Want to add more texture, expression and excitement to your guitar sound? Then getting yourself one of the best delay pedals might be the easiest way to do it. There is so much you can do with a delay pedal, which is why pretty much all of the biggest players in the world have had some sort of love affair with one.
Music from the likes of U2, Radiohead, Rage Against The Machine, Muse, Guns N Roses and loads more just wouldn’t be the same without a delay pedal. You can use it subtly just to widen your guitar sound slightly, or you crank up the repeats and the level for more extreme sounds. The best delay pedals offer a ton of different sounds all within one unit so are useful for players playing any genre of music.
The best delay pedals can also help inspire creativity. Using one might take your solos in a different direction, or, with the level turned up, you can use it as a sort of loop pedal and come up with some cool riffs that would have been previously impossible to do. However you plan on using it, there’s going to be a delay pedal out there that suits you.
We’ve rounded up our favorites in this guide, and added a handy buying advice section at the end of the article to guide you further.
Best delay pedals: The quick list
If you're looking for the best delay pedals without having to scroll through walls of text, we've picked out our favorites here, with links to read more if you want to.
An update to arguably the most popular delay pedal ever made, the Boss DD-3T is an icon of the stompbox world and still one of the best delay pedals money can buy.
The original DL4 is pretty much the sound of the noughties, and the Line 6 DL4 MkII takes everything that was great about the original and turns everything up a notch.
Best tape delay
Based upon one of the all-time classic delay machines, the Boss RE-202 Space Echo is one of the best tape delay emulations we've ever heard. Vintage tones packed with modern versatility.
If you want an analog delay tone, it doesn't get much better than the MXR Carbon Copy. The warm wash makes it great for various styles, and it pairs with other pedals beautifully.
Run from it, hide from it, the Strymon Timeline was always going to make this list. Packed full of sounds yet easy to use, it's the perfect gigging workhorse delay pedal.
The best delay pedals 2023
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Here you'll find full writeups and reviews of the best delay pedals available today. We've tested loads of the options here, so you can rely on our recommendations.
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 digital delay
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 tape delay
Based upon one of the legendary delay machines of music history, the Boss RE-202 Space Echo gives guitarists the sound of a Roland RE-201 in a compact form, minus any of the associated hardware maintenance costs. Carefully constructed using a pristine, original RE-201, this incredible tape delay is about as close as most of us will get to the real deal.
One of the things that draws guitarists to tape delays is the organic and sometimes unpredictable sounds it can create. Whereas with the original tape machine, you’d be at the mercy of its idiosyncrasies, with the RE-202 you have full control over the Wow, Flutter, and saturation sounds, as well as the ability to adjust the individual tape heads - something not possible with the original.
What it adds up to is probably the most accurate Space Echo sound we’ve ever heard, and undeniably one of the best tape delay pedals going. There’s loads of connectivity too, so you can use an expression pedal to control parameters, including the famous feedback into oscillation. It runs in stereo or mono and features MIDI control too.
Read the full Boss Space Echo RE-202 review
Best analog delay
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 for versatility
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 budget option
If you want the analog, BBD experience but don't want to pay a premium for the privilege, then the TC Electronic Echobrain is an excellent option. Priced insanely competitively, like much of TC's offerings, you get a lot of pedal for your money here.
The sound here is very organic and one of the things that really impressed us was the level of flexibility in the knobs. From super-fast stuttering to infinite oscillation, there's a lot of expressivity available here. There's a lot of color in the repeats, great for psychedelic and lo-fi sounds.
The enclosure is a little larger than your typical Boss stompbox, but it's by no means huge. Top jacks make wiring it into your existing pedalboard a breeze and the only downside we could find was that the switch activates on release rather than your initial press down, which you can get around by replacing the switch or slightly adjusting your playing style.
Here you'll find more of our favorite delay pedals. If you didn't find what you were looking for out of our top picks, don't worry there are still load of great options for you!
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.
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
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.
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.
One of the Strymon pedals to get an update recently, the Strymon El Capistan V2 just got even better. It's a phenomenal tape delay emulation, with loads of player and performance-friendly options.
With several different tape-head options to emulate classic tape-echo units, as well as controls for wow, 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.
We love the addition of the dedicated spring reverb knob and MIDI implementation makes it all the more usable, a much-needed update for modern players. Ultimately there's not a huge difference between the V1 and V2, whichever you go for it's still an incredible tape delay pedal.
