Effects pedals like delays aren’t often used by bass players. They are seen as more of a guitarist's thing.
But delay pedals can certainly be used by bassists who want to add an extra dimension to their sound. And bassist pedalboards are growing larger by the day. The trick is finding a delay pedal that sounds good with a bass guitar.
3 Best Delay Pedals for Bass
MXR’s Carbon Copy is one of those truly iconic pedals. It’s been a fixture on countless guitarists' pedalboards over the years.
After spending some time with it, I completely understand why the Carbon Copy is such a popular pedal. It is an incredible little delay pedal and can create both short, staccato-like delays as well as those long and wide echo-like delays. Tonally, the Carbon Copy sounds great.
Some delay pedals can be a bit bright and almost robotic. But the Carbon Copy has a nice bit of warmth to my ears while maintaining a bright and clear tone. The decay is also very natural and not that sudden cutoff that I often experience with other delays.
The Carbon Copy has a fairly standard selection of setting controls - Mix, Regen, and Delay, but what sets it apart is the mod button. This adds modulation to the already outstanding delay effects. I would describe it as a sort of chorus/flange effect.
The delay turns into a very spacey sound, a sound that I am always a big fan of. I like the otherworldly atmosphere it creates during calmer, ambient parts in songs. The mod button just further increases the scope of a pedal that can already go so far.
The modulation can also be adjusted with two internal trim pots, but I did find it to be a little awkward to use these tiny pots. My only other complaint would be that the LED is a bit too bright and might be a bit distracting on a dark stage.
Overall, I don’t think there are many delay pedals out there that can compete with the Carbon Copy. It’s just a fantastic pedal that packs a lot of punch in such a conveniently sized package.
2. Boss DD-8
Boss pedals are always an easy choice in my opinion. They are excellent pedals and the Boss DD-8 is no different. It is an updated version of Boss’ DD-7 delay pedal.
The DD-8 is a very feature-rich pedal. Apart from the standard settings to adjust delay timing and amount, the DD-8 also has 11 different delay types. From a standard analog or digital delay to a sparkly shimmer and a glitch to create weirder sounds - the DD-8 can do almost anything.
I mentioned that digital delay pedals can often feel robotic. Their delay effects feel very rigid and have sharp, abrupt decays. The DD-8 luckily doesn’t suffer that same fate.
The delay on the DD-8 has that very precise nature of a digital pedal, while still feeling natural enough so that it doesn’t become lifeless.
The DD-8 also has an impressive max delay time of 10 seconds. This lets you set your delay to short and accurate repeats, my favorite is a dotted eighth to really long and epic sounding repeats.
You can even enable a carryover switch at the back of the pedal that allows the delay to keep going after the effect has been bypassed. I like this feature as it creates this bleeding effect where a previous lick or melody you played overlaps with a new one.
Another feature that I really love is the added looper. This lets you easily add basic overdubs by holding down the footswitch or double-tapping it while playing. You can even add an external footswitch to the DD-8 for greater control.
I think the DD-8 is an impressive update to an already incredible delay pedal. There is nothing I don’t like about the DD-8 and I think most people will have a hard time finding any major faults.
The TC Electronic Flashback 2 is another great update to an already fantastic delay pedal. The Flashback 2 is a bit more than just a fresh coat of paint and some better sounding effects.
There are a number of changes that have been made that really sets the Flashback 2 apart from the original, in my opinion. The first major change is with the effects themselves.
The number of delay types has been reduced to eight and a new crystal delay added. The reason for the reduced number of delays is because the Flashback 2 now has three TonePrint settings instead of just one.
TonePrint is a fantastic feature that lets you customize three of the delay settings on the pedal. You can either download an artist preset or use the TonePrint editor to create your own.
The list of artists is pretty extensive. My favorite presets were Bryan Beller’s groovy “Aristo Dance” and Debra Killings’ smooth “Brazilian Waterfall”. These are just two of the bass specific delays.
This feature really opens up the possibilities for unique sounds in my opinion and I almost wish more delay pedals had this feature. I would gladly sacrifice two or three set delays if it meant I could replace them with my own.
The second big feature of the Flashback 2 is the MASH footswitch. This makes the switch act more like an expression pedal and you can shape the sound of your delay on the fly.
It is a very cool feature, but I definitely didn't find it to be as accurate as a normal expression pedal. I also had to try and be delicate when using it if I wanted the delay to be shaped smoothly.
TC Electronic has also kept the delay subdivision switch. This lets you accurately set how notes are delayed between quarter-, eighth-, and my beloved dotted eighth-notes.
The Flashback 2 also has a 40 second looper, but it isn’t as easy to use as the looper on the DD-8.
Delay Pedals and Bass Guitar
Since delay pedals and most pedals, in general, aren’t really marketed specifically for bass, it can be a bit confusing to find exactly what you're looking for.
Effects Pedals Aren’t Just for Guitars
I think the biggest challenge for most bass players is knowing whether or not a pedal is going to sound good with a bass or create a garbled mess of noise.
A lot of bass players will swear by certain brands or advise against using any pedal that doesn’t outright say that it is meant for a bass. I have heard a lot of bassists say that guitar pedals just make bass sound bad and they should be avoided.
I don’t believe that is the case, though. From my experience, as long as you’re using a good pedal, it is going to sound good. My simple rule of thumb is that if it sounds good on guitar, it will sound good on bass.
Use Pedals Sparingly
I would recommend using effects like delay on a bass a bit more sparingly. I have seen bassists push their effects pedals as you would with a guitar only for the sound to come out very distorted and messy.
The bass is also more of a rhythm instrument. It is there to lay down the foundation of a song and by adding unnecessary effects, that foundation can become very shaky. Only use effects on bass if it serves a purpose and adds to the song.
These are just a handful of the delay pedals out there, but they are some of the best delay pedals for bass I have ever played with. I am sure that one of these will find a place in your bass rig.