January 20, 2013

Delay is an effect every guitarist loves using, even if the band they play in doesn't require it or they don't use it every day.  After all, most guitarists love hearing the sound of their own guitar, so what better than hearing each note you play a few extra times?!

The tough thing is deciding what delay pedal to buy.  With at least 10-15 solid options out on the market, how does the Boss DD-7 Digital Delay hold up?  Well, I just went to www.musiciansfriend.com and did a simple search for "delay pedal" on their site.  Here are some of the search results that came up:

What I found interesting was that the Boss DD-3 Digital Delay Pedal came up as the #1 search result, whereas the Boss DD-7 Digital Delay was buried somewhat farther down the list.  Still, it gets a 4.6 / 5 from Musician's Friend and there are very few negative reviews.  And the only negative reviews are coming from tone purists who believe your tone will suck if you don't use Les Paul's with 24k gold cables and all true-bypass pedals, all while hiding from aliens that might inject supernatural RF interference into your sound.  (Okay, okay... there is some evidence that buffered pedals alter the tone a little bit, but over long cable runs, it's actually a good thing to have a buffer IMO.)

There are definitely some good options and plenty of variety here, both in terms of pedal design, style, and price.  Many die-hard analog guys will swear by the analog stuff until the day they die, whereas others are becoming more accustomed to digital fx and not so unnerved by analog simulation.  In any case, feel free to spend your hours weeding through the differences of these pedals on your own after reading the rest of this DD-7 review.

Well, here's my review of the pedal (in addition to the video above):

It's pretty freakin' rad.  The Boss DD-7 Digital Delay may not be analog, but it has a few key features that led me to buying it in the first place.

  • FS-5U: Optional Boss FS-5U Tap Tempo Pedal (Mandatory IMO)
  • SOS: "Hold" feature lets you use the DD-7 as a looper for up to 40 seconds, many layers of sound on sound
  • Tap Tempo: If you must, you can use the DD-7 as a tap tempo w/o the FS-5U.  However, this gets complicated in live situations since you need to press and hold the pedal to go in and out of "on/off" versus "tap tempo" mode.
  • Analog: The Analog setting really does have a nice timbre to it; it's almost enough to fool you into thinking it's not a digital pedal after all.
Now I will admit, beyond these features, the pedal was useless for me.  The 50 ms (doubling effect), 200 ms (tremelo-ish effect), and 3200 ms (long delay effect) delay presets are a joke, unless you like comb-filtering and un-syncopated playing.  The 800 ms isn't bad, since it rides right in the range that most of us normally set our delays, but at that point you're still better off using tap-tempo to dial things in just right.

As for the modulate and reverse delay settings, I never used them (on purpose).  The modulate delay layers some really thick chorus on there -- way too thick for my personal taste -- but I could see some people liking it.  However, why not just use a chorus pedal if that's what you're after?  I think Boss would've been better off including a "Reverb" delay instead of a modulation feature here myself.  And the reverse delay just isn't sophisticated enough for the average player to get much out of it on a normal day.  You need to really draw out the tempo to get the type of reverse delay effects that actually sound good.

Even in light of several useless features, the Boss DD-7 Digital Delay was still a big winner for me because of the aforementioned positives: optional FS-5U, SOS, and Analog setting.  The Analog setting just sounds so rich, while the FS-5U makes this pedal a gig-monster.  Meanwhile, the SOS is great for practice.  Ever wanted to lay down a backing track or riff and then solo over it?  Piece of cake with this thing.  I've layered more than 10 tracks before right on top of each other using the DD-7 as a looper, and it stayed clean the whole time.  Pretty unbelievable, actually.

The first time I had the DD-7 plugged in, I was playing my Gibson Explorer through one of those comically small Danelectro Honeytone battery powered amps that you can clip onto your belt.  Even through that little POC, I noticed how clean the DD-7 stayed, and hence it was destined to remain on my pedal board for a long time to come.

In the end, though, after countless gigs and practices with the DD-7, I recently let it go for $80.00 so I could trade up to the big brother: the Boss DD-20 Giga Delay.  The DD-7 was a faithful soldier, to be sure, and I don't think you can go wrong with it if you're looking for a bread and butter delay pedal.  However, I could not be happier with my decision to upgrade to the DD-20 Giga Delay.  Soon I will be posting another review geared towards the DD-20 accordingly.  It's like a DD-7 on steroids, which is definitely a good thing.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend the Boss DD-7 Digital Delay to a friend.


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