For musicians, creating a unique sound is about more than just picking up a guitar and playing the right chords. Your sound is like your fingerprint, and many guitarists use certain effects to help capture their own special sound. One essential effect in a guitarist’s toolbox is the delay pedal, which copies the incoming signal and repeats it back.

Before delay pedals, guitarists had to get creative to produce an echo. Some would set their mics and amps up in varying places, or practice in locations with high ceilings that produced a natural echo. Today, guitarists are fortunate enough to create the same effects without all the hassle. Musicians can make that same delay effect using a pedal and the push of a button.

Many master guitarists never bothered to step foot on stage without their trusty delay pedal. Musicians like David Evans “The Edge” from U2 and Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead are known for their use of delay pedals and even helped make the effect popular.

What is the Best Delay Pedal?

What exactly is a delay pedal and what does it do?

Delay pedals are a lot like your own musical echos—they’ll repeat a note or multiple notes back to you (depending on the specific pedal and the settings you use). For beginners, echoing a portion of their notes might seem a little unnecessary, but delay pedals expand your sound and make it resonate.

There are actually several kinds of delay pedals out there, but the two main categories are digital and analog. If you’ve heard anything about delay pedals before, you’re probably already aware of the long-standing rivalry between guitarists who use analog pedals and those who use digital ones.

Analog pedals, or tape delays, were heavily popular in the 1950s and relied on magnetic tape strings to record and playback the audio. While some artists swear by an analog pedal’s authenticity and warmth, an analog device is usually not a great option for beginners.

While an analog pedal delivers the classic warmth of yesteryear, they usually don’t provide anywhere near the range of delay effects that a digital pedal can. So unless you’re specifically after the analog sound, you may be disappointed with how limited an analog delay can be.

A much more common type of delay pedal is the digital delay, which encompasses a few types of different types of delays: the looping delay, for instance, plays your notes back in a continuous loop while the slapback echo creates a quick, striking sound that quickly fades.

Plus, emerging technologies have made it easier than ever before for digital effects manufacturers to accurately model the classic sound of an analog delay. Even seasoned audiophiles will have a hard time discerning a true analog delay from a digital model of an analog sound.

While a delay pedal can improve and reshape your sound all by itself, many guitarists choose to use these devices in conjunction with a reverb pedal and overdrive pedals for a wider, smoother sound.

What makes a great delay pedal?

Not all delay pedals are made equal—while the right one can revamp your sound, the wrong one can make you feel like smashing your guitar against the wall. It’s important to know what to look for in a delay pedal. Generally, the key areas that will make or break a delay pedal include:

  • A Tap Tempo Footswitch
  • Multiple delay types
  • Built-in looper
  • Accurately modeled delay types

Tap Tempo Footswitch

You might not realize it immediately, but the tap tempo feature can be a crucial part of your delay pedal. The tap tempo feature usually comes in three forms: a knob, button or footswitch.

A delay pedal with a tap tempo footswitch is almost essential. Unlike the knob, the footswitch allows you to set your delay time to a specific rhythm. Since many guitarists utilize the delay pedal for a rhythmic effect, matching their delay time to the rhythm is crucial.

A tap tempo button works the same way, but since you can’t control it with your foot, it’s impractical for live performances, unless you’re fine with the idea of needing to bend down to adjust your tempo multiple times throughout your set.

Plus, while drummers may argue otherwise, even the most talented drummers will have slight variations in their tempo throughout a song, and with a tap tempo footswitch, you can always ensure that your delay is working in lock step with the drummer.

In most cases, you’ll find that using a footswitch for the tap tempo makes a huge difference in how you play and the convenience of changing your tempo.

However, if you’re using a pedal that lets you save presets or control the delay time through an app or computer program, or if you’re looking for a delay pedal to mess around with at home without a band, having a footswitch might not be as big of a deal.

