What Is Tape Delay? Everything You Need to Know
For fans of chiming echoing sounds, getting a great delay pedal is always going to be a focus. For the keenest among us, experimenting with different models is all part of the fun.
If you’ve been trying different delays for some time, then you’ll probably be familiar with the notion of hunting down a genuine delay sound. A delay that sounds natural, rather than processed. There are certainly pedals that do a great job, the Boss range are excellent as is the Line 6 module and many others, but nothing compares to a genuine tape delay.
So what is tape delay? It’s the original effect where delay as we know it was born. Back in the days of recording on tape, the effect came from the difference (or delay) in time between the sound being processed and the tape hitting a secondary repro head. This difference in time created an audible echo, and thus the effect we know as delay.
By changing the speed at which the tape processed through the machine, you could also create effects such as chorus and flange. Being created on tape meant that you’d get a slight imperfection in pitch as the speed of the tape was altered – an imperfection that most modern units don’t replicate for obvious reasons.
So, if you really want to get the original ‘true’ delay effect you’ll need to find a unit that uses tape. By a long distance, the best unit available on the market today is the T-Rex Replicator Tape Delay.
It’s a simply outstanding unit, with its own analogue tape machine to process the sound. What’s more it looks absolutely fantastic with a natural wood finish and old school knobs. If you want to take a listen to the unit, then check out the demo below by the Chicago Music Exchange:
What you’ll notice on the unit is that you have not only the controls for the delay effect, but you’re also able to control the chorus effect just like the original method.
The unique thing about the T-Rex Replicator is that for the first time ever, you can use a tap tempo to control the delay time on a genuine tape echo. You also have the option of controlling the delay speed and feedback via an external expression pedal. Getting all of that modern functionality mixed with analogue tape unit in a pedal is impressive to say the least!
Sadly it’s not a cheap purchase (come on, how could you expect it to be?!). If you want an analogue tape delay but don’t have the money to purchase the T-Rex, then a good alternative is the Wampler Faux Tape Echo. At £250 it’s still not cheap, but then this isn’t a post about cheap delay units.
From a fair bit of research, the Wampler Tape Echo pedal will get you a close as you can without having an actual tape machine on the floor. If you’re also keen to cram a few more pedals into your board, then going with this option will also give you a bit more space for other pedals.
Just like the original delay effect, you’ve got the option here to control the ‘chorus’ or modulation of the sound via the ‘movement’ control on the pedal. So, if you’re looking to pull the imperfections back in, then this is the knob for you.
For a really detailed (and excellent!) review, I’d highly recommend checking out the review below by Tom Quayle which also happens to feature some excellent playing:
So, if you’re on the hunt for the best delay you can get, then definitely do some research into tape echo’s. Enjoy the hunt!