Best Delay Pedals in 2021: Top Analog & Digital Recommendations

From U2 and Flock of Seagulls to Incubus and Minus the Bear, countless guitarists rely on this effect for their signature guitar tones. There are hundreds of ways to use this effect in your music, from spacey soundscapes to buttery smooth lead tones. 

Today, we’ll take a closer look at what delay is, how it works and how to use it. We’ll also check out the best delay pedals available. 

best delay pedals

What is the Delay Effect?

Delay is an audio effect that guitar players can use to create a world of unique tones. This effect works by recording what you play into it and then playing it back at a delay.

Guitarists like Les Paul began experimenting with delay in the 1940s, realizing that he could manipulate a magnetic tape machine to produce an interesting new sound effect; the storied tape echo. 

By the 1980s, digital delay circuits allowed guitarists to unlock a world of new tonal possibilities and provided the guitarists with the delay time necessary to create previously unheard-of new effects deep down the tonal rabbit hole.

How Does Delay Affect Tone?

Delay is an interesting effect in the sense that it doesn’t actually change your guitar’s tone. When the effect is engaged, the pedal will repeat back what you’ve just played into it according to the settings on the pedal. Still, the resulting sound does have a profound effect on your tone. 

As the delay repeats what you’ve played, the pedal creates new sonic bedrock for the guitarist to continue to play over. The sound is lush, full, and completely unique. 

Delay can be used to add additional interest and emotion to solos and leads ala The Edge from U2, impart the “slapback” sound of the 50s and 60s that you hear on The Black Keys smash hit “Howlin’ For You,” or create a spacey soundscape in the style of Incubus’ Mike Einzinger. 

How to Choose the Best Delay Pedal for You?

Here are the vital things to consider to find the best delay pedal for your style.

Analog vs. Digital

Choosing between an analog or digital pedal is perhaps the most crucial choice you’ll need to make. 

Players love analog delay pedals for their warm and lively tone. With this delay type, the repeats become a bit warmer and darker with each one, and there’s also a “break up” in which the signal quality degrades a little each time. Guitar pedals like the MXR Carbon Copy and Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy are good examples of this characteristic.

But, an analog delay does have limitations. Guitarists won’t have as much delay time to work with when using an analog device or enjoy the versatility of a multi-mode pedal.

Digital delays rely on digital signal processing to produce their effect. They aren’t quite as warm or musical as an analog delay is. But, they’re capable of producing substantial delay times, different delay styles, and much more. 

Tap Tempo

Tap tempo is one of the handiest features to have with either delay type, and it’s a functional requirement for guitarists who play in bands. This feature is precisely what the name entails. Guitarists can tap the song’s tempo on the footswitch of the pedal, which will sync the delay time of the pedal. Virtually all the best delay pedals offer tap tempo.

Other Delay Pedal Features

Be sure to consider these important features when deciding on the best delay pedal for you. 

Onboard Storage

Many of the best delay pedals feature onboard storage that provides an A/B bank of tones for you to recall for different songs or passages. This feature eliminates the need to have to dial in commonly used settings and allows you to recall them with the push of a button. The Boss DD-500, Strymon TimeLine, and Line 6 DL4 all offer an A/B bank.

Delay Types

With delay guitar pedals, many offer a variety of different delay types that can be incredibly useful. These guitar pedals may be able to replicate analog or tape delay types, and they offer interesting new delay sounds, such as rhythmic or reverse delay, ensuring you have the right type of delay for any situation.

Built-In Looper

A loop function is beneficial, and it can make or break the best delay pedals for singer-songwriters.

Many digital delays include a loop function that allows you to record song passages and loop them back, effectively adding another guitarist into your song and giving you the functionality of two pedals in one.

The Top 12 Best Delay Pedals

Now that you have the info you need to narrow down the best guitar delay pedals for your style, let’s take a closer look at the top delay pedals on the market.

