Delay might just be one of the most popular production and mixing effects around, and there are thousands of delay plugins to fulfill your needs. Of course, you want to make music, not go through a trial and error process with a long line of delay plugins before you get to the right one.
To help you out, we've compiled a list of some of the best delay VST plugins on the market, so you can get started pushing the boundaries of time and space in your music production.
Different Types of Delay
Before we dive and explore some of the best delay plugins on the market, let's discuss the different types of delay and why you might choose to use one or the other in your mix.
Tape delay came out in the early 20th century with tape machines. The idea was that a dry signal would be printed onto a piece of tape before it was played back at a later time.
Due to the quality of the tape, the sound was very warm and smooth. Of course, looking for tape delay units today that are in good condition and don't cost thousands of dollars is nearly impossible.
However, if you want a warm-sounding delay that can provide a vintage vibe, we recommend looking into getting plugin versions of tape delays. Many of them emulate original hardware, so it's almost like having access to tape delays that were used in your favorite tracks!
Analog delay units were introduced in the 1970s as a replacement for tape, due to the fact that tape was very volatile and hard to maintain functionality with.
Analog delay effects are known for their warm and crunchy characteristics. If you listen to classic rock, you'll hear these analog delay effects everywhere.
Digital delays came about in the 1980s with the advent of electronic music and hair metal. Finally, developers could create delay units that used computer-based algorithms to work.
Not only did this provide a wide range of brand new timbre options for music producers and mix engineers to use, but it also made delays much easier to work with.
Hybrid Delay/Modern Delay
There are hundreds of plugins out there that aim to emulate delay features of the past. However, there are also many plugin developers that are pushing the boundaries of what is possible, creating innovative sounds that have never been heard before.
We'll discuss some of these developers and more in our article!
1. Waves - H-Delay
Waves branded H-Delay as a "hybrid" delay" plugin, as it gives you several sounds and characteristics depending on your needs. However, if we were going to be realistic, it's pretty analog-sounding.
The beauty of this plugin lies in its simplicity. You won't find any dropdown menus or additional screens. All of the parameters are large knobs, giving it an analog delay aesthetic.
The character is best described as analog or lo-fi. You'll find four different delay modes and a lo-fi switch to give your delay that slight bit of crunch and darkness. You'll also find a few modulation controls scattered along the bottom, great for creating a smooth chorus effect.
H-Delay is one of my go-to delays for ping pong delay, especially when it comes to vocals, percussion, or transient-heavy synths. Of course, if you just need a good slap delay or a 1/16 note throw delay, H-Delay can get the job done for that as well.
Make sure to mess around with the delay time knob on this plugin and try automating throughout your mix to create that dub-style pitch modulation or glaring feedback.
2. UAD Galaxy Tape Echo
The UAD Galaxy Tape Echo is based on one of the most legendary tape delay units of all time, the Roland RE-201 Space Echo. This one-of-a-kind plugin captures all of the wonderful nuances of the original piece of hardware, all while providing a user-friendly layout that you can tweak to perfection.
The Galaxy Tape Echo is best described as creamy, warm, and about as smooth as it can get. People often relate this sound to artists like Pink Floyd and Bowie, as they often used the original piece of hardware to create their out-of-this-world sounds.
Tape echoes are known for providing soft warmth, which is why they aren't the best for busy mixes. However, if you make electronic music where you need to give digital instruments a warmer sound, or if you make more minimal styles of music like folk, reggae, or acoustic, this delay can add a unique flavor to separate the various elements of your mix.
3. Slate Repeater Delay
The Slate Repeater Delay may look like your classic digital delay unit, though it provides users with all kinds of delay sounds, including digital delay, analog delay, tape delay, and more.
You'll find 23 emulations crammed into this fantastic delay plugin, which covers a wide range of iconic units. Beyond that, you'll find an onboard EQ and panning controls to manipulate the stereo image and color of your delay before it goes back out into your mix.
We love the fact that you can dial your stereo color knobs to different settings individually, as it's a unique way to create more width.
While the two plugins we've already discussed have more exclusive uses, the Slate Repeater Delay is a one-stop-shop plugin for standard and classic delay sounds. Whether you need to add tons of space to your synthesizers or give your vocals that 50s-style slap, this is one of the best delay plugins out there.
