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In the time when everything needs repeating, finding the best delay plugin is a very important mission! Luckily here we have a small collection of quality recommendations, including both free and paid plugins. After going through this text, the business of finding the best delay plugin out there should be a bit easier.
In search for the best delay plugin, we will go through multiple types of delay – tape, emulations, analog and digital. Tape delay is an emulation of old tape machine hardware delays, where a sound was recorded on a small piece of tape and played back at certain time intervals. Those machines had a very pleasant sound and a natural fall off, but the maintenance was very complicated. Analog delay was the next step – analog hardware that keeps the sound quality but modernizes the system. Digital delay made everything more compact and more powerful, while still retaining some of the character. The delay plugins here encompass all of the listed types of delay.
Table of contents
- Best Delay Plugins that are free
- Best Delay Plugins that cost (some) money
Best Delay Plugins that are free
Your DAW Delay Plugin
Perhaps not the fanciest, but the best delay plugin that you always have! Don’t overlook your DAW’s humble delay, no matter how tempting that might look… you might be positively surprised! Your DAW’s delay is already there, probably very well optimized and ready to go!
Sporting their distinctive UI, the Supermassive from Valhalla is one of the best delay plugins out there that are free. The 14 different delay algorithms are inside, named after galaxies and constellations. Each algorithm offers a specific sound, and the controls are simple enough that it’s easy to get the sound you need.
If you are looking for the best delay plugin that sounds a bit retro and is free, the Baby Comeback might be the ticket! It is sporting a tasteful classic UI and four different FX modules (Analog, Saucy, Cheap and Wide). The plugin itself is fairly simple, but you can always upgrade to its bigger brother, the Comeback Kid.
If you want to look retro and sound retro, this is the best delay plugin for you! Modeled after the legendary Copicat hardware tape delay, the GSi Varispeed brings the ancient mojo into your DAW. The controls are identical to the hardware, the sound is going very much into the same direction, only without the complicated maintenance.
Simple, subdued, streamlined, but still one of the best delay plugins (at least of the free ones). The Cocoa Delay is loaded with controls and options, but yet does not seem convoluted. Different pan modes, drift, ducking, drive and a few more tricks are there. Without an inherent character that dominates, this is one of the more versatile free delays on this list.
Might not be the best delay plugin in the world, but it is certainly one of the more unique ones! The CHOW Matrix is a node-based delay, which means you can add and edit elements as you wish. You can make a simple delay or you can grow your node tree to a monster multitap echo reverb LFO combo! And although it seems complicated, the UI is fairly simple and easy to use.
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Best Delay Plugins that cost (some) money
Simple to use, tons of analog flavor, we start the list of the best delay plugins with the H-Delay. Subtly inspired by Lexicon hardware, it keeps some of the quirks found on the hardware tape units. Effective filters, lo-fi circuit and great delay possibilities complete the package. A well rounded delay plugin that can find its place in almost any collection.
Softube Tape Echoes
Looks more like the best delay plugin when you look under the hood! Softube’s Tape Echoes looks great and sounds even better! The UI is very retro and clear, offering all the needed controls. The screen is dominated by a long slider that controls your delay time, and the lower half is populated by most of the other controls. And the magic is there – you can use the great-sounding dirt knob or the nifty built-in reverb along with the regular delay controls.
One of the best delay plugins if you are looking for a bread-and-butter unit. Versatile, multifaceted but still very easy to use, the Echoboy is a very good offering. Under the “standard” functions, you will also find an awesome multi-tap delay, different styles and dedicated groove and feel controls.
NI Replika XT
Among the best delay plugins if you are looking at the digital realm. NI’s Replika XT is a very versatile delay with a very streamlined UI. You can expect filters, five modeled delay modes and seven modulation effects, that all sound great! Modern, Vintage digital, Analogue, Tape and Diffusion are offered, each with its own sound character. It is a purely digital modeling plugin, but it definitely pulls its weight.
FabFilter Timeless 3
Among algorithm-based plugins, this is (one of) the best delay plugin(s). The standard FabFilter UI looks modern and offers tons of control. Two programmable delay lines with top of the line FX and filter units do their best to complete the package. On top of that, modulation is also top notch – and drag’n’drop, nifty! You can sculpt the sound in more than one way, and almost everything can be connected and controlled by everything else… the Timeless 3 is a powerhouse!
The best delay plugin when it comes to capturing both the vintage and modern. The Valhalla Delay rocks a familiar UI and some unique options. Awesome modulation options definitely add value to this plugin but the star of the show is the diffusion feature. It can create a combined delay/reverb sound, which sounds great and very unique.
Audio Damage Other Desert Cities
If creativity is the name of your game, this could be the best delay plugin for you! Six unique algorithms are available – standard, reverse, dual, multi, granular…and they all sound great! Great modulation, a very extensive diffusor unit and extensive I/O control complete the package. This is a very unique delay plugin that is great for sound design tasks.
Delays are a definite part of any modern mix, and finding the best delay plugin for you is a very important task! Luckily, delay plugins are great fun so that task definitely does not feel like a chore. This list covers the basic flavors and gives you enough to start building your delay plugin collection… because one plugin is not enough, you always need a collection. We know, trust us.
Do you know the difference between reverb and delay? We explain all the details in the article Reverb vs Delay.
Delay plugins are audio processing tools that create an echo effect, similar to the natural phenomenon of sound waves bouncing off surfaces and creating a repeating sound.
Delay plugins can add depth and complexity to a mix, create a sense of space, and add interest to an otherwise dull sound.
There are several types of delay plugins, including tape, analog, digital, and emulations of various vintage and modern delay effects.
The best free delay plugins include Your DAW Delay Plugin, Valhalla Supermassive, Baby Comeback, GSi Varispeed, Cocoa Delay, and CHOW Matrix.
The best paid delay plugins include Waves H-Delay, Softube Tape Echoes, SoundToys Echoboy, NI Replika XT, FabFilter Timeless 3, Valhalla Delay, and Audio Damage Other Desert Cities.
Most delay plugins are designed to work with multiple DAWs, but it is always best to check the plugin specifications before purchasing to ensure compatibility with your specific DAW.
Many paid delay plugins offer a free trial version that users can download to test out the plugin before purchasing.
While delay plugins can be resource-intensive, most modern computers should be able to run at least a few instances of delay plugins without any issues. However, it is always best to check the plugin specifications to ensure that your computer meets the requirements for the plugin.