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Here at Dinosaur Rock Guitar we've had more than a few threads posted on our forum that have asked the question: what is your favorite effect? or which effect pedals are required on your pedal board? or, if you could only have three types of effect pedal on your board what would they be? Analog Echo / Delay or Digital Delay seem to always score high marks as members respond. It's not hard to understand why. While most effects take your picked note and alter it in one way or another both Echo and Delay reward your picked note with more notes and do so at a specific rhythmic interval that you select. This single effect provides fill as well as pace. It is beat and backing, layers and fills, both expanding and filling space. Where reverb creates an increase in the perception of the size of an environment , Echo does even more by helping to fill and define the increased space. Delay provides a rebound within the implied space. The power of Rock music was never meant to be a musical element designed for a confined space. It's always been a musical form that comes into its own when performed in huge arenas or outdoor festivals or stadiums or amphitheaters. Venues where the player plays to the echos of the huge environment. Both Echo and Delay effects provide the same feel or aural response to a player performing in a limited environment.

A Brief History of Echo and Delay

1950s and 1960s
Les Paul develops a studio Echo based on a modified real to real tape recorder for his own use on recordings.
Amp builder Ray Butts develops a loop based Echo system which he puts inside his EchoSonic Amp. This amp is the one used by Scotty Moore on Elvis recordings.
Outboard tube / tape Echo effects soon followed and were released through Fender, the EccoFonic, Maestro, the Echoplex, Watkins/WEM, the Copicat, etc..

Early 1970s
Roland introduces th RE-201 Space Echo, (still tape based).

Latter 1970s
  • MXR M-118 Analog Delay. 1975. The first?
  • Electro- Harmonix introduces the Memory Man. One of the first and easily in the top two of three of the original Analog Delays. 1976.
  • Boss DM-1 Analog Delay Device 1978. Boss enters the Analog Delay market.
  • Ross R-80 Stereo Analog Delay 1978.
  • Maxon AD-80 Analog Delay 1979.
  • DOD 680 Analog Delay 1979.
  • Ibanez AD-80 Analog Delay 1980.
  • Boss DM-2 Analog Delay 1981.
  • Ibanez AD9 Analog Delay 1982.
  • DOD Performer Analog Delay 1982.
  • Boss DD-2 Digital Delay introduced in 1983. The first real player in the Digital Delay format.
  • Boss DM-3 Analog Delay 1984. The last Boss Analog Delay.
  • DOD FX90 Analog Delay 1984.
  • Boss DD-3 Digital Delay 1986.

Examples of Classic Tape Echo Machines

Watkins Copicat Mk 1 (1959)   Vacuum tube. One record head and three playback heads to vary the delay time. *Note. This was a British design. In 1960 the Mk II added a second input and a repeat function. In the late 1960s, (now carrying the WEM logo), the Copicat switched from vacuum tube to solid state. This was the Tape Echo used by The Shadows.Ecco-Fonic (1960) Vacuum tube. Constant tape speed. One record head and one playback head. Playback head positioned on flywheel with moveable bracket to vary the delay time.  *Note. This was the first American made stand alone tape echo offered in the United States. A bit hard to maintain, so, allow for wow and flutter and tape degradation.
Maestro Echoplex (1961)  Vacuum tube. One record and one playback head. The playback head was of a sliding design. The user could move it to different positions to vary the delay time. * Note. The Echoplex used a two reel tape cartrage rather than a looped tape. At the end of the 1st upgrade, (Echoplex EP-2), version's run a sound on sound function was added.
Klemt Echolette and Dynachord Echochord (mid 1960s)   These were both made in Germany at the same factory. Three record heads  with individual volume controls and two selectable playback heads. Also, a two speed motor could alter the speed of the tape.
Maestro Echoplex EP-3 (1970)  This was the first solid state version of the Echoplex. It was also the longest production run of the Echoplex as well as being the version most utilized on the hard rock recordings of the '70s and '80s. *Note. Users of the Echoplex EP-2 (vacuum tube) and EP-3 (solid state) models included Joe Walsh, Eddie Van Halen, Neal Schon, Joe Satriani, Gary Moore, Jimmy Page, Randy Rhoads, Eric Johnson, Chet Atkins, Roy Buchanan, Andy Summers, and Brian May as well as many others.
Ace Tone EC-1 Echo Chamber (1970 + or -)  Ace Tone was the first company built by Ikutara Kakehashi. A problem with a business partner led Ikutara to leave Ace Tone and form a new company. The new company was named Roland. Consider the Ace Tone EC-1 Echo Chamber to be the precurser to the Roland RE-100 and RE-200 Echo Chambers.
Roland RE-101 and RE-201 Space Echo (mid '70s), (the RE-201 included spring reverb)     Solid state. One record head and three playback heads as well as a variable speed motor. The delay time was adjusted by altering the tape speed. A mode selector created different patterns by varying which heads were selected for playback. The delayed signal could be fed back to the record head for multiple echo repeats.
Roland RE-301 (1977) The RE-301 added chorus and sound on sound.
Roland RE-501 (1980), (also released as the rackmount SRE-555)  The RE-501 / SRE-555 added XLR inputs to the RE-301. Gary Moore used the SRE-555 to great effect as part of his '80s sound.

