This article is part of The Month Of Delay at the Real World Worship blog. All throughout the month of March we will be looking at different aspects of the delay effect in worship music.
WHAT IS ANALOG DELAY?
I’m not going to bore you with the technical details, but a truly analog delay uses a Bucket Brigade Chip set up (BBD) to create a delayed repeat of the notes you play. An analog delay is way more portable than a tape delay and since it doesn’t have moving parts, far more reliable. It’s easy to see why pro level guitar players made the switch and why the average guitar player embraced the technology.
Analog delay is known for it’s dark and warm tones and repeats. Great for just about any style of music, the only real limitation for a BBD style delay pedal is how long the delays can go for (usually around 400-600 ms).
The delay sounds on early U2 records are just a EHX deluxe Memory Man with a Ross style compression before it, going into a Vox AC30. (see example HERE) Ofcourse in the world of P&W, guitarists like James Duke use analog delays like the Boss DM-2 or EHX DMM all over the place.
For a while when your choices were bulky tape units, or cost prohibitive rack mounted digital delays, Analog was a great affordable option for the guitarist playing out. But now digital pedals are so easily accessible and much cheaper, you are probably going to buy an analog delay because you want the warm and dark sound of an analog delay.
I actually think the limitations of a BBD delay could be one of their pros. It does one thing, and that forces you to really get to know how to use it instead of trying to figure out 10 presets on a digital delay. Also, if you want an Analog delay sound (and they do have their own sound) you can easily have the real thing as opposed to a digital attempt at recreating it.
Just because it’s analog doesn’t make it better. It’s going to be a personal preference but while I love the warm and dark repeats of an EHX Deluxe Memory Man, I hate the repeats on the EHX Deluxe Memory Boy. Just because two pedals are BBD, it doesn’t mean that they will both be equal.
While the simplicity of the an analog delay might be a pro, it’s also a big con. I was in a band at a church where I was only running an analog delay, and I needed the crisp, clean sounds of a digital delay for a song; couldn’t do it because of my BBD pedal, whereas if I want or need an analog sound with my Alter Ego digital delay, no problem.
Because of the design of a BBD circuit, you won’t be able to get crazy long delays. Most seem to run between 400-800ms of delay time. That’s always been plenty for me but it is a factor for some.
Another problem is lack of features. If you’re looking for tap tempo or dotted 8th, you can’t do it on most analogs. Now that is changing. Pedals like the DDM TT-500, Deluxe Memory Boy, JHS Panther Cub or Way Huge SupaPuss all have Tap Tempo and division controls, but they come at a cost. If you tap the tempo, the signal will warble in a very noticeable way as the analog circuit adjusts. In a bar or club this wouldn’t be a big deal, and I could see how some artists would use this as it’s own effect, but in most church settings where distractions and unwanted noise are to be avoided at all costs, this is a huge detriment.
WHAT ABOUT DIGITAL ANALOG?
Almost all digital delays seem to have an “analog setting”. There is nothing wrong with this. I happen to love the sound of a good analog voiced digital delay. You can get past some of the flaws of a real BBD delay and have better repeats or longer delay times.
So basically, if your digital delay has an analog setting then try it out. I love the one on mine. But I honestly don’t get the ones that are one trick ponies. For around the same cost as an MXR or Malekko BBD delay, there are digital delays meant to sound like BBD. Why? What’s the point of that? I don’t get it. Then of course there is Strymon. I think the Brigadier is pretty cool, but why would I buy it over a cheaper analog delay? Just for longer delay times? Doesn’t seem worth it to me.
THE BEST ANALOG DELAY FOR WORSHIP
The EHX Deluxe Memory Man is the gold standard, and they’ve recently redesigned it to make it more pedal board friendly. The Way Huge SupaPuss has a great sound and is loaded with options that the modern guitarist (worship or otherwise) would love to have. For the money, many put the MXR Carbon Copy on their boards.
Which one is best? You decide.
THE BEST OF THE REST
-Malekko Ekko 616: I like this one better than the MXR. Same price but more features. It’s on my board right now.
-EHX Memory Toy: I’m not the biggest fan of this pedal, but for the price it’s hard to beat.
-Caroline Guitar Co Kilobyte Delay: I know it’s not really an analog, but tell your ears that. See my review HERE.
-Ibanez AD9: Sweet, simple and beautiful sounding analog delay.
-Way Huge Aquapuss: great delay, loved by many, but with a large footprint that’s always kept me away.
-Boss DM-2: these are overpriced on ebay, but if you find one on craigslist or your uncle gives it to you then take it!
-BBE Two-Timer: There’s nothing special about the delay it’s self, but that it’s two circuits is pretty cool. It’s almost like having a preset on an analog delay!