Which order do you put your delay and reverb pedals? For years and years I was a firm subscriber to the most common way of delay into reverb… once I had started to play in LogicX, you know - just messing around, I was surprised at how different, albeit quite subtly, the order of these two effects can make the final ‘product’. When I’m in full gig mode, and I’m guessing this is the same with you, it’s not really something I think about too much, but in recent times I’ve been running them parallel and really started to notice how cleaner and clearer everything is. Which is quite an achievement when you consider what a noisy bugger the drummer is.
I’m going to approach this quite scientifically, with the exact same guitar line running through the various options… the line is only 36 seconds long, it’s not a song – just some ‘stuff’ with some intentional stabby bits in so you can hear what is happening. I suspect you might get bored of the same line by the time you’ve got to the last example, but stick with it, as it’s the end one that really highlights how important this is.
First of all, here is my clean tone (is that copyright Andy Martin yet??). To make this simple for myself I used the Helix Native plug-in set on a fairly standard clean Deluxe style model running through a 2x12”. All you are hearing is my PRS Brent Mason, single coil mode, pickup position 4, straight in. There is a fraction of compression up front (and of course whatever YouTube applies at the end…), I’ve recorded it at 41k, .wav and crunched it out at 1080p in the hope that the sound is as clear as possible. I would definitely recommend listening to this under headphones or through a decent set of speakers, as your phone speakers will mush it up further.
The compression, amp, delay and reverb settings are unchanged in any of the examples – they are the same throughout.
Here is the delay line. As you can hear, it’s a modulated delay with a few repeats, nothing startling, but it’s intentionally quite overbearing.
Here is the reverb line. It’s quite a large ambient thing, definitely not something I would usually use, but I needed something large!
Here is the delay into the reverb. As you can hear, the reverb sounds bigger as it’s also reverberating the delay repeats as well, this is where things start to get kinda mushy if you really listen to it. – the reverb feels like it is starting to take over, and the end result is that the whole ambient reverb side is overpowering the main playing line.
Here is the reverb into the delay. To my ears, the delay has lost a little edge and is further back in the mix. It sounds more ambient and bigger as the reverb is also taking the delay lines and reverberating them. The modulation on the delay is falling over itself in places… it’s kinda cool, and a little trippy, but it’s even further lost in terms of the original piece of playing.
Here is final one. As you can see from the signal chain path on the video, the delay and reverb are running parallel to each other so they are not feeding into each other in any way. The feel of separation is clear and everything rings out the way it does in the separate videos. Now, this is easy on the Helix as you can drag a separate path for each, but these days there are a lot of products out there that allow you to separate them and, run in parallel, and then put them back together afterwards, for example the EHX Tri-Parallel mixer and the EQD Swiss Thing. Personally, I particularly like the WetterBox from the GigRig for this… it has the options and features to make sure your signal path is flawless.
If you would like to hear it all again, running one after the other, here is a longer video with them all back to back! I’ve put the Parallel one in the middle of this, because it I wanted you to listen again with (what I think is the) best way before it gets mushy.
Like I said, it’s subtle when using normal delay and reverb style (normal for me anyway), but I’ve tried to use delay and reverb sounds that will show the difference it would make in the real world, even if these aren’t the kind of delays and reverbs you would normally use, you can hear what a difference it makes how you stack them – remember though, there is no right or wrong way to do this - you need to try it, explore it, see what works for you and then go in that direction, it might be that you use multiples ways of doing it within your playing!
I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m a GAS addict. That’s the lovely acronym for what we lovingly call the addiction that is Gear Acquisition Syndrome. I love trying new gear and getting my feet wet when it comes to everything out there. I just love to experiment and soak up the tones of all of the different offerings on the market. Two things in particular that are my main focal points for frequent GAS attacks are Fuzzes and DELAYS. Fuzz is a whole other topic that is left to another blog (there’s so many different styles that I could probably take up several blogs gushing about the glory that are all things fuzz pedals. Delays on the other hand are the stuff that dreams are made of. There are multiple sounds you can achieve with delays that aside from some reverbs (which technically are a form of delay) you can’t replicate using any other effect.
A good friend and I were discussing delay’s the other day, and it’s amazing the number of delays that came up in the conversation that we each believed to be fantastic, whether we had both played the same unit or we compare and trade delays so we can test them out. The question arose between us as to whether you can have too many delays? We both quickly said “NO!” and moved on. Upon thinking about it for a longer period and experimenting with different delays, I came to the conclusion that there’s really no set rule on it, it’s all based on your moods and what you’re going for.
Looking at some of the main delay uses that many players would have a delay for (slapback, added depth for a solo, rhythmic dotted 8th’s, ambient and dreamy melodies, and then oscillation off of the top of my head that I use right off hand) I came to the realization that with one great quality delay pedal that you can hit most if not all of those categories. It made me want to downsize my rig (from pictured at the top of the page) to a much more condensed board with just essentials to push myself.
At the same time, GAS had me fighting the idea of taking pedals off of my board. I quickly started weighing the pros and cons and alternatives and these were what came to mind:
Pros of Multiple Delays:
- Quick and Easy – If I have more than one delay then I can set and forget them for my most common used delay settings and just kick them on when I’m ready. This is vital when changing songs or to other parts of a song because the settings are ready and you don’t have to fool with twisting knobs.
- Broader Coverage – By having different delays on your pedalboard, you can pick and choose varying flavors of delay to cover a broad spectrum of tones. You could pair a digital delay for dotted 8th notes with a warm analog delay for a great warm slapback, or a EP3 style pedal with a really warm preamp for solos with an ambient delay (with reverb even…Ethereal anyone?). The choices are endless in terms of mixing and matching delay types and sounds.
- Experimentation – Just like the previous part mentioned covering a lot of tones, you can mix those two delays with oscillation or dotted 8ths with triplets for a wall of sound. Stacking pedals is half of the fun, and the combinations can get really wild.
- Pedalboard Space – This is the biggie. Multiple delays means taking up extra spots on your board that either require you to give up other pedals to fit on there, or requiring a bigger board. Bigger board means more weight and more to deal with. Power can also be a big issue. If you power source is maxed out, then comes the struggle of figuring out how you’re going to power the extra pedal(s). Daisy-chaining delays is typically a no-no due to noise, so there’s that too.
- Knob Twiddling – Another main part is that with more pedals comes more tweaking, which can really detract from playing. I’ve spent many hours endlessly tweaking when I should have just plugged my Faux Tape Echo (my personal favorite delay) in and spent the time PRACTICING. I’m guilty of tweaking way too many settings because I want it how it sounds in my head. I can usually find it quickly once I’m familiar with a delay, but until that point it takes more time.
- COST – Pedals are expensive! Granted not as expensive as guitars or amps, but with several pedals you can buy a nice guitar or amp (or in some cases and decent car).
These are in their own category in itself because of the array of units and functionality out there. There are pros and cons to them along with multiple delays. They are usually very convenient because they’re completely loaded with various parameters and algorithms to tweak for nearly any delay style you can imagine. The appeal of such a pedal in one unit is hard to beat. That being said, they’re typically quite expensive and then you have what you have. They typically have banks of presets to choose from, but in a gig situation they aren’t always the easiest to tweak if you need to. At the same time, you have a boat load of options right there while only taking up a bit of room.
What are your thoughts? How many delays are enough? Will one suffice, or do you prefer multiple delays, or all-in-one units for complete tweakability? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.