4. UAD Cooper Time Cube MKII Delay
I've always loved the look and feel of UAD plugins. For whatever reason, the developers at UAD are able to make their plugins feel more tangible, which I suppose is a good thing considering they are made to emulate classic hardware.
The Time Cube MKII Delay has an old-school rackmount look with all of the same features you'd expect from the original unit and more, such as pan controls and envelope shapers.
While this thing can do a lot, one of my favorite uses for it is creating slapbacks. For whatever reason, the algorithm this plugin uses can spread and double vocals without taking up space, which is pretty incredible.
5. Valhalla Delay
Valhalla certainly has its aesthetic down, as the Valhalla Delay looks like just about every other Valhalla plugin with its minimal yet colorful design. Even with its sleek and modern look, it delivers the sound of an old hardware unit.
In my opinion, it's one of the best delay plugins for those who want to capture the sweet sound of classic delays while having control that you can only get from a digital plugin. One of the things I've always loved about the developers at Valhalla is their ingenuity, and that quality truly shines in this plugin.
When it comes to classic tape delay and analog sounds, there are other plugins I'd probably pick. However, if the classics aren't cutting it for me and I want something that can deliver a unique spin on those sounds, I'll reach for the Valhalla Delay plugin.
If you use this plugin and don't mess with the incredible modulation options, you're not using the plugin right. Dial the diffusion knob all the way and you can get a unique reverb/delay hybrid sound to create a unique sense of space in your mix.
6. Soundtoys PrimalTap
Soundtoys is one of my absolute favorite effects plugin developers and the PrimalTap might be one of the best multi-tap delay plugins available. The interface looks like an old-school hardware unit with knobs and sliders. At first, the small sliders can be a bit annoying to deal with, though when you hear the sound that comes out of this thing, you'll forget all about the slight inefficiency.
This multi-tap delay delivers a blend of warmth and grit, giving you the sound of old-school analog delay with digital delay functionality.
The unique thing about this delay is that the multiply feature degrades the signal running through it with each successive repeat. The sound feels very natural and realistic, all while giving you a higher level of control that you wouldn't be able to get with hardware.
One of my favorite functions of this delay is the Freeze control, which you'll absolutely have to try out to get a sense of how amazing it is!
7. FabFilter Timeless 2
With the FabFilter Timeless 2 delay plugin, you get the fantastic UI experience and control you'd expect from any FabFilter plugin. The layout feels intuitive, even though there are about a thousand parameters to mess with.
You'll find delay controls in the top left portion of the screen, a modulation section along the bottom of the screen, and a filter section taking over the top right. You won't get the look or feel of a classic delay unit, as Timeless 2 doesn't aim to emulate anything.
With that said, if you're looking for an analog sound, Timeless 2 might not be the best choice for you. It's a specialty modern delay with tons of creative sound design possibilities. To get you started, there are more than 300 presets. In a way, it's like an instrument of its own.
If you ever feel like an element in your mix is lacking flair, you can reach for Timeless 2 and dial in something that is completely unexpected. You can create an out-of-this-world ambiance from one-shot synths, give your vocals a modulated pitch delay, or automate several of the hundred parameters so that you FX ebb and flow over the course of your track.
8. Soundtoys Crystallizer
I was wondering whether or not to add this plugin to the list, as it goes way beyond your average delay plugin. However, if you're looking to create out-of-this-world, granular, pitch-shifted sounds to launch your mixes to the next dimension, it's one of the best plugins around.
Soundtoys-based Crystallizer on the Eventide H3000 processor's Reverse Shift algorithm. Though it has a very 80s feel, you can use it to create deep, lush, and modern soundscapes that sound like nothing else.
It's not a plugin that I find myself using very often, as it's not made for simple slapbacks or delays. However, if you're production is in need of a bit of sound design or you want to create some unique tonal pads or atmospheres, it's a wonderful source of creativity.
9. NI Replika
It wasn't until recently that I thought of Native Instruments as an effects plugin company, though the second I loaded up NI Replika , I knew I had been missing out. This digital delay plugin has three main sections, including Mode, Time, and Modulation.
