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The Best Delay Plugin? No Such Thing! Discover 3 Delay Plugins That Are However Solid Options for Music Production...

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Yes, any producer worth their salt will tell you "the best delay plugin" doesn't exist.  There's only the best delay for the job at hand.

This is, as you can imagine,  because delay plugins come in many flavors.  From classic delay effects like slap-backs, doublers and echos to dub-style delays to modern modulated ducking madness,  this is one plugin category where one could really get addicted to the fun and creative possibilities.

In this post we'll however restrain ourselves and look at only 3 top delay plugins that could fast become your firm favorites. So, without further delay,  let's dive right in... in... in... in... ;-)

A quick note about this series:

The purpose of this series of posts is to provide you with only 3 good DAW audio plugin choices for the different types of available professional music production plugins.

This, as you can imagine, is no easy task given the sheer amount of plugins available in most of the various audio plugin categories.  Some really excellent contenders had to be left on the virtual cutting-room floor.

Why not just list more?

That would've been the easier option for me, but there are countless blog posts listing the 20 or 10 "best [.....] plugins".  While these types of posts have their place and purpose they can still leave you with a bit of overwhelm when it comes to making a choice. Even more so when you start comparing plugin features.

So, the general idea of these posts is...

... to narrow-down to just  3 top contenders in each of the popular DAW plugin categories.  This means you can start with a solid shortlist and demo the plugins which appeal to you most, knowing that these have been selected for good reasons.

So, how are the included plugins selected?

Nothing too scientific.  It's a mix of my what I've picked up in my experience in audio and music for the past 20-ish years, coupled with some light research on sites with ratings and reviews and various lengthy "what's the best plugin for... ?" music production and audio forum posts.  You know the ones. ;-)

So, you can think of it as my opinion plus a bit.  Take it with a grain of salt as you would with any opinion about music production software and gear in general. My hope is you'll find the 3 recommended plugins in each category a good starting point and find the plugin that suits you best,  faster.

OK, so "the best delay plugin" is a myth, but...

... some delay plugins can be said to be more useful than others.

Yes, some delay plugins emulate older classic echo and delay hardware units of the pre-digital days of analog. Others fulfill specific functions well,  but cannot be seen as versatile swiss-knife types of delay plugins.

The 3 delay plugins you'll discover below come close to however being workhorses when it comes to delay effects. My hope is that this will make your delay plugin purchasing decision easier,  especially if you're a newer producer who's thinking of grabbing your first non-stock plugin delay.

Keep in mind however that there are truly tons of delicious delay plugins available and each has their own capabilities and character.  So,  if you haven't yet,  you will in time own multiple delay plugins and get know them better. One can really never have enough delays! ;-)

1. EchoBoy by Soundtoys

EchoBoy Screenshot

EchoBoy is considered the best delay plugin by many producers, and for good reason!

Don't be fooled by the simple, hardware unit styled interface.  This is one beast of a delay plugin.

If you're looking for a quick-and-easy way to dial in classic delay sounds with great tones included in the box then EchoBoy is the one to load up.

First, you get to access 30 built-in vintage echo-box models. We're talking classics like EchoPlex, Space Echo, Memory Man, DM-2, and even TelRay oil can here.

The fun doesn't stop there though.  Start twisting and tweaking the Groove, Feel and Accent controls and soon your delay lines quickly go from dead on the grid to swinging or shuffling, from completely in time to rushing ahead or dragging it's tail like musicians, especially good ones, tend to know how to do. Talk about the feels!

You're also not restricted to the old-school delays.  The Rhythm Echo mode and Style Editor options make it possible to customize your delays to an incredible degree.

Furthermore, the built-in saturation options allows you to add some richness for that perfect analog tone and if that wasn't enough you're also able to add familiar audio artifacts like tape-wobble and even diffusion as you would with reverb.

Now,  it's true that EchoBoy is one of the pricier delay plugins available,  so you'll have to factor that into your decision.  That said,  it's worth every cent in the long run because this is one monster of a workhorse delay that you'll use over and over and very often.

EchoBoy is available for both Windows and Mac OS.

You can learn more and check it out right now here.

2. Timeless 2 by FabFilter

Timeless 2 Screenshot

Versatility and flexibility are the first words that come to mind when I think of Timeless 2.

Yes,  it's a well-modeled tape delay plugin and that's all fine and good.  It's the modulation options that however give this plugin an edge.

Your delay gets sent through 2 high-quality multi-mode filters and back with feedback and cross-feedback that you can adjust to your heart's content. You can also invert the phase of each channel separately which allows you to create some flange and phase to add some extra modulated movement to your sounds.

Then go ahead and modulate pretty much any parameter with simple drag-and-drop functionality and the XLFO, envelope generators, envelope followers and XY controllers and MIDI sources options.

Sure, Timeless 2 is a delay plugin, but it's also a creative tool that allows you to twist and mangle your sounds into something completely new and unique.

There's so much more to Timeless 2 but for the sake of brevity I'll leave it up to you to dig deeper and find out what it has to offer you as a producer.

Timeless 2 is available for Windows and Mac OS and a trial version is available for you to demo.

Learn more about Timeless 2 and buy it right now at Plugin Boutique. (affiliate link)

3. Replika XT by Native Instruments

NI Replika Screenshot

Sometimes all you need is a simple interface, a quick and easy way to get the delay you want fast. Imagine you could have that and still have great quality and power at your fingertips.

NI's Replika XT makes it onto this big 3 list of delay plugins not only for the simplicity, quality, capabilities, options and tone it offers you but also because of the price point.  It just packs so much value in and compared to other delay plugins of this ilk it comes in at a way lower in price.

NI refers to Replika XT as a "creative multi-mode delay".  You get to choose between 5 different modes:

  1. Modern
  2. Vintage Digital
  3. Analogue
  4. Tape
  5. Diffusion

Once you have your chosen mode selected you can dial in your delay with Amount, Size and Movement parameters and also adjust your tone with the handy LowCut and HighCut filters.

The pattern controls allow you to quickly and easily create and fine-tune your rhythmic delay patterns.  You get to select panning for each delay and also the dry signal and at the same time adjust ducking to get it to work well with your mix.

It would be pretty darn decent if it stopped at that but you then get to send it through in-built effects to create the type of delay-lines you want without having to load up additional plugins in your chain.  The effects included are:

  1. Phaser
  2. Flanger
  3. Chorus
  4. Frequency Shifter
  5. Filter
  6. Pitch Shifter
  7. Micro Pitcher

You can also use all the above effects on their own by turning down the delay which means this plugin can be useful for more than just delay effects in the studio.

So,  if you, like me, dig simple interfaces that hide deep functionality and power at a decent price point then Replika XT will probably be the best delay plugin bang for your buck.

As an extra bonus, Replika XT also comes with presets from OG heavy-hitters like Richard Devine, Roger Lyons, Marcus Byrne and Chris Shaw included right out the box.  Sweet!

Replika XT is available on Mac OS and Windows and a demo is available so you can try before you buy.

Check out Replika XT on the Native Instruments site right now. (affiliate link)

The Best Delay Plugin - Conclusion:

Arrrrgh! It was tempting, and I mean real tempting, to include at least 7 delay plugins in this list.  I had to leave some real heavyweights out and this hurts my soul.

The option of including a quick list of runner-ups also came to mind but, alas,  3's the restriction so I will stick to it.

The 3 options you discovered above are solid choices.  If you want to explore more options I wouldn't blame you as I'm a self-confessed delay junkie.

So, if that's the case, then check out the current highest-rated delay plugin selection over at Plugin Boutique.