Dino Delay Pedals

Despite the magic of tape based echo / delay pedals the cost and maintenance requirements make this type of delay the least used among Dino guitarists. Most Dino rigs that incorporate the use of delay are found to be either analog or digital solidstate designs. Analog designs produce more of an echo effect because the repeats shed volume and definition as they tail away and are closer to the sound of tape based delays. Digital designs produce a repeated note that retains definition, lasts for a specific number of repeats, and then stops. Overdriven tones generally sound better with analog delay pedals while heavily distorted Dino tones seem to work better with digital designs.

Examples of Classic Dino Analog Delay Pedals

MXR M-118 Analog Delay
While I'm not going so far as to give MXR credit for developing the first analog delay I did want to note that this is the oldest example of analog delay that I'm aware off. This is one of the MXR pedals that came in the bigger housing with the AC cord attached. I have a blue 10 band graphic equalizer from the same period of MXR production that's built like a tank and still works beautifully. MXR was considered a top of the line pedal manufacturer in the 1970s. Later pedals by other manufacturers were very near copies of this unit. The M-118 is the large green pedal you may have seen on a few players pedalboards. Glenn Tipton, among others, has utilized this pedal for delay effect. A short delay time, approx 300ms., a bit noisy by todays standards of analog delay. Yet.........This is analog delay in it's infancy.

Electro-Harmonix Memory Man
When it comes to Dinosaur Solidstate Analog Delay Pedals the Electro-Harmonix Memory Man is most often brought up as the original. While being released at roughly the same time as a handful of other analog delays, MXRs Analog Delay for example, it was the Memory Man that set the standard for all future analog delay pedals. Up until 1976, if a Dino wanted an echo or delay effect they were looking at big bucks for a tube or solidstate Tape based unit. These were neither stomp box or rackmount. They were boxy effects that were easy to break and needed periodic maintenance. With the release of the Memory Man Electro-Harmonix brought delay to a more affordable maintenance free level in the form of a foot controlled stompbox. The average players access to delay was born. The models that followed added chorus and whatever else they could dream up. In my opinion.....unneeded and excessive. Just more circuitry for your signal to navigate through. With all other options on the pedal turned completely off and just focusing on the analog delay sounds the Memory Man, deluxe or otherwise, is an excellent example of technology and the evolution of Dino tone existing hand in hand.

Boss DM-1 Delay Machine
The DM-1 Delay Machine is one of the first offerings by Roland under the Boss name. Around 1977 or 78 Roland decided to start releasing it's guitar pedals under the Boss label. Roland had more than a few irons in the fire and decided to distinguish it's guitarists stompbox units under the name Boss. Who knew where this would lead? The DM-1 was a very warm sounding analog delay. It still relied on power from an AC cord. Approx. 300 ms. delay max. time. Of note. This is a collectors piece now and commands collector pricing. From a historical perspective a person of means might well like to own this pedal, but, for the day to day guitar player the DM-2 or DM-3 can be had for half the price. The DM-2 is similar in sound but comes in the more modern housing. The DM-3 added built in noise reduction and dual outlets. An original DM-1 can easily fetch over 1/2 a grand on the vintage market.

Boss DM-2 Analog Delay
A good rule of thumb I've always gone by concerning analog delay types is..........the Japanese manufacturers hate noise. They hate it to the point that they will sacrifice high end, (where most noise seems to originate in analog delay). Because of this most Japanese manufactured analog delays tend to be both quieter as well as warmer sounding. They are a bit less open and airy and have more of a depth to the repeats they produce. The Boss Delay DM-2 is an excellent example of this. Released in 1981 it was a strong example of great delay tone from day one. It's delays were very tape like in that there was a degradation in definition as the delays tailed off. It's warmer sound gave it an unqualified richness that was a happy surprise to many players. Very useable. Tonally beautiful. A fine example of analog delay tone. Also, it was housed in the more familiar Boss small footprint rectangular body we've come to associate with Boss.

