The Best Delay Pedal

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Boss DD-7 Digital Delay Pedal

Our Top Pick for 2019: Boss DD-7 Digital Delay Pedal

There was a time when playing the guitar meant that you would only have access to the ranges of sound that the acoustic that you were playing can generate. This limitation was banished with the invention of the electric guitar in 1931. With this shredding instrument, musicians were able to experience a new depth of sound that simply cannot be generated on an acoustic. Seeking an even wider range of sound, engineers tinkered with the electric guitar effect to varying degrees of success. It was during the 1970s when engineer Brad Plunkett decided to incorporate a potentiometer into an organ pedal and hook it up to an electric guitar; the result? The wah pedal was born. After the birth of this iconic guitar tool a plethora of different guitar enhancers were created. One of these types of pedals that has garnered a lot of attention with its echoing sound is the delay pedal. You’ve heard this effect on famous albums like Pink Floyd’s The Wall and it sounds great with almost any guitar. We’ve done the research and found three of the best pedals on the market as well as a budget pick for your consideration.

Let’s Have a Quick Look of Our Top 4 Picks:


#1. Boss DD-7 Digital Delay Pedal

Boss DD-7 Digital Delay Pedal Gold Pick

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Unsurprisingly, our Gold Pick delay pedal is manufactured by the world’s leading guitar pedal producer: Boss Instruments. Boss started out as a company in 1978 and has enjoyed a successful history with lots of industry innovation. In 1985, Boss developed one of the first multi-effects pedals, the ME5, to much critical acclaim. The DD-7 is the follow up to the DD-6 which has developed quite the name for itself as one of the first delay pedals on the market that features full reverse functionality; this allows the delay pedal to produce echoes that are the inverse of the initial tone.

On first look, you’ll notice that this delay pedal sports four dials that each will help you refine your echoing guitar strums. The first three are fairly standard: E. level helps you arrive at an appropriate volume level for just your echoes, F. Back will help you select the number of echoes per strum, and D. Time will set the timing of the echoed sounds. The fourth switch on this delay pedal is where you’ll encounter a lot of this unit’s additional functionality.

The first thing that you’ll notice is that there are four distinct timing presets on this dial, each measured in milliseconds of delay time; 3200ms, 800ms, 200ms, and 50ms. Each of these will establish a set level of delay on your echoes and will make the sound selection process much easier for you. The next option on this fourth dial is hold. This hold button will allow you to set 40 seconds of loop time. This feature will enable you to create complex sounds by creating multiple layers of music. Some users have produced musical loops with over 15 individualized layers.

As mentioned before, a famous feature of the Boss DD-6 was the ability to add in reverse delays. This functionality has been included in this delay switch and it works just as well. Simply play your tone and the echoed tone will playback in reverse; you can even adjust this reversed tone through the use of the first three dials. The result is a point and counterpoint style of sound that strikes the ears as fuller and more robust than is typical with traditional playback. You can even produce those “reverse tape” sounds that became very popular in the 80s and 90s.

Another famous delay pedal released by Boss was the iconic DM-2. This delay pedal was fully analog and was comprised of solid state components. The next option on this fourth dial is analog mode. This mode fully emulates the sound of the legendary DM-2 on a digital platform. In this mode, every repeating tone will get “dirtier” as the repeats progress, culminating in a darker crescendo at the final echo. For greater control of this functionality, you can hook up an expression pedal. The resulting sound is much more organic than is typical on the majority of digital pedals.

The final option on this delay pedal’s final dial is a modulate mode. This modulate mode will add a chorused sound to your tone. This is the perfect option if you are looking for that chorus effect, but don’t have a chorus pedal.

As our Gold Pick, you can expect excellent reviews; this pedal currently enjoys a 91 percent positive review rating on Amazon. Most customers feel that it provides a sturdy amount of functionality and connectivity and produces a truly robust sound. Many also feel that the analog mode is an absolute must-have for anyone looking for that traditional rock delay.

#2. JOYO D-SEED Dual Channel Digital Delay Guitar Effect Pedal

JOYO D-SEED Dual Channel Digital Delay Guitar Effect Pedal

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Our Silver Pick delay pedal is packed with features and still manages to come in at a near-ballin’ on a budget price point. Produced by Chinese brand Joyo, the D-Seed is a well reviewed tool that will take your music to the next level of sound.

Like our Gold Pick, the Joyo D-Seed has four dials that are designed to give you as much functionality as is possible in one of these types of devices. The first knob, entitled mix, allows you to control the level of the pedals echoes. This is really useful if you want to really feature the output sound more prominently in your music.