Multiple Delay Types

One of the most important decisions you’ll make when shopping for a delay pedal is whether to buy one with single or multiple delay types. Most of the time, analog devices will only offer one delay type while a digital pedal will include several.

Some guitarists may only be looking for a simple delay pedal without any fancy extras. In this case, your best bet is to look for a device that only uses a single delay type—such as an analog device or a bare-bones digital pedal.

However, the issue with single delay pedals is that you’ll always be limited to that specific delay effect. If you want to use a different effect in the future, you’ll have to purchase more pedals—which can quickly become expensive.

Most of the time, a pedal with multiple delay types is the way to go. Not only will you probably save yourself a little cash in the long run, but you won’t be limiting yourself to a specific effect.

Built-in Looper

For a lot of musicians, the looper effect is extremely useful, especially for beginners. The looper effect has a variety of uses, but many guitarists use it to help practice their harmonies or flesh out a melody.

On a delay pedal, you might find out that the looper effect is the one you end up using the most. It creates a repetitive sound that, unlike other effects, doesn’t fade. In many cases, you can record multiple loops and play them together. Looper effects can make it sound like you’re playing with an entire band instead of just using a delay pedal.

Looping is all about experimentation, and if you’re writing a song, this effect can help you figure out which chords sound great together and which ones fall flat.

Unfortunately, not all delay pedals come with a looping effect. While many pedals with multiple delay types will include a built-in looper, single delay pedals won’t. If you’re purchasing an analog device, you’ll have to either buy a multiple delay pedal or an entire looper to get this effect.

For a lot of musicians, it’s much more convenient (and economical) to purchase a digital delay pedal with this effect rather than an entire looper.

However, if you find that you’re relying on the looper function often, you may want to consider purchasing a dedicated looper. Not only will this allow you to use your delay pedal for other effects, but a stand-alone looper will provide much more functionality than what you get from a delay pedal.

Accurately Modeled Delays

Digital delay pedals often provide a handful of different delay styles and types to fit the needs of different styles of music. Even some analog pedals feature more than one delay type. But, it doesn’t matter how many delay types the pedal has if the effects don’t sound convincing.

A great delay pedal will offer you a myriad of different delay functions that accurately replicate the sound you’re striving for. From the slapback style delays of the ‘50s and ‘60s to the more far-out delay sounds of bands like Pink Floyd, a good delay pedal should be able to model all the sounds you’re after with accuracy.

A pedal that provides accurate modeling will allow you to “stretch your legs” and explore all of the different tones and effects you’re able to achieve with your delay.

Delay Pedal Reviews – Our Top 5 Recommendations

TC Electronics Nova Delay Guitar Effects Pedal

Best Overall

What Makes it Special?

What truly makes the TC Electronics Nova Delay Guitar Effects pedal stand out is its multiple delay types. Unlike analog pedals, this device comes with six different delay types and nine programmable presets. If you aren’t a fan of using presets, you can always switch to manual operation mode too.

To get the exact sound and tone you need, the TC Electronics pedal also includes up to 2290 milliseconds of delay time.

  • 6 different delay types
  • 9 programmable presets
  • Up to 2290 milliseconds of delay time
  • Tempo control feature

As far as delay pedals go, the TC Electronics Nova Delay Guitar Effects Pedal has everything you need to switch up your sound. If you’re worried about keeping the delay effect in sync with your rhythm, you can use the tempo control feature.

When performing live or just jamming with friends, setting the tempo of your delay pedal manually can be time-consuming. Fortunately, this pedal comes with an audio tapping feature that lets you set the beat simply by strumming your guitar.

Although there are 6 different delay types, many guitarists find the slapback, reverse and dynamic delay effects to be the ones they rely on the most.

As far as overall quality goes, the TC Electronics pedal really has it all. While it’s great for experienced guitarists who are already familiar with delay pedals, operating it is simple enough for beginners to easily pick up too.

