The 10 best delay pedals: our pick of the best effects for guitar

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(Image: © Future)

Guitar effects don't get much more versatile than delay. From the humblest of analog echoes to the most multifaceted digital behemoth, there's never been a better time to repeat yourself.

Our buyer's guide encompasses effects with built-in tap tempo footswitches, to shimmer, modulation,and reverse modes, MIDI functionality, and even app-based editing.

Yes, there's never been a better time to repeat yourself, so join us as we count down the finest delay pedals available today - but first we must apologise: this journey will most definitely be delayed…

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1. Strymon TimeLine

The 'do it all' best delay pedal for stage and studio

Launch price: $449 / £399 | Type: Stereo multi-mode delay | Controls: Type, Value, Time, Repeats, Mix, Filter, Grit, Speed, Depth, A/B Bank, Tap Tempo | Sockets: Stereo in/out, Expression pedal, MIDI in/out | Bypass: True Bypass | Power requirements: 9V, 300mA

Massive range of delay types
200 onboard memories
Impeccable emulations of vintage gear
You'll need a well-stocked multi-pedal power supply to provide that 300mA
Sheer number of features can be tricky to get your head round

The TimeLine is more of an all-encompassing beast with 12 different types included (‘delay machines’ in TimeLine-speak), plus a stereo 30-second looper and an onboard memory that can store 200 rewritable presets in 100 banks of two. There's a colossal range of sounds onboard, especially the pitch-shifted modes, which are ideal for creating ambient soundscapes, while the analogue and tape sounds are as authentic as they come. Several ‘studio-delay-in-a-stompbox’ pedals are available, often at prices way above what you’d normally pay for a single pedal, and he TimeLine is one of the most respected of that type. In our view, Strymon has got the balance of facilities, control options and a comprehensive range of delays just right. Quite likely all you could ever want in a delay pedal.

Read the full review: Strymon TimeLine

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2. Boss DD-500

Boss' high-end delay pedal packs a lot of punch

Launch price: $418 / €348 /£275 | Type: Stereo multi-mode delay | Controls: Mode, Time/Value, Feedback, E. Level, Tone, Mod Depth, A/B Bank, Tap Tempo | Sockets: Stereo in/out, Expression pedal, MIDI in/out, USB | Bypass: Buffered bypass or true bypass (with relays) | Power requirements: 9V, 200 mA

Great-sounding delays
Plenty of deep editing available
Clear screen
Shimmer mode isn't the strongest

How does effects giant Boss compete with the high-end Strymons and Eventides of the delay world? By pushing the DD format to its limits. The DD-500 mirrors its forebears, with physical knobs for key parameters, while a whopping 297 patches are available to save your carefully crafted tones. You can access any two patches at once, assigned to the A and B footswitches, while tap/control offers tap tempo or a host of assignable functions, such as freezing current repeats, or rapidly increase the delay rate for pitch-bending insanity. While delay junkies may argue that Strymon and Eventide have the edge in the tone department, Boss has them and most others beat in terms of sheer flexibility and value for money - we haven't even mentioned the easy-to-use looper, which boasts up to 120 seconds of loop time. It all ensures the DD-500 ranks among the best high-end delay units available today.

Read the full review: Boss DD-500

3. Electro-Harmonix Canyon

The best compact multi-delay pedal for those who need EHX weirdness

Launch price: $139 / £149 / €155 | Type: Compact multi-mode digital delay | Controls: Mode, FX level, Delay, Feedback, Tap/Divide | Sockets: In/out, Tap in | Bypass: Buffered bypass or true bypass (with tails) | Power requirements: 9V, 200mA

Packed with features
Some really unique tones
Great octave effects
Impressive price
Tap tempo can be a little confusing
A lot of settings aren't easily accessible

EHX has an enviable delay pedigree: The Edge is as synonymous with his Deluxe Memory Man as he is his beloved beanie. The Canyon marks the company’s first compact, multi-mode offering. The New York maestro has pulled together 11 delay types, including a 62 second looper and the pitch-shifting Octave mode – a first in an affordable compact. It’s hard to argue with the breadth and depth of the Canyon’s delays: there are no weak sounds here and they’re bound to inspire creativity. The Canyon is unmistakably EHX in every way, for better and for worse. The audio quality and diversity should make this a no-brainer for experimental players whose compact needs aren’t met by the DD-7 or Flashback and don’t need stereo outs. 

