Before we commence our review, it might be a good idea to clear up some misconceptions. Delay effects are not echo. We have sat and listened to people use the terms interchangeably, but they are not the same.
Echo effects are time-shifted repeats of a sound source that is a replica of the original sound, and they are designed to sound natural with a repetitive flow. Delay captures the same source signal and will then ‘treat’ it to added extras to sustain or magnify it and then repeat it for a set number of times.
That can be once like an echo, or it can be multiple numbers of times. Delay can create an unnatural sound through decay and other processes that will alter the structure of the original sound whereas Echo does not do that.
The best delay effects pedals have taken their place in the folklore of rock music and are now virtually irreplaceable on your pedalboard. They are featured on most of the biggest albums and singles of the last sixty years in some shape or form.
Created in the 50s, it originally worked on tape loops but in the late 70s came the start of the digital revolution, and the digital delay we know now was born.
But what are the best delay effects pedals?
Let’s take a look and find out…
Top 10 Best Delay Effects Pedals In 2021 Reviews
1 TC Electronic Guitar Delay Pedal
When you get hold of TC Electronics delay pedal, you know you are buying into the groundbreaking technology that sets there pedals apart. Whether it’s the use of TonePrint and its library of sounds available through their downloadable app or the MASH footswitch control, you will be accessing sounds others have just not had access to.
In itself, the Flashback 2 is a pedal hosting a variety of options. It features eight onboard preset delays which can be adjusted to suit your personal preferences. And also has a forty-second looper.
It is a compact pedal made from a tough metal that will take the endless stomping its likely to receive. It has the usual facia controls of Delay, Level and Feedback and the MASH switch along with a variety of options on a selector dial.
When using TonePrint, there are three slots available for saving your own settings as well as access to the setting of some of the worlds greatest guitar players.
The pedal is True Bypass but does not run on a battery format as it requires more voltage.
Get your head around it…
It is a pedal that has been created to produce great sounds and in a user-friendly way. The Flashback 2 is not complicated to use once you get your head around the TonePrint app and MASH, and they offer so much variety and great options.
The more you see of the TC pedals, the more you realize there is some quality here. It’s set at an affordable mid-range price, which makes it great value.
2 TC Electronic Nova Delay Guitar Delay Effects Pedal
Another delay pedal from TC Electronic but this one a little more complex. The Nova Delay is a compact but feature-packed delay pedal that utilizes the legendary 2290 digital delay processor which has become a sought after commodity.
As usual TC Electronics pack their pedal with a wealth of technology and options, but this pedal gives you far more onboard options for sound creation.
Vintage or modern…
There are even variations that allow you to create sounds with a vintage feel from the days of tape machines right up to the modern digital delay sounds. You can even mix and match them together,
Built into the Nova are six different types of delay. On the box itself, there are five dial controls, delay, feedback and color, mod level, and mix levels that shape and create the exact sound you want. And five buttons that allow the selection of the type of delay.
There are six high-quality delay types, and nine programmable presets, and there are two footswitches, one of which acts as a tap tempo control and also as a mute button. It has true bypass.
A lot to get through…
This is a pedal that will take some time in gaining an understanding of what it offers, and to that end, a manual is included to help. Though it seems a bit vague and you find more applicable info via google.
When you look at the complexity of this pedal, it does seem that it is more suitable for studio/recording work than live performance. We hope that isn’t a disservice to what is a great sounding delay, but it’s a pedal that will take some operating and maybe on stage is not the place to start changing settings and parameters.
Getting towards being expensive, but it contains a lot of sound options.
3 Eventide TimeFactor Twin Delay Pedal
Someone once said to us nothing… nothing sounds like an Eventide. And to be honest, we rarely come across them until this one. And they may well be right.
They have had some serious customers over the years, Page, Zappa, May, Van Halen, Vai, Fripp…shall I go on? For years Eventide has been used in some of the best studios around. Now you can have a piece of the action.
Built like a tank…
Let’s start with the construction. Metal casing and to call it tough and rugged is an understatement. It’s going to take what you throw at it.
