A Brief Guide to Big Box, Do-It-All Delay Pedals

In the last decade, a surge in technological innovation has allowed companies to push new sonic boundaries in the delay pedal class. These do-it-all delay pedals feature high-quality engines, control ports, and functionality, allowing musicians of every genre to dial in their perfect sound. To get a better understanding of these boxes, let’s take a look at some of the most popular delay pedals from the last decade.

Model Known For Price
Eventide TimeFactor Pioneering dual delay $235-$399
Strymon TimeLine Rich sound and advanced capabilities $400-$450
Boss DD-500 Sleek, intuitive design $229-$349
Source Audio Nemesis Plug-and-playability $200-$299
Empress Effects Echosystem 36 delay engines, versatility $449

Eventide TimeFactor

Known as one of the first "super delay" pedals on the market, the Eventide TimeFactor pushed the technological boundaries of stomp boxes and created a new standard for all future multi-delay pedals. Beginning with the addition of a backlit screen, the TimeFactor boasted nine different delay types, from vintage-inspired echo to the more psychedelic filter-sweeping delays. What set the TimeFactor apart from the rest of the pack was the unique dual delay feature. This allowed the user to pick a delay engine and have two independent time, mix, and feedback controls.

In addition to the delay algorithms, Eventide included a looper mode that could do anything from simple record-and-play, to more advanced features like variable pitch shifts and stutter sounds. The TimeFactor revolutionized Eventide’s Factor lineup, paving the way for the ModFactor, PitchFactor, and the Space, which were all eventually combined into one pedal: the H9.

PROS

  • MIDI functionality in stompbox form
  • Additional functions with a three-button footswitch
  • Nine dual delay modes
  • Variable speed looper
  • Preset editing through USB and H9 editing app

CONS

  • Lack of pitch-shift delay algorithms
  • Inability to add new delay models
  • Need for an additional footswitch to scroll through presets
  • Interface is not plug-and-play
Eventide TimeFactor Delay | Reverb Demo Video

Strymon TimeLine

To many, the Strymon TimeLine is considered king of the do-it-all delay pedals. With its 12 feature-rich delay engines and impressively powerful DSP processor, the TimeLine’s richness in sound and advanced delay and looping capabilities provide an incredible value in such a small package.

The TimeLine can produce a variety of sounds, including a clear digital delay, reverse pitch-shifting, and a traditional analog-style delay. Like many other big box delay pedals, the TimeLine features a built in 30-second stereo looper that can be active while the delay engine is engaged. Hook up the Strymon MultiSwitch or your favorite MIDI controller to access advanced looping implementation, as well as complete control over any knob, parameter, or switch.

PROS

  • Sleek, user-friendly design optimized for plug-and-play
  • Advanced MIDI functionality for delay and looping controls
  • Powerful DSP for 12 unique high-quality delay sounds
  • 30-second stereo looper

CONS

  • Lack of USB connectivity for updates. (Strymon currently has a beta version of their Nixie software editor. It still requires a MIDI-to-USB cable and computer connectivity.)
  • High price tag
  • Small screen and lack of deep editing
  • Lack of updated delay engines since its release in 2011

Boss DD-500

Since the 1983 release of the DD-2 Digital Delay pedal, Boss has been a pioneer at creating affordable, compact, and reliable delay stompboxes. In 2003, Boss released the beloved DD-20 Giga Delay which featured a new, larger twin-pedal format. Twelve years later, Boss released the much anticipated update with the DD-500 Digital Delay.

The DD-500 packs 30 years of experience into an advanced, feature-packed digital delay unit. The large LCD screen makes navigating the menus simple and intuitive. Additionally, Boss provides owners with updates, releasing new delay types and routing options via the USB connection. If you find that navigating the menu becomes difficult on the pedal, you can use a desktop editor to tweak and arrange presets. Most recently, Boss has released a software update that includes new delay models, modulation types, A/B series routing, and much more.

PROS

  • Sleek pedalboard-friendly design
  • Easy integration with new 500 series Boss pedals and programmable loopers
  • Deep editing of delay modes
  • Ability to have two delay patches at once
  • Assignable footswitches for multi-function purpose

CONS

  • Perhaps too many editing options for musicians wanting a plug-and-play unit
  • Tape and analog settings sound "digital"

Source Audio Nemesis

Don’t let the size of the Source Audio Nemesis fool you. If you’re wondering why this compact, two-button delay belongs in this group of do-it-all delay pedals, let’s take a closer look under the hood. Designed to have rich, complex sounds with a simple interface, the Nemesis packs 25 (and counting) delay engines into a rugged, pedalboard friendly pedal. While it doesn’t feature a screen, the Nemesis is meant to be first and foremost a plug-and-play delay pedal.

However, if you need more delay engines and tweakability, there are deep editing options available by connecting your smartphone or computer via the Neuro App. This allows users to customize delay sounds; set expression pedal values, MIDI assignments, and routing options; share presets with other Nemesis owners; and much more. With an affordable price tag, the Nemesis is a no-brainer for players wanting a simple and intuitive delay pedal with the functionality and sound of a super delay pedal.

PROS

  • Compact footprint
  • Excellent recreation of older, highly sought-after delay models
  • Simple and intuitive design with ability to expand control through the Neuro App
  • 25+ delay algorithms
  • A+ customer support, often taking to the forums to get feedback for future pedal releases

CONS

  • Requirement to turn off the pedal and hold down a switch in order to change presets—not ideal for live performances
  • Only eight internal user presets, with 128 accessible via MIDI
  • Confusing and time-consuming expression pedal assignment
  • Lack of dedicated looper
Source Audio Nemesis Delay | Reverb Demo Video

Empress Effects Echosystem

Packing a whopping 36 delay engines, the new Empress Effects Echosystem might just be the ultimate do-it-all delay pedal. With 12 dedicated delay types—and each type having sub modes—the Echosystem provides an array of classic and modern sounds perfect for a wide variety of players. Similar to the Source Audio Nemesis, the Echosystem has no screen, instead opting for easy-to-use knobs for quick set-and-forget delay tweaking.

The Echosystem can also be routed for single, series, parallel, and left/right, with 2 separate delay engines running together. Imagine being able to run a reverse delay engine in parallel with a stutter engine—the possibilities are endless! In addition to MIDI, expression controls, and stereo ports, the Echosystem has three cabinet simulators perfect for those late-night practices, recording, or plugging straight into the mixer.

PROS

  • 36 delay engines
  • Low noise analog signal path
  • Compact design
  • Dual delay and routing options
  • Versatility of "Thing 1" and "Thing 2" controls
  • Updates via SD card

CONS

  • No dedicated MIDI in/out—uses MultiJack port, which requires an additional Midibox unit
  • No looper (yet)
  • No screen, which makes incremental tweaks difficult
Echosystem Dual Engine Delay - Empress Effects | Reverb Demo Video

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