7 Best Delay Pedals for Guitar – A Complete Buying Guide

Every guitarist has a different set of needs and different priorities when it comes to delay pedals. No one pedal can be said to be best. Here we give you a list of 7 of the best delay pedal in the market and tell you what you need to know about them so you can make an informed purchase decision.

I have been playing the guitar at family events and at my kid’s school functions for years. Playing guitar has never been anything more than a hobby. I never actually thought I could make anything out of this skill. Now I have got a couple of gigs coming up and I am really keen to do a great job.

I have an old delay pedal I haven’t bothered to replace until now. I need to get my hands on a good quality, fairly priced delay pedal to turn my hobby into an unforgettable performance.

7 Best Delay Pedals for Guitar – A Comparison Table

Brand of Delay Pedal
Types of Delay
No. of knobs and footswitches
Analogue or digital
Check on Amazon
Boss DD - 500
12
5 knobs + 3 footswitches
Digital
TC Electronic Flashback 2
8
4 knobs + 1 footswitch
Digital
Strymon Timeline
12
9 knobs + 3 footswitches
Digital
MXR Carbon Copy
Unclear
3 knobs + 1 footswitch
Analogue
Eventide TimeFactor
9
11 knobs + 3 footswitches
Digital
Source Audio Nemesis
24

(12 in unit / 12 in app)
7 knobs + 2 footswitches
Digital
Empress Echosystem
12
8 knobs + 3 footswitches
Digital

7 Best Delay Pedals for Guitar – Top Picks For 2021

Boss DD-500 Delay Pedal

The Boss DD-500 is designed to include as many features and delay requirements as can possibly fit in a single unit.

It features 12 different delay modes, all with adjustable parameters to give you endless sound options.

This is most likely sufficient editing power but if it is not you can get more specific. Each delay mode has a few deeper functions such as EQ settings, pattern selection, modulation depth and speed, filter selection, attack speed among others.

There are 6 dials. The first for switching between delay modes, and the others for adjusting delay time, effect level, feedback, tone and modulation.

With such a wide range of options, it can get confusing. To make sure this doesn’t happen, there is an easy-to-navigate menu system. Simply push the edit button to go into a main edit menu. From here you can select functions for your patches and parameters for the pedals. You use cursor keys to navigate through the menus with the help of a small high resolution LCD screen.

This pedal has 3 footswitches. The first two (A and B) are mapped to preset selection. There are 2 in each of the 99 banks available. The third is mapped to tap tempo.

Pros

  • 12 delay modes
  • LCD screen for easy navigation
  • 99 banks
  • Has tap tempo

Cons

  • Shimmer mode is weak

View price on Amazon

TC Electronic Flashback 2 Delay Pedal

This is an update of the original TC Flashback compact pedal.

In terms of controls, it has 4 dials and a footswitch. The first dial is the ‘delay’ knob which is used to set delay durations. Delay ranges between 20 milliseconds and 7 seconds with the exception of ‘slap delay’ which has a limited delay of 300 milliseconds.

The ‘Feedback’ knob controls the number of repeats. The ‘FX’ knob controls levels of the delayed repeats but doesn’t affect original sound. In terms of settings, you have 11 options to choose from.

The pedal’s unique selling proposition is its MASH feature. Here a pressure-sensitive footswitch allows for expression-pedal control. It doesn’t give you the precision in the traditional rocker type but it does give you a unique sense of control.

One of the more popular features is the ‘dynamic delay’ setting. It is a brainchild of TC Electronic which varies delay signal when the guitar is being played. It reduces the level of delay signal when one is playing the guitar and increases it when the guitar is not being played. This prevents distortion of complex notes.

This newer version pedal can be updated via USB and lets users beam their TonePrints via a cellphone.

Pros

  • Long maximum delay time
  • Has USB port
  • Expression pedal with MASH technology
  • Dynamic delay setting

Cons

  • Expression pedal not very precise

View price on Amazon

Strymon Timeline Delay Pedal

The Strymon Timeline pedal gives you 12 different types of delay as well as a 30-second looper. The onboard memory has capacity to store 200 rewritable presets in 100 banks.

This pedal has a lone knob on the left and 2 rows of 4 knobs on the top right. The lone knob is used to select one of the 12 delay types. Basic parameters are edited using combinations of the other 8 knobs. You can adjust delay time, set the number of repeats and choose a dry or wet mix using the top row of knobs. The bottom row lets you control the sound of repeats.