We will have to abbreviate every feature it has because there isn’t enough space and time, so let’s just have a quick look at what’s onboard.
27 user presets, two separate three-second delays, real-time control with 10 settings through a pedal or MIDI, Instant program change, 12-second loop facility, mono or stereo operation, tap tempo, and MIDI sync, True analog bypass, strong metal footswitches for presets, guitar or line inputs and outputs. All this and of course, studio quality sound.
New features, updates, and upgrades are available via the internet via USB.
Complete control of the amazing sounds…
A wealth of effects and options are included in this amazing pedal. They have ensured that you have their best effects on hand and have total control of all of the parameters through the footswitch or MIDI.
This is no ordinary pedal and if you aren’t willing to spend the time, quite a bit of time, getting your head around what is available it’s probably not for you. But if you fancy a learning curve in digital delay, then we doubt you will find anything better.
Expensive? All things are relative. If you compare it to the budget range then yes, but then you can’t do that. It’s from another civilization.
4 Boss RE-20 Space Echo Pedal
Our old friends Boss are here, of course. Always providing us with some quality and quite often at a decent price. This pedal though is slightly different. We have the quality, but for Boss, this is at the top end cost wise, and the usual physical style of the pedal is somewhat different as well.
This though is an updated version of a much-loved tape delay from days gone by, the Roland RE201. Whether this is actually a delay pedal or an echo pedal would be up for debate. The original name of the pedal was a Space Echo, so maybe that is how Roland/Boss saw it.
Old becomes new…
Whatever it is a recreation of a legendary analog sound that was stunning in its original format and has now been given a bit of a boost.
Six sound shaping dials as control parameters and an input volume form the basis of the control panel along with a mode selector switch. A tap pedal lets you set the tempo and timing by foot.
Are you into a bit of psychedelia?
It has an excellent sound quality and as a delay is very versatile with a good selection of responsive effects. The onboard reverb effect is a little flat, but that isn’t what this pedal is all about. It’s about the variety and quality of the delays that can be achieved, and if you are into a bit of psychedelia, then you won’t need to look much further.
By Boss standards, it’s quite expensive, but there is real quality here. It will take some time investment, which is another element not usually needed with Boss pedals as most of them are easily operable and produce a great sound out of the box. This produces a great sound, but you will have to learn how to get the best from it.
5 MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay
Next up, we have another manufacturer of great pedals, MXR, with the M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay. It uses as the name suggests a completely analog path that delivers a warm, rich sound reminiscent of days gone past.
To achieve this, they have used old-school ‘bucket brigade’ technology. Bucket brigade delays were developed by Philips Labs in the UK whilst looking at Chorus pedals and were the first forms of audio delay systems that did not have the problem of moving parts.
Solid State, in other words. This pedal even goes to the lengths of a modulator simulating the tones achieved by tape echoes. And there is 600ms of delay time.
Simple to get around on…
Controls are easy to use with a three dial layout with Delay, regeneration, and Mix, and there is also a top-mounted modulation switch, so everything is easily identifiable and close to hand.
The Mix control will blend together the dry and wet sounds, and the Regeneration allows you to set the number of repeats you require. There are input and output sockets.
Slapback to whirlwind…
MXR have built a pedal that will give you a variety of sound options from a very crisp delay to a big swirling sound all with just the turn of a dial.
It is well-built as MXR pedals always are and it is tough and sturdy. It uses a 9-volt battery. But, there is an optional AC adapter.
It is priced well enough, and with the options it provides is a good buy. It is simple but effective, which is what a lot of people actually want from their pedal.
6 Electro-Harmonix Stereo Memory Man With Hazarai Delay Looper Pedal
Electro-Harmonix inform us this pedal comes with Hazarai. Loosely translated, that means ‘all the bells and whistles.’ A description alluding to what they consider they have included on this pedal.
It is more of an echo pedal than a delay. The controls are all placed conveniently on the top, and it looks at first glance that it will be a simple operation, but it isn’t that simple at all.