Boss DM-3 Analog Delay
I only include the DM-3 here because it was the last of the analog delays released by Boss. In the year previous to this pedals release Boss had introduced Digital Delay in the form of the DD-2. The DD-2 was more than well received and would become the path of development that Boss would choose to follow.

Ibanez AD-80 Analog Delay
The Ibanez AD-80 has always been considered special because of its headroom, lack of distorted quality, to its repeats. Many players during this time period chose this pedal over the Boss DM-2 specifically for this reason. It has a more open sound while retaining it's warmth. Many players have said that it could completely replace their need for any type of reverb in the mix. Just a nice open echo / delay with a rich depth to the tone of the repeated notes.

Ibanez AD9 Analog Delay
Obviously the good folks at Maxon and Ibanez have a preference for this model over the AD-80. Both companies continue to do reissues of the AD-9 while the AD-80 is history. I'm somewhat at a loss on this one. The AD-80, as well as the DM-2 and the EH Memory Man are the three I would select as the best of the best. Most Dinos are probably familiar with the tone of the repeats of the AD-9. The AD-80 might have been a bit noisier, but, the richness of the repeats, in my opinion, far surpass the repeats of the AD-9. While The AD-9 was and is a very solid build and is respected by many players my own preferences go in another direction.

Examples of Classic Dino Digital Delay Pedals

Boss DD-2 Digital Delay
The Boss DD-2 was revolutionary. Analog delay, while being revolutionary in its own right over tape based units, which had been around since the fifties, for making delay accessible to the masses, had not yet been in full production for more than six or seven years. Enter Digital Delay. Digital delay had two major differences over analog delay. One.....Delay time. Analog delays ranged from 300ms to 600ms. That's 3/10ths of a second to 6/10ths of a second max. delay time. Digital Delay, in the form of the Boss DD-2, made it's entrance in the form of a delay pedal offering up to 800ms. 8/10th of a second of delay time. Two.....Where analog delay produced repeats that slowly drifted off, like tape, digital delayed notes retained the volume and distinction of the original picked note. While many guitarists felt that the new digital format lacked the soul or emotion of analog delay, which I agree with, many other guitarists realized that this higher definition of the repeated notes would add much more distinction to heavily distorted tones, which I also agree with.To this day, when using extreme distortion, my personal preference runs to digital or even modeling delay because of the pronounced distinction of the delayed notes. For clean or mildly overdriven tones I still prefer the emotional soulful sound of analog.

Examples of Modern Dino Analog, Digital, Hybrid, part analog and part digital, or Modeling Delay Pedals

  • Line6 DL4 Delay Modeler
  • Line6 ToneCore Echo Park Delay
  • Maxon AD-9 Pro Analog Delay Pedal
  • Maxon AD-999 Analog Delay Pedal
  • T-Rex Replica Delay Echo Pedal
  • T-Rex Reptile Analog Tape Style Delay
  • T.C.Electronics ND-1 Nova Delay Pedal
  • T.C. Electronics Vintage Delay
  • Boss DD-20 Digital Delay
  • Boss RE-20 Space Echo
  • Boss DD-6 Digital Delay
  • Boss DD-7 Digital Delay
  • Diamond Memory Lane 2
  • DigiTech DigiDelay
  • DigiTech Hardwire DL-8 Delay
  • DLS Tap Delay
  • Toadworks Redux
  • SIB Echodrive Pro
  • MXR M-169 Carbon Copy Delay
  • Empress Effects Super Delay
  • Retro-Sonic Analog Delay
  • Homebrew Mimic Mock I
  • Homebrew Mimic Mock II
  • Moog Moogerfooger MF-104Z Analog Delay
  • Blackbox QuickSilver Delay
  • Carl Martin Echo Tone
  • Carl Martin DeLayla XL
  • Damage Control TimeLine
  • Eventide TimeFactor
  • Hughes & Kettner Replex Delay Pedal

Taking it Home

As you can tell from the article you've just read, echo and delay is available in multiple formats using multiple forms of technology with a resulting tonality that favors different guitar styles and voicings. If your going for the modern high gain tones associated with Metal and Extreme Rock you'll probably prefer a delay pedal based on digital or hybrid or modeling technology. If, on the other hand, your going for Classic Rock Tones or Blues Rock you probably prefer the tonality of tape or analog delay. A delay and a Wah Wah are probably my two favorite effects for the type of music I play. I own multiple examples of each because some work better for this and some work better for that. If you are a pretty solid believer in a specific type of Dino style and, at this time in your life, are limited in what you can afford to own, I hope the proceeding information is useful in the process of your selection.
Resources for this article:
Guitar effect pedals written by Dave Hunter
Disco Freqs FX site.
My personal love and experience with delay pedals