When I discovered delay pedals, I was blown away by their effects. As I began to do research on which pedal to buy, I became confused by all the different types. Now that I have experience, I’m here to make your search easier.
Let’s take a look at the different type of delay pedal devices.
Tape Delay Pedal
Tape delay pedals can be difficult to find because the technology was popular well before digital devices came onto the market. This technology was much more basic and involved a signal being sent to another tape recorder.
The other tape recorder was set to monitor off the repro head. There would then be a slight delay between when the signal first occurred and when it came off the repro head.
In terms of the types of delay effects these pedals produce, users will be a bit more limited than with more modern devices. In order to change the delay times, the second tape machine’s speed could be adjusted.
The faster the speed, the shorter the time between repeats. If you wanted to affect the number of repeats, you could do so by sending the delayed audio back into the machine.
As you can probably imagine, adjusting the sound effect settings would be less precise than adjusting settings with a digital device. Additionally, the quality of the sound will change depending on the quality of the tape you’re using.
Unlike digital devices that will provide consistency in the sound quality, users of tape delay pedals should be prepared for some changes in the tone they hear.
These differences and changes in tone create their own musical effect, though, and they offer musicians the opportunity to create distinct effects that will stand apart from the sounds of other artists.
If you’re able to get your hands on a vintage tape delay, you’ll be able to create some unique effects that will vary from device to device.
Analog Delay Pedal
Analog delay pedals were extremely popular in the ‘70s, and many musicians still use them today. Even though so many musicians strive for perfection in their playing, analog delay pedals are appreciated for their imperfect sound quality and have a different reverb audio effect.
Analog pedals are known for having a warm sound quality that fits well in classic rock genres of music. Notable guitarists like Jimi Hendrix used analog delay pedals, which is why guitarists who strive to create a similar sound either use analog pedals or digital pedals with an analog setting.
For guitarists who are looking for a less than pristine sound quality, analog pedals are the epitome of a great delay pedal. These pedals produce an effect that is much more realistic than the echos of modern digital technology.
If you were to enter a cave and play music, each echo or repeat would sound different from the one previous, rather than completely identical. These pedals work in the same way.
Analogs won’t modulate your sound with each repeat as much as a tape delay does, but the sound will still become more and more fuzzy as the device continues to work. With each repeat, your tone will likely become a bit less bright, which is because analog pedals cut out high frequencies more than other devices.
Some musicians also prefer analog because digital pedals can’t capture the infinite layers of a guitar signal the way analog pedals can. This means that many musicians feel analog pedals are better at reflecting the true complexity of their guitar’s sound.
Analog pedals remained popular until the takeover of digital delay technology in the 1980s. It’s important to remember that when analog pedals were at their most popular, they weren’t able to produce a substantial delay time like digital devices were able to.
These effect pedals could produce 250-300 ms of delay time, which just wasn’t enough for some musicians. Make sure you consider how much delay time you’re looking for when deciding which type of pedal to purchase.
If you want to hear an analog delay pedal in action, take a look at this demo video of the Boss DM-2:
Digital Delay Pedal
Digital delays first became available in the late 1970s and 1980s, which is why they’re so often associated with the music that followed the classic rock era. Digital delays are the most common types of delay pedals because of their ability to produce a ton of different effects.
Like all delay pedals, digital delays take your audio and repeat it back to you, but offer a lot of control and will better allow you to fine tune your sound. After the signal passed through an analog-to-digital converter, processors record it into a storage unit, and it is then played back with the desired effects.
These storage units are what allow musicians to store audio in the device’s memory. The delayed output is then sent to a digital-to-analog converter, and the effect is complete. These pedals serve the purpose of creating an effect but keeping that effect in the control of the musician.
Typically, these pedals will have a feedback knob to control the number of repeats, a time knob to control the time between repeats, and a mode knob to select different settings, such as reverse.
These types of delay pedals work great in rock or country genres. If you like the music of U2, then you’ll probably benefit from investing in a digital delay pedal.
Unlike analog or tape delays, digital devices will have a more modern sound and will, therefore, suit modern rock-based music in the style of U2. Other great artists who use digital delay pedals are John Mayer, whose pedalboard you can read more about here.
Analog vs. Digital Delay Pedals
If you’ve been searching for a delay pedal for some time, you’ve probably been asked whether you’re considering an analog or digital delay pedal. Like I already mentioned, these two pedals have different tones which work well in for different styles of music.
The reason these pedals have different tones is because of the way they process audio signals. Analog delay pedal models produce a warmer sound because, typically, they use a BBD chip that sends the signal through different capacitors and does one step per cycle.
This means that with each repeat, the sound will get progressively warmer and a bit more static with each repeat. These BBD chips mean that analog pedals will usually have shorter maximum delay settings than digital.
Digital delay pedals use a different kind of chip called DSP chips. This setup basically means that you’ll have more control over the time and the tone of your effect.
Some musicians prefer analog pedals because of the warm sound quality, but keep in mind that many digital pedals now have analog settings to account for this difference.
For more information on how to use a delay, take a look at this article.
Hopefully, you found this article on the different delay audio effect pedals.This explanation would have been so useful for me when I was first learning about delay pedals, so I hope it helps you out. Leave me a comment if you have any questions and don’t forget to share this article!
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