We Review And Compare The Best Delay Pedals On The Market Today

As you develop as a guitarist or bassist, you’ll probably start playing with altering sound and tone. Pedals provide one of the simplest methods for this. One common pedal to start with, a delay pedal, lets you achieve a musical sound similar to that of U2. Many of those haunting guitar effects The Edge achieves come from delay.

Our Top 5 Delay Effects Pedals

Dunlop EP103 Echoplex Delay

Overall

Warm, organic, versatile delay with echoes of 1970’s tones.

Our Rating: 4.7/5

Save up for the Echoplex EP103 Delay Pedal to obtain a pedal well known for its warm and organic tape delay. It sweetens the musical voice providing the musical tone common to many 1970s sounds. Use the “Age” feature to darken tone and increase distortion. Choose from repeat delays ranging from four to 750 milliseconds. You control the number and output level of the repeats. You get your choice of a choice of trails bypass or true relay. This versatile pedal works for nearly any music genre.

Pros

  • Known as a sonic sculptor
  • User friendly controls and user interface
  • High fidelity all-analog dry path
  • Dry path provides 20 volts of headroom

Cons

  • “Age” mode takes practice to properly use and find the sweet spots
  • Can sound too "perfect" and manufactured without darkening

Empress Effects Tape Delay

Overall

Awesome, classic-sounding analog delay.

Our Rating: 4.8/5

The Empress Effects Tape Delay Effects Pedal’s analog delay puts out a classic sound capable of creating beautiful, haunting echoes. The Empress delivers superior sound quality from its signal to noise ratio of 103 db.

Pros

  • Versatility and rhythm diversity
  • provides the vintage vibe tone chasers desire,
  • Fine tune the “Age” with further filter and modulation controls

Cons

  • Custom presets can be tough to master

MXR 169 Carbon Copy

Overall

Wide range of tones suitable for most genres.

Our Rating: 4.5/5

The MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay Pedal provides a wide range of tones suitable for numerous genres. It can put out a crisp bathroom slap or a 60s/70s Gilmour vibe. The three knob layout provide easy to understand controls for “Delay,” “Mix” and “Regen.” It churns out warm delay using analog bucket brigade technology.

Pros

  • Delay time of up to 600 milliseconds
  • Two internal trim pots

Cons

  • Your choices can be daunting

Donner Echo Square Multi Digital Delay

Overall

Highly flexible budget pedal, but a bit of a tone killer.

Our Rating: 4.5/5

The Donner Echo Square provides seven modes including analog, digital, lofi, mod, reverse, sweep, tape. It has three function knobs “Mix,” “Time” and “F.BACK” which stands for feedback that make it easy to add color to your sound. While it emits a clear, clean sound guitarists also note that it takes away from the tone and takes some practice to find a good sound.

Pros

  • Great value
  • Small form-factor won't take up much space on your pedal board
  • Tough case withstands constant handling

Cons

  • Does not come with a power supply
  • Power-hungry, needs a designated power tap on a power brick
  • Doesn't daisy-chain well

TC Electronic Nova

Overall

A great example of a reliable high-end model.

Our Rating: 4.5/5

The TC Electronic Nova Delay Pedal provides six delay styles and nine presets the guitarist can program. The presence of preset and manual modes adds to the versatility of the effects pedal. You’ll get digital effects of studio quality including rare, unique offerings like ping pong delay which alternates the delay between the left and right channels in a stereo setting. It earned 4.5 stars from other guitarists.

Pros

  • Solid build
  • Large LCD screen makes it easy to edit
  • Very clear online user manual

Cons

  • Complicated controls have a steep learning curve
  • Scrolling through the presets to change them can be awkward

Delay Pedal Buying Guide

Things To Consider When Choosing The Best Delay Pedal For You

Whether you’re a beginning guitarist or you’ve played for a few years, you probably want or need a more experienced player to help you out by telling you about the best delay pedal out there. The truth is that will vary according to your needs. This Guitar Signal buyer’s guide examines the top five delay pedals. Each serves a different need which the review defines. The buyer’s guide also explains the main features and benefits to check for before purchasing and what really constitutes value. Finally, it examines each of the five pedals in detail and how they differentiate themselves from the others. That lets you determine which best fits your personal needs. If you’re the parent or grandparent of a budding guitarist, this guide can help you choose the ideal gift that can enhance the sound of the guitarist in your life and help them in their learning process. 

