“While Les Paul may not have been the first to use tape for echo effects, he was certainly at the forefront”: The history of delay, from studio guitar reel-to-reel experiments to Line 6 and the rise of digital

Roland RE-201 Space Echo
(Image credit: Future)

When we talk about echo, it might make you think of vintage effects, which may be dirty, distorted and lo-fi in character. In contrast, ‘delay’ started becoming the standard term when digital technology made it possible to manufacture cleaner and quieter-sounding effects with a full frequency range and longer delay times – as found on many modern delay pedals.

Whatever the nature of the effect, delay mimics something you might experience in a large empty building or a canyon. The time interval between a sound being generated and the sound that bounces back is long enough for the ‘echo’ to be heard as clear and distinct repeats. 

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Huw Price

Huw started out in recording studios, working as a sound engineer and producer for David Bowie, Primal Scream, Ian Dury, Fad Gadget, My Bloody Valentine, Cardinal Black and many others. His book, Recording Guitar & Bass, was published in 2002 and a freelance career in journalism soon followed. He has written reviews, interviews, workshop and technical articles for Guitarist, Guitar Magazine, Guitar Player, Acoustic Magazine, Guitar Buyer and Music Tech. He has also contributed to several books, including The Tube Amp Book by Aspen Pittman. Huw builds and maintains guitars and amplifiers for clients, and specializes in vintage restoration. He provides consultancy services for equipment manufacturers and can, occasionally, be lured back into the studio.