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Best delay pedals 2022: 12 top delays to give your tone new life

Boss DM-2W on the floor of a venue
(Image credit: Future)

Buying one of the best delay pedals for your setup has to be one of the most exciting pedal purchases you can make as a guitarist. You see, there's nothing quite as exciting, expressive or dynamic as a delay pedal. Add a slight echo to your tone, and you change the vibe of your guitar playing into something much fuller-sounding than before. Repeat a phrase at unity volume, and you effectively have a looper at your disposal. These are just a couple of the almost infinite ways you can use one of the best delay pedals to bring your playing to life.

Let’s put it another way; players from The Edge, to Tom Morello, to Matt Bellamy, and Johnny Greenwood would not have been able to create the music they did without delay effects.

The first echo effects used tape loops to replay the guitar signal, before bucket-brigade analogue delay pedals took over, due to greater reliability and lower cost. Modern digital delays go far beyond their ancestors, both in sound and functionality. 

If you're unsure where to start, then don't worry - we've rounded-up some of the best options in this guide for you to check out. If you'd like to read more about the best delay pedals, we've included some expert buying advice at the end of this guide. If you'd rather get to the products, then keep scrolling.

Best delay pedals: Our top picks

If you want a no-frills analog delay pedal that doesn't cost the earth, the TC Electronic Echobrain (opens in new tab) is a good place to start. It's simple, sounds good, and even blends well with other delays and reverbs in case you later add more FX to your pedalboard, or indeed if you are looking to add a delay pedal to your current board. That said, the Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy (opens in new tab) and Boss DM-2W (opens in new tab) are both worth considering if your budget can stretch to them.

If you want a simple digital delay, then the Boss DD-3T (opens in new tab) is our top recommendation right now. The DD-3 has been a staple for three decades for a reason, and the addition of tap-tempo just makes it that much better.

If you fancy a bigger delay unit, it’s a toss up between the Boss-DD-500 (opens in new tab) or the Strymon Timeline (opens in new tab)

Without tweaking the stock sounds, we think the Strymon patches are a little better voiced, and offer more instant gratification. But on the options side, the DD-500 has comparable sound quality once dialed in, delivers a great UI with lots of options, and some market-leading stereo and parallel settings once you've updated the firmware. It's also a little cheaper, so if we had to pick only one best delay pedal out of the two, the DD-500 wins by a hair.

Best delay pedals: Product guide

Best delay pedals: Boss DD-3T

(Image credit: Boss)

1. Boss DD-3T

The classic delay pedal

Specifications

Type: Digital delay
Bypass: Buffered
Tap- tempo: Yes
Modes/patches: 4

Reasons to buy

+
Builds on a classic
+
Pristine delays
+
Added tap-tempo input

Reasons to avoid

-
An extra $20 gets you access to the DD-8's extra sounds over the DD-3T

The Boss DD-3 has been the staple digital delay for 30 years, and the reason is no secret - it simply sounds amazing. Pristine delays, a pleasant overall timbre, and an EQ profile that works equally well in a band context or studio mix, make this a no-brainer for everybody from bedroom musicians to pros.

With the latest update, Boss has improved the base functionality of the DD-3 by adding a tap-tempo input, allowing you to use an external tap source to control the delay.

Read the full Boss DD-3T review

Best delay pedals: TC Electronic Echobrain

(Image credit: TC Electronic)

2. TC Electronic Echobrain

No frills, no downside

Specifications

Type: Analog delay
Bypass: Buffered
Tap- tempo: No
Modes/patches: N/A

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value
+
Great first delay
+
Sturdily built

Reasons to avoid

-
Less versatile than others on the list

If you want the analog, BBD experience but don't want to pay a premium for the privilege, then the TC Echobrain is an excellent option.

Intuitive, robust build quality and no slouch in the sounds department, it's an ideal first delay or stacking delay for ambient soundscape use, for example; or for if you want another timbre of delay on your board and you already own a digital delay.

Best delay pedals: Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy

(Image credit: Electro-Harmonix)

3. Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy

Slimmed-down options, same great sound

Specifications

Type: Analog delay
Bypass: Buffered
Tap- tempo: No
Modes/patches: 5

Reasons to buy

+
Small but powerful
+
Fantastic core tone
+
Affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
A darker option

The Memory Boy is Electro-Harmonix's mid-range analog offering. As you'd expect from an analog delay, it's dark but characterful, giving a lush and organic delay sound. In terms of parameters, it's small but powerful, with modulation built in, and several modes to change the character of the modulation applied to the echoes.

It's not as immediately recognizable as the Boss or MXR analog delays, but the combination of value for money, extra options and excellent core tone make it a winner.

