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5 of the Best Delay Plugins on the Market

July 14, 2019
Learn about the best general purpose delay, creative delay, multi-mode delay, analog-modeled delay, and free delay plugin.

There are countless delay plugins available, but a specific handful rises above the rest. This list rounds up 5 of the best delay plugins on the market and runs through some of their most exciting features. Upgrade your plugin library with the following recommendations.

Waves - H-Delay Hybrid Delay (Best General Purpose Delay Plugin) - $49

An image of Waves' H-Delay Hybrid Delay plugin.

Owning an assortment of delay plugins is excellent, but we all have the go-to tools that we’re familiar with, that are easy to use, and that get the job done. Waves’ H-Delay plugin provides some of the desirable qualities of both the analog and digital world at an affordable price. If you’re looking to upgrade from your stock delay to something a little more comprehensive, H-Delay is a strong choice.

The thing I like about this plugin is that it’s simple to operate, but still contains a variety of features. You have the control expected of a digital delay and benefit from some of the warm tones found in analog delays. The primary controls are presented as big knobs, whereas the smaller knobs control things like modulation and filter settings.

There are four available Analog Modes within H-Delay, each with a distinct tone. When set to Off, the plugin will be free of the noise and other unique characteristics imparted by each Analog Mode. I suggest overwriting the default preset in H-Delay with a preset that has analog set to Off; this will provide you with a clean delay signal by default that you can infuse with analog mojo if necessary.

Are you a fan of Waves products? Check out “The 7 Best Waves Plugins on the Market.”

iZotope - DDLY Dynamic Delay (Best Creative Delay Plugin) - $49

An image of iZotope's DDLY Dynamic Delay plugin.

Sometimes you’ll want a delay that behaves in odd and unexpected ways; this is where iZotope’s DDLY Dynamic Delay shines. This delay responds to your track’s musical dynamics to create unique and unpredictable delays. It splits your signal based on transients before sending it down two separate analog or granular delay paths.

Since the DDLY uses a transient-focused design, it plays exceptionally well with drums. The threshold level you set determines the level at which the signal split triggers. Signal above the split is sent to the top delay, while signal below the split is sent to the bottom delay.

DDLY is available on its own or part of the iZotope Creative Suite; this bundle also contains VocalSynth 2, Iris 2, Stutter Edit, Mobius Filter, BreakTweaker Expanded, and Trash 2 Expanded. If you’re looking for unusual ways to process your productions, the iZotope Creative Suite is a great place to start.

For more music production bundle recommendations, check out “7 of the Best Music Production Plugin Bundles on the Market.”

Native Instruments - Replica XT (Best Multi-Mode Delay Plugin) - $99

An image of Native Instruments' Replica XT delay plugin.

Although Native Instruments is mostly known for their powerful software instruments like Kontakt, they also produce awesome mixing tools. Replica XT totes a simple user interface with a powerful processing engine. With five different delay algorithms, including modern, vintage digital, analog, tape, and diffusion, the chances you find the sound you're looking for are quite high.

Replica XT can toggle into a dual mode, which provides control over a second delayed signal. Delay times can be set in straight, dotted, or triplet note values, as well as in milliseconds. While it’s essential to use your ears while mixing, the visual feedback that Replica XT provides as you modify the mix, delay time, and feedback level is an extremely welcome feature.

The modulation section within Replica XT is perhaps one of its most robust features. There are seven different effects which include a phaser, flanger, chorus, frequency shifter, filter, pitch shifter, and micro pitcher. Each of these effects can be used on their own by turning down the delay.

Soundtoys - EchoBoy (Best Analog-Modeled Delay Plugin) - $199

An image of Soundtoys' EchoBoy delay plugin.

EchoBoy is a culmination of decades worth of echo device history and modern features. Every sound source you apply it to ends up coated in a honey-like vintage tone. There are 30 built-in styles modeled on gear like the EchoPlex, Space Echo, Memory Man, DM-2, and TelRay oil can delay.

EchoBoy allows you to achieve the sound of vintage hardware echoes through a modern interface that’s simple to navigate. Control delay time using musical note values and add style with the groove and feel knobs. You also have the option to switch between Single Echo, Dual Echo, or Ping-Pong mode.

This delay plugin works great on vocals, guitars, and drums. Thanks to the ability to control saturation, tape flutter, and diffusion, you won’t end up with the stale sound provided by some digital delay plugins. Use EchoBoy for slapback effects, rhythmic delays, modulation effects, and more.

If you're considering buying EchoBoy, take a look at what the Soundtoys 5 Plugin Bundle has to offer; it costs $300 more, but offers 20 additional plugins.

Valhalla - Freq Echo (Best Free Delay Plugin) - Free

An image of Valhalla's Freq Echo delay plugin.

Valhalla has a history of making top-of-the-line reverb plugins; you can read about them in “4 of the Best Reverb Plugins on the Market.” They’ve followed up their brilliant track record with a delay plugin called Freq Echo that’s free to download.

Freq Echo is an analog echo emulation and frequency shifter. The delayed signal is frequency shifted by the amount you determine with the Shift knob, and offset in time by the value you set with the Delay knob. The other controls found in Freq Echo are quite typical of a delay, so you should have no problem familiarizing yourself with them.

This plugin works great as a dedicated frequency shifter and delay combination. It may also be a step up from the delay that came with your digital audio workstation (DAW). Regardless of your financial situation, you can beef up your plugin library by adding Freq Echo to it for free.

I want to invite you to join me in the Black Ghost Audio group on Facebook; it's full of producers currently working in the music industry who are more than happy to help you improve your productions. Leave a comment below if you have any questions regarding this article. Your feedback is always appreciated, and we'll take it into account when we publish future articles.

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If you're interested in learning more about music production, sign up for a free online music production lesson with a Black Ghost Audio instructor today. They're happy to answer any questions you may have about recording, production, mixing, mastering, and music business.

Charles Hoffman is a mixing and mastering engineer at Black Ghost Audio. After graduating from the University of Manitoba with a degree in English Language and Literature, Charles continued his education at Icon Collective, a music production school based out of Los Angeles, CA. You can send him a work inquiry at charles@blackghostaudio.com.

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