The second knob is where you can access all of the modes that this pedal features. With their numerical values as represented on the dial, these include:

1. Copy – The standard digital delay. With digital delays the echoes that are produced are exact copies of the original tone.

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2. Analog – This emulates the solid state system of an analog delay. With this type, each of your note echoes will get a little crunchier as they repeat.

3. Modulate – Adds in a chorus-like effect to your sound.

4. Reverse – This will help you produce a directly opposite sound per signal that can sound fuller or help you emulate the tape reverse effect.

The next dial on this delay pedal helps you manage the timing of your delay effect. Our Silver Pick pedal has a great selection of different timings for your delay, ranging up to a full 1,000 milliseconds or a full second of delay. If you want even more of a delay on your echoed tone, look to the two large metal switches positioned along the bottom of the unit. When you press these two pedal switches together you will enter tap tempo mode. This mode will allow you to add in an echo delay that will range up to a full six seconds between tones.

The remaining dial on this pedal is for F. Back or how many times the tone will repeat before fading away entirely. The two foot switches that let you access the tap tempo mode also have individualized functionality. The first of these two metallic switches controls the A/B presets. When you change any of the settings on this pedal, you have the option to save your settings. Simply press the A/B switch and your settings will be saved in either the A or B locations. This makes managing your delay pedal’s tones much easier.

The other metallic switch controls bypass and this will clean up the signal when you have it connected. This pedal switch is very meticulous with your signal, a feature that’s amazing considering the low price tag associated with the device.

This pedal is very well reviewed on Amazon, with most reviewers feeling that it is worth at least a four star rating. Of the reviews, 64 percent of those who purchased this pedal have felt that it is worth at a five star rating.


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#3. MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay Pedal

MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay Pedal

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Our Bronze Pick pedal is the first fully analog pedal on our list. MXR was founded in 1972 and has specialized in effects pedals since its inception. Incorporated into Dunlop, the musical instrument giant and producer of the iconic Cry Baby wah, MXR has since produced some amazing pedals, of every type. The M169, as an analog pedal, produces a much warmer sound than the digital types, even when emulated; and as a result, this pedal is one of the most well regarded pedals of its type currently on the market. As a matter of fact, many consider this to be the best analog delay pedal ever.

The first thing that you might notice is that this pedal has the traditional three dial setup that has been featured on delay pedals for decades. These dials are regen, mix, and delay. Regen controls the number of echoed tones that are produced per signal, mix controls the level of the tones produced by the pedal, and delay directly affects the amount of time between your signal and the echoes. For this last dial, you can add up to a 600 millisecond delay to your sound.

Natural sounding tones are one of the reasons why musicians like analog delay pedals. They are warmer, don’t tread all over your playing, and can add a little bit of fuzz to your echoes. MXR has included a system called “bucket-brigade technology” to this pedal that allows for the unit to provide a truly unique sound. The traditional meaning of a bucket brigade was the firemen who put out fires using filled buckets of water. This was a very inefficient system because when transferring water from person to person, there was always some water loss when it arrived at the fire. Bucket brigade technology follows this same concept. The signal from your guitar travels from capacitor to capacitor inside the pedal; as a result, there is some signal loss the further down the chain the original signal goes. This signal loss helps this analog delay pedal achieve a sound that’s fairly unique to analog units and helps the original sound fade away to nothingness in a more natural sounding way.

This delay pedal has several other features that make it an excellent choice for any musician. This includes a great modulation setting that adds a chorus effect to your riffs, a bright blue LED that makes playing at darkly-lit venues a much easier to navigate experience and a solid construction packed in a very unassumingly small form factor.

On Amazon, of the 189 reviews 95 percent were of a four star rating level or above. Most have considered this delay pedal to be at the standard that most other delay pedals should be measured against.

#4. Donner Yellow Fall Vintage Pure Analog Delay Guitar Effect Pedal

Donner Yellow Fall Vintage Pure Analog Delay Guitar Effect Pedal

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Are you a starving artist that finds that you can’t always afford the more expensive guitar accessories? If you’re ballin’ on a budget and are looking for a great delay pedal, try out the Donner Yellow Fall Vintage delay pedal. It looks great, has excellent sound, and all of the functionality that will have you producing quality reverberations; all at an excellent price.

The first noticeable feature of this mini delay pedal is that it’s a nuclear yellow; as a matter of fact, it even has the nuclear symbol emblazoned on the front to enhance the feeling of inherent radioactivity. The largest feature of this delay pedal is the proportionally huge time dial. This dial will allow you to adjust the timing between echo effects; this ranges from 20 milliseconds to 620. The echo button is a delay mixer. The final F. Back button controls the number of times the echo repeats and this ranges from one time to infinite times.