Best delay pedals: Boss DM-2W

(Image credit: Boss)

4. Boss DM-2W

The original and best... reborn

Specifications

Type: Analog delay
Bypass: Buffered
Tap-tempo: No
Modes/patches: 2

Reasons to buy

+
Can be controlled by expression pedal
+
Great for experimentation
+
A classic, improved

Reasons to avoid

-
Too dark for some 

The Boss DM-2 and DM-3 analog delays are, quite simply, among the best-sounding delay pedals ever made. So it came as little surprise that one of Boss's first targets for its boutique Waza craft range was the DM-2.

With a glorious dark echo tone that works on record or live, and pairing excellently with other delays and drive pedals, the DM-2 is hours of fun, and can even be controlled via an expression pedal for added space-cadet madness.

Read the full Boss DM-2W review

Best delay pedals: TC Electronic Flashback 2

(Image credit: TC Electronic)

5. TC Electronic Flashback 2

Options galore and expressions, too

Specifications

Type: Digital delay
Bypass: Buffered
Tap-tempo: Yes
Modes/patches: 11

Reasons to buy

+
Great tweakability
+
Range of presets
+
Great value

Reasons to avoid

-
Mash function is tricky to use

With a decent range of presets that cover all the basics - analog delay, tape echo, a pristine digital mode and some more sound effect-type delays, the TC Flashback 2 is an impressive piece of kit for the money.

In addition to the basic feature list, it has user presets assignable via TC's powerful Toneprint software, as well as a hardware expression pedal built in. That said, the expression, or mash functionality, can be a bit tricky to use in practice.

The sounds are solid, with a good range of user-tweakable options, and the delays themselves never stray into brittle territory, keeping a warm, organic timbre whatever the patch.

Best delay pedals: Strymon Timeline

(Image credit: Strymon)

6. Strymon Timeline

If money is no object...

Specifications

Type: Digital Delay
Bypass: Buffered
Tap tempo: Yes
Modes/patches: 12

Reasons to buy

+
Top user interface
+
Fantastic sound quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Outpaced by other units

The Strymon Timeline was the first big-box delay to offer truly studio-grade tone, with a range of excellent patches and signal processing that could go toe-to-toe with studio rack delay units.

The user interface is slick, with plenty of options accessible on the front panel, but it has to be said that firmware updates to some of its competitors have left it somewhat behind in power-user features that are accessible to the menu-diving obsessives on units such as the DD-500.

However, the bottom line is that if your main concern is the highest quality sounds possible, with the simplest interface, it's hard to argue against the Timeline.

Best delay pedals: Electro-Harmonix Canyon

(Image credit: Electro-Harmonix)

7. Electro-Harmonix Canyon

Powerful, small, affordable

Specifications

Type: Digital delay
Bypass: Buffered
Tap- tempo: No
Modes/patches: 11

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile range of delays
+
A super creative tool
+
Tap tempo is handy

Reasons to avoid

-
A little rough and ready

With an array of patches covering everything from tape echo to shimmer and octave delays, the Electro-Harmonix Canyon is a solid choice if you want to cover a lot of ground.

The overall voicing feels less 'studio' and pristine than some of the other units on this list, but it's a lot of fun to use and works for its intended use - inspiring your creativity as a player.

There's an additional tap-in, as well as buttons on the top panel, meaning it's easy to dial in precise tempos on the fly with an external tap source.

Read the full Electro-Harmonix Canyon review

Best delay pedals: Boss DD-500

(Image credit: Boss)

8. Boss DD-500

The most versatile workhorse in the game

Specifications

Type: Digital delay
Bypass: Buffered
Tap- tempo: Yes
Modes/patches: 12

Reasons to buy

+
Incredibly powerful
+
Infinitely tweakable
+
Huge scope

Reasons to avoid

-
An expensive unit compared with others on this list
-
Overkill if you need a basic delay 

On release, the DD-500 even pipped the Strymon Timeline to the post in terms of raw audio quality - although it's debatable which has the better patches. The Boss unit's are endlessly tweakable, both on the pedal itself or via software on a computer, but the real gamechanger for it was its post-release firmware updates.

With these, it goes from a unit offering two switchable patches and a user-assignable switch to one capable of having either three switchable patches at once, or two serial, parallel or stereo parallel patches at once - a complete revelation in power.

What does this mean in practice? Well, put simply, it means that the DD-500 can take the place of two pedals on your board; but it can also do shoegaze-heaven parallel delays panned left and right - ideal if you're running two amps, and for many other niche delay setups beside.

Best delay pedals: Strymon El Capistan

(Image credit: Strymon)

9. Strymon El Capistan

The king of tape emulations

Specifications

Type: Digital delay
Bypass: Buffered
Tap-tempo: Yes
Modes/patches: 3

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing tape emulation
+
Goes from clean to grimey

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as cheap as others here

For the best tape-echo emulation on the market, Strymon may have bested themselves with the new Volante, but the smaller form factor and equally excellent sounds of the El Cap have us still recommending this over its bigger-box cousin.