Boss DD-3T Digital Delay Pedal

Most reliable delay pedal

From Dave Grohl to Matthew Bellamy, the DD-3T has become a go-to pedal for alt-rock powerhouses like the Foo Fighters and Muse. 

This pedal combines Boss’ rock-solid reliability with a useful array of features that are sure to delight players looking for a digital pedal with plenty of analog sensibilities. Boss also keeps the bypass buffered to ensure consistency between your wet and dry signal.

The pedal offers controls for level, feedback, and time, and there are four different modes that provide delay times of 50-800ms. There’s also Boss’ famous Hold Mode, which allows you to record short loops up to 800ms long that you can play on-demand.

Features & Specs

  • Type: Digital delay pedal
  • Max delay time: 800ms 
  • Controls for effect level, feedback, time, and mode 
  • Wet and dry outputs
  • Tap tempo input 
  • Bypass: Buffered bypass
  • 9V battery or power supply
  • 5-year warranty

Who Should Use This?

The DD-3 may be the best delay pedal for guitarists who need a workhorse digital delay that offers essential functionality without a ton of bells and whistles. Check out the DD-7 if you need even more delay time.

TC Electronic Echobrain Analog Delay Effect Pedal

Best affordable analog pedal

Analog enthusiasts looking for an affordable delay that’s true to the sound of the 50s-70s are bound to fall in love with the TC Electronic Echobrain.

Analog enthusiasts will be right at home with this simple and easy-to-use stompbox. The Echobrain offers up to 300ms of warm and musical delay that you can tap into with simple controls for time, mix (effect level), and repeats (feedback).

The all-analog Echobrain also features true bypass construction for an entirely colorless signal path and bucket brigade circuitry for plenty of vintage warmth. 

Features & Specs

  • Type: Analog delay pedal
  • Max delay time: 300ms
  • Controls for mix, repeats, and time
  • Bypass: True bypass
  • Traditional bucket brigade circuitry
  • 9V battery or power supply

Who Should Use This?

The Echobrain is the best delay pedal for players looking for an affordable analog delay that offers true bypass switching and loads of warm vintage tone.

Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy

Best analog with mod delay

Built on the framework of EHX’s flagship Memory Man pedal, the Memory Boy provides all the analog delay warmth you could ever want, plus a notable selection of extras that make this one of the most useful analog delays on earth. 

The Memory Boy offers an all-analog signal path and three different modes. Players can choose from delay with chorus, delay with vibrato, or use the pedal in concert with an expression pedal to add even more emotion to your music. There’s also a selector switch to control the shape of the modulation when you’re using vibrato or chorus. 

For an analog pedal, the Electro Harmonix Memory Boy provides a generous helping of delay time, and this pedal provides up to 550ms of delay.

Features & Specs

  • Type: Analog delay pedal
  • Max delay time: 550ms 
  • Controls for delay (time), rate, mod depth, feedback, waveform shape, and modulation type
  • Bypass: True bypass
  • Includes 9V power supply

Who Should Use This?

The EHX Memory Boy is the best delay pedal for guitarists who want an analog option that provides a few useful bells and whistles. With onboard chorus and vibrato and expression pedal compatibility, the Memory Boy is one of the most full-featured analog delays on the market. 

Boss DM-2W Waza Craft Delay Pedal

Best guitar delay pedal

This faithful reproduction of the iconic Boss DM-2 from 1977, the Boss DM-2W Waza Craft provides all the magic of the DM-2 with a healthy dose of the innovation that Waza Craft is well-known for. 

The Boss DM-2W provides two different modes with up to 800ms of time at your disposal. An expression pedal input allows you to control delay time on the fly, and there’s a wet and dry output for running your delay signal and dry signal separately. 

The standard mode is a carbon copy of Boss’ iconic DM-2, while the custom mode adds a dollop of extra warmth and clarity to produce a uniquely modern sound that feels part analog and part digital all at once. Both modes are useful for practically any style of playing. The custom mode also more than doubles the available delay time from 300ms to an impressive 800ms. 