Read the full review: Electro-Harmonix Canyon

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4. TC Electronic Flashback

The best versatile compact delay pedal

Launch price: $169 / £166 | Type: Stereo compact multi-mode digital delay | Controls: Delay, Feedback, Level, Mode, Subdivision | Sockets: Stereo in/out, USB | Bypass: Buffered bypass or True bypass | Power requirements: 9V, 100mA

TonePrint presets
Wide variety of delay effects
Tap tempo
Unique MASH function
Excellent shimmer sounds
Pedal doesn't mute instantly when holding down the footswitch for tap tempo

In designing the original Flashback pedal, TC wanted something that was fast, easy and intuitive to use, with the ability to change sounds on the fly with a few knob tweaks. The Flashback 2 offers the same comprehensive selection of delay types with the addition of the pressure-sensitive MASH footswitch, which allows for expression pedal-like control, plus new octave effects. There's little extra that we could ask for in a delay pedal, especially one as compact and sensibly priced as this. It would be very good value even without the TonePrint import feature, but it's this that really sets it apart from the herd. TC has brought something to the table that other compact pedals don't have - effectively, this pedal is updatable. It's no wonder we see it on the pedalboards of a diverse variety of players. Fast on its way to classic status.

Read the full review: TC Electronic Flashback 2

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5. MXR Carbon Copy

Quite possibly the best compact analogue delay on the mass market

Launch price: $254.61 / £199 | Type: Compact analogue delay pedal | Controls: Regen, Mix, Delay, Mod | Sockets: In/out | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V, 26mA

Authentic analogue delay tones
Small footprint
Adjustable modulation
Not the greatest battery access
Internal trim pots are tiny

Using BBD technology, MXR's Carbon Copy has, er, echoes of the old MXR Analogue Delay (discontinued in the eighties) - not least in its three control knobs and greenish colouring, albeit in a much spanglier metallic shade this time around. It looks very smart indeed and packs a lot of control into a small space by utilising a triangular knob configuration. Tonally, the repeats have clarity combined with a dark warmth and a natural sounding decay that seems to work well between guitar and amp. As a mass-market analogue delay in a conveniently sized package, there is little around that can touch this pedal.

Read the full review: MXR Carbon Copy

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6. Empress Echosystem

The best delay pedal for aficionados

Launch price: $449 / £459 | Type: Stereo multi-mode digital delay | Controls: Mode, Delay time/Ratio, Mix, Output, Feedback, Tone, Thing 1, Thing 2, Tap, Shift, Scroll, Bypass | Sockets: Stereo in/out, Control port, SD card | Bypass: Buffered or true bypass | Power requirements: 9V, 300mA

Small size for the facilities onboard
Hands-on operation – no hidden menus
Two engines combine for creating complex delays
There's no display, so keep the manual handy!

The Echosystem aims to provide all the delay and echo sounds you could possibly need without eating up too much of your valuable pedalboard space. Getting familiar with the Echosystem’s operation might take a little time but it’s all worth it for the superb range of sounds that it can conjure up. There is so much variety on offer in terms of delay mode but things really get most interesting when you select dual mode operation, as you can layer and synchronise different modes for complex rhythmic repeats, massive ambient soundscapes or some really wacky stuff if that’s your inclination. If you just want a simple bit of echo now and again to spice things up then this won't be for you. Otherwise, it offers a virtuosity that stretches much further than your average stompbox, encouraging creativity by using two engines to craft your own unique delay combinations. 

Read the full review: Empress Echosystem

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7. Boss DM-2W

Thoughtful update on a classic compact delay

Launch price: $149 / £165 / €166 | Type: Compact analogue delay pedal | Controls: Repeat rate, Echo, Standard/Custom, Intensity | Sockets: Input, Rate, Output, Direct out | Bypass: Buffered | Power requirements: 9V, 35mA

Gorgeous analogue BBD tone
Expanded delay time
No onboard modulation

Discontinued in 1984, the DM-2 is the gold standard for bucket-brigade delay (BBD), and this updated Waza Craft interpretation recreates its classic tone to a T. Warm, quirky and increasingly unpredictable as you move the repeat rate knob to the right, you can get everything from simple slapback delays to auto-oscillation and other-worldly effects. There’s a direct out as well as the ability to switch from ‘standard’ mode, or the stock reissue, into ‘custom’ mode, which sees the delay times expanded out to 800ms. Finally, there’s an expression input for rate. As on the original, the repeats sound simply gorgeous. 

