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Top 5 Most Popular Delay Pedals (2016)

Updated on February 29, 2016
Chris Whiter profile image

Chris Whiter has been a guitar player for 16 years a guitar teacher for 10 years. He plays many music styles uncluding pop,rock,funk e.c.t.

A simple schematic describing how guitar delay pedals work
A simple schematic describing how guitar delay pedals work
Top 5 most popular delay effects pedals
Top 5 most popular delay effects pedals

How delay effect works

Delay effect are one of the most used guitar effects by guitarists worldwide and that's because it gives you practicaly unlimited posibilities and sounds. And today's effects pedal market are saturated with quality delay pedals, so I decided to give you 5 most popular delay effects pedals, that can be found in many guitar player pedalboards. But first let's look at the delay effect itself.

The concept behind delay effect pedal is pretty simple, it takes guitars output signal, stores it and then plays it back after a period of time. Over the years guitarists and engineers have come up with various types of delay effects like for example:

  • Tape Echo - One of the first delay types that were introduced in the 1940's and simulated the natural echo. To achieve the effect, tape loops were used. Most famous tape echo units would be Echoplex and Roland Space Echo.
  • Analog Delay - Analog delay usually utilizes the so called bucked brigade chip, where the guitar signal is stored and then passed along the line of capacitors (hence the name bucket brigade). Analog delays tend to have a warmer and more natural sound than digital delays but has a signal and sound quality loss with each delay repeat. Popular analog delays today are EHX Memory Man and MXR Carbon Copy.
  • Digital Delay - Digital delay utilizes a digital signal processing chip that converts the guitar output signal from analog to digital, stores it and then plays it back with the changes the user has set. Digital delays sound more clear and also more sterile than the analog delay but does have more adjusting capabilities, longer delay time and other features that analog delays doesn't have. Popular digital delays are Boss DD-7 and TC Electronics Flashback.

There are also a wide variety of sounds you can get by utilizing the delay effect like:

  • Slapback delay - delay effect with short delay time and low repeat rate that is widely used in such music genres like country and rockabily. Here's an example
  • Reverse Delay - delay effects that takes guitars output signal and plays it back backwards giving you a psychedelic vibe. Here's an example
  • Ping Pong delay - The name basically describes the effect. For this effect you must have a two amp setup and a delay pedal that has two outputs. each output is then connected to seperate amp and the delay effect kind of bounces from one amp to another creating a great wide delay effect. Here's an example

and many more.

The delay effects pedals on this list are:

  1. TC Electronics Flashback delay
  2. MXR Carbon Copy delay
  3. Boss DD - 3 digital delay
  4. Line 6 DL4 delay modeler
  5. EHX Deluxe Memory Man delay

If you want to know more about the delay effect, you can go here

TC Electronic Flashback

Flashback is probably the most popular delay pedal right now. Its sound quality and features makes it one of the best delays out in the market.

Price: ~ 170$

Flashback delay pedal 10 different delay types - 2290 (Based on famous TC 2290 dynamic digital delay), Analog, Tape, Lofi, Dynamic, Modulation, Ping Pong, Slapback, Reverse and Toneprint. It also has a built-in looper with 40 seconds of recording time, that allows you to record a guitar part and the play over it. It also has an audio taping function that lets you set the delay time by strumming your guitar. One cool and unique feature this pedal offers is the TC own TonePrint techonology that allows you to send delay settings to the pedal by using your smartphone and guitar pickups. They also have unique toneprint presets from well known guitar players like Joe Perry, Steve Morse, Bumblefoot and more.

It comes in a blue metal housing with four controls:

  • Delay control sets the delay time, which can be up to 6 seconds of delay
  • Feedback control sets how many reapeats of the delay do you want
  • FX level lets you control the proportion between original input signal and the delayed signal
  • And the 4th control lets you select what type of the delay you want

Tiny switch on the top of the pedal lets you swith between the quarter, dotted eight or quarted + dotted eight notes. The footswitch turns the delay on or off, and also controlls the looper recording when in loop mode. Flashback also has two input jacks, mono and stereo, and two output jacks, also mono and stereo . Bright led light lets you know of the pedal is turned on or off. Can be powered by either a 9V battey or an AC adaptor.

Overall this is a very versitile delay pedal with a lot of different delay types and great sound. The TonePrint techonology is also a great additioon to the pedal.

Check out the video of the Tc Electronic Flashback

MXR Carbon Copy

The MXR Carbon Copy is a simple delay pedal with a great sound.

Price: ~ 150$

It's an analog delay pedal with up to 600 ms of delay time and has 3 controls:

  • Regen lets you set how many repeats of the delay you want
  • Mix sets the proportion of the original input signal and delayed signal
  • Delay lets you set the delay time, which, as I mentioned, can be up to 600 ms.

Carbon Copy comes in a dark green metal housing with one input jack and one output jack. Bright blue led light lets you know if the pedal id turned on or off. Simple footswitch turns the pedal on or off. The little switch in the top left corner turns on the chorus effect, which you can tweak with two small trims pot inside the pedal, that changes the with and rate settings for the chorus. Can be powered by a 9V battery or an AC adaptor.

