This is a question that always comes to the discussion once you get your feet into the land of delay pedals. In the first post, we’ve covered a brief history of the development of this effect. If you recall it properly, we first mentioned echo machines or tape delays.
Even though they basically do the same (get a signal and repeat it within a time frame) I believe they are different beasts (at least for the scope of this comparison) and we’re gonna get into them in another post. That leaves us with basically two types of delays: Analog and Digital. Let’s see what each has to offer so, later on, we can reach some interesting conclusions.
Analog delays came first. One of the first ones to hit the shelves was the Memory Man by Electro-Harmonix. It was a market breaker because it was the first time delay units were available in a “compact-sized” pedal form. As you can imagine, the Memory Man wasn’t that small, but even to this day, is considered one of the best analog delays out there.
The Suppa Pass has dedicated knobs to depth (modulation), gain and tone.
To summarize, analog delays:
Tend to have shorter delay times.Sound more organic and warm.Usually, have fewer features than its digital counterparts (but that’s changing).Are sometimes easier to use.
Ahhh, the digital units, they sound clean, crisp, so nice and neat. By this time you may be thinking…. why bother with the analog technology?
This Korg SDD 300 was one of those rack units of the 80’s.
Leaving that aside for a moment, and as we mentioned before, the first digital delay pedal, the Boss DD-2, was introduced in 1984.
By no means was this the first digital delay device: prior to that, digital delays came in rack-mounted units, but as the technology developed and grew things smaller, the possibility to have a compact pedal materialized.
Well, one thing is for sure, digital delays sound “better” because they use Digital Signal Processing (DPS); this type of processing treats the signal like zeroes and ones and the processor doesn’t mess with the resulting outcome.
This allows the pedal to create a perfect copy of your sound, there’s no signal degradation or whatsoever. Because of the way it treats your signal, it also has the possibility of dealing with longer delay times and as we mentioned before, these units tend to have many more features: preset saving, tap tempo, pedal emulation, reverse delay, etc.
To summarize, digital delays:
Sound cleaner.Have longer delay times.Offer better parameters controls and features.They sound less “natural”.
So… What’s The Real Difference Between Analog and Digital Delay?
Maybe you just figured this out for yourself, but I’m going to help anyway: the real difference is in the way these units process the sound. Different technologies applied led to different results; BBD will give you a more organic, dark, warmer sound echoes whilst DSP units will allow you to have crystal clear repetitions of what you’re playing, with more features regarding tone, time control, emulation, etc.
What you end up choosing depends on various different factors, but my recommendation is that you try both, because the truth is, they can complement really well!
Most guitarists have at least one digital delay and one analog delay on their boards. This is because they’ve learned how to use the pedals according to the situation. In my case, I keep my analog delay on most times while I’m playing, you know why? Because I like how it colors my overall sound; for me, it’s a matter of personal preference, and maybe, just maybe, it will be the same with you :). So, just try both, experiment and have fun!
Later on, we’ll be discussing the best analog and digital units out there in the market and what can you get depending on the budget you have.