The parameters are quite minimal, allowing you to manage and manipulate your sounds with ease.
Though it's a digital delay, one of my favorite settings on this plugin is the vintage delay setting, which uses a unique algorithm to give you that vintage feel without feeling pushed too far back in the mix. To customize your delay even further, you can use the included EQ and modulation sections.
These sections aren't innovative by any means, though having them there is helpful, as you don't have to load up additional plugins in your chain to perform your standard operations.
Though I don't often find myself using NI Replika, when I need long and clean delays or to create cool washy effects, it's a solid delay plugin. I'll often set the delay time really short and enable the ping pong with some added modulation to get a unique slapback with some dynamic character.
10. Line6 Echo Farm
Echo Farm might look like something out of Windows 95, though it's mostly because Line6 decided to prioritize its ease of use over a beautiful UI. You'll find a few presets with classic emulations and just the right amount of controls to dial in the right delay for your mix.
Echo Farm keeps it pretty straightforward. You won't find fancy upgrades to classic sounds or anything that's "cutting edge." However, if you don't have a collection of classic hardware emulations, then this is an excellent option.
I often find myself using this plugin for slap-back delays on my guitars. For whatever reason, it adds just the right amount of depth and size without the unnecessary clutter.
Besides that, one of my favorite uses for this plugin is enabling the Time Ramp option, hitting record, and switching between various delay times. Doing so will give you some unique pitch-shifting sounds that you can automate in and out of your mix for a bit more interest.
11. iZotope DDLY Dynamic Delay
The reason I'm adding the iZotope DDLY Dynamic Delay plugin to this article is that it's one of the most visual plugins around. As you'd expect from iZotope, you get a sleek and clean layout with a slightly old-school look.
Of course, it's not the old-school look that captures you. Instead, it's the futuristic real-time GUI, which proactively responds to the amount of input signal you feed into it.
Essentially, the softer parts of your signal go to one path, while the louder parts of your signal go into a different path. I don't know another delay that does this.
Due to the fact that it takes advantage of dynamic range, it's an excellent choice for live instrumentation. You can dial in creative delays that won't add clutter to your mix.
12. Valhalla Supermassive
Supermassive is another great delay selection from Valhalla, which sounds exactly like the name implies. The UI, as you might expect, is very similar to all of Valhalla's other plugins, giving you only a handful of parameters to mess with.
However, even with its simplicity, the sound design possibilities feel infinite. Plus, you'll find a large selection of presets that you can use to get started.
The main focus of this plugin is creating soundscapes that are larger than life. It's a plugin for MASSIVE reverb and delay sounds, perfect for creating space, atmosphere, or grand canyon-style ambiance.
It's certainly not a plugin that I find myself using very often, as it takes up way too much space for most mixes. However, if you have a breakdown in a song or a minimal element that you want to spread throughout the three-dimensional mix space, Supermassive is an excellent plugin.
13. Soundtoys Echoboy
I figured I'd save the best for last with this article.
Soundtoys Echoboy will be a pretty difficult delay plugin for any company to top. It does just about anything you need it to do and delivers several different delay types, including tape delay, analog delay, digital delay, and more!
In fact, you'll find 31 delay types, some of which are model-specific units. If there's a slapping sound you like from your favorite deep-cut John Lennon track or a spacey delay effect that you've been trying to steal from Tame Impala's new album, I guarantee you can find it in Echoboy.
The interface has an old-school design, yet is just as sleek and straightforward as any high-end modern delay plugin. One of my favorite things about this plugin is that it comes with a built-in saturation knob, which allows you to add grit to any delay signal.
It even comes with several choruses and stereo-width presets.
There isn't an instrument I haven't used this thing on, whether as an insert with the mix knob dialed back or with a send.
I could go on and on about Echoboy, as it is the best delay plugin on the market today (prove me wrong), though I'll let you test it out for yourself!
So there you have it, the best delay plugins on the market for mixing and music production.
By no means do you need to have all of these plugins in your arsenal, though having a healthy mix of analog delays, digital delays, bucket brigade delays, etc., can be a cool way to spice up your mixes and add versatiliy to your music production.