Previously we talked about some of the great
reverb plug-ins available for those mixing
and producing with DAWs (Digital Audio
Workstations). This month, we’ll take a look at
another important sonic element for us guitarists: delay plug-ins. In the pedal world, analog
and digital delays come in many shapes and
sizes. What would the Edge be without that
classic Korg SDD-3000, or how about the
great sound David Gilmour gets on “Run Like
Hell?” While these are ingrained into our collective consciousness, many of us use a much
less pronounced delay on our basic tone.
Certainly, there are some great hardware
delays available to get the job done. Among
them, the Electro-Harmonix Memory Man,
TC Electronic TC 2290, Line 6 DL4 Delay
Modeler and MXR M169 Carbon Copy delay
have all graced my effects rack. However, in
the studio and cutting tracks it’s sometimes
better to use a delay plug-in. This provides
more flexibility in the sound at the mix stage
and doesn’t lock you into the settings you
used when recording with a hardware delay.
Of course, there are times where that hardware delay is simply part of the sound and
has to be recorded as is, but if you don’t
have to use one, try not to. You may find
yourself re-recording that guitar part if the
fixed delay sound doesn’t work for you in
the final mix stage.
Like their hardware cousins, delay plug-ins
come in many different types. Generally,
though, they can be automated so the
settings change in real-time, and they’re
often more flexible control-wise than guitar pedals or rack units. Many plug-ins
can be quickly and easily tempo-mapped
to your software, so you don’t have to
sit there and figure out the bpm calculations—it’s just a few mouse clicks away.
Also, if you absolutely must track with the
delay, you can set the plug-in and monitor it with headphones while recording.
Almost every current DAW, such as MOTU
Digital Performer, Apple Logic, Digidesign
Pro Tools and Cakewalk SONAR, include
delays that are of excellent quality.
However, there are a few choice plug-ins
that take delay sounds to the next level.
Used daily in my studio, the Lexicon PSP
42 stereo digital delay by PSPaudioware
is based on the classic Lexicon PCM 42
hardware unit. It will run VST, RTAS and AU
on most every system, and has some great
tape saturation and flanging delay sounds
in it. Its capabilities are a bit more extensive than your standard delay offering, and
can certainly help you shape a tone.
Another great tone shaping delay for RTAS,
VST, AU and TDM users is the Soundtoys
EchoBoy. It’s got 30 echo styles, including
“Studio Tape” from an Ampex ATR- 102
half-inch two-track, as well as an assortment
of such goodies as Space Echo, Memory
Man, Tel-Ray oilcan delays and more. You
can go deep with this bad boy, and by hitting the Tweak button you’ve got access
to a 3-band parametric EQ with separate
control for tone and echo decay. For further
tweaking, there’s the High Cut filter and
Saturation control. But playing with the
Groove and Feel control can have some
cool timings, which respectively feature a
knob to shift between Shuffle and Swing,
and Rushin and Dragon.
For those that can run TDM plug-in within
Pro Tools, the Line 6 Echo Farm provides
a whole collection of vintage echo effects.
You can easily flip between such goodies as Maestro EP- 1 Tube Echoplex, TC
2290, Auto-Volume Echo, Roland RE- 101
Space Echo, Boss DM- 2 Analog Delay and
more. Most often, I will simply dial in a
basic delay time and lock it to the session
tempo. From there, it’s easy to flip through
the various models to see what sounds
best. While the time and tempo remain
the same, the quirks of each individual
selection, such as Drive, Wow & Flutter
and Filtering, change with each model.
Sometimes I’ll even automate the delay
times to change with the various sections
of the tune, which helps to truly tailor the
delay to fit the song.
Another useful thing about owning a high
quality delay plug-in or two is their flexibility. You can call up several of them
on separate tracks, or use one in a bus
situation and send other instruments or
vocals to the “master delay.” The next
time you’re about to cut some tracks with
a delay pedal, think twice about “printing”
that effect. You may want to check out
a plug-in instead, leaving yourself a few
more options down the line.
Rich is a producer, engineer and mixer who has worked
with artists ranging from Al DiMeola to David Bowie . A
life-long guitarist, he’s also the auther of Pro Tools Surround
Sound Mixing and composes for such networks as Discovery
Channel, Nickelodeon and National Geographic.