Billy Gibbons and Doug Aldrich are known to use this delay pedal.

Overall this is a real simple delay pedal with great sound. Easy to set up and operate.

Check out Carbon Copy in action

Boss DD - 3 Digital Delay

Another hugely popular delay pedal, Boss DD - 3 has been around for some while and is still many guitar player delay pedal of choice.

Price: ~ 130$

The DD - 3 doesn't offer the versatily that Flashback offers, but it has more features that the Carbon Copy, making it kind of a middleman between the Flashback and Carbon Copy.

DD - 3 has 4 controls:

  • E.Level adjusts the level of output for the delayed signal.
  • F.Back adjusts the repeats of the delay
  • D.Time adjusts the delay time (12.5ms - 50ms when ir short mode, 50ms - 200ms when in middle mode, 200ms - 800ms when in long mode and 200ms - 800ms when in hold mode)
  • Mode lets you choose between settings Short, Middle and Long and Hold, which can the be further tweaked with D.Time control. The hold mode enables a short loop recording for some cool and experimental sounds.

It comes in a white housing , with one input jack, and two output jacks, direct out for a dry, unafected signal if you need one and standard output for signal with delay effect, on / off footswitch and a led light to monitor if the pedal is on or off. Can be powered by a 9V battery or an AC adaptor.

Players like Slash, Joe Bonamassa and Dave Navarro are known to be using this delay pedal.

Overall this is a simple digital delay pedal for players that seek a simple, easy to operate delay pedal

Check out Boss DD - 3 in action

Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler

When DL4 came out in 1999, it took the guitarist comunnity by the storm. Its versatilly and sound quality are still being praised today. This is the most versatile delay pedal on this list.

Price: ~ 250$

Line 6 DL4 has 6 controls:

  • Effect selector lets you select between 15 delay types - Tube Echo, Tape Echo, Multi Head, Sweep Echo, Analog Echo, Analog with Mod, Lo Res, Digital, Digital with Mod, Rhythmic, Stereo, Ping Pong, Reverse, Dynamic,Auto - Volume Echo, that are based on famous delay effect machines and pedals. For example Tube Echo is based on Maestro EP-1 and Multi Head is based on Roland Space Echo.
  • Delay time lets you set the delay time
  • Repeats lets you set the number of repeats effect will have
  • Tweak and Tweez gives you unique controls for each delay type. Like for example when you choose tape echo delay type, tweak lets you adjust the bass frequecies and tweez lets you adjust treble freqencies, but for digital delay with mod, that adds chorus effect to the delay, tweak adjusts modulation speed and tweez adjusts modulation depth.
  • Mix lets you mix your dry guitar signal with the processed delay signal.

You can also select the built in looper function to record and jam with yourself. The loop can be up to 14 seconds long when in full speed and up to 28 seconds long when in halfspeed.

There are three memory modules for the first three switches, where you can save three of your favourite delay effects, one for each switch. 4th switch are for tap tempo function. All four are used to operate the looper when in looper mode.

DL4 comes i a green housing with 2 mono inputs and two mono outputs. Expression pedal input lets you add an expression pedal that can be used to control the effect of the delay. Each of the 4 switches has a led light, that shows if the effect is turned on or not. It can be powered by either 4 C size batteries or an AC Adaptor.

This pedal has been and is still used by many of the guitar greats, like Eric Johnson, John Mayer, guys from Aerosmith e.c.t.

Overall this pedal is for guitarists that have need for multipe delay styles or loves to experiment with various sounds

Check out Line 6 DL4 in action

Electro - Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man

Introduced in 1976, this pedal has become one of the most popular delay pedals and is considered by many guitarists the best analog delay pedal in the market.

Price: ~ 220$

There have been various Memory Man models available since 1976, with three, four and five controls. The latest model has 6 controls:

  • Blend control adjusts the mix between original and delayed signal
  • Level controls the output level of the signal
  • Feedback adjusts the reapeats of the delayed signal.
  • CHRS/VBR allows you to add modulation to your delay sound (chorus or vibrato)
  • Depth sets the amount of modulation added to delay.
  • Delay control adjusts the time between direct and delayed signal, which can be up to 550 miliseconds.

It comes in a metal housing with one input jack and two output jacks, direct for unafected sound and effect for sound with delay. It is powered by an adaptor which comes with the pedal. The Overload led light need to be used together with Level control. If it shines too bright or comes on too frequently , it might be that the signal is too loud and might become overdriven. The switch turns the effect on or off and led light above it shows if the effect is engaged or not.

The most famous Memory Man user is probably Edge from U2.

Overall this is a easy to use analog delay pedal for guitar players that want a great sounding delay effect

Check out Deluxe Memory Man in action

Top 5 most popular delay effects pedals - TC Electronics Flashback, Boss DD-3, Line 6 DL4, EHX Deluxe Memory Man and MXR Carbon Copy
Top 5 most popular delay effects pedals - TC Electronics Flashback, Boss DD-3, Line 6 DL4, EHX Deluxe Memory Man and MXR Carbon Copy

Which One Of The Delay Pedals Do You Prefer?

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