When it comes to versatility, it doesn’t get much better than delay pedals.
From your futuristic, digital monsters to your sweet, warm analog echoes, there are tons of different delay pedals on the market for all kinds of guitarists. You can even invest in multiple delays to help create an atmospheric sound like no other.
Because delay pedals tend to be stacked with parameters, trying to decide between a few proves to be fairly tricky.
Luckily for you, we’ve made a little guide with a few of our favorite delay pedals on the market, as well as what makes them such great choices.
If you’re ready to get repetitive, follow us, follow us, follow us…
…as we take you through our guide on the best guitar delay pedals.
- 1 Top 10 Delay Pedals
- 2 Analog Vs. Digital Delay Pedals
- 3 Tap Tempo
- 4 Types Of Delays
- 5 Looper Function
- 6 What’s The Delay?
Top 10 Delay Pedals
Best Delay Pedal Overall
If you’re looking for the best of the best, there is really no need to look beyond the Strymon Timeline. From reverb pedals to modulation pedals, Strymon is known for their versatile and high-quality units.
The Timeline is just one example of a righteous pedal. With twelve different delay types onboard, a 30-second looper module, and a ton of memory storage that allows you to write up to 200 different presets, it is a seriously all-encompassing pedal.
Scrolling through the presets, you’ll notice that there are a tremendous variety of sounds onboard. From quirky, pitch-shifted presets to wide, ambient presets, you’ll be able to create a wide range of soundscapes, whether digital or analog.
Strymon brands this pedal as a ‘studio-delay-in-a-box’ pedal for a good reason. With a complete range of delays, a series of control options, and about a hundred ways to tweak your sound, it is all that you could ever possibly want in a delay pedal.
Bottom Line: The Strymon Timeline is the best all-encompassing delay pedal on the market hands down. Whether you need an analog or digital sound for the stage or the studio, the Timeline can provide.
Catalinbread is one of our all-time favorite boutique pedal companies. They are known for recreating vintage and obscure studio rack gear in stompbox forms.
The Catalinbread Belle Epoch is a hybrid analog/digital delay pedal that emulates the once-popular Echoplex EP-3 and does it with absolute finesse.
Unlike many other delays on the market, Catalinbread wanted to capture the imperfections of classic tape delays, allowing you to produce wonderfully unexpected results every single time.
There are a few excellent controls that are available on the unit, including “wow” and “flutter,” which give you the ability to modulate your sound in a genuinely random and chaotic manner.
There is also a Head Drag control on the unit that creates a doppler-like effect, which originally came from a person adjusting the delay time slider on the rack unit. There is no other pedal on the market that emulates the grittiness and unpredictability of tape quite like the Belle Epoch.
Bottom Line: If you are in the market for a lo-fi delay pedal that is unusual and unpredictable, the Belle Epoch analog delay pedal is one of the best on the market. It recreates the famous Echoplex EP-3 with such astounding detail that you might forget you’re dealing with a tiny stompbox pedal.
Eventide has long been known for its high-quality reverb and delay effects. When it comes to the TimeFactor pedal, guitarists are now able to use Eventide’s entire arsenal of top-quality delays from within a small stompbox pedal.
The housing on the pedal is like a tank, and the knobs feel smooth with a rubberized grip. The informative dot-matrix display gives you a clear layout of how you are adjusting your effects as well.
Though the TimeFactor may look like something out of a spaceship, the overall sound is very natural and warm. It’s pretty much exactly what you would expect from an Eventide pedal.
You can expect to get a very clean sound out of the box, though you may not be able to get the grit that you desire. With that said, it doesn’t have an ultra-clean digital sound either and none of the delay types are weak or unusable.
Bottom Line: The TimeFactor is one of the most powerful delay pedals on the market and comes from one of the most world-renowned studio-style processor manufacturers out there. When it comes to versatility, depth, and cleanliness, Eventide has done a beautiful job with this pedal.
The Boss DD-500 is the flagship delay pedal from the Boss company. It is a multi-mode delay pedal that incredibly customizable and versatile.
Somewhat like the Strymon Timeline, it offers a variety of different delay modes, each of which is high-quality. Though it might look a bit confusing right off the bat thanks to the full range of parameters, it is relatively simple to use.
Boss has done a fantastic job at laying everything out in a way that makes the pedal more intuitive than many simpler delays on the market.
You can use the main knob to select a variety of different delay types, including tape, shimmer, Tera Echo, dual, SFX, slow, and much, much more. Each of the delays is 100% customizable and completely authentic.
There are tons of different parameters that you can use to modify each of these sounds as well, perfect for getting your delay just right. You can then use the various banks to save your sound so that you can recall it at a later time. If it weren’t for the bright, clear screen that is on the interface, none of this would be as easy as it is.
