The Evolution of Delay

The Evolution of a Sound Effect

In a rare moment of recurrence and recognition, the staff here at CME couldn’t help but notice the seemingly historical significance of three iconic delay pedals that debuted in March 2022: the BOSS RE-202 Space Echo, Line 6’s DL4 MKII, and Chase Bliss Audio’s Habit—all within the same month!

Looping all the way back to the origins of delay, first discovered in the 1950s by studio pioneers experimenting with reconfigurations of magnetic heads in reel-to-reel tape recording machines to create tape-based echo effects—which eventually culminated in the ‘70s with Roland’s legendary RE-201 Space Echo—a new era in the history of delay began in 1977 with the first pedal-format analog guitar effects pedals. Even despite digital delay’s promise of fewer time constraints, it took more than 20 years for a Line 6 modeling pedal to show analog delay purists the sonic potentials to be unlocked with longer sampling times, until finally arriving at the present day, in which manipulating a digital buffer with granular effects creates time-warping, mind-boggling aural odysseys. Altogether, the three digital delay pedals released in March 2022 seemed to us to mark the dawn of a whole new era in digital delay pedals—plus, a landmark moment in the history of delay! 

Chase Bliss Habit

Looping Back to the Start

Fittingly, the recent trifecta of delay pedals—all of which feature digital buffers—seemed to mark another recurrence, or return to the start of the decades-long loop when the first mass-market analog delay pedal—Electro-Harmonix’s Memory Man—was introduced in 1977. But, the first Memory Man pedal was immediately followed by its own set of delay pedal competitors, including the MXR Analog Delay, and BOSS’s DM-1 Delay Machine—each of which became widely popular in their own regard, and together helped begin to define the sonic characteristics of many classic delay pedals that we still know and love today.

Although the BOSS RE-202 is a digital delay pedal, there may be no better pedal to illustrate why analog delay pedals remained the preferred pedal preferred among guitar players and gear lovers—even following the introduction of digital delay pedals, as early as the ‘80s—until roughly the early 2000s, when the Line 6 DL4 changed the game. 

Designed to authentically reproduce the warmth, saturation, and natural modulation characteristics of the original reel-to-reel tape-echo effects units—in which a mixer is used to feed the output from the magnetic “Play” head back into the “Record,” head, producing multiple, fading repeats and imparting aural effect of perceptible space and ambiance—the BOSS RE-202 pedal recreates the aural qualities and behaviors of the Roland RE-201 Space Echo studio effects unit. In addition to the satisfying roundness and coloration, the natural modulation resulting from physical quirks in the machines—and/or in the tape—caused a satisfying wow and flutter, and the Space Echo gave engineers precise control over these effects.

While analog pedals may not use magnetic tape, the bucket-brigade delay chips that made it possible to house delay in a pedal format imparted their own unique colorations, which drove audio aficionados to develop personal preferences for their taste in types of analog delay, while eschewing the digital buffer formats that modeled the original analog pedals—even despite any added of benefits of digital buffers.  

Delayed Until the Digital Age

Ironically, early digital delays that often went overlooked during the era of analog devotion are now beloved for their quirks. But for digital delay pedals to really take hold, it would take the debut of Line 6 DL4 to finally illuminate the possibilities of extended loop times—and to more than just guitar players.

To do so, the DL4 had to pass muster with the analog world by paying rightful homage to the sonic characteristics of its iconic analog predecessors, encapsulating the sounds and various functions of the most prized analog delay pedals leading up to the moment when the DL4, itself, came along—all within a single pedal.

While the Line 6 Pod, released in 1996, proved how accurate and accessible digital amp models could be, the brand’s gear gurus focused their digital modeling efforts around a single, all-but-standard effect—delay—to show analog devotees what a digital buffer can really do—especially for applications, like loop sampling requiring pristine repeats—plus, more flexibility, longer sampling times, and the ability to manipulate the delay buffer with modulation effects. 