Features & Specs

  • Type: Analog delay pedal
  • Max delay time: 300ms (standard mode) 800ms (custom mode)
  • Controls for repeat rate (feedback), echo (time), and intensity (level) 
  • Wet and dry outputs
  • Bypass: buffered bypass
  • Expression pedal input
  • 9V battery or power supply
  • 5-year warranty

Who Should Use It?

The Boss DM-2W is among the best delay pedals for players who miss the iconic DM-2 from the late 70s. The DM-2W is also suitable for guitarists looking for an analog delay with a more modern flavor than what’s on the market today.

TC Electronic Flashback 2 Delay Effects Pedal

Best delay pedal for value

Huge functionality and tone now come in small packages thanks to the TC Electronic Flashback 2. This powerful and diminutive pedal offers eight different modes, stereo I/O, and plenty of intuitive features that make expressing yourself easier than ever.

The footswitch of the Flashback 2 provides TC Electronic’s proprietary Mash functionality, which operates similarly to expression pedals. This function behaves differently depending on the delay mode you select. All told, this multi-mode pedal offers eight effects, including reverse delay, a loop function, and TC’s unique crystal mode, which pitches repeats up an octave. 

The TC Electronic Flashback 2 also offers TC Electronic’s TonePrint technology, which allows guitarists access to thousands of different settings from legendary guitarists and other TonePrint users. 

Features & Specs

  • Type: Digital delay pedal
  • Digital, analog, tape, dynamic, mod, crystal, reverse, loop, and TonePrint modes
  • Stereo I/O
  • Mash footswitch
  • Bypass: True bypass
  • 9V battery or power supply
  • 3-year warranty

Who Should Use It?

Guitarists who demand versatility are sure to gravitate towards these pedals, which are among the best effects pedals on the market. With tons of effect modes, TonePrint, and the Mash footswitch, the TC Electronic Flashback 2 is one of the best delay pedals, pound for pound.

Strymon TimeLine Multidimensional Delay Pedal

Best delay pedal overall

The Strymon TimeLine is truly the holy grail of digital delay pedals, and this powerhouse boasts more delay modes, more control, and more storage than any other pedal on the market today. 

The Strymon Timeline is a stereo multi-mode pedal with twelve different modes in total, including tape, digital, reverse, swell, and many more. Two hundred different presets allow you to explore the best of each delay mode, and you can also save your own settings too.

The Strymon TimeLine offers the typical delay controls like time, repeat, and mix, along with several additional controls that function in different ways depending on which mode you’ve selected. 

A/B bank switching provides you with two different foot-switchable delay modes on the fly, and the third footswitch provides tap tempo. These footswitches also control the functionality of the looper. 

Features & Specs

  • Type: Digital delay unit
  • 12 different types of delay
  • 30-second looper
  • A/B bank
  • Tap tempo
  • Stereo I/O
  • MIDI I/O
  • Bypass: Buffered or true bypass
  • 9V power supply (included)

Who Should Use It?

One of the best delay pedals, period, the Strymon TimeLine is the all-around champ. Don’t expect any delay pedal deals with this one, though; the TimeLine is among the priciest pedals on earth.

Electro-Harmonix Canyon Delay and Looper Pedal

Best delay pedal with looper

A tiny digital pedal that’s big on features, the Electro-Harmonix Canyon offers tons of delay modes and a variety of innovative and intuitive extras wrapped up in a diminutive nano stompbox housing. 

The Electro-Harmonix Canyon offers eleven different modes, including a looper with an unprecedented 62-seconds of looping time. There’s even a compelling copy of the iconic Electro-Harmonix Memory Man pedal. 

The Electro-Harmonix Canyon multi-mode pedal offers controls for level, time, and feedback, and there are also hidden parameters you can access through Electro-Harmonix Secondary Knob Mode. How those controls behave differs depending on which mode you’re using, and they make the pedal even more useful.