Bottom Line: Overall, the sound quality of the Boss DD-500 can only be described as full of life. It allows you to act as a digital delay wizard with the long list of parameters and delay types, though sounds like an analog pedal with warmth and color when you want it to.
The Boss RE-20 is a pedal for those guitarists who want to emulate the Roland RE-201, one of the most famous analog delay effect units of the 1970s.
The onboard digital technology helps to accurately recreate the magnetic head saturation and unpredictable tape flutter of the original unit. Because it is a digital unit, it improves on the RE-201 by providing you with longer delay times.
There is also a dedicated footswitch on the interface that gives you a tap tempo feature to line up your delays with your song in question.
There are twelve different delay modes to pick from using the simple delay mode selector. Flip it to 6 o’clock, and you can get a reverb sound as well.
Beyond that, you have your standard delay parameters onboard, such as repeat rate and intensity, though you can also add more with a third-party expression pedal.
Bottom Line: Whether you are a big fan of the Roland RE-201, or you are just looking for a vintage sound with old-school parameters, the Boss RE-20 is one of the best delay pedals around.
When it comes to simple stompbox pedals, one of our favorite delays is the Boss DD-7 Digital Delay. It is probably one of the most critically acclaimed pedals that have ever hit the market.
The Boss DD-7 is the great, great-grandchild of the DM-2 / DM-3 units, and one of the cousins of the long line of DD delay models.
Beyond the analog mode (long loved by Boss users) the DD-7 Digital Delay uses a fresh new modulation-style delay mode that adds color, width, and depth, to your tone.
The Boss DD-7 gives you up to 6.4 seconds in terms of delay time, as well as a Hold mode that allows you to record up to 40 seconds of something to layer for a looping performance. These delays can be thrown into reverse to help create some pretty incredible effects as well.
If you have an external pedal, you can even use the Digital DD-7 with the built-in tap tempo feature. Just like many of the other delay pedals above, the DD-7 gives you the option of using a stereo output to separate your wet and dry signal paths or take advantage of wider stereo panning.
Bottom Line: The Boss DD-7 is a complete reinvention of the DD line that rolls all of the best features of your classic digital delay pedal into one. Thanks to its small size and versatile functionality, it is a leader in the pedal industry.
What we love about the Electro-Harmonix Canyon is that it sounds exactly how it looks.
It uses modern delay technology and warm, tape-delay warbles to create an atmosphere of ambient and cascading delays and shimmers with different effects like octave and reverse.
Because the Electro-Harmonix Canyon is a digital delay, you can make use of the tap-tempo feature to hone in on your sound.
It works as a fairly effective looper pedal as well, which makes it that much more versatile. You’ll be able to add layers upon layers to create a humongous, three-dimensional sound.
Just like other Electro-Harmonix delay pedals, such as the Deluxe Memory Man, the Electro-Harmonix Canyon aims to create flavor and warmth, giving your guitar a signature sound rather than just repeating your lines over and over again.
The mode selector gives you a choice between nine different delay settings, as well as a neat sample function, a hold function, and a looping function.
Beyond that, you can also use the pedal as a standard delay with level and feedback parameters. So don’t stress if you aren’t looking for crazy, out-of-this-world tones all the time.
Bottom Line: The Electro-Harmonix Canyon Digital Delay provides users with an extraordinary range of delay features that allows you to create three-dimensional soundscapes for a canyon-like experience.
If you are looking for a true analog delay pedal without all of the bells and whistles, the MXR Carbon Copy is one of the most outstanding on the market.
You won’t get looping or tap-tempo features, though you will get the warm, lush delays that you can only get from a true analog pedal. The Carbon Copy gives users 600 milliseconds of delay time to create everything from short, snappy slapbacks to long, dub-style delays.
We love the fact that the knobs are pretty large, which makes it very easy to dial in different settings with your feet as you play.
The three knobs are pretty simple, as well:
- regen control: controls the number of delays and repeats.
- mix control: controls the level of the delay.
- delay control: controls the rate of your delays.
- Mod button: toggles between the dry and modulation tone.
Beyond all of that, the build quality is top-notch with the MXR Carbon Copy, meaning it is perfect for touring and gigging guitarists who need something portable and durable.
Bottom Line: The MXR Carbon Copy is widely regarded as one of the best analog delay pedals on the market. It has been used by top guitarists all over the world, and to us, is a no-brainer if you are in search of a no-frills analog delay.
The TC Electronic Flashback 2 is a return of one of the most legendary delay pedals in recent history, the TC Electronic Flashback.
