Analog vs. Digital Delay (Oscillation and Hold)

Analog vs. Digital Delay (Oscillation and Hold)
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Updated May 2021

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The battle between analog delays and digital delays has been raging for decades now. I have summarized the argument as briefly and inaccurately as possible in the following flow chart. My contribution to the argument is in purple.

Delay Flow

This ground has been tread a number of times. The grass is dead, and it is starting to get really dusty. To prevent any respiratory issues I’m going to travel to a green pasture of weirdness.

There are A LOT of delay pedals out there, from simple three knob analog delays up to an 8 knob, 12 mode, 3 footswitch digital foot-computers. I am going to experiment with two entry-level delay pedals. Say hello to the Boss DD-3 (digital) and MXR Carbon Copy (analog), each can be found on the used market for $100 or less.

Analog delays that use BBD (bucket-brigade device) can often self-oscillate at higher repeat settings. The result is loud and chaotic repetition and degradation of the guitar signal. Digital delay pedals make a digital copy of your signal, which also allow them to loop your playing. The DD-3 has a hold feature that can capture a moment and then repeat it. We’ll see what nonsense these pedals can create on their own, or gasp even together? A T.C. Electronic Ditto is used to loop the oscillation and hold sounds, this increases the utility of these often weird, and commonly unpleasant sounds.

We will start with the Carbon Copy on the edge of self-oscillation and then dive in.

I hope you have found this video both informative and distressing. Both delays can produce some incredible textures. My favorite usage for both these pedals is to create a melodic passage that can repeat and function as backing rhythm. I then use that as a base for additional looping, re-sampling and melody. When you dig deep into these pedals there's so much more to offer than just the tone of the repeats. There’s glitchy, alien, destructive, abrasive and beautiful sounds under the hood. The green pastures of weird await your arrival.

Artists who use these pedals

Boss DD-3 Digital Delay Pedal

Boss DD-3 Digital Delay

Used by 343 Pro Artists

MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay

MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay

Used by 313 Pro Artists

TC Electronic Ditto Looper Guitar Effects Pedal

TC Electronic Ditto Looper

Used by 79 Pro Artists