There have been a number of new Analog Delay Pedals released this year and with the most recent release of the Bondi Effects Art Van Delay - I thought it opportune to do a round-up. When I last featured 12 of the Best Analog Delays - I covered pedals of all sizes - while here I’m just focusing on the compact enclosure ones. In fact I’ve made a slight concession towards the Stone Deaf Syncopy which is slightly over-sized - or the same size as its tremendous Tremotron Tremolo sibling which I already have - and which sits quite nicely in amongst the other compacts - it is a little larger in all dimensions but not uncomfortably so.
All these pedals are of the Bucket Brigade Devices chip type and depending on how many of those chips they use - range from capabilities of longest delay time being 300ms (Way Huge Smalls Aqua-Puss) to longest delay time of 1200ms (Bondi Effects Art Van Delay). Typically each chip can carry approximately 300ms of time delay - these are quite pricey chips, and therefore the price is in direct correlation with the number of chips used typically - I’ve included the Millisecond delay time after the pricing of each.
I see these as roughly fitting into 3 sub-categories - basic, tap-tempo and feature rich - with the Art Van Delay, Thermae, Fluid Time MKII and Syncopy all offering quite a bit more than the basic delay + modulation. There’s obviously still a big demand for these, while I could not be without my Empress EchoSystem Delay Workstation.
I think the perennial big-sellers here are the Boss DM-2w and MXR Carbon Copy, and based on the price-points I don’t see that changing any day soon. Players who want something a touch more than those two might look to the new Art Van Delay, but it’s a good twice the price - so there won’t be quite as many takers. I also watched the That Pedal Show review of the recent JHS Panther Cub V2 - where they were a touch disappointed by the lack of a Modulation Depth Control - which the Art Van Delay and Sycnopy for instance do have.
I think what you get here depends on how deep your wallet is, and how ’talented’ or feature-rich you want your delay to be - a lot of people seem to be just looking for something basic - while I find tap-tempo is kind of essential for these type of pedals. I’ve sort of cheekily included the Chase Bliss Audio Thermae here in place of its slightly plainer Tonal Recall RKM brother. The Thermae departs a little from the norm by being a Pitch-Shifting Delay - with lots of clever wobbly modulation to add to its more standard tap-tempo delay - It is also considerably the most expensive on offer here.
I personally don’t have a particular need for one of these specific analog delays, but if I were looking to get one - I would want tap-tempo, and therefore I would consider the Art Van Delay, Thermae, Panther Cub V2, Fluid Time MKII and Syncopy. I’m a sucker for Chase Bliss Audio - so if money was no object then I would no doubt go for that, the Panther Cub’s lack of Modulation Depth may count against it, so beside the Thermae I would take my pick from the remaining three which all offer something distinct and individual. Recalling how much I love my Stone Deaf Tremotron, I would probably go for the Syncopy as being the best mix of features for the price.
Pedals are pictured / listed alphabetically by brand as always.
OK - so this one is finally out and up for sale at a rather princely $399 / £316 on Reverb.com. When I previewed this I thought it might threaten the Boss DM-2w and MXR Carbon copy - but it's priced at twice the level those are, and with its tap-tempo and USB-updateable firmware offers significant advantages over those bestsellers. The Art Van also does a cool oscillation feedback thing by holding down the tap-tempo footswitch, while if you hold down the Bypass footswitch you can select between two presets - which is not quite as good as the Syncopy's 4 but will be plenty enough for most. I find this a really smart pedal with just the right overlap between simplicity and features. I do reckon though that the Syncopy may just pip it overall on a head-to-head though.
Boss's classic analog delay is still enduringly popular - and I feel still sharing the spoils with the MXR Carbon Copy as the most popular of the analog delays. It used to be go with the MXR if you want modulation, but now there are quite a few more alternatives in the market - with all the slightly more clever pedals a little bit more expensive. So it depends really how simple you want things, and how much you like the core tone of the delay. Lots of people like the 'darkness' of analog delays and want them as dark as possible - and plenty of these have no tone control either to adjust. There's legions of fans that love the tone and simplicity of the Boss, and no doubt Boss will continue to sell a reasonable chunk of these.
I originally had the Tonal Recall RKM on this slot - which has recently come down in price a tiny touch. But I thought if you're going to go for a Chase Bliss style analog delay - you may as well go with the pitch-shifting-delay-wonder that is the Thermae. This is obviously the most leftfield choice here, but actually also the only one that properly makes sense for me really as I already have an amazing Empress EchoSystem Delay Workstation that handles every single delay I would ever want. The Thermae is the only one here that gives me something genuinely different. It is of course not for everyone, and requires some due diligence and a patient approach - but as with all Chase Bliss pedals can be extremely rewarding if you are prepared to give it the right amount of time. I'm a big fan of Joel Korte, and pretty much like all of his pedals, although the delay ones make the least amount of sense for my stereo rig. This is quite a different flavour though and I could make use of it as primarily a really interesting modulation with added time-based-effects - really cool in any case, but pricey!
EHX's legendary Memory Man pedals are still the benchmark for many for that kind of early analog delay - and this is the smallest format for that. There's an ongoing dialogue about which are the best Memory Man BBD Chips - with Xvive having recently taken up chip-making duties for this line of pedals. Many are of the opinion that vintage is best, but a growing number is also professing love for the new chips, and the core Memory Man tone is still there - whether it's exactly your chosen version is up to higher levels of science than I care to offer here. The Memory Man / Boy / Toy nonetheless has a very distinctive delay voicing which is still much copied. This is the lowest cost option available here and definitely worth a look-in.
