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Delay effects are similar to echos, repeating the input signal milliseconds to seconds later. The delays tones most people are familiar with began with reel-to-reel tape machines, like the Echoplex and Roland Space Echo.

The '70s brought solid-state analog delay pedals, such as the Boss DM-2. In the '80s many companies offered digital delays, both in pedal and rack forms. Today, modeling software and complex pedals allow musicians to emulate vintage tones and create completely new ones.

What does a delay pedal do?

Some guitar delay pedals are very similar to the earliest delay pedals, often referred to as bucket-brigade circuits. Some digital delay effects may accurately replicate the exact sound played through them, while others may add modulation or octaves. Many delay pedals, such as the Electro-Harmonix Canyon, offer multiple types of delay and even looping modes.

What is reverse delay?

A reverse delay effect repeats the input signal backwards. Try it fully wet for a psychedelic effect!

What is a dual delay pedal?

Pedals with dual modes or two simultaneous delay processors can create more complex delay effects, either in series or parallel, or allow the user to quickly switch between a short and long delay. The Strymon Dig is one such pedal.

Are there delay pedals for bass?

While delay pedals aren’t often associated with bass, bands like The Cure and Band of Horses have used the combination. A digital delay is good for bass because it helps keep the frequencies tight.

What delay pedal should I buy?

There are lots of delay pedals to choose from, so it’s okay to be overwhelmed. For a newcomer to delay effects, a simple pedal, such as the MXR Carbon Copy (also available in mini form), would be a great place to start. For those looking to expand their sonic pallet, the Source Audio Collider packs 12 delay and reverb effects into one box.

Consider what flavor of delay you’re after. Pink Floyd fans should consider pedals that emulate the Binson Echorec, while U2 acolytes may want an EHX Memory Man like The Edge. Fans of Bloc Party should check out the Boss DD-3T. If you love Minus The Bear’s layered loops and repeated taps, the classic Line 6 DL4 could be for you. Those hoping to capture vintage dub reggae effects should consider Boss’s tape emulator, the RE-20 Space Echo.

Some guitarists may have additional needs, such as MIDI or tap tempo, or refined taste for a boutique delay, like the Chase Bliss Tonal Recall, which along with the above mentioned features, adds CV and expressional control.

If you’re looking for a delay pedal, check out our guide on choosing the best delay pedals. If you’re looking for authentic vintage tape effects, read our guide on the best tape delay originals and emulations.

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