighty pedalboard that creates vast tonal landscapes or you're just looking to play around and have fun with some new sounds, you're in the right place. Here are our favourite delay pedals available right now.
DD-8 Digital Delay
Memory Boy Analogue Delay
DD-500 Digital Delay
VD400 Vintage Analog
Flashback 2 Delay
Series 3 Delay
M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay
The Panther Cub V2
DIG Dual Digital Delay
A Stand-Out Pedal That Can Be Enjoyed by Every Guitarist
The Latest in a Long Family Line of Boundary-Pushing Analogues
High Performance and Unrivalled Control and Customisation
For Those Who Want to Dip Their Toes Into Delay
Best Affordable Pedal With Space-Age Tech
The Budget Pedal Under £100 From a Boutique Brand
A Classic From One of the Most Influential Pedal Companies Around
Get the Best of Both the Digital and Analogue Worlds
A Fan-Favourite Just Got Half the Size
Two for the Price of One (Kind Of)
We know how easy it is to excitedly order any and every guitar-related gadget you can get your hands on, but trust us, you'll save yourself some time and money if you do a bit of product research beforehand. Check out our related articles for some inspiration and guidance.
Depending on the sound you're looking for, how comfortable you are exploring pedals, and, of course, your budget, different pedals are better suited to different players. That said, there is a delay pedal for everyone, and as long as they encourage you to keep picking up the old six-string, in our eyes they're worth every penny.
Author: Lewis Clark
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