What Customers Like

  • Special delay effects like the reverse, slapback and dynamic delay
  • The audio tapping feature that saves time
  • Tempo control keeps you on-beat at all times

What Customers Dislike

  • Figuring out how to use the pedal can take a little bit longer
  • Doesn’t contain a true bypass

Donner Multi Digital Delay Square Guitar Effect Pedal With 7 Modes

Best for the Price

What Makes it Special?

It might look small, but the Donner Multi Digital Delay Square Effect Pedal comes with 7 different delay modes like sweep, reverse and lo-fi. What separates this specific device from other digital pedals is how easy it is to use. There are only 3 major knobs you need to worry about.

Since it includes a true bypass, you can rely on this pedal to provide you an unmuffled, crisp sound whenever you use it.

  • 7 different delay modes: reverse, sweep, analog, digital, mod, tape and lo-fi
  • Easy to use: 3 knobs to control your dry/effect signal, delay time and your feedback amount
  • True bypass
  • Made with stable Aluminum-alloy

With the Donner Multi Digital Delay Square Effect Pedal, you get the best of both worlds: not only do you get a pedal that looks and operates like an analog device, but you get all the delay modes of a digital pedal. Switching your delay effect is as easy as turning a knob.

At only half a pound, this portable, lightweight pedal is made from the Aluminum-alloy that’s meant to last you a long time. Keep in mind that this pedal does require a 9V DC power adapter—which you will need to buy separately.

Many guitarists appreciate the amount of control you get with this pedal: with the flick of a knob, you can adjust the tone, the intensity of the compression, and the volume of your effect. There are also two modes to switch between with this device: normal or treble.

What Customers Like

  • Has the ability of a digital pedal, but feels like an analog device
  • Long-lasting
  • Portable and lightweight

What Customers Dislike

  • Doesn’t include its own power adapter
  • Doesn’t have a footswitch

Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler

What Makes it Special?

For over a decade, the Line 6 DL4 has been one of the most popular and well-used delay pedals on the market. Countless guitarists rely on the DL4 to provide them with their unique sound, and with 16 different modes, including a built-in 14-second looper, there’s practically no limit to the number of tones you can get from the DL4.

  • 16 different modes – digital, digital with modulation, rhythmic delay, stereo delay, ping pong, reverse, dynamic delay, auto-volume echo, tube, tape, multi-head, sweep, analog, analog with modulation, and lo-res delay, plus a 14-second loop function.
  • 3 programmable presets
  • True bypass
  • Works with Line 6 expression pedal – allows you to control all delay settings and controls with your foot

With the DL4, the folks at Line 6 have created a pedal that can be all things to all people. Whether you’re after a digital or analog sound, or you’re looking to explore the full scope of what you can do with a delay pedal, the DL4 has all that and then some.

With 15 different delay modes, you’ll be able to achieve a multitude of different sounds, and handy additions like the delay with modulation mode allow you to incorporate a chorus effect into your sound, without needing to invest in a dedicated chorus pedal. Since delay and chorus go together like peanut butter and jelly, this is a mode that many guitarists fall in love with.

Add to that true bypass switching, dedicated tap tempo, and the ability to save up to three different presets, the Line 6 DL4 is an ideal pedal for anyone who’s looking to get the most out of their delay effect.

What Customers Like

  • Accurate modeling of 15 different delay effects
  • 14-second loop function
  • Programmable presets

What Customers Dislike

  • Large size is difficult to incorporate into a pedal board
  • Not as durable as some other pedals

Fender Mirror Image Delay Pedal

Best For Beginners & Students

What Makes it Special?

Most guitarists will probably recognize this brand name—not only does Fender make guitars, but this reputable brand also designs and manufactures great delay pedals too. Besides containing digital, analog and tape delay types, this pedal is battery-powered.

Any guitarist who has ever used a delay pedal before knows that a battery-powered pedal is often more convenient and requires less hassle than one that requires an adapter and long cords.

