Delay Effects

Nowadays, delay effects are some of the most powerful music production tools. To begin with, delay is an artificial phenomenon that mimics a natural echo effect. An audio effects device records an input signal into an audio storage vehicle and plays it back after a certain time period.

A Bit of History on Delay Effects

Around 1940, people began experimenting with a reel-to-reel magnetic recording systems known as tape decks. They found that, by changing the length of the loop and adjusting the read and write heads, they could produce a wide variety of delays. This was not the most convenient option, though. And yet, it was the best alternative at the moment. About a decade later, tape echoes became fairly popular and handy to the public. This was a great step forward because the user could adjust the delay by modifying the distance between the playback heads and the tape recorder. 

As shown in the previous paragraph, the first delays were not that convenient: they were large in size, tape-based, and used prerecorded sounds in order to work properly. In addition, they were not suitable for live performances. However, between 1950 and 1970, portable real-time analog delays became available and quickly gained popularity. The most common ones were Roland Space Echo, Vox Echomatic, and Echoplex EP-1.

Digital Reverb Racks: an Antecedent

In the 70s, digital reverb racks became available but were quite expensive. They involved knobs that produced a wide variety of delays. Around 1984, Boss launched the first digital delay pedal known as DD2. This pedal had an analog-to-digital converter, connected to buffer storage where the sound could be temporarily stored. Throughout the years, audio racks became more sophisticated, turning into digital reverb devices and, finally, into multi-effect racks. The most common delay pedals and multi-effect racks are Lexicon PCM42, Boss DD-3, TC Electronic 2290, and Ibanez DE-7.

Delay Effects Today

Somewhere around the year 2000, several companies began creating software plugins that could mimic the sound of racks and real pedals. These were more affordable and, due to their large capacity, the audio buffer was unlimited. As a result, users had more control over the different configurations. These plugins have bettered themselves throughout the years. Today, analog delays have a unique sound texture that has been impossible to mimic, which makes them an extremely attractive alternative.