With several different tape-head options to emulate classic tape-echo units, as well as controls for wow and flutter, and tape age, the El Cap can do everything from a very clean, forward-sounding tape echo for use in clean pop, to a much grimier, darker echo tone ideal for ambient and shoegaze.

Best delay pedals: MXR Carbon Copy

(Image credit: MXR Carbon Copy)

10. MXR Carbon Copy

Pure, lush analog delay

Specifications

Type: Analog delay
Bypass: Buffered
Tap- tempo: No
Modes/patches: 2

Reasons to buy

+
Built-in modulation
+
Distinctive sound
+
Stackable

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited to certain genres

With its gorgeous built-in modulation, the MXR Carbon Copy is a superbly distinctive- sounding pedal. Although it shines when used for a variety of different uses, it's probably most at home in the shoegaze, dream pop and ambient genres, even cropping up on a lot of post-rock guitarists' pedalboards.

As you'd expect, it's a heavy-hitter on its own, but it also stacks well with other delays and creates gorgeous pad-like echoes when put after a drive.

Read the full MXR Carbon Copy Mini review

Best delay pedals: Line 6 DL4 MKII

(Image credit: Line 6)
A delay classic gets a modern upgrade

Specifications

Type: Digital delay
Bypass: Buffered
Tap- tempo: Yes
Modes/patches: 30

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding sounds, including top-quality reverb
+
Redesigned chassis is more compact
+
Expanded looping capability
+
Easy to use

Reasons to avoid

-
Some players will prefer the larger format of the original 

At this point, you could probably call the original Line 6 DL4 a classic pedal. This rather giant delay pedal changed many player's perceptions of digital stompboxes and turned the entire pedal world on its head. 

So, with the original being released way back in 2000, we were well overdue for an upgrade - enter the Line 6 DL4 MKII. This newly updated - and shrunken down - delay unit most definitely meets our expectations, delivering the traditional delays we've all come to know and love with a few valuable extras. 

The DL4 MkII comes fully loaded with 15 MKII delay sounds as well as  15 Legacy settings. Better yet, you even get an expanded internal memory that allows the looper to record 120 seconds in mono or 60 seconds in stereo! 

Best delay pedals: Fender Hammertone Space Delay

(Image credit: Fender)

12. Fender Hammertone Space Delay

Fender's affordable, true-bypass digital delay

Specifications

Type: Digital delay
Bypass: True-bypass
Tap- tempo: Yes
Modes/patches: 3

Reasons to buy

+
Looks awesome
+
Modulated delay sounds great
+
Simple and easy to operate

Reasons to avoid

-
Don't expect anything too mental

A lot of modern digital delay pedals are covered in dials, screens and switches, and can be confusing and overwhelming at times - but the Space Delay from Fender delivers great delay tones, with none of the extra hassle.

The Space Delay has everything from 'tape' warble and analog style saturation to heavily oscillating atmospheric delay and even more - all from a limited control panel which features time, feedback, level, pattern and modulation controls. The Space Delay also features an analog dry-through to keep your tone sounding pure while the effect is switched on. 

Top mounted input and output jacks, a rugged all-metal enclosure and 9V power requirements make this delay pedal a pedalboard-friendly, ultra giggable pedal.

Best delay pedals: Buying advice

Best delay pedals: Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy

(Image credit: Electro-Harmonix)

Analog vs Digital: which one do I want?

Analog delay pedals work by using a so-called Bucket Brigade chip, a capacitor array that gives them a distinctively dark sound that's increasingly lo-fi when you apply longer delay settings. If you turn up the feedback, you'll find that these can be easily coerced into infinite feedback and auto-oscillation.

Digital delays are generally more pristine in timbre. Depending on who you ask, you might hear them described as brighter or even clinical. Some, like the Boss DD-3, DD-5 and DD-6, deliver a distinctive tone of their own that sits somewhere between clinical and the darker, grungier tone of an analog delay.

Digital emulations of delays have become commonplace with modern signal processing, and it's not unusual to see larger delay units emulating not only classic analog delays, but also tape echoes and other types of delay.

Finally, there exists a somewhat hazier group of digital delays that aren't trying to emulate other sounds, but instead do something radically new. They tend to be relatively niche, and it's a deep rabbit hole to venture down, but here we're thinking about pedals like the Montreal Assembly Count to Five, the Catalinbread CSIDMAN, the Red Panda Particle and others. If you've already got the basics covered, then a more out there delay could spark some needed inspiration in your rig.

Read more about how how we test products and services and how we make our recommendations.

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