  • Uses multiple delay types: digital, analog and tape
  • Impressive build quality
  • Allows you to add dotted-eighth note
  • Has LED-illuminated knobs

The Fender Mirror Image Delay Pedal is a great choice for beginner guitarists and students. While it still allows you to get used to the feel of a modern digital pedal, it doesn’t overwhelm you with delay modes.

Many musicians appreciate that this pedal gives you the option of easily using the dotted-eighth note sound—which can add another layer of intricacy to your sound. Fender also includes their own patented magnetic battery door so that you can easily switch out batteries when you need to.

When using the delay effect, some guitarists don’t like how artificial the echo sounds when it cuts out. Fender solves this complaint by using delay tails, which allow the echo to fade out naturally instead of immediately cutting off.

Even if it meets your technical needs, even the best delay pedal will fall short if it’s not long-lasting. Fortunately, the durable Fender Mirror Image Delay Pedal is made with anodized aluminum that can withstand a little rough handling.

What Customers Like

  • Durable and portable
  • Battery-powered
  • Allows you to add a dotted-eighth note sound

What Customers Dislike

  • Delay effects aren’t as high quality as those from high-end manufacturers
  • Doesn’t offer tap tempo

Rowin Analog Vintage Delay Guitar Effect Pedal

Best on a Budget

What Makes it Special?

If you need a simple delay pedal on a budget, this analog delay from Rowan will be right up your alley. This classic choice allows for guitarists to find their own vintage sound without breaking the bank.

With true bypass that provides a clear tone free of buzzing and simple 3-knob functionality, anyone—from beginner to master—will find the Rowin Vintage Delay pedal easy to use and control.

  • Mini-size
  • True bypass
  • 3 knobs to control your mix, delay time and feedback
  • Made of durable zinc-alloy

Time-wise, this pedal allows you up to 600 milliseconds of delay time. As simple as it is, this device still gives you plenty of control: you can use the echo knob to control the length of time the delay effect will play for, and the feedback knob to change the intensity of the effect.

Technically, this pedal is “mini-sized,” and weighs about half a pound. When you’re touring, on-stage or just jamming in the garage with your friends, you don’t need to worry about this pedal getting in the way. It’s designed to take up minimal space and fit well onto a pedal board.

While digital pedals might provide more options and delay types, the Rowin Delay pedal produces a vintage, organic sound that’s difficult to find anywhere else. You might even feel as if you’ve been transported back to the 1970s.

What Customers Like

  • Simple and easy to use
  • Produces a vintage sound
  • Portable and durable

What Customers Dislike

  • Can sometimes produce slight humming
  • Only contains a delay time up to 600 milliseconds

6 More Really Good Delay Pedals

Boss DD-3 Digital Delay Pedal With Extras

Trying to switch up the delay time can be an inconvenience—especially when you’re performing—which is why this device comes with a quick delay time control. There are 3 different delay modes to choose from, and that includes a slapback effect and a spacey effect. At up to 800 milliseconds of delay time, the Boss DD-3 will capture all the sound you need it to.

Not only does the Boss DD-3 Digital delay pedal contain 3 different delay modes, but it also includes a variety of extras. Along with the pedal, you also get an instrument cable, patch cable, polishing cloth, and guitar picks.

While they might not add to the quality of the pedal, these accessories might save you a few bucks. You can use the instrument and patch cable to attach the pedal to your guitar as well as your pedal chain.

It’s worth noting that this product also comes with a 5-year warranty—if something breaks or malfunctions, you’ll be covered.

Electro Harmonix Canyon Delay and Looper

The Electro Harmonix Canyon Delay and Looper pedal is a unique device: it doubles as both a delay pedal and a looper. For guitarists, the looper effect is one of the most important and frequently used modes. Musicians rely on it during live performances, during the songwriting process, and even just while they’re trying to harmonize.

