Delays are an effect that is essential to modern mixing. Whether it is used subtly to give the vocal a sense of depth and space or used overtly as a distinct echo that listeners will sing along like it’s part of the song, delays are the ear candy that adds so much interest and dimension to music. Here are a few of my favorite delay plug-in
If there’s one delay plug-in that is mentioned time and time again by top mixers, it is SoundToys Echo Boy. Why? Simply because it is extremely easy to use from the get go, while also providing tons of different delay module emulations. A number of options and built-in tweaks make it extremely powerful and versatile for many different situations.
You’ve got your choice of single, dual, and ping-pong delays as well as a unique rhythmic delay which can provide really cool and different echoes. Having built-in high and low cut filters are essential for making delays thinner or darker to place them in the correct depth for the usage. Adjustable groove settings allow you to swing or shuffle the delay as well as rush or drag the delay. Sometimes exact tempo-matched delays are needed, while other times, off setting them a bit gives the delay a better feel.
The style selector is really the key feature of the plug-in. Many other delay plug-ins emulate one type of delay module (tape, oil can, analog etc…) but EchoBoy has around 20 different modules to choose from! Everything from various tape machines, to guitar pedals, to chorus racks, to vintage delays (SpaceEcho, Memory Man, EchoPlex, Bisonette) and their own unique takes. Each module is unique in its tonal character, saturation characters, and modulation. On top of these, each preset can be fully tweaked, though I don’t find myself needing this option very often.
I use EchoBoy for any delay need ranging from slap-backs to individual instruments, and especially vocal echoes to make choruses sound huge. Overall, EchoBoy is one of the strongest, most versatile, and easy unit to get a great delay sound from.
H-Delay is one my most plugs because it is quick and flexible enough to get great results. I most often use H-Delay for throw delays where I automate sends from the vocal to echo specific words with specific timing. In fact, I have a a template set up with various time delays, usually no feedback, and varies between ping-pong and straight forward.
The plug-in allows you to select your session tempo-match timing quickly, or set the delay in milliseconds. I’m very careful about the Analog feature, and usually leave this off due to the loud, intrusive noise it adds to the session. I adore the LO-FI button and dig the filter and saturation characteristics the button gives the echoes. Again, high and low pass filters work wonders for honing in the frequency spectrum of the delay. I use modulation sparing, to add a bit of waver to the sound, but overdoing it can make things sound out of tune. One other cool feature I use often is the phase flip button for one-side of the echo. It gives the echo a wider, more doubled sound.
H-Delay just works. When you need to set up a delay fast and have everything go as planned without anything too crazy, H-Delay fits the bill.
Manny Marroquin’s MDelay plug-in from Waves is essentially H-Delay on steroids. Not only do you get the quick setup of H-delay, you get four built-in effects to simply twist and modulate the delay to make things far more interesting.
Before MannyM Delay, you would have to add more plug-ins after the initial delay, or create more send effects to blend the signals with the delay. Not only that, you’d have to think hard about what you want to add. The plug-in makes it so convenient to try effects on the delay and blend to taste.
To start, you can blend reverb with the delayed signal and alter the size of the verb. This sets the reverb back and gives it more depth. Distorting the echo gives it nice character and is great for featuring the echo. Blending a doubler with the delay is a unique idea I had never thought of before. It gives it a thicker sound and makes vocals sound evening bigger. The phaser is a really cool option for adding modulation to the delay. A little bit gives it something unique, while blending a lot of the phaser makes for a wild delay.
MannyM Delay has quickly become one of my favorite delay plugs for vocal hooks as I can quickly dial in that perfect, unique echo.
Timeless from FabFilter is one heck of a powerful delay. It’s got an insane amount of workable controls, filters, modulations, oscillators, and effects. To be honest, most of the time the plug-in is too complicated to mess around with and tweak yourself (at least for me). Where it excels is its excellent selection of presets. It comes with some really cool and interesting presets for everything imaginable from extremely long, never-ending delays, to synths, guitars, drums, vocals etc…
I personally find myself using Timeless for synth delays, unique repeating effects, and often on bridge vocals where a big modulating sound is needed. It definitely takes some time to find the right preset for the right source and tweak the plug, but when you get it, it accomplishes the task of delays in a way that no other plug-in can match. If it is unique you want, Timeless is the way to go.
There you have – my favorite delay plug-ins I use when mixing. There are certainly tons of other honorable mentions and choices which can work, but 80% of the time, one of the aforementioned echoes gets me exactly what I need.