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Digital delay pedal
Published in PM March 2009
Reviews : Effects Pedal
The Boss DD series pedals are surely the most widely used digital delay pedals ever. The latest in the range, the DD-7, appears to incorporate every improvement and upgrade ever suggested for its predecessors.
The Boss range from Roland has an amazing history in the compact effects pedals market. The first Boss pedal was the CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, which appeared back in 1976, and since then Boss pedals have become a standard for many musicians. The first digital delay pedal from the Japanese company was the DD-2, which was launched in 1983 (I bought one of these at the time), and since then regular improvements to the digital delay range have occurred, resulting today in the release of their latest compact digital delay pedal — the Boss DD-7.
The new DD-7 improves on its predecessors and adds more features and capabilities. These include the addition of a Modulation Delay mode, Analog Delay mode, external tap-tempo pedal control, external expression control and longer delay and hold times.
The construction of the DD-7 follows the standard Boss compact pedal layout that has already proved to be a robust design for over 30 years. I have owned many Boss pedals over this time and have never had one break or fail. I dont believe this is because I have been lucky, but more that they have great performance and reliability and are very durable. The DD-7 features five standard quarter-inch jack sockets for Inputs A (mono) and B, Outputs A (mono) and B and a Tempo/Exp input for external tap-tempo input or for control from an external expression pedal. There are four rotary controls on the top of the pedal for E Level, Fback, D Time and Mode. The Mode control selects between the following eight modes: 3200ms, 800ms, 200ms, 50ms, Hold, Modulate, Analog and Reverse. The functions of these controls vary according to how the inputs and outputs are patched (see below). With the standard configurations in mono (input A to output A), or stereo (inputs A and B to outputs A and B), the DD-7 performs as follows.
Each of these modes relates to a range of delay times, which can be selected using the D Time control. For example, when the Mode switch is set to 3200ms, the delay time can be adjusted from 800 to 3200ms. This results in quite an impressive range of delays times. For a full list of the delay time ranges for each mode, see the inset box. Using these modes I found it easy to create a range of delays including short doubling effects, slap-back delays, repeats and longer delays, as used famously by such artists as Brian May on Brighton Rock.
The Hold mode works much like a scaled-down version of the Boss RC-2 Loop Station, but with shorter record times. However, having up to 40 seconds available on the DD-7 is impressive (note that the Hold time is reduced to 20 seconds when using a stereo input). I played with this mode for some time using a guitar. Once a pattern or phrase is recorded it is then possible to overdub on top of this, and then play live over the two recorded parts. I found it a little tricky at first to get the timing right, but after a little practice it was great fun. This mode could easily be used live to create repeating parts in a song, or as an accompaniment for a solo performer.
The Modulate mode gives delays of between 20 and 800ms with a chorus effect. Although the DD-7 has not been designed as a chorus pedal, Boss have many years of experience in this market. I really liked the modulation effect and, coupled with the delay effect, this produced a very pleasing combination. I can see this being useful to many people. The Analog mode features a delay where the tone changes with each repeat, much like that of old tape delays and echos. Boss claim this is based on their DM-2 delay, and although I am not familiar with that product, I can appreciate the analogue warmth of this effect. Reverse mode produces the effect of a tape playing backwards, with delay times of between 300 and 3200ms in normal Delay mode and an impressive 600 and 6400ms in Long Delay mode.
With the DD-7 you can use a tempo input to match the delay time to the tempo of a song. This can be achieved using the DD-7s own pedal switch, or by using an external footswitch connected to the Tempo/Exp jack socket. Using the DD-7s onboard switch, the pedal can be put into tempo mode by holding down the pedal switch for at least two seconds, which turns the indicator light green. Alternatively, you can use an external unlatched pedal to tap the tempo. I must admit that I would prefer to use an external switch for this, especially when playing live, as it can sometimes be too complex to change the mode of a pedal during a performance. In addition to the tap-tempo facility, the Tempo/Exp socket can also be used to connect an external expression pedal for real-time control of the delay time, feedback and effects level.
If you think I have already covered a comprehensive list of features for a compact pedal, there is still more to come from the DD-7! The output modes of the pedal can be changed so that various combinations and controls of the stereo delay are possible. I thought these were very important features, which would appeal to many musicians.
In Panning mode, a mono guitar (or other instrument) is connected to input A, and outputs A and B produce a panning delay. In Effect + Direct mode, a mono guitar (or other instrument) is connected to input B. In this configuration, output A produces the effected sound only and output B produces the direct sound only. There are many musicians who like the control of sending the effected sound and the dry sound to different outputs (or different amplifiers). In Long mode, a mono guitar is connected to input A, with only output B used. This allows the longer delay times of up to 6400ms to be used, as shown in the table. This option is only available with a mono output. In Effect mode, the use of input B and output A inserted in an effects loop allows only the effected sound to be sent back to an amplifiers return path. Some guitar amps feature an effects mix or blend control to be used with effects in this manner. Finally, in Stereo mode, the stereo inputs A and B are routed to the stereo outputs A and B in a standard fashion, but the DD-7 can then operate in three modes for different types of stereo effect. Interestingly, it is also possible to save the settings.
In Stereo mode, the inputs and outputs can be configured as follows: set the Mode control to 3200ms, and an independent delay for A and B can be achieved. Setting the Mode control to 800ms produces a panning delay, while setting the Mode control to 200ms will give you a more spatial, reverb-like delay.
As you will by now have gathered, the DD-7 has a vast array of controls and modes to offer the user a very impressive range of delays and effects. Tonally, I was impressed with the DD-7 in whichever mode I employed (including the modulation delay), but there were occasions when I had to remind myself which mode I was currently in, and which combination of control settings and pedal presses I needed to make next. Boss themselves have realised this complexity and have provided stickers to attach to the side of the pedal with charts of the modes and delay times. That said, if you choose to use this as a straight delay pedal in any of the eight modes, it is very easy to get to grips with.
For a product packed with so many features, it was disappointing that there was no option for a multi-tap delay on the DD-7. Having the capability to use two delays simultaneously with different delay times produces great effects, as used by guitarists such as U2s The Edge. I have also used this sound in the past by using, for example, one delay at the BPM of the track, plus one set at two thirds of the same BPM.
My other criticism of the DD-7 would be that incorporating so many features in a single pedal may be good for studio use, but in a live situation it would be very difficult to change delay settings accurately between or during songs. Of course, Boss have addressed this already with their twin-pedal format. However, if you are looking for a single compact delay pedal that has the versatility to produce a wide range of delay effects, I would definitely recommend trying the DD-7. The sounds are good and the longer delays and hold features are excellent if those features appeal to you. Just be aware that it may take a little time to become fully acquainted with all the features. 0
Mode Normal Delay Long Delay
3200ms 800 - 3200ms. 1600 - 6400ms.
800ms 200 - 800ms. 400 - 1600ms.
200ms 50 - 200ms. 100 - 400ms.
50ms 1 - 50ms. 2 - 100ms.
Hold 40 sec (20 sec in stereo).
Modulate 20 - 800ms. 40 - 1600ms.
Analog 20 - 800ms. 40 - 1600ms.
Reverse 300 - 3200ms. 600 - 6400ms.
Published in PM March 2009
In this article:
Boss DD-7 £126
A feature-packed compact delay pedal offering a wide range of delay-based effects, with additional modes and longer delay and hold times than its predecessors.
+44 (0)1792 702701
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