Line 6 DL4 MkII
Line 6 DL4 MkII

A Matter of Time: Expanding Sonic Horizons

After 23 years of the DL4 being at the top of the pile in the digital delay effect pedals market—both due to its accurate modeling of classic delay characteristics, as well as the added loop sampling capabilities—Line 6 recently released the updated and expanded DL4 MKII—which, just like its predecessor, embodies a whole heritage of delays leading up to it, including the 15 delays featured on the original.

But, then, to our surprise, right after the DL4 MKII, we at CME suddenly recognized that we were witnessing a recurrence—what we here in Chicago like to call a “repeat three-peat”—when Chase Bliss Audio announced the arrival of Habit, an experimental delay pedal with a memory bank that stores up to three minutes of audio, plus seemingly endless ways to manipulate and modulate the delay, letting users create sounds no delay pedal has yet been capable of producing.

Starting off what looks to be another half-century-long loop in audio recording, loop sampling, and aural experimentation—just like when the first three analog delay pedals that dropped in 1977—the RE-202, DL4 MKII, and Habit, together, trace the lineage of popular digital delay effect being used today—and we here at CME are willing to bet they’ll continue to do so for many years to come! Come try all three at CME today!

Boss RE-202 Space Echo Delay/Reverb Pedal Effects and Pedals / Delay
Boss RE-202 Space Echo Delay/Reverb Pedal Effects and Pedals / Delay
Boss RE-202 Space Echo Delay/Reverb Pedal Effects and Pedals / Delay
Boss RE-202 Space Echo Delay/Reverb Pedal Effects and Pedals / Delay

Boss RE-202 Space Echo Delay/Reverb Pedal

Introduced in 1974, the Roland RE-201 Space Echo stands among the most legendary and sought-after effect units ever produced. This tape-based classic remained in production for over 14 straight years, and its distinctive rhythmic echo sounds, warm character, and highly playable sonic quirks still inspire musicians, producers, and audio mixers over four decades on.
Backed by intensive R&D and our latest innovations, the RE-202 faithfully delivers the authentic sound and behavior of the Space Echo like never before. Built by the company that designed the original, this advanced pedal captures the RE-201’s magic in flawless detail, from the magnetic tape and motor properties to the vibrant spring reverb and colorful preamp circuit. And to take things even further, we’ve expanded the vintage Space Echo experience with lots of new features tuned for today’s music.
Tape Echo Magic
Tape echo was the first delay effect and one of the first effect processors available for electronic musicians. In contrast with today’s CPU-based digital units, a tape echo is a simple machine that uses a motor to pull magnetic tape across one or more record/playback heads. Warm, full, and dynamic, the tape echo sound is influenced by many factors. The ever-changing input level colors the sound with varying amounts of tape saturation and compression. In addition, motor speed fluctuations, friction, wow and flutter, and other elements introduce an appealing modulated character that’s subtle and continually evolving. 
RE-201 Space Echo: Simply Legendary
The RE-201 was a benchmark Roland product and one of the leading tape echo units of its era. It featured three evenly spaced heads that produced a wider range of echo effects than typical single-head designs, plus an innovative free-running tape system that provided superior performance with minimal tape wear. Grab-and-go controls enabled quick access to clean, single delays or various head combinations for dense, rhythmic echoes. A spring reverb tank was included too, making the RE-201 a one-stop shop for quality ambience effects. Last but not least, analog preamp circuitry was another key ingredient in the Space Echo’s rich sonic recipe.      
A Masterpiece Reborn
Realized through the latest technologies and exhaustive analysis of several vintage RE-201s—including a pristine original unit from the BOSS and Roland factory archive—the RE-202 brings the complete Space Echo experience to life in a versatile modern pedal. 
While previous BOSS designs captured the true sonic flavor and essential characteristics of the Space Echo, new advancements have allowed us to go much deeper than ever before. With the RE-202, our engineers have fully reproduced all the complex, non-linear behaviors that contribute to the RE-201’s immortal character. Everything that influences the sound was carefully examined and recreated with all-new algorithms, including the tape path, record/playback mechanism, motor variations, preamp coloration, tape age, spring reverb character, and more.
Retro Sound at Your Fingertips
The RE-202 delivers the full vintage vibe of the RE-201—without the need for regular tape replacement and hardware maintenance. All the core controls of the original are here, including the iconic 12-position mode selector. Every behavior is replicated with complete accuracy, such as the gradual pitch change that occurs when the Repeat Rate knob is tweaked, or the cool runaway feedback that happens when the Intensity knob is maxed.
With selectable tape age and variable controls, you can dial in everything from a brand-new Space Echo to the worn character and quirks of a well-loved vintage piece. The Saturation control has been carefully calibrated based on the actual magnetic tape and preamp behaviors of the RE-201, with the sound becoming warmer and more compressed as you turn up the knob. And with the expressive Wow & Flutter control, you can conjure all the natural modulation characteristics that are essential to the Space Echo sound.
Sonic Enhancements
The RE-202 includes many new features that extend the Space Echo for today’s musicians. Twice the delay time is available, along with a fourth virtual tape head that unlocks five additional sound combinations. There’s also an echo type that changes the distance between the heads, something not possible with the original. In contrast with the mono RE-201, the RE-202 provides true stereo I/O and selectable operation for guitar or line-level devices. For the dry sound, you can choose between the warm and fat RE-201 preamp tone or a clean signal with zero processing.

