Guitar effects can be easily described as the accessories you add to the sound your instrument produces. They are designed to enhance and flavor one’s sonic output according to the player’s preferences. If your guitar is the palette of colors an artist uses, then these effects are the tools, color-mixing skills, and brushes you use to give shape to your creativity.
Such devices will thus get you new and different sounds in various musical contexts. They do come in a variety of models as far as the effects provided are concerned. Delay guitar effects are part of the most popular ones in this field. If you’re new to this and want to learn more about what such devices can do, you might find this post to be of help.
The guitar effects available these days are divided into several categories depending on the way they work and the effects they create. You will thus find overdrive and distortion effects, pitch-shift effects, modulation effects, and time-based effects, just to name a few.
Delay effects are part of the so-called time-based effects that are designed to split the signal output of your guitar into two identical signals and hold one of them back while the other one is playing in real time. These two signals will then be mixed back into one for the output.
Delay pedals will delay the playback of your guitar signal and allow you to take advantage of the distance between the original sound and the duplicated one. You can thus use such a pedal to repeat the original sound several times and control the time between these repetitions.
However, you can create delay effects using different units and methods. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, they were created using tape loops. Nowadays, they are created with analog and digital effects pedals and audio software plugins.
A short history of delay effects
The journey of these effects started around 1940s when players experimented with reel-to-reel magnetic recording systems and achieved delay effects using tape loops improvised on such systems. They thus found that different delay types could be produced by changing the loop length (shortening or lengthening it) and by adjusting the read and write heads.
This led to the release of tape echoes in the 1950s, which allowed musicians to change the distance between the tape record and playback heads and thus adjust the length of the delay. The first delays had their drawbacks, though, as they were tape-based and thus required huge tape decks. They had limited portability and prerecorded sounds were needed for them to work. This meant that they could not be used live as they were not real-time.
These downsides and the desire to improve delay effects accelerated their evolution and thus between the 1950s and the 1970s, several portable real-time analog delays were released. They were mostly tape-based and included the now famous Echoplex EP-2, Vox Echomatic, and Roland Space Echo.
The 1970s witnessed the dawn of digital reverb racks, which later led to the release of Boss DD2 in 1984, otherwise known as the first digital delay pedal. This unit featured an analog to digital converter that allowed the sound to be temporarily stored in the buffer storage and then repeated.
The audio racks evolved into digital reverb units and into digital multi-effects units that provided more sophisticated effects including the reverb effects. In the early 2000s, this industry was further developed with software-based delay systems that offer great flexibility as well as enhanced control over the delay parameters.
Delay pedal features
Today’s market is home to a generous selection of delay pedals and the highly recommended models we found boast features that take the delay experience to a whole new level. All delay pedals come with Time, Feedback, and Level controls.
Thanks to the Time control, you can adjust the length of time between two repetitions of your signal that is measured in milliseconds. A delay pedal typically offers different time ranges so you can choose the one that best suits your needs.
You can then use the Feedback control to select the number of repetitions. As you turn up this control, the number of repeats will increase. If you keep it at its lowest level, you will get only one repeat. To control the volume of the repetitions, you will have to use the Level knob. If you want to hear no repeat, then you should simply set it to the lowest level.
Variants of delay effects
Once you master these controls, you can use a delay pedal to create various effects. Some of the most popular ones include the doubling effect, slapback echo, flanging, chorus, and reverb effects as well as the straight delays.
Doubling effects are popular and can be achieved relatively easily. By using a subtle delay, you will actually thicken the sound you produce and all you have to do to enjoy this is to set the Time control between 50 and 100 ms, adjust the Feedback level to provide only a repeat or two, and set the Level all the way up. In case you’d like to produce pseudo chorusing sounds, you will have to lower the delay time to 20-50 ms.
For a reverb effect, you need to set the Time control between 100 and 200 ms and the Level knob at about 50 percent. Plus, the Feedback should be set to deliver 5 repeats. If you set the Time control to 80–140 ms, the Feedback to get you only one repeat, and the Level knob at about 50 percent, the slapback echo will be created.
The sonic possibilities a delay pedal is capable of are countless and they will help you explore the realm of sounds according to your creativity and personality. Plus, the models available for sale these days offer even more features and make it easier to experiment with effects. Whether you’re new to this or an advanced player, such effects are worth trying.