Digital Delays Survey
run-down on nearly 20
Digital delays under £300 and how they compare, spec for spec, the One Two way. Survey by Jon Lewin.
Digital delays: if you haven't got one, you're crap. All right then, you've got ten minutes to get one, and THEN you'll be crap if you don't. So what if you can't scrape more than £300 together? You may not be able to afford one of Roland's excellent SDE series, but there's plenty of other efficient gear in the shops, so stop moaning and get out there.
What d'you mean, you don't know what to look for? Right, it's like this: there are two sorts of digital delay line (or DDL, as you'd call them if you weren't crap), which live either in 19in rack systems, or prone on the floor. Some of them work really well, and do lots of different things, and others work almost as well, and don't do so many things.
You can judge how good the noise a DDL makes by looking at its FREQUENCY RESPONSE, or bandwidth. Bandwidth is measured in Hertz, or Hz for short (not what it does to your ears, but the name of a German geezer), of which the more you have, the better. Bass measurements of 20 to 30Hz (the lower the number the better) are good, as are treble/high frequency figures in the range of 15kHz and upwards (conversely, the higher the better).
With a top end limit of 7kHz, you begin to notice the loss of high treble — not a problem for guitars, but it can adversely affect voices and keyboards, and is generally unsuitable for serious recording.
Time DELAY is measured in milliseconds (1000mS = one second), and anything over 700 to 800mS is a very slow repeat.
Lots of DDLs offer MODULATION: this allows you to flange or chorus the signal on short delay settings — good for vocals and lead lines, and indeed anything that needs fattening up.
PHASE INVERSION is a clever bastard method of emphasising the stereo-ness of a sound, and is found only on the more clever-bastard echoes. HOLD is a function that allows you to shove a noise into the memory of the DDL and have it repeated infinitely (until you stop it) without losing any sound quality. This is a trick of mainly novelty value, unless yours is a TRIGGERABLE delay. This allows you to trigger the memory with an external source (switch, or drum machine, for example), enabling you to use your DDL as a means of substituting sounds. Useful, but costly.
The FOOTSWITCHES mentioned in the chart are simply on/off units for the functions mentioned — useful on stage...
As for the other useful knobs mentioned in our beezer display below, INPUT LEVEL allows you to compensate for the different outputs of instruments (guitar/keys/ mic), and STEREO OUTPUT indicates that you can split the dry and echoed signal into separate outputs, for wacky panning effects. Now, about that chart...
That's about the size of it (19 inches, ho ho).
Ring around the shops, peruse the back pages of Melody Maker, and find yourself a good deal. The newer pedals, such as the JHS DX777 and the Vesta Fires, you will find dropping in price as the months pass. Watch out for the Boss DD2 coming down to compete with Aria's new DDX10 and the Ibanez DDL in the footpedal market.
At the top end, the triggerable delays like the Korg SDD1000 now have to match the keyboard-controllable delights of such as the Vesta Fire DIG 420. The world of DDLs is expanding, and prices are shrinking. So you're crap if you haven't got one, OK?
Feature by Jon Lewin
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