If your digital delay sounds sterile, these character-infused analog (and analog modeling) guitar effects deliver what you crave.
When digital delays were first introduced, guitarists dug the way you could dial in just about any depth, number of repeats, and level without adding extra dirt to the incoming signal. But for a lot of players, something was unsatisfying about those digital boxes: they were too clean. They lacked the warmth and smoothness as well as the sonic complexity analog delay and echo effects produce.
Read on to get the lowdown on nine analog and analog modeling effects pedals that aim to breathe life back into your tone.
Way Huge Electronics Supa Puss
With up to an astounding 900 milliseconds of true analog delay, the Supa Puss can go from subtle atmospherics and sheen to mind-rattling delay spasms. Using a 6-chip bucket-brigade architecture, the Supa Puss goes places other analog delays don’t even attempt. And it does it while offering the guitarist superb control over every parameter. A Subdivision function lets you set the way your repeats are grouped. You can then set the Supa Puss to cycle through all your Subdivision settings using its very cool Chase mode. Tap Tempo keeps your repeats rhythmically solid while Tone and Gain controls will give obsessive tone tweakers endless fun.
MXR M169 Carbon Copy
Countless first-call guitarists make space for the compact MXR M169 Carbon Copy in their rigs because they value its realism and warmth. Read our customer reviews and you’ll discover this top-selling delay pedal has won over more than a few former digital delay users who now won’t consider going back. That’s largely because of its old-school vintage sound delivered via bucket-brigade circuitry. Aside from a full 600ms of delay time and Regen (repeats), Mix (wet/dry), and Delay (time) knobs, the Carbon Copy has internal trim pots for user width and rate tweaks as well as a true bypass design, so you won’t have to worry about any tone suck.
T-Rex Engineering Replicator Analog Tape Delay
Some of the most time-honored delay sounds of ‘60s and ‘70s recordings were accomplished through the physical manipulation of magnetic tape. But there were downsides such as tape degradation and inconsistency of effects. Not to mention the inherent complexity and high-maintenance needs of tape machines. The Replicator solves these issues elegantly. A handbuilt, ruggedly engineered device with two separately controllable playback heads, one with tap tempo, it gives you superb control over level, feedback, and delay times while serving up the sweetly saturated sound of actual magnetic tape. In fact, you get to decide on the saturation factor using a dedicated control. An onboard tape modulator creates a range of chorus effects that are totally dialable. It’s not cheap, but the T-Rex Replicator offers a level of old-school mojo that even the best digital tape emulations would be hard pressed to match.
The starting point for this killer delay is the Binson Echorec—a now-legendary tube echo machine that was a foundational sound for a certain prog rock guitar god who once found himself playing in an empty Roman amphitheatre in Pompeii, Italy. With—count ‘em—four playback heads and a spinning, drum-based recording mechanism, it offered unprecedented rhythmic and ambient possibilities. Catalinbread’s version of the Echorec was designed from the ground up to offer those possibilities in a reliable, stompbox format, taking the concept several steps further thanks to modern circuit design. Unlike the original’s 300ms delay limitation, the new unit offers up to a staggering 1000ms. A 12-position switch grants instant access to a dozen head configurations. The new Echorec is also very sensitive to pick attack; change your playing dynamics and the delay follows you like a bloodhound. Echo freaks should be in seventh heaven.
Under the AD999’s fuchsia-painted exterior and simple control layout lurks a total of eight custom-built BBDs that grant players up to 900ms of luscious delays. But that’s just part of the story. Strum a chord and listen to all the atmosphere and presence it generates at modest levels. The circuitry breathes rounded warmth with a slight overdrive that sits perfectly behind more distorted tones in your signal chain. When playing clean, it imparts dimension and depth to satisfy just about any tone connoisseur. A slight spike at around 1.5 kHz keeps your signal articulate and crisp. Whether you’re looking for professional sheen on your recordings or a searing “famous switch” to kick in during solos, the Maxon AD999 will do the job. It can serve up beautiful analog tones that conjure everything from spacious canyons to fast rockabilly slap-back.
Catalinbread Adineko Oil Can Delay
In the quest to create queasy-sounding swirling, guitar effects back in the 1960s, a number of attempts involved using oil-filled containers fitted with multiple playback heads. These devices were, to say the least, hit and miss. No two units sounded quite alike and factors such as oil viscosity could cause the same unit to sound quite different depending on room temperature. Still, these so-called oil can effects churned out a vibrato modulation that synced with the echo time to create an unearthly warbling effect that turns up on dozens of recordings from that era. As with their Echorec project, with its Adineko Oil Can Delay, Catalinbread aimed to honor the original effect while also going well beyond it with modern circuit innovations. A Viscosity knob allows you to dial in the degree of oily murk while Reverb and Timing knobs give you far more range for atmospheric effects way beyond the original oil can delays. The Balance knob controls the amount of signal flowing to each of the dual playback heads, creating lots of cool syncopation possibilities.
Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy
With pedalboard space always at a premium, it’s no surprise that Electro-Harmonix has ported technology from its celebrated Memory Man and Deluxe Memory Man delays into the Memory Boy’s compact case. With a healthy 550ms of delay time and selectable Chorus or Vibrato modulation rates, this is a versatile yet economical choice. You can connect an expression pedal for hands-free control of your delay time or modulation rate. Selectable triangle or square modulation waveforms add further sound-shaping options. And however you dial in your delay, it’ll sound great thanks to an all-analog signal path.
Boss RE-20 Space Echo
Among tape echo aficionados, the Roland RE-201, better known as the Space Echo, holds a place of special reverence. Its closed-loop tape transport reduced tape wear, wow, and flutter while also adding grit and warmth. Produced from 1974 until 1990, it was a much more reliable tape-based delay than earlier designs. The Space Echo was a fixture in reggae recording studios where its fat, organic-sounding repeats were a go-to effect with dub-style producers. In designing the RE-20, Boss engineers have painstakingly captured the magnetic tape-generated saturation and flutter effects of the original Space Echo. Now you can capture and modulate all that spaciousness using the RE-20’s expression pedal to control repeat, rate, and intensity parameters, handsfree. Like the original, a big rotary selector accesses all 12 modes that can go from mild to wild using the Repeat Rate, Intensity, and Echo Volume controls. You can then further shape your output with the Bass, Treble, and Reverb Volume knobs, giving you far more versatility than an original Space Echo.
TC Electronic Echobrain
Delay lovers on a tight budget should give the TC Electronic Echobrain a close look. It’s an amazingly capable little stomp with a very easy price tag. Real analog bucket-brigade circuitry with up to 300ms delays and an all-analog signal path recreate the sounds of classic vintage delays. True bypass keeps your signal unaffected when the Echobrain is switched out of your signal chain Time, Mix, and Repeats knobs quickly shape your effect into anything from subtle ambience expansion to astounding self-generated oscillations.
Not sure which delay is right for you? Call a Musician’s Friend Gear Head at 800-449-9128 for expert, friendly advice.