Features & Specs

  • Type: Digital delay pedal
  • 11 different delay modes
  • 62-second looper
  • Bypass: buffered bypass
  • Tap tempo
  • Tap Divide button
  • Secondary Knob Mode
  • Switchable delay trails

Who Should Use It?

The Electro-Harmonix Canyon multi-mode delay is perfect for the guitarist who needs their delay pedal to pull double duty as a looper. Since it occupies the space of a nano pedal, it’s also one of the best delay pedals for tight pedalboards.

Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo Pedal

Best tape echo

Guitar players looking to unlock the warm and musical sound of a tape delay have few options outside of the studio. Thankfully, the Strymon El Capistan offers all the warm analog echo goodness you could ever ask for, now in stereo!

This multi-mode pedal starts with three different switchable tape head emulations, allowing players to choose between fixed, multi, and single head designs. Each tape head emulation offers three different sound modes to provide a massive tonal palette for your next masterpiece. 

On top of the pedal, you’ll find controls for time, mix, repeats, tape age, and wow & flutter. Depress both footswitches at once, and you’ll be able to access an additional five parameters to further sculpt your tone.

Features & Specs

  • Type: Digital tape delay unit
  • Three different tape types with three modes per style
  • Tap tempo
  • Bypass: buffered or true bypass
  • Ten different parameter controls
  • Stereo outputs
  • Expression pedal input
  • Includes power supply

Who Should Use It?

Guitarists after the warm and rich sound of a tape echo are sure to love the El Capistan dTape Echo. This pedal provides tons of room to craft unique delay tones, thanks to its vast array of ten different control parameters. 

MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay Pedal

Best analog delay pedal

A compact and affordable delay that packs tons of tone into a nano housing, the MXR Carbon Copy analog delay is one of the most loved pedals on the market for several decades and counting. 

The MXR Carbon Copy uses bucket-brigade circuitry to deliver its warm signature sound. The standard controls for feedback, time, and effect level provide you with access to a world of sweet vintage tones. The MXR Carbon Copy also adds a decidedly modern appointment in the form of a mod button that adds a lush and full chorus effect to your tone. 

Features & Specs

  • Type: Analog delay pedal
  • 600ms maximum delay time 
  • Bypass: true bypass
  • Controls for regeneration, mix, and delay
  • Mod button with controls for mod depth and rate
  • 9V battery or power supply

Who Should Use It?

Any guitarist looking for a nano-size pedal that offers great analog delay tone may find that the MXR M169 Carbon Copy delay is the best delay pedal for them.

Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler Pedal

Best digital delay pedal

One of the most iconic pedals of the 21st century, guitarists like Thomas Erak of Fall of Troy and Dave Knudson of Minus the Bear put the DL4 on the map, and players from every genre have made the DL4 their own since then. 

The DL4 stereo multi-mode delay boasts sixteen different delay effects in a single unit with three preset banks for recalling saved settings. There’s also a dedicated tap tempo switch for ensuring your delay syncs perfectly to your music. The footswitches also allow you to control the loop function on the fly. You can loop phrases up to 14-seconds with the DL4.

The Line 6 DL4 provides controls for delay time, repeats, and mix. There are also tweak and tweez controls that take on different functionality depending on the effect you’re using. You can also add an expression pedal to the effect, which allows for real-time control over every effect parameter. 

Features & Specs

  • 16 different effects, including digital, analog, tape echo, and much more
  • 14-second looper
  • Three programmable presets 
  • Tap tempo
  • Bypass: true bypass
  • 12V power supply or four C batteries

Who Should Use It?

Any guitarist looking to push the envelope may find that the DL4 is the best delay pedal for them. This pedal works great as a multi-mode delay, but it truly shines as a looper and for unique effects like dynamic delay and auto-volume echo.

Boss DD-500 Digital Delay Guitar Effects Pedal

Best delay pedal for studio applications

Versatile and feature-rich, the Boss DD-500 is a knob-tweakers dream, and it provides several useful effects and functions which place the DD-500 stereo delay among the best delay pedals on the market.