With a brand new MASH makeover, it is even more groundbreaking than before. Thanks to the pressure-sensitive footswitch and the wildly responsive controls, it is one of the most hands-on delay pedals on the market right now.
The harder that you press down on the pedal, the more intense your delays will become. There are an array of analog and tape delay algorithms that have been completely re-developed by TC Electronic to make the delays even warmer and more realistic than they ever have sounded before.
At an affordable price, TC Electronic has been able to provide the quirky and unpredictable behavior of true analog in a small stompbox.
They’ve given you access to a crystal delay mode, as well as a Sub’N’Up mode, each of which provides different modulations to add color and life to your dry tone. There are also three-tone print slots that are onboard, which give you a few places to store signature tones that you can download off of the Internet.
Bottom Line: With a variety of sounds and access to TC Electronic’s Tone-Print technology, you get just about everything you need to go crazy with the Flashback 2 pedal.
Best Cheap Delay Pedal
There is no question that delay pedals can be pretty expensive. It can be difficult to find a cheap delay pedal that makes you smile once you’ve heard the sweet sounds of top-notch delay pedals.
With that said, the Donner Multi is a surprisingly solid delay pedal that allows beginners and pedal budgeters everywhere to mess with legitimate delay sounds.
There are three simple function parameters, including:
- Mix : for your wet and dry signal.
- Feedback: to control the number of delay repeats.
- Time: to set the period of delays.
There are also seven different delay modes built-in, including:
- Digital mode allows you to take your signal and repeat it simply.
- Tap Delay and Analog Delay: gives you a subtle and warm distortion, as well as an added bit of decay to your delays so that they spill into one another at random.
- Modulation mode – layers a bit of chorusing atop your sound
- Funky Sweep mode that gives you an auto-wah type sound.
- LoFi mode: A bit out of the ordinary, but allows you to create more extreme effects, such as an 8-bit synthetic delay that sounds like something out of the old Super Mario games.
- Reverse mode: does exactly what you might think.
Bottom Line: The Donner Multi gives you a wide variety of effects with an entry-level price. Though it may not have a “signature” sound or a range of detailed parameters, it gives you far more than you’d expect from a pedal in this price range, and for that, we love it.
Analog Vs. Digital Delay Pedals
Ahh the sweet and never-ending debate on analog vs. digital.
- Analog delay pedals were some of the very first on the market. These analog pedals use bucket-brigade circuitry to generate the delays that we were used to hearing on tape back in the day.
Analog delay pedals tend to sound far more “organic” and natural thanks to low-end warmth. Many guitarists love analog delay pedals, as they create imperfect-sounding delays with less signal integrity
- On the other hand, many guitarists opt for digital delay pedals, as they use DSP instead of bucket brigade circuitry, which is far more reliable. With digital delay pedals, you don’t have to worry about the loss of signal integrity.
Delay times can be considerably longer because you can get strong and consistent signals with each repeat. Overall, digital pedals are far more predictable, though they don’t have the same warmth that you can expect from analog.
Tap Tempo can be an incredibly useful feature if you want to line up your delay time with the song that you are playing.
A tap tempo feature usually comes in the form of a footswitch that you tap with your foot to set the delay time.
Some pedals will even provide you with a knob and a footswitch so that you can tap out the tempo and then dial it in even further. Tap tempo features are certainly not necessary, though vital if you want your delays to be precise.
Types Of Delays
Some pedals (usually old-school analog pedals) will only have one type of delay onboard. This is very common in modeling delay pedals, which act as replicas of older units.
On the other hand, many high-end delay pedals will be filled to the brim with different types of delays to make use of. Take the Strymon Timeline, for example, which a variety of different ambient, pitch-shifted, and standard delay sounds.
The question you have to ask yourself is,
“How far do I want my delay pedal to take me?”
There are many delay pedals on the market that offer a built-in looper function, such as the Strymon Timeline and Electro-Harmonix Canyon.
These can be great if you want to record and playback chord progressions or melodies to layer over. Plus, you won’t have to spend money on an external looper pedal to get the job done.
What’s The Delay?
While all of the delay pedals that we mentioned above are incredible in their own rights, if we had to pick one, it would be the Strymon Timeline. This one-of-a-kind delay pedal is made with top-notch electronics and allows you as a user to dial-in an endless amount of delay types with hundreds of different parameters options and next-to-infinite possibilities. It is a serious delay type for those who take delay pedals seriously.
Even if you don’t decide to get the Strymon Timeline, make sure to consider all of the things we mentioned above when choosing your perfect delay match. Find a pedal that fits your taste, and you’ll be making sweet delays, sweet delays, sweet delays, in no time!