It has 3 footswitches. The first 2 marked A and B, are used to select presets from each bank. The third is for tap tempo. How do you select a bank and preset? Tread on the two footswitches (A and B) simultaneously. This lets you scroll banks and B lets you scroll up the list in that specific bank. Hit A or B to select the preset.

Of the 12 delay types. ‘Digital’ is a straight delay with crystal clear repeats with a maximum delay time of 2.5 seconds. This is by no means a budget option but it does cover a lot of sonic ground which other cheaper units don’t.

Pros

  • 12 delay types with 30-second looper
  • 100 banks for 200 stored presets
  • Has a screen
  • Has tap tempo

Cons

  • Expensive

View price on Amazon

MXR Carbon Copy Delay Pedal

MXR has been a player in the effects pedal market since the early seventies. The Carbon Copy delay pedal is a modern version of the 1977 original which was one of the most popular delay units of its time. Today, it is said to be the best compact analogue delay pedal in the market.

It utilizes BBD technology and is much like the old Analogue Delay which was discontinued in the eighties. It is a small unit with 3 knobs positioned with a triangular configuration.

In terms of sound, it gives you the characteristic rich, darker sound of analogue pedals preferred by users who like to retain a vintage kind of warmth. There is also the expected drop in clarity compared to digital pedals.

A simple 3-knob layout allows these and a single footswitch to fit on a relatively small unit which gives you the advantage of a small footprint. The knobs control delay, mix and regen (repeats). On top of that, there are 2 internal trim pots to allow the user to control width and rate of the modulation. The effect is subtle but the resulting sound has an extra dimension of depth.

If you are playing on a dark stage, you will appreciate the glow in the dark controls.

Pros

  • Authentic analogue sound
  • Up to 600ms of delay time
  • Glow in the dark controls
  • Sturdy metal housing and small footprint

Cons

  • Sound may be too dark

View price on Amazon

Eventide TimeFactor Delay Pedal

There is a lot of detail to this unit. There are 11 dials, 10 encoders and one multifunctional dial used to change sounds, save presets and show you the BPM counter. A dot matrix display helps you keep track of all selections.

You can choose from a selection of 9 delay types and the unit’s memory can hold 20 presets in 10 lots of 2. With this you can select two different sounds for different parts of a song.

In addition, you get to have independent delay times and feedback selectors for each of the two delays (A and B) within a preset. There is also filter control as well as a speed control.

Another feature worth noting is a catch-up mode. This ensures that there is no audible break between stored and edited values when switching presets.

The pedal is future ready as it has a USB port included for software updates. This is a well-built unit with a sturdy casing and grip feet to keep it from moving about during your performance.

Pros

  • Catch-up mode
  • USB port for software upgrades
  • Dot matrix display
  • Dedicated controls for A and B lines

Cons

  • Requires high power output ( 9v)

View price on Amazon

Source Audio Nemesis Delay Pedal

The Source Audio Nemesis pedal offers 12 different delay types which are selected using a front-panel knob. In addition to these, you can access 12 more types using the Source Audio Neuro app. It can be accessed on iOs and Android. To use the app, connect your phone to the pedal unit via a wired connection from the phone’s headphone output.

The app also provides an editor with additional parameters which are not available using the physical knobs. You also get access to a library of sounds which could be factory sounds, sounds created by other users or sounds you create and save.

Feedback and Mix knobs are used to tweak delay. To add modulation to repeats the Mod and Rate knobs dial in speed and depth. The intensity knob’s function varies for each delay type.

In the event that you want to save a sound you have created, you can. The Nemesis can store 128 presets. 8 of these are immediately available using a front-panel button. The rest can be recalled using the MIDI controller.

Pros

  • Compatible with Neuro App
  • 2 delay types
  • Memory saves up to 128 presets
  • Small footprint

Cons

  • Few presets accessible instantly

View price on Amazon

Empress Echosystem Delay Pedal

This is a sleek looking white pedal designed to give you a wide range of delay and echo sounds. You can choose from a variety of mono and stereo operation modes. There are 2 delay engines which can be used independently, together or can be routed in series.

Each engine has 12 algorithm modes and some sub modes. To select a mode, scroll through using the rotary mode dial. Once one is selected, use the other knobs to tweak your sound. Mix, Feedback, Output, and Tone knobs work as in other pedals. Thing 1 and Thing 2 knobs, however are different because they are used to adjust a different function for each mode.