The Boss DD-500 stereo delay offers twelve different modes. You’ll find modes you’d expect, like digital, tape echo, and analog, alongside far-out delays that rely on heavy digital signal processing to dish out unique tones you’ve never heard before. 

The Boss DD-500 stereo delay possesses standard controls like time, level, and feedback, as well as a tone knob and control for mod depth. What you see on the surface is the tip of the iceberg with regard to the control you have over each effect. The large LED screen allows for deep editing of every single effect mode, and there’s plenty of storage for saving your edits. 

This pedal offers switchable true or buffered bypass, stereo I/O, an expression pedal in, and MIDI I/O to provide enough versatility for even the most demanding gigging or studio musician. 

Features & Specs

  • Type: Digital delay pedal
  • 12 delay modes
  • Deep editing capability 
  • Bypass: buffered bypass
  • A/B Bank
  • Two programmable presets
  • Tap tempo
  • Stereo I/O
  • MIDI I/O

Who Should Use It?

The Boss DD-500 is the ideal delay for the studio musician who wants the same level of control over their effects when they play live. 

Eventide TimeFactor Twin Delay Guitar Effects Pedal

Best delay pedal for MIDI

Eventide is one of the most reputable studio effects manufacturers in the game, and they’ve set their sights on pedals with the Eventide TimeFactor Twin Delay. 

The TimeFactor provides twelve different effect modes and enables you to use two effects simultaneously. From tape echo to digital delay to reverse, ducked, and modulated effects, the TimeFactor delivers all that and then some. Each effect can operate in mono or stereo, and each offers its own unique subdivisions for creating unique rhythmic delay patterns.

Players can exact unparalleled control over the effect with its generous array of ten different effect parameters. You can also control each parameter through MIDI in real-time. This pedal has room for 27 different user presets, and you can store unlimited presets with MIDI. 

Features & Specs

  • Type: Digital delay pedal
  • 12 different delay modes
  • Use two delays at once
  • Tap tempo
  • Bypass: true bypass
  • Stereo I/O
  • MIDI I/O
  • Includes 9V power supply

How to Use Delay Pedals

There are virtually endless ways to use delay pedals, and you may find yourself employing lots of ways to use them depending on what you play. 

Lead guitarists will regularly use delay pedals to add additional life and feeling to their leads and solos. Keep the mix low and the time around 200-400ms to create this effect, which virtually every lead guitarist on earth uses.

You can create the iconic slapback type sound of yesteryear by turning up the mix control and keeping the delay time very short, in the 50-200ms range. 

If your playing is more atmospheric and spacey, you’ll want to experiment with delay pedals in any way you can, as you’ll stumble across dozens of creative ways to use them. 

Delay Pedal Signal Chain Location

Placing your pedal in the signal chain is practically foolproof. With other pedals, players often like to experiment on placement. With the delay effect, you should always position the pedal at the end of your signal chain, right before the amplifier. 

Delay Settings

Most delay pedals have some variation of the three controls below. Knowing what each setting controls are how you’ll become a master of the effect. 


The level knob on delay pedals controls the balance between your dry signal and the effect. The higher the level, the more delay in your sound.


The time knob on delay pedals controls how long it takes before the wet signal of the pedal engages. The shorter the delay time, the more quickly the pedal will play back the recording of your original notes. 


The feedback knob on delay pedals affects how many times the delay repeats. The higher the feedback, the more spacey and atmospheric your sound will be. 

Does Every Guitar Player Need Delay?

All a guitarist needs is their axe and perhaps an amplifier. Delay, or any type of effect for that matter, is a matter of preference for the guitarist. While it’s certainly not a requirement, it’s one of the most beneficial types of pedals on earth, and it’s also one of the most fun pedals to experiment with new tones.

Whether you play lead, rhythm, in a band, or by yourself, one of the best delay pedals is a smart addition to your rig, and it’s an effect that most guitar players can’t live without. 

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