The usual controls are there…
Blend, Decay and Filter, Repeats and Delay, and it has press controls for bypass and setting the tempo. The control that tends to leap out at you is Hazarai, which sounds a bit like something from Japan before the civil war.
The Hazarai control takes you through a variety of different modes and settings, eight of them in all, with seven of them echo settings and one a loop setting. It is also a push button control for loading presets or saving your current preset.
Nice sound quality…
There is a good selection of effects with nice sound quality, but we would not say it is easy to use. It is a good example of a manufacturer maybe attaching a bit too much tech to what is basically a simple effect.
In our view, it is more of an echo than a digital delay but having said that the signal is not just repeated like a true echo and you can play with the sound.
It has a lot of options and capability if you are willing to take the time to learn and understand all the functions and operations.
7 Boss DD-3 Digital Delay Pedal
If ever you want a simple to understand and operate pedal, that does its job without a fuss and does it very well; you always go to Boss. There is something comforting about the tough design and simplicity of the controls, that just tells you that some things in the world are ok even if the rest of it seems to be falling apart.
The DD-3 is a typical Boss design. Compact in design, sturdy in build with its metal housing and with the familiar pedal action, it is just the right size to fit on to your guitar pedalboard with the minimum of fuss.
Some of the effects are outstanding…
It produces quality delay effects as if you might be listening to a rack-mounted delay rather than a floor pedal and some of the effects are outstanding.
This best guitar delay pedal has three settings taking you through a variety of delay sounds from an ethereal shimmer to the almost instant 800ms return. And there is a hold function that will allow you to play a continuous delay while you play with it.
On a collision course with itself…
Not only does it work superbly with a guitar, but it also does amazing things with the bass. Giving you a sound that goes round and round and feels like it’s on a collision course with itself but in a nice creative way.
What Boss do with their pedals is make them easy to use for the player who just wants a sound. No frills, in this case, just a good sounding delay. If you are looking for bells and whistles, you won’t find it here.
As usual, Boss has achieved that and at a price that is exceptional value.
8 Joyo D-Seed Bundle
We have reviewed Joyo products before and whilst they are not top of the range pedals, they do as a company make every effort to produce a decent pedal at a very competitive price.
It is well made and quite sturdy with its metal casing. It is a dual channel digital delay and has four basic controls of Mix, Mode, Time, and Feedback. There are also two footswitches, one for bypass and the other for channel selection. Each channel operates as a preset and settings and parameters can be saved. It also enjoys a tap tempo function.
Warm analog tones…
It will give you a range of warm analog tones very similar to early bucket brigade delays and has a delay time of up to six seconds. At any time in the process, you can restore your guitar’s sound to its original sound without interference from other settings on the pedal.
A very nice feature of this pedal is the reverse delay which reverses the phase and creates a very 60s feel of psychedelia.
Love or hate it…
It is one of those pedals that you are going to love or not like at all. It’s easy and simple to operate, but it certainly does not do anything particularly fancy with the sound. It is a budget digital delay and doesn’t try to be anything else.
Some will appreciate its simplicity and what is rather a good sound, and others will want more from such a pedal.
Very realistically priced.
9 Boss DD-7 Digital Delay Pedal
Another Boss delay to look at, this one the DD-7. Having already reviewed the DD-3, this pedal is a step up in terms of some features. There is, though, very little between them as is reflected by a near similar price.
The Boss DD design and technology has been around a while and has stood the test of time. It was the early 80s that DD2 arrived and we were all impressed. A few years later, DD3 arrived, and it was a step forward.
Losing the plot…
Boss then seemed to lose the plot by introducing a series of more complicated pedals that were not well-received. It’s not what they do, and they reverted to the original format and the DD-7 came out in 2008.
It was a success and still is and is the favored choice of many musicians simply because it makes great sounds and is so easy to use and understand.
So what does DD-7 give you that DD-3 doesn’t?
Seven allows tap tempo input and also has an external footswitch input. The delay length time is 6.4 seconds as against 8 on the DD-3, but most seem to agree that 6 is fine for most applications. The 7 also has eight modes rather than four and offers modulation.
This best guitar delay pedal is, however, a little less user-friendly and will take a little longer to get to know it. And still has four control knobs but they have more functions.
