Delay is an audio effect used in audio production that adds echo to the audio signal.

A delay unit works by sending the input signal to the output signal at a later time as defined by the delay time.

The delay time can be defined in milliseconds or seconds. The signal can be combined with the original in an amount set by the mix control. The number of delay repeats is determined by a feedback control - the higher the feedback control, the more repeats.

Any delay under 10-20 ms is inaudibly separate from the original signal. Beyond 20 ms the ear begins to interpret the 2 signals as different sounds.

There are many varieties of delay including:

  • mono
  • stereo
  • multitap
  • slap back.

Most delay processors allow the signal to be delayed as a rhythmic time value, such as quarter notes. 

Common Delay Controls Summary

Delay Time – The delay control determines the delay time in note value steps (based on the tempo and the Step Length parameter) or in milliseconds, depending on the setting of the unit switch.

Unit Switch – The unit switch determines whether the delay is tempo-based ('Steps' mode) or a free time delay (MS' mode).

Step Length – The step length determines whether the 'steps' mode reacts in sixteenth notes (1/16) or an eighth triplet note (1/8T).

Feedback – The feedback control determines the number of delay repeats.

Pan – The pan control pans the delay effect to the left or to the right.

Dry/Wet - Adjust the balance between the unprocessed audio signal (dry) and the delay effect (wet)

Delay Tips

  • Delay decay under 50 milliseconds will create an acoustic space around the sound
  • Delays timed with the songs tempo help add depth and rhythm to a song
  • To create a stereo effect, use a delay of about 12ms and pan both the dry signal and the processed delayed signal hard left and hard right
  • If a mix sounds muddy because of too much reverb, try adding some timed delay instead

Delay Example

Clap without delay

Clap with delayed signal, synchronised to the tempo

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