History and Development of Delay Effects

Delay records input signal to a storage medium and then plays it back after a period of time. The first delay effects were achieved using magnetic tape loops - shortening/lengthening the tape length and adjusting the tape heads the nature of the delay was altered. First tape delay systems were:

Ray Butt’s Echosonic

Mike Battle’s Echoplex

Roland Space Echo

Electric motors guided a tape loop through a device with a variety of mechanisms for adjusting the effects parameters. In the Echoplex, the play head was fixed, and the record/erase head could be moved towards and away from it to adjust the length of the delay. In the Space Echo all the heads were fixed, but the tape speed was adjustable. The magnetic tape would deteriorate with time, and would have to be replaced regularly. The Binson Echorec used a spinning magnetic drum which was much more durable. Robert Fripp used two reel to reel tape recorders to achieve very long delay during guitar solos, an effect he dubbed ‘Frippertronics’. John Martyn pioneered the use of the Echoplex. - He is said to have inspired U2’s Edge.

Came into existence due to inexpensive DSP electronics in the late 1970s. They sample the input through a DAC and then a serious of DSPs (digital signal processors) and then stored in a storage buffer. The delayed (wet) signal can then be re-mixed with the original (dry) signal before being passed back into the output DAC. As digital memory became cheaper in the 80s, units such as the Lexicon PCM84, TC Electronics 2290 and the Roland SDE3000 could offer up to 3 seconds delay. The 2290 could also be upgraded to 32 seconds, more than enough to create background loops, rhythms and phrases.

History and Development of Delay Effects
The 1992 Paradis Loop Delay was the first unit with dedicated looping functions - record, overdub, multiply, insert, replace. Delay Parameters ● Delay Time ● Feedback - how much of the delayed signal is sent through the processor again ● EQs and filters (e.g. shelves to remove high or low frequencies) ● Panning (stereo delay)

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Echoplex is a term often applied to the use of multiple echoes which recur in approximate synchronization with a musical rhythm, so that the notes played combine and recombine in interesting ways. In fact, it was the name of a particular delay unit, the Maestro Echoplex. Doubling echo is produced by adding short-range delay to a recorded sound. Delays of thirty to fifty milliseconds are the most common; longer delay times become slapback echo. Mixing the original and delayed sounds creates an effect similar to doubletracking, or unison performance. Slapback echo uses a longer delay time (seventy-five to 250 milliseconds), with little or no feedback. The effect is characteristic of vocals on 1950s rock-n-roll records. It is also sometimes used on instruments, particularly drums and percussion. Slapback was often produced by refeeding the output signal from the playback head of a tape recorder to its record head, the physical space between heads, the speed of the tape, and the chosen volume being the main controlling factors. Analog and later digital delay machines also easily produced the effect. Flanging, chorus and reverberation (reverb) are all delay-based sound effects. With flanging and chorus, the delay time is very short and usually modulated. With reverberation there are multiple delays and feedback so that individual echoes are blurred together, recreating the sound of an acoustic space.

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