However, this pedal doesn’t just include 62 minutes of looping—it also contains 10 different delay modes for you to experiment with (such as analog, reverb and slapback). Beyond the multiple delay types, there are plenty of ways to control how your sound comes out.

The Canyon has an onboard tap tempo, and several control knobs for adjusting the signal’s modulation and tape age.

While it may take a little getting used to for beginners, the Electro Harmonix Canyon Delay pedal is a versatile tool. It works great for guitarists that are looking to experiment with their own sound or already know they’ll be using a looper effect frequently.

Behringer VD400 Vintage Analog Delay Effects Pedal

For a much more classic solution, you might be interested in the Behringer VD400 Vintage Analog Delay Effects pedal. This vintage pedal specializes in elastic and slapback delay effects.

The device allows you to use up to 300 milliseconds of delay time and uses an advanced noise reduction circuit to prevent a muddled or muffled signal. The LED lights let you know when the pedal is on, and when it’s powering off.

For musicians that hate having to deal with long cords, you’ll be happy to know this pedal runs off 9V batteries or, if you need it to, a Behringer PSU-SB DC power supply. Keep in mind, the power supply is not included with the purchase of this product.

What draws so many guitarists to the Behringer VD400 Vintage Analog Delay Effects pedal is its vintage sound. With this pedal, you can recapture the sound of the 1960s and 70s.

TC Electronic The Prophet Digital Delay Effect Pedal

For an affordable digital device that still keeps things simple, you might want to consider the TC Electronic Prophet Digital Delay Effect Pedal with True Bypass. This pedal uses 3 different delay modes (such as the slapback effect) and up to 1300 milliseconds of delay time. For guitarists that feel like they always need more delay time, this product just might be the right fit.

It’s worth noting that, unlike some other pedals, this product is all about space and portability. With top-mounted jacks, this device will fit perfectly onto pedalboards of all sizes.

If you’re worried about controlling the mix on your pedal, you shouldn’t be—this device has a knob to lower or increase the mix as well as a knob to control the number of delay repeats. On bypass mode, you can ensure that your sound comes out crystal clear.

Boss DD-7 Digital Delay Pedal

The Boss DD-7 Digital Delay pedal is a close cousin to its DD-3 pedal but lacks the added accessories. However, what this pedal doesn’t have in accessories it makes up for in extra delay modes.

This time, there’s a modulated effect to produce a chorus-like sound while the analog effect will make you feel as if you’ve gone back in time.

Along with new effects, musicians can also enjoy up to 6.4 seconds of delay time. While it’s unlikely that you’ll ever need that much time, those added seconds do give you more freedom and allow for more experimentation.

During a performance, it’s inconvenient for guitarists to change the tempo—even if all they need to do is turn a knob. Fortunately, the Boss DD-7 pedal solves this by adding a footswitch for hands-free operation.

Although it does weigh over a pound, the pedal’s design allows it to stay portable and compact.

MXR M19 Carbon Copy Analog Delay Pedal

The MXR M19 Carbon Copy Analog Delay pedal might only contain a single delay mode, but this pedal is designed for classic versatility. By adjusting the 3 knobs that control mix, delay and regen, you can produce anything from a quick, punchy effect to warm, rich sounds.

Although there are plenty of analog delay pedals out there, not all of them use the vintage bucket-brigade technology like this one. Before modern digital pedals, many old-school devices relied on bucket-brigade technology to create a delay effect.

Today, a bucket-brigade device might seem outdated, but it’s pedals like this one that are able to create truly authentic and vintage sounds.

Besides its technology, the MXR M19 Carbon Copy Analog Delay pedal also has up to 600 milliseconds of delay time. There are LED lights included on this pedal, and you can power it with 9V batteries.

5 FAQ’s About Delay Pedals

How do you use a Delay Pedal?