Need some Chorus?
It has two inputs, two outputs and another for tap tempo or possibly an expression pedal. Perhaps the most important innovation has been the inclusion of the Modulation mode, which gives you a near Chorus effect.
There isn’t much between them. A few extra albeit significant, changes to DD-7 but they are both well-built and tough pedals with Boss tech inside.
The DD-7 does have a bit more about it and offers a few more operational possibilities.
10 Donner Yellow Fall Vintage Pure Analog Delay
We have reviewed Donner pedals many times before and we like them. They are simplistic, with decent sounds and fit very neatly into the budget pedal market.
They are always well-built, often from aluminum as this pedal is, compact and do not take up half of your pedalboard. But for some, the most important thing is that there are very few controls. And it is easy to strike a decent delay sound straight out of the box.
Analog not digital…
It is a digital delay that will try to mimic a pure analog delay that produces a sound that will rival other pedals many times its price. It’s an analog pedal, even though the marketing stuff infers that it is digital, but it does sound close, and maybe that is what they are alluding to.
This best guitar delay pedal has three function controls, Echo, Feedback, and Time and has two outputs for signals that are clean and processed. The Echo control adjusts the delay of the signal, and feedback will alter the length of the delay of the feedback. Time determines the delay time, which is between 25ms-600ms.
Compact and bijou…
It has input and output jack sockets, and an LED light shows the working status. It has True ByPass for zero interference of your base tone. Being so compactly built, it does not work from a battery and is AC only.
For someone with a limited budget, this little pedal is ideal. Inexpensive, well made and does the job. Yes, it is simple, but some prefer that and for the price? Well, what can you say? Great little pedal for the money.
Best Delay Effects Pedal Buyers Guide
It first appeared in the 50s in its embryonic state, and by the time that the late 70s arrived, and digital signal electronics were with us, the digital delay effects pedal industry began to boom. In between that time, we had things like the Watkins Copycat, a great piece of kit but a pain to maintain and sometimes to operate. Aaahhh. Great days.
The charge for ever more inclusive and adventurous effects pedals had started. And many new companies, now household names, were born on the back of the rush of such development.
We have now reached the stage where for many musicians, the digital delay is one of, if not the first, pedal they acquire.
How did we live without it?
Complexity Or Simplicity?
That is the first question you ask yourself when looking to buy a new or even your first digital delay. It’s an important decision.
Undertaking a review such as this poses as many questions as it provides answers at times. There is so much tech out there; it becomes confusing. And we wonder if sometimes the companies are just trying to pack too much, too many effects possibilities into something that probably could be quite simple?
It seems that they are trying to give us the sounds and myriad of options that you would have in a pro studio underneath our feet on a pedalboard.
We’re not sure it works that well for the live performance.
In our review, we looked at the Eventide. That is a digital delay at another level of quality, but you pay the price for it, both in money and time, but it is clearly a work of art in digital delay terms.
So do you want it simple or do you want to invest some time getting to grips with a complex pedal that gives you far greater delay possibilities?
What Will You Use Best Delay Effects Pedal For?
This will have some bearing on the previous answer.
If it is just for studio work, then there are some great options, all of them offering great sound possibilities. They tend to be complex pedals that sit in the uppermost and at the top regions of the cost league. They do, however, give you quite an incredible sound and quality.
You may be looking to gig with it at whatever kind of venue. Do you need great complexity in controlling and setting up or are you better with something with fewer features but that is easily manageable, quickly and with little fuss.
Or it may be your first delay pedal in which case you may be going for a budget range. There are some of those that are excellent value for money, produce good sounds, and are easy to operate.
Will probably be determined to a great extent by the complexity of what you want to buy. Usually, the more complex the best guitar delay pedals are, the more expensive they are. Do you really need it just because it costs more?
Ultimately its a decision only you can make. You know how and where you will use it. You know what kind of environment and you know your budget.
The fun thing is looking at what’s out there.
We have reviewed ten of the best, so it’s now time for you to enjoy looking for the best delay effects pedal.