As a guitarist of more than 20 years, I’ll honestly tell you that no pedal will make you sound like a guitar God or Goddess. Only practice can do that. You can enhance the sound you’re trying to develop and please your own ears a bit by using the same or similar effect that the artists who inspire you do. While you may not have a ton of money to start with for equipment, this guide examines a range of pedals starting at $70 and going up to about $250. I recommend saving up your money to purchase quality equipment from the start. Just as you won’t start with an EVH costing thousands of dollars, but probably a quality Strat from the Squier series that costs about $350 to $500, you won’t start with the same pedal for which the pros fork out. You can start with a quality item though.

What is a delay pedal?

Delay pedals provide effects that alter the sound coming from the stringed instrument. Some also alter the tone. Delay is one of the two types of time effects. Reverb is the other. No single delay pedal covers every genre of music. For example, the delay pedal right for achieving a heavy metal sound, the one for blues sound and the one for a surf sound or for an ambient indie sound differ vastly. You’ll often need more than one delay pedal if you play multiple genres of music.

Delay alters the original signal from the instrument by repeating the incoming signal and repeating it once or many times later. The pedal lets the player set the delay time, how many times to repeat it and the balance between the two signals: incoming and delayed. You can choose from analog or digital delay pedals. Delay was one of the first effects used in the studio, originally referred to as tape delay because it was first achieved by leveraging the distance between the record and playback heads on the recording studio’s tape recording equipment.

Delaying Time

Due to its inception and early use, delay effects are often now used to achieve a vintage vibe. While many delay pedals use digital modeling, they copy a sound popularized more than half a century ago. Today’s effects pedals provide extremely precise measurements and can produce a repetition delay of milliseconds to lengthy, dramatic delays. While multi-effects pedals exist that include delay as an option, this buyer’s guide solely examines pedals that specialize in delay only. You may have used a digital effects amp that included a delay option or two, then wondered how to get the same sound after switching to an analog amp for additional warmth and tone. The pedal provides this method.

Starting Points

This buyer’s guide provides you a starting point to finding the perfect delay pedal for you. As you read, you’ll realize you have a few choices to make. First, choose whether you would like to start with an analog or a digital effects pedal.

Set your budget. You can find low cost and high cost products. While this article does offer one option that costs less than $100, you can expect to pay about $100 for a quality pedal. This features the sole entry that offers good value for less. That is not just me talking. It is backed up by a ton of reviews by other guitarists who purchased it.

Consider the pedal’s ease of use. Do you have sometime to invest in learning its nuances or do you really need a pedal you can plug in and play with immediately?

Lastly, listen to each for sound quality. Choose a pedal that alters your sound with echoes not additional artifacts.

Analog or Digital

An ongoing debate rages between serious musicians on whether analog or digital effects and amps work better or sound better. Here’s the truth. It depends on the sound you want. Until the early 1980s, musicians used analog effects which directly modified the actual initial sound signal. The digital revolution changed this, switching to digital signal processing which converts the instrument’s signal to digital before modifying it and applying the effect. Today, digital equipment is more common. Extremely accomplished musicians with trained ears can distinguish between the analog and digital effects, but most people cannot.

Those who prefer analog prefer it because:

  • the signal experiences less loss,
  • it results in a purer sound.

Those who prefer digital prefer it because:

  • it’s more versatile,
  • it is more precise.

If set up incorrectly, digital can create natural artifact loss and a more processed sound. Quality equipment and practice can solve this issue.

Conclusion

The
Empress Effects Tape Delay proves the clear winner as the best delay pedal. Out of all of these pedals, it gives the guitarist the ability to easily alter their guitar sound while retaining its warmth. Although it costs more than other pedals, you really do get what you pay for in pedals, especially. It uses glorious analog and uses a versatile approach that makes it useful for players of any genre. Yes, you’ll be saving up longer for it, but the investment will benefit your guitar development. It really does provide the best delay pedal available though, giving the guitarist an amazingly tiny signal to noise ratio and delivering the vintage vibe tone chasers desire. It takes a little practice to learn all its features, but the time is worth it to achieve optimum sound.

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