Why the Electro–Harmonix Memory Man with Tap Tempo is My Favorite Delay Pedal

Few pedals are as beloved as the Electro–Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man. The luscious, legendary delay with chorus and vibrato is a tone tool that has been used by guitarists of all stripes for decades. The Edge used it to dramatic effect in U2’s early work, and Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien always squeezes one onto his sizeable pedalboard, no matter what kind of digital multi–delay he also employs.

The Memory Man is one of my favorite musical devices of all time — a desert island piece, if you will. It’s an instrument unto itself. There are a lot of analog delays out there, and a lot of them are very good. But there’s something about the repeats of the Memory Man and the way they blend in and become one with your signal.

The delay sounds very warm, yet there is a definite presence to it that allows players to make rhythmic echoes that stand out in a mix. This is, in part, due to the holy grail Panasonic MN3005 bucket brigade chips, which have become sort of unobtainable as of late due to the fact that they have been out of production for so long.

These chips are in many of the vintage Memory Man pedals, and EHX blew everyone’s minds when they did a run of the Deluxe Memory Man with Tap Tempo, featuring 1,100 seconds of lush analog delay time.

This is a godsend to anyone who loves the sound of the Memory Man but has always wanted more. The Deluxe Memory Man is advertised as having 550 milliseconds of delay time, but it is common knowledge that most fall short of that mark by about 100 milliseconds or so.

Also, because it is an analog device, when you add significant amounts of chorus or vibrato to the delay signal, this shortens the delay time even more. The sound is still incredible, you’re just left wanting more.

But with the DMM w/Tap Tempo, that problem is a thing of the past. Vintage Memory Man pedals are no doubt fantastic, but if you’ve found yourself frustrated by their limitations, here’s your solution.

There are actually three versions of the DMM that feature tap tempo. The original one — and the version that I will be speaking of — is the Deluxe Memory Man with Tap Tempo 1100ms. That is the version to feature the Panasonic MN3005 chips.

EHX currently makes a reissue with a slightly different name, called the Memory Man–TT 1100. Another version, the 550, features half of the delay time. Only the pedals that have the words “tap tempo” spelled out on the pedal contain the mythical Panasonic chips. The current versions, though, are still great pedals that cover a lot of ground for a delay unit.

Now that I’ve differentiated between these versions, let’s talk about some of the ways you can incorporate the Memory Man into your rig.

Delay

This one seems obvious. The Memory Man’s beautiful repeats work in a variety of musical settings. It can be subtle or extreme thanks to its gain knob, a function many other analog delays are without.

The blend knob is essentially the mix knob, and I keep this around 11 o’clock, with the gain set similar. This ensures the DMM is heard, but it is just below unity with my overall signal. I set the speed and depth knobs at noon for a faint but delightful modulation that adds depth and character to every repeat.

This is my go–to setting, and the tap tempo allows me to easily set everything from a quick slapback to an epic, long solo delay. Delay settings are even easier to control thanks to a variety of subdivision options and the ability to control any function of the DMM (except the gain) with an expression pedal.

If I do use an expression pedal, I typically set it to control the delay time. You may wonder why, since the pedal already has tap tempo. The reason has to do with a fun secret feature within the pedal: if you hold down on the tap switch, the pedal goes into self–oscillation. This means I can trigger oscillation with one foot and change the time with the other via expression pedal for some wacky spaceship noises.

Modulation

The modulated delay of the DMM is the stuff dreams are made of, but the modulation sounds pretty darn good on its own as well. If you aren’t a big fan of modulation pedals but need that sound on a few tunes, the DMM is happy to fill in for you.

Simply dial the delay and feedback all the way down, then set your speed and depth knobs accordingly. You’ll have access to everything from subtle chorus to over–the–top, wiggly vibrato. You can even alter between these settings and more conventional delay sounds on the fly if you get good at using the expression pedal and tap functions.

Overdrive/Boost

The gain knob on the DMM enables you to dial in a bevy of broken up tones ranging from slight rockabilly boost to full on distorted mayhem. For crunchy echo sounds, set your delay time to taste, and push the gain knob to your personal sweet spot. This is a cool way to accentuate delay–laden solos.

If you don’t want any delay and just need some pure analog boost, simply turn the blend all the way down and adjust the gain knob. This gives you a great boost pedal to push your amplifier or other dirt boxes, and when you add in some delay with the pedal running in front of an overdrive or amp–in–a–box pedal, you can get some gnarly tones similar to the Jimmy Page Echoplex into Marshall sound and some more modern stuff like Tame Impala.

Tone Tool

If the aforementioned features don’t have you convinced, consider this: this DMM also has an effects loop. That means you can insert your favorite pedal into the loop and have the delay repeats affected by the pedal.

Want your delay to wash away in a cavernous reverb? Done. Want to add an octave pedal for a shimmer effect? You got it."

Want your delay to wash away in a cavernous reverb? Done. Want to add an octave pedal for a shimmer effect? You got it. Your only limit is your imagination when it comes to the effects loop.

I find it especially useful because your dry signal remains unaffected by the additional effects, so even when you get really wild, it isn’t messy or unuseable. It’s a very thoughtful feature that can lead to a lot of creative inspiration.

The Deluxe Memory Man w/Tap Tempo is a beloved staple of my personal rig. It sounds amazing, and I can’t imagine parting ways with it. I’m grateful I was able to score a good deal on it on Reverb, and lucky for you, you can do the same.

I do want to emphasize that the current version is a great pedal. The primary differences between it and the original version are the chips.

The current run features chips designed to sound like the Panasonic MN3005s and the tap tempo/oscillation feature, but does not oscillate when you hold the tap switch down. It still offers beautiful analog delay with a wide range of control and a generous amount of time.

Have you ever played through a Memory Man? If you need a break from the world of excellent but sometimes complicated digital multi–delays, make it a point to check out this Memory Man. It’s easy to use, sounds fantastic, and most of all, it makes playing fun.


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