Also included is a stereo version of the original spring reverb sound from the RE-201, along with hall, plate, room, and ambience types for additional versatility. Expressive Warp and Twist effects are available as well, allowing you to launch the sound into outer space with the press of a footswitch while performing.
Modern Control
To complement its vintage heart and soul, the RE-202 has all the modern features you’d expect from an advanced delay pedal. There are four onboard memories for storing and recalling favorite sounds, and 123 more are accessible via MIDI program change. Tap tempo is also on hand, as well as selectable delay carryover when switching memories. It’s also possible to mute the dry signal for parallel effect setups and studio usage. Expanded control is available via external footswitches, an expression pedal, and MIDI, including real-time operation of multiple parameters at once.
  • Authentically recreates the sound and behavior of the legendary Roland RE-201 Space Echo
  • Classic multi-head tape echo sound with expanded delay time 
  • Original three-head configuration plus additional tape head for 12 unique echo combinations
  • Independent stereo reverb section with original spring reverb type plus hall, plate, room, and ambience
  • Saturation control for adding magnetic tape compression and preamp coloration
  • Wow & Flutter control for introducing varying levels of natural tape modulation     
  • Choose between new and aged tape conditions
  • Selectable input modes for optimum performance with instruments and line-level gear
  • Warp and Twist effects with footswitch control
  • Select between the unprocessed analog dry signal or the modeled sound of the original Space Echo preamp
  • Four onboard memories plus the current panel settings
  • Save and select 127 memories via external MIDI program change
  • Tap tempo and carryover functions
  • True stereo input and output
  • Expandable control via external footswitches, an expression pedal, or MIDI
Line 6 DL4 MKII Delay Modeler Pedal Effects and Pedals / Delay
Line 6 DL4 MKII Delay Modeler Pedal Effects and Pedals / Delay
Line 6 DL4 MKII Delay Modeler Pedal Effects and Pedals / Delay
Line 6 DL4 MKII Delay Modeler Pedal Effects and Pedals / Delay