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This delay pedal, as it is a mini unit, is the smallest on our list by a large margin. You’ll be able to fit this in any pedal board setup. It’s also very sturdy for its size and is comprised of durable aluminum, and while it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of the other units on our list, you can purchase this delay pedal for around 35 dollars; a very reasonable price for a relatively bare-bones effects experience.

On Amazon, 85 percent of the reviewing audience felt that this is a delay pedal that provides a positive electric guitar effects experience. Most of the reviewers were impressed by the price and reliability of the unit.

Pre-purchase considerations

Analog, Digital, or Tape Delay

Delay technology has progressed steadily over the years; and as a result, there are now a few different methods of achieving a great sounding delay. Here are the three different delay systems that you can find in a delay pedal today.

Analog Delay – This system utilizes solid state technology to achieve the desired delay effect. Originally developed in the 1970s to serve as a cheaper replacement for the tape delay system, the analog type of delay pedal features a system that can not extend a delay past 300 milliseconds. There is also a slight lessening of the clarity, which makes this the perfect delay pedal for overdriven tones, though clean tones can still sound great on this pedal.

Digital Delay – This is the cheapest, most modern option for delay pedals. Developed most recently, this system uses digital delay processing electronics to provide the effect. Developed in the 1980s, this system functions by utilizing an analog-to-digital converter to convert sampled input signals. The chief criticism of this type of pedal is that its echo effect is too clean, resulting in an overly digital sound.

Tape Delay – The most traditional type of delay pedal, and also the most expensive. This type utilizes a similar system that old-school cassettes used. Magnetic tape is the primary medium for these pedals and they tend to also be much larger than the analog or digital types, so don’t expect to be using them on a typical pedal board. Rock audiophiles do feel that these are the best sounding delay pedals that are currently available.

Dials – What Do They Mean?

The typical delay pedal will have at least three different knobs that you can use to varied effect. Here are some of the dial types that you might encounter on your new pedal:

Delay or D. Time – This is the meat and potatoes of the delay effects switch. Simply put, this dial directly affects the time interval from the playing of your note or chord and the pedal’s generated echo. At a lower level the echo will play almost imperceptibly after the time of your strum. At the greatest level, your echoed sound will play at several milliseconds later for a very perceptible effect.

Regen or F. Back – This directly affects the number of the reverberated tone. At the lowest setting on this dial, your echoed strum will repeat only once. At the highest setting, you will have several echoed tones ringing out consecutively. Some pedals even have an infinite echo option if you are really trying to generate a more ghostly sound.

Mix/Volume or E. Level – This dial is a volume knob for your delay pedal. This will not affect the volume of your guitar’s signal, but it will directly affect the volume of your generated reverberations. For an understated echo, simply tone the dial down to its near-lowest setting. With this dial, your delay effects can actually be louder than your guitar’s signal.

There can be other dials and switches on your delay pedal, some can add the ability to play your echoes in a set tempo, by using a tap tempo button, some will allow you to adjust the sound levels through the right and left channels on a stereo amp, and some types will let you add a chorus effect to your playing. When looking for a new delay pedal, make sure that your new device includes these primary three functions so that you can produce a properly varied sound.

Additional Features

What’s cool about delay pedals is the ability to have additional features that will totally change your sound. Some delay pedals will let your invert the tone of the original signal and play your echoes as a counterpoint to your guitar playing. Some pedals even feature a “ping pong mode” that will bounce the signal alternately between different sound channels.

Overall design and Pedal board Friendliness

As mentioned previously, some pedals come in large form factors, especially those that use a tape delay system. If you are looking for an effects heavy guitar experience, you might want to incorporate several pedals into your repertoire; to make this easier, many musicians utilize a pedal board, which helps organize their wah, volume, chorus, and delay pedals onto one step friendly tray. These devices have a linking setup to wire in all of your pedals and are pretty easy to operate. On the other hand, a larger delay pedal might be incompatible with your pedal board, so certainly consider size and form factor when selecting your next delay pedal.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Being able to produce the spectral-sounding delay effect is one of the perks of playing electric guitar, and while there are many types of delay units on the market, you’ll seldom find one that doesn’t add unique flavor to your riffs. Of the available choices, we’ve provided you with four excellent models of delay pedals that will last for years and sound good as well. Take a look at our picks, consult our pre-purchase considerations, and you’ll find a device that will be perfect for you.

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