Read the full review: Boss DM-2W

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8. Eventide TimeFactor

A powerful delay pedal from the studio processing giant

Launch price: $499 / £279 | Type: Stereo multi-mode digital delay | Controls: Mix, Delay Mix, Delay Time A, Delay Time B, Feedback A, Feedback B, Tempo, Xnob, Depth, Speed, Filter, Active, Repeat, Tap | Sockets: Stereo in/out, Expression pedal, Aux switch, USB, MIDI in/out | Bypass: Buffered or true bypass | Power requirements: 9V, 500mA

Small, portable and very well built
Bright, easy to read display
Excellent level of hands-on control
A warm, musical and natural sound
Can't create grittier sounds
Requires a high-power 9V output
Initially intimidating depth of editing

With the TimeFactor, Eventide has chosen to package the best of its delays into a box suitable for the studio player/producer and the gigging musician. Build quality is spot-on, with nice smooth-feeling pots, a very clear layout, decent rubberised grip feet, a sturdy casing and a great informative dot matrix display. So how do the effects sound? We’d have to say that, in general, the vibe is warm, natural and classy; in fact, it’s everything we’ve come to expect from high-end Eventide effect units. The only real downside is that it’s difficult to get any serious grit out of the box, and you might also be disappointed to learn that there’s no option to battery power it. In fact, there´s nothing digital-sounding about this box, and there are no weak delay types, either. The TimeFactor is simply a high-quality, great sounding and very versatile pedal.

Read the full review: Eventide TimeFactor

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9. DOD Rubberneck

A versatile analogue delay that can get as weird as you like

Launch price: $312.44 / £209 / €251 | Type: Analogue delay pedal | Controls: Time, Repeats, Level, Tap Ratio, Rate/Depth, Gain/Tone, Tails, Bypass, Tempo | Sockets: Input, Output, Send/Return, FS3X Footswitch | Bypass: True bypass | Power requirements: 9V, 150mA

Long delay times for an analogue delay
Sweet tones
Awesome, unique oscillation
Not the cheapest analogue delay

It’s relatively rare that a pedal manages both ‘weird’ and ‘normal’ sounds, but the Rubberneck delivers. The feature from which it gets its name can be dialled in to a subtle vibrato or a deep, seasick warble... or ignored! Controls for gain and tone mean that a brighter and cleaner or more dark and gritty sound can be conjured. There’s also tap tempo functionality and the option for eighth, dotted eighth and quarter notes, built on top of a great-sounding analogue delay. A regen knob gives control over momentary oscillation effects and a highly usable delay-time sweep makes more atmospheric delay lines possible.

Read the full review: DOD Rubberneck

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10. Source Audio Nemesis

The best affordable digital multi-delay

Launch price: $299 / £249 | Type: Stereo multi-mode digital delay | Controls: Time, Feedback, Delay Type, Mod, Rate, Mix, Intensity, Tap | Sockets: Stereo in/out, MIDI in, MIDI through, Expression pedal, Control input, USB | Bypass: Buffered bypass or True bypass | Power requirements: 9V, 300mA

Wide range of sounds.
Small footprint for a pedal of this genre
Hands-on ease of use
Nifty app-based editing
No instant switching of presets from the pedal's own footswitches

A good option for those considering the Strymon Timeline and Boss DD-500, Source Audio's Nemesis features 12 different delay engines, but goes beyond that, in that it is compatible with Source Audio's Neuro app for iOS and Android. Connections are plentiful, with stereo I/O and MIDI controls. You can even use the spare outputs as an external loop, so you can insert another pedal into the feedback loop of the delay line. The delay engines offer a range of sounds that should cover most musical needs, from emulations of vintage classics through to more esoteric options that make creative use of modern DSP. Source Audio may not be quite as well known as, say, Eventide, Boss or Strymon, but it has come up with a pedal here that can go head to head with them at a very competitive price.

Read the full review: Source Audio Nemesis

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