Read the full Strymon El Capistan DTape Echo review
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
To get his signature sound, Andy Timmons would run two EHX Memory Man analog delay pedals with foot-operable levers that allowed him to adjust settings on the fly. It was an ingenious idea but for most guitar players, totally inconvenient. Enter the Keeley Halo Andy Timmons Signature Dual Echo, which delivers that superb echo tone in a standard stompbox format.
Preset number one is that signature Timmons sound to a tee, with a warm chorus effect on the repeats that’s compressed and saturated to perfection. It’s a great sound that warrants repeat playing, but this pedal is no one trick pony. Whether you want a slapback echo, tape-style repeats, or even a more modern digital delay sound the Halo can handle it.
There’s an expression pedal input that allows you to control various parameters, perfect for ramping up the mix level without any levers. It runs in stereo and whilst you won’t get a typical ping-pong delay, there’s a beautiful width to the modulated repeats that sways from side to side, leaving your dry signal in the middle as it was. Finally, a bank of presets lets you save your own tones, just make sure you don’t overwrite Andy’s sound in preset one.
Universal Audio are one of the biggest names in music production and their more recent foray into the world of guitar pedals has upheld the incredibly high standard that they’re known for. The UAD Starlight offers players stereo tape, analog and digital style delay sounds, all of which are incredible.
Boasting a dual processor design, the Starlight authentically replicates the sound and response of some of the most cherished delay hardware in the world, namely a 60s Echoplex, an old Deluxe Memory Man as well more pristine digital delays that have come from Universal Audio’s rich history of sound sculpting. You’ve got plenty of parameter control on the pedal, but you can link the pedal with your phone and use the UAFX Control app – here you can select between true and buffered bypass, turn preamp coloration on and off, as well as alter what the footswitches do.
Read the full Universal Audio Starlight review
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
Analog vs digital delay: what’s the difference?
All delay pedals can be basically put into one of two categories – analog and digital. The first ever delay units used tape to replay the guitar signal – we’ve come a long way from there (though these do still exist), with analog delay pedals superseding these.
Analog delays utilize something called a bucket brigade chip. The guitar signal passes through the capacitors within this, which slows it down, or delays it. The sound is often referred to as dark, or lo-fi – your delayed guitar signal’s tone isn’t exactly the same as your dry tone. As you turn up the repeats, you’ll hear the tone slowly degrading, sometimes becoming more ‘warbley’. This unique sound is preferred by many players as it’s full of character. You can also get analog delay pedals to self-oscillate which can be really cool.
Digital delay pedals can replicate your guitar tone pristinely, as many times as you like. Some describe this as sterile sounding, but it’s really subjective and it’s whatever you like the sound of and what works for the music that you play. Many digital delays can also replicate the sound of analog and even older tape units. It might not be the ‘real thing’, but with many of the top end digital delays, it’s pretty much impossible to tell.
Other features to consider
When shopping for the best delay pedal, you’ll want to consider what it is you want out of it. If you’re needing a delay sound to kick on and off now and again for certain sections of your set, or just to play around with, then a single footswitch unit with a few knobs will do just the trick.
However, some players will want a little more. Bigger and more feature-laden delay pedals have multiple footswitches – these can let you change between different preset delay settings. Some have a tap tempo switch – this lets you tap the tempo with your foot so that you can easily get the delay time you’re after, or match your delay with the bpm of the music you’re playing along to.
A delay pedal with a load of knobs on it means you’ve got the ability to really tweak and personalize the sound exactly to your liking. Some let you alter not just how many repeats you hear and how loudly, but also the tone of the delay, how it decays and more.
Read more about how how we test products and services and how we make our recommendations.
How we choose the best delay pedals
Here at Guitar World, our team of writers consists of seasoned musicians with a shared passion for all things delay. Many of us use the delay pedals on this list in our own rigs, so we bring our collective experience from live performances, studio recordings, and a genuine love for experimenting with sonic landscapes.
When it comes to selecting the best delay pedals, we delve into nuances such as delay types, versatility, build quality, and how each pedal integrates into different musical contexts. We've rigorously tested these pedals in a diverse array of sonic settings, from dialing in ambient dreamscapes to fattening up gritty rock riffs. Our recommendations go beyond the specs to ensure they meet the demands of amateur enthusiasts and professional players.
Each recommendation results from meticulous testing and a commitment to providing insights that resonate with the diverse needs of guitarists, from those diving into their first pedalboard to seasoned players seeking that next dimension of tone. The writers at Guitar World are here to be your companion in navigating the expansive world of delay pedals, helping you achieve the perfect sound for your musical journey.
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