Every delay pedal works a little differently. While an analog pedal might require you to control your mix or delay mode with knobs, a digital pedal might use buttons or footswitches instead. However, regardless of what brand you’re buying, there will always be a few techniques you can employ to get the most out of your pedal.

One technique you can use is regenerating your quarter-notes (think of Jimmy Page’s solo in “Dazed and Confused” or U2’s iconic “A Day Without Me). Not only does a quarter-note delay add an entire new level of depth to your sound, but you’ll be creating a harmony line in thirds.

To do this, you’ll need to set your delay time to 600 milliseconds, your mix to around 80-100 percent and your repeat to 3.

If you want your sound to feel a little groovier, try setting your delay time to 400 milliseconds, your mix to 80-100 percent, and your repeat to one. This nifty trick ensures that the delayed note strikes on the last triplet of your beat (think of the memorable bass line from Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days”).

For something that feels like a punch in the face, you can also try tuning into the slapback effect. To accomplish this, you should keep your delay time extremely short—around about 150 milliseconds—with your mix at 60-80 percent, and your repeat at no more than 20 percent.

Keep in mind that these are just a few techniques to inspire your creativity. Once you understand the basics of your delay pedal, the only limits you have are your own imagination. Even if your pedal doesn’t specify that it has a slapback or reverb effect, you can usually create these manually.

Plenty of artists have come with new and interesting sounds simply by experimenting.

Where do you place a Delay Pedal (in the chain)?

Most guitarists branch out beyond the delay pedal and include other effects like the overdrive or reverb pedals when they’re playing. Once you start collecting multiple pedals and stomp boxes, the biggest question is how to hook them all up without causing tons of feedback, white noise or buzzing.

In a chain, you should place your delay pedal in the very back, but preferably in front of the reverb pedal (if you have one), since these are both “ambiance” effects.

If you do place your delay pedal near the front of the signal chain, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, many guitarists find that doing this can sometimes create a trippy, unusual sound. However, if you aren’t looking for a crazy, experimental effect, it’s best to keep your delay pedal near the back.

What are the top Delay Pedal brands?

Every guitarist has their preferences when it comes to delay pedal brands, but most can agree that some of the top delay pedal brands include:

  • Donner
  • Boss
  • Electro-Harmonix
  • TC Electronics
  • Fender

What separates these brands from others is their reputation and commitment to quality. Not only have many of them been around for decades, but they know how important a delay pedal can be to guitarists.

Their goal is to provide guitarists with the tools they need to discover their own sound as well as long-lasting pedals that can withstand a little wear and tear. Brands like Donner and TC Electronics make a variety of different delay pedals for you to choose from while companies like Electro-Harmonix try to give you everything you need in one pedal.

How much does a good Delay Pedal typically cost?

The price of a delay pedal can vary greatly, and it really depends on the type of pedal you’re purchasing. A good analog pedal that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles might be as cheap as $30 or $40.

If you want a long-lasting, fancier digital pedal, you’re typically going to have to pay around $110 to $250. The more effects your pedal has, the more it’s generally going to cost you. In rare cases, you might be able to find an economical digital pedal that’s only $50, but it will probably only be a few steps above an analog device.

Guitarists who are on a budget might want to start out with an analog pedal, and experiment with changing the delay time, mix and repeat manually before purchasing a digital device.

Where can I learn more about Delay Pedals?

There are plenty of different online resources you can check to learn more about delay pedals. Guitar World, for instance, can provide more insight into the history of the delay effect, and how these pedals work.

It’s one thing to talk about delay effects, but it’s another thing to listen to them. If you’d like to hear how different delay effects sound, try checking out this helpful YouTube video.

Conclusion

Even the most experienced guitarists can get a little confused when it comes to picking the best delay pedals. Many brands will boast that they have everything you need, but not all of them will live up to the promise. Fortunately, the pedals reviewed above can help you find your own unique sound.

A quick note to add is that, in addition to delay pedals, many musicians also purchase chorus, reverb, and overdrive pedals.

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