To set delay time, use the knob or the tap tempo footswitch.

The pedal’s memory can store up to 35 presets. Without a screen you would not be the first to wonder how it is possible to identify and call up any of the stored presets. That is where the 5 LED lights dotting the middle of the pedal come in.

Each LED light represents one of the 5 presets in each of the 7 banks. Each bank is assigned a different light color. When you hit the middle (scroll) footswitch you scroll through the presets and banks in order. To select a preset, hit the Tap footswitch.

It has a relatively small footprint so it doesn’t eat too much space on your pedalboard.

Pros

  • 2 engines combine
  • 35 presets
  • Small footprint

Cons

  • No display screen
  • Somewhat complicated

View price on Amazon

What to Consider When Buying the Best Delay Pedal for Guitar

Digital or analogue

There are 2 types of guitar delay pedals. Analogue and digital.

Analogue delay pedals use a BBD chip which makes its repeats warmer, darker and more diffused. The result is a distinct sonic signature.

These pedals offer shorter maximum time between delay repeats compared to digital pedals. Sound quality is not as good because delay sound loses clarity with each repeat.

Digital delay pedals on the other hand, use digital signal processing (DSP) chips. This offers a lot more variation. Sound can be as colored or transparent, short or long as the designer desires. Delay repeats come out clean and replicate the exact same guitar signal.

Tap Tempo

Some pedals have this feature and others don’t.

It is a footswitch (or button) which you tap repeatedly to set delay time. It essentially sets the tempo for repeats. Although it is not essential, a pedal with this feature is useful because it lets you match delay times to a certain tempo, which creates a rhythmic effect.

Some pedals have a footswitch, others have a button or a dial. You also need to pick a pedal with an option which is convenient for you. If you are a performer, a footswitch is most appropriate. You don’t want to be bending down to turn the dial for tempo in the middle of a performance.

Maximum Delay Time

Most pedals do very short delays. The maximum delay time however, varies from one pedal to another. Surprisingly, this feature is not directly linked to price. You will find cheaper pedals which offer longer delay times than more expensive ones.

Take the Strymon Timeline and the TC Electronic Flashback Mini for example. The former costs a lot more than the latter yet the maximum delay time on the Strymon pedal is about 2 seconds. On the TC Electronic you can dial in up to 7 seconds of delay time.

Mono or stereo

You can find delay pedals in one of two configurations: mono out and stereo out.

Mono out means the pedal has a single output. Stereo pedals have two outputs.

None can be said to be superior but the sounds produced are distinctly different. The benefit you get from stereo output is that you can run two outputs to send it through two amplifiers. The resultant sound is fuller and wider. Mono output is simpler and cheaper.

Computer connectivity

Some delay pedals have a USB port which allows you to connect it to your computer. With this you can open up software which help you create your own presets and make adjustments to settings.

Performers looking for full control of their tone appreciate this ability. You can save presets and access them later and set precise delay times down to the millisecond.

Conclusion

Delay pedals are a secret weapon behind amazing guitar performances. Once you have used one once, you can never get on stage without one ever again.

It can be tricky to find one that works well for you. The key thing to remember is there is no one ideal delay pedal. It all depends on the kind of sound you are looking for and the features you can and cannot do without.

FAQs

How can you tell an analogue delay pedal from a digital one?

Digital pedals only pass signal through them when they are powered. Analogue ones pass signal with or without power. Remove the power supply from your pedal and make sure it is off. If it still passes signal it is an analogue pedal.

What is the difference between feedback and delay time?

Delay time refers to the length of time that the signal from your guitar is captured. It is measured in milliseconds (1000 milliseconds = 1 second).

Feedback refers to the number of times the signal is repeated.

Cooper Green

Music we must say is complex but according to Cooper Green, with the right information creating good music is a breeze. Guitars are a single aspect in the complex world of music but which play a major role, the problem however, lies in finding the right guitar for the relevant application. There are so many brands of guitars, each of which are differently configured but offer the best sounds. Cooper has been in the music industry for over 10 years, he recently started interacting with enthusiasts in the various platforms and therefore, shares his knowledge on music in general and specifically on guitars. And with the markets now flooded with knockoffs, among his missions is to help upcoming musicians get good quality music instruments or guitars.

Leave a Comment