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.
“Understand that something may be true for one type of effect or piece of musical gear but not for another”
WHAT IS IT?
The last of the three main types of delay to hit the market, Digital Delay pedals use microchips and digital processing to convert your analog signal and create almost limitless repeats. In addition to creating crisp, clean and clear digital repeats, digital delay can be used to simulate or emulate the sounds and characteristics of the other two types of delay: Tape and Analog.
ISN’T DIGITAL BAD?
Read enough blogs or forums and you might get the idea that digital is always bad and analog is always better. That may be true in some, if not most cases, but it’s not so in the case of digital delay. Does a real Magnetic Tape delay sound better than a digital recreation? Probably. But a digital delay sounds like it’s supposed to sound, and it’s great. Do you want those warm and dark tones of an analog delay? That’s great, but if you want clear and clean tones, that’s what the digital delay is designed to do. This is an important concept. To understand that something may be true for one type of effect or piece of musical gear but not for another. While we may hate the sound of a digital fuzz pedal trying to emulate something that is very analog; we can embrace a delay that was meant to be & sound digital. The same would also be true for other effects like digital reverb and modulation that are supposed to be digital. As much as I love my amp’s analog spring reverb, there is something so wonderful about a high quality digital reverb that you hear with bands like Young Oceans. A good digital delay can be a great tool in the hands of a worship guitarist.
HOW DO YOU USE IT IN WORSHIP?
Digital delay is great for rhythmic delay because it’s crisp sound lets the rhythm of the notes stand out. For the same reason I also enjoy it as a lead booster. One reason for using it that I don’t hear mentioned too often is that, to me, Digital Delay doesn’t get in the way. Tape and Analog delay often have a very distinct sound or color the tone in a certain way. Many times that’s a good thing, but if I want to emphasize other aspects of my tone (gain, modulation, reverb) a digital delay can do the job of creating repeats with out stealing the spot light.
So primarily I use my digital delay for the reasons above. I also use it for whatever I need at that moment. Many digital delays come with simulation options. Right now my Alter Ego digital delay is set to an Echoplex emulation, because that was the sound I needed. Next time I play I might need a reverse delay, or a 2nd analog, or a different kind of tape delay, or a straight up digital sound. Whether you have a Flashback, Nova delay, DD-20 or Line 6 DL4, you have a lot of options at your disposal.
THE BEST DIGITAL DELAY FOR WORSHIP
The Nova Delay by TC Electronics. Feel free to disagree if you like. I don’t make this assertion because I think the Nova is the best sounding or has the most features or because it’s best for some specific thing, although it is a very, very good delay.
I believe that if you could only have one delay pedal on your board the Nova would give you the most bang for your buck in price, sound and features.
The Nova delay has many options including Digital, Tape, and Analog sounds (plus you can blend between them). Quarter, Dotted 8th, and Triplet delay subdivisions with the option for reverse, dual, ping-pong (stereo) and slap back delay settings. More presets than most comparable delays with easier live movement between delay settings. The Nova also has both strum and tap tempo options.
THE BEST OF THE REST
-The Boss DD-20 is kind of a staple on P&W pedalboards. If you have this and you wonder if you should switch to the Nova Delay, don’t. It’s very comparable and while it lacks some of the Nova’s features, it’s also has some things the Nova doesn’t.
-The Toneprint delays (Flashback, Alter Ego, X4): The newest iteration of TC’s line of delay pedals. I use the Alter Ego on my board and I’ve written about it HERE. The X4 is at the same price point as the Nova and has more potential sounds but lacks some of the live play features that put the Nova in my top spot.
-Boss DD-3,5,6, or 7: All of these are solid, gold standard digital delays, that should a player should not be ashamed to have on their board. I recently found a DD-7 in the church gear room and I was very happy to find a use for it.
-T-Rex Replica: This pedal may be the best sounding digital delay I’ve every played. It’s really good and I love that it’s not really trying to be anything else than a digital delay, with no emulations. But the cost of it’s sound quality is reflected in it’s price which is quite high ($399), but if you can find a good price on a used one you will not be disapointed.
-Line 6 DL4: I’m no great fan of Line 6 as a company but the DL4 has become an industry standard. What the Deluxe Memory Man was to U2, the DL4 is to Coldplay. The DL4 was my first delay pedal and you could do a lot worse. The main knock against it is it’s build quaility, but many companies will do Mods that correct these issues.
-Strymon Timeline: This all in one box has become “the goal” for many guitarists in or out of church. It can do everything, and does it very well. It comes at a high cost of $450, and you rarely find a used one for less than $400. If you get it then you will have a lot of options, but you will also need to invest the time to learn how to use all those options. The Church Collective keeps a library of Timeline presets HERE.