Line 6 DL4 MKII Delay Modeler Pedal

The DL4TM Delay Modeler has remained one of the most widely used delay pedals in the world for more than two decades—embraced by everyone from casual players to superstars. The DL4 was the first pedal to offer a broad selection of delay models based on vintage tape echo devices such as the Maestro® EP-1 Echoplex and the Roland® RE-101 Space Echo, classic analog delay stompboxes such as the Electro-Harmonix® Deluxe Memory Man, and even the Binson Echorec and studio staple TC Electronic® 2290 Dynamic Digital Delay. These were complemented by several Line 6 originals, including the exceptional Reverse delay—and the DL4 also boasted a highly intuitive "14 Second Loop Sampler" that is still considered one of most engaging loopers ever made. 
The DL4 MkII honors that legacy by including every one of those original sounds and features, and retaining the same knob and footswitch layout, so there's no need for DL4 users to learn any new moves—but the DL4 MkII also introduces many new sounds and features that bring it fully into the 21st century. The 15 MkII delays were drawn from our HX® family of amp and effects processors and include Line 6 originals such as Harmony Delay, Pitch Echo, Euclidian Delay, Glitch Delay and ADT tape delay, as well as 4-Switch and 1-Switch looper types with up to 240 seconds of record time, expandable to several hours using an optional microSD card.
The DL4 MkII also features an XLR dynamic microphone input for vocal processing and looping; MIDI capabilities such as real time parameter control and preset selection (up to 128) via its MIDI In and Out/Thru DIN connectors; four heavy duty footswitches; and switchable true, buffered, or DSP bypass. There's also a jack for connecting an optional expression pedal (automatically assigned to the Delay Time, Repeat, Tweak, Tweez, or Mix controls) or two assignable external footswitches.
Finally, although the DL4 MkII does everything that the original DL4 does (other than run on batteries), plus so much more, it is considerably smaller and lighter, making it an even more appealing choice for modern musicians of all types.
Fans of the original DL4 delay pedal will find all of their favorite sounds exactly where they expect them to be, with the same Tweak and Tweez control parameter assignments they've become accustomed to. The 15 new MkII delays were drawn from the HX family of amp and effects processors, and include both more recent versions of classic effects and cutting-edge Line 6 originals such as the super-vibey Glitch Delay.
The DL4 MkII features a simple 1-Switch looper in addition to a classic 4-Switch looper, both of which provide up to 240 seconds of recording time. By inserting an optional microSD card into the slot on the rear of the pedal, recording time may be extended up to several hours and a loop may be stored across power cycles. The loopers operate in either mono or stereo, and may be positioned in the signal chain before or after other effects.
It's no secret that the DL4 has been used for processing and looping by lots of people besides guitarists, including vocalists and others who capture their performance with a microphone. Now, dynamic microphones can be plugged directly into the pedal's XLR Mic input, eliminating the need for converter cables, mixers, or other external devices. This feature also makes the DL4 MkII a handy tool for sound designers and other sonic adventurers.
Onboard MIDI In and Out/Thru DIN connectors enable the DL4 MkII to receive continuous controller, program change, and other MIDI messages from external sources such as MIDI controllers, thus allowing parameters to be modified dynamically and presets to be selected remotely. The DL4 MkII provides access to three presets using the A, B, and C footswitches, or six if the Tap switch is set to toggle between two banks of presets (A,B, C and D, E, F). But the DL4 MkII can store up to 128 presets, selectable via MIDI.
  • Identical knob and footswitch layout as the original DL4
  • 30 Delays: 15 new MkII plus 15 Legacy DL4
  • 2 Looper types—mono/stereo and pre/post signal path options
  • Up to 240 seconds of looping time, or several hours with optional microSD card
  • XLR dynamic microphone input for vocal processing and looping
  • MIDI In, Out/Thru DIN connectors—receives PC and CC messages
  • 128 Presets via MIDI, with footswitch control of up to six
  • Switchable true, buffered, or DSP bypass
  • Input for optional expression pedal or two additional footswitches
Chase Bliss Habit Experimental Delay Pedal Effects and Pedals / Delay
Chase Bliss Habit Experimental Delay Pedal Effects and Pedals / Delay

Chase Bliss Habit Experimental Delay Pedal

Habit is a delay with a memory.
It lets you break away from the present moment and create echoes of the past instead. Or both at once. It does this by recording every sound that goes into the pedal, so you can revisit them later. You can collect sounds you made 2 minutes ago and turn them into loops, or harmonize along with old playing, or build impossible echo patterns.
It’s an effect that can become an instrument at any time, an evolving paint-splatter of everything you do. A musical sketchpad.
Or it could just be a fun delay:
  • 60 Seconds of Delay Time
  • Modifiers
  • Multi-Tap
  • Looping

Record free-form songs right in the pedal, navigate through a whole performance with the turn of a knob, and yes, make echoes.

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