I've mentioned this Baroni Lab / Gurus Amps collaboration a few times, and there's no doubt that these are pretty cool pedals at a reasonable price. Even thought it says Echosex Baby it really has very little to do with the multi-head tape delay of the original inspiration - it is however though a very pleasant modulated delay. I still feel they should have included tap-tempo really - I feel all new delay pedals at £100 or over should consider using tap-tempo it's such an essential feature of using delays vs tweaking a speed/rate dial to match bpm. In fact one thing I feel all these are lacking is a simple 6 character LED indicating milliseconds or bpm - no sure why no one is doing that at this level. In any case the Echosex Baby is a good looking and good sounding delay at the right sort of price for most.
I really liked the look of this pedal when it was first introduced - a really smart piece of miniaturisation from the previous enclosure size. However, after watching the recent That Pedal Show I wonder if Scott did not miss a trick by leaving out a Modulation Depth control or at the very least having a 3-way toggle - a little | quite a bit | lots ! Modulation is very much a personal taste thing - and there are different usage scenarios where sometimes you want a lot, and other times just a faint touch for effect. So having the modulation component as a somewhat binary option on an otherwise pretty feature-rich pedal may definitely put some off - while there are other pedals which do largely the same thing. There's no doubt that this is a great sounding and versatile pedal - it's just that many will more likely gravitate towards the Art Van Delay or the Syncopy.
Maxon unfortunately often comes across as Ibanez's lesser favoured step-sister, when it was Maxon who engineered many of Ibanez's classic pedals originally - including of course the TS808. They still produce a quality range of pristine analog effects - tending towards the simpler end of things functionality-wise, but very high quality and with the finest of components. With the smaller range of delay on offer (450ms) at said price point this comes across as a little bit of an oddity - almost regardless of how good it sounds. I feel it would be more relevant and successful therefor at a slightly keener price point - it does though have a tap-tempo button which has to account for something!
This is probably still The best selling analog delay out there, but has increasing competition nowadays - there's nothing to complain about here - everything it does it does really well, and it is the industry standard for that reason. Personally though I would really like tap-tempo, and the bigger-size Carbon Copy with tap-tempo is rather too large for me - not sure why they did not squeeze all that into a compact enclosure (like JHS managed) - it would have been killer at that size, while at medium enclosure size there is a lot more competition with significantly richer feature sets. You can also get the 'Bright' version of the Carbon Copy which is significantly less dark, and right now there is a Limited Edition I Love Dust colourway version with very colourful graphics.
Those looking at a Carbon Copy may wish to pay a little more for a little more. The Vapor Trail is a great little analog delay with all the necessary dials - including Modulation Depth - so Dan and Mick will definitely like it! This pedal is for some reason frequently overlooked, but I think I would prefer to get a little more control versus the Carbon Copy - I guess if the price was a little closer it would be more competitive.
Stone Deaf's new delay pedal is in the same format enclosure as the amazing Tremotron Tremolo - and carries across all that same smart control topology - with secondary functions, presets etc. After the Thermae this is probably my second favourite pedal pictured here - it just pips the Art Van Delay for overall smarts, although that does have an ace up its sleeve with the USB-updateable firmware (TC Electronic style!).
I'm a big fan of the Sinvertek pedals which always carry a tonne of smart functionality which looks more complicated than it usually is. I think the extra bells and whistles here seem to rather put a few people off than draw them in - which is a shame really as this pedal is really capable. It really does depend though if you can and would make use of those extra features.
I am delighted to see the Way Huge pedals come down in size for more practical pedalboard-freindlinesss, but I'm a touch perplexed by the price-point on this one - I know this particular tone is much liked by many, but with such a short maximum delay it competes somewhat poorly against the two bestsellers. I'm not going to say that this is in any way poor value, as it is a certain known quantity. I would just have thought it would make more sense to have the price point a touch closer to the industry leaders - especially when you are offering less overall!
I can see the appeal in analog delays in terms of the dark organic tone, albeit none of the above pedals is suitable for my own rig - bar the possible exception of the Thermae, used more as a modulation rather than a pure delay. I already have what I believe is the ultimate 'Magic Box' delay workstation - the Empress EchoSystem which is not only Stereo, but allows for dual simultaneous delay effects split in stereo if you so wish. It has several modelled analogue modes also - including a Memory Man one - and I really don't get caught up on whether it sounds 100% exactly the same - just whether it gets me close enough - and the EchoSystem certainly gets me close enough to everything I would want - well, apart from the TimeLine's Ice mode which is the only algorithm I'm really missing currently.
Of all those pedals on offer in this category the Thermae is easily the cleverest (and priciest) and followed by the Syncopy, Art Van Delay and Fluid Time II probably in that order. I still don't think there is anything wrong with the Boss DM-2w or MXR Carbon Copy - both are still well loved - but it may be worth your while looking into the Vapor Trail also. Finally the newish JHS Panther Cub V2 is also a fine sounding tap-tempo delay with just one flaw - whether or not that is important to you.
As I mentioned in passing above I like the ability to be able to set delay in Milliseconds or BPM and I really miss that functionality from the TimeLine which I still have, but is a somewhat distant understudy to my EchoSystem - I think it would be really neat if someone came out with a smaller compact pedal with a single dial and 6 character LED to cover that - clicking on the dial would switch between MS and BM - or Milliseconds and BPM. Other than all that - it's pretty much all the same as it every was!