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One of the signature aspects of the rockabilly guitar sound is slapback delay, which produces a singular repeat of the original signal similar to an echo. If you want to play rockabilly guitar, or any similar style, a slapback delay pedal is essential.
Without rockabilly, there’s a very strong chance that rock n’ roll music wouldn’t exist as we know it. In my opinion, this highly influential genre doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.
In this detailed guide, we’ve identified the best-suited slapback delay pedals for rockabilly guitar. We’ve selected a range of affordable and high-end pedals, with varying capabilities to suit your needs.
In a Rush’ Round-Up
How We Tested
When testing these slapback delay pedals, we began by monitoring how well they could produce the classic rockabilly guitar sounds. We then looked at each of their controls and assessed how effective they were to the overall functionality of the pedal.
Moving on, we tested the sound of the pedals when they were recorded through an amplifier, or directly into an audio interface. These tests allowed us to identify the best rockabilly slapback delays, which you can see in the reviews below.
Slapback Delay Pedals Reviews
Housed in Boss’ legendary roadworthy chassis, the DM-2W Waza Craft is a versatile analog delay pedal that is ideal for rockabilly guitar playing. Based on the original DM-2 from 1984, this pedal features a newly designed circuitry.
A standout feature of this slapback delay pedal is the custom mode. When activated, this expands the maximum delay time from 300ms, to 800ms, so that you can experiment with different sounds easily.
One of the only flaws with the original DM-2 was the annoying ticking sound that it produced periodically. To rectify this, Boss has installed a new circuit topology to ensure a clean, clear slapback delay effect.
The connectivity options offered by the Waza Craft delay pedal are also impressive. It features individual wet and dry outputs so that you can split your clean and processed signals for maximum effectiveness.
- 800ms maximum delay time
- Bucket brigade circuitry
- Split outputs
- Redesigned version of the 1977 DM-2
- Innovative custom mode doubles the delay time
- Classic rockabilly delay effects
- Mode toggle switch is difficult to access
Compact and durable, the Electro-Harmonix Memory Toy is an affordable delay pedal that is capable of producing a classic slapback effect. Its sound resembles an analog, vintage delay machine.
By adjusting the Delay control, you can choose between fast echoes or elongated repeats of the original signal. This pedal has a maximum delay time of 550ms, which is adequate for making your riffs and solos sound thick and lush.
In addition to the slapback delay effect, the Memory Toy also has a modulation switch. When this switch is turned on, it injects a sense of motion into the signal, adding a psychedelic feel to your rockabilly playing.
Electro-Harmonix has used true bypass switching when designing this analog delay pedal so that your signal strength is preserved even if you are using extensive cable runs.
Finally, the Feedback control allows you to adjust the impact that the pedal has on your guitar’s tone, and when turned up to the maximum, it has a transformative effect.
- True bypass switching
- 550ms maximum delay time
- Feedback control
- Vintage analog slapback delay effect
- Adds harmonic feedback to the signal
- Onboard modulation switch
- Slightly limited delay time
High-end pedal manufacturers Strymon are highly regarded amongst guitar effect fanatics, and for good reason. Their pedals include unique controls and capabilities that aren’t available elsewhere.
This digital delay pedal is designed to emulate a vintage tape echo machine, and it does so very convincingly. It includes a trio of delay presets, which consist of fixed, multi, and single tape deck modes.
The five rotary controls allow you to adjust everything from the delay time, which has a maximum of 1.5 seconds, to the prominence of the repeated signals. You can even add age to the tape presets for a more lo-fi, vintage sound.
The El Capistan dTape also has two robust footswitches installed on it. One is used to bypass the pedal, and the other is a tap tempo switch which can be used to precisely set the rhythm of the delayed signals.
There is also a three-way toggle switch which allows you to select one of the three modes that are built into the pedal. Each mode can be turned into a slapback style delay simply by limiting the time parameter to a low value.
- 3 tape delay presets
- 10 adjustable controls
- 1.5 seconds maximum delay time
- Emulates classic tape machine delay effects
- Sounds great with chord sequences and melodies
- Exceptional sound quality
- May take a while to figure out the controls
Designed specifically for rockabilly guitar, The Milkman by JHS is one of the best slapback echo pedals available. Rather than focusing on extending the maximum delay time, JHS set out to produce a pedal that perfects the art of shorter repeats.
The company has achieved this by installing a Slap switch on the bottom left of the pedal. This footswitch instantly triggers a classic slapback delay effect which is ideal for rockabilly and similar styles.
Furthermore, you can adjust the prominence of the effect by tweaking the Slap and Mix rotary knobs. The central Repeat control impacts the number of times the signal is replayed.
Then there’s the useful EQ control, which affects the tonal aspects of the slapback delay sound. By cranking this parameter up, you can increase the brightness of the tone produced by the pedal.
Finally, this pedal also doubles up as a conventional boost. When the bottom right footswitch is activated and the Boost control is turned up, you’ll have no problems being heard over the rest of your band.
- 240ms maximum delay time
- Echo, slapback, and boost effects
- True bypass switching
- Designed specifically for rockabilly guitar
- Puts you in control of the slapback effect
- Onboard boost allows you to cut through the mix
- Not designed for long delay times
Strymon’s expertise in the field of effects pedals is evidenced by this incredible digital delay device. If you want to create slapback delay effects in addition to a wide range of other sounds, this pedal is worth considering.
Along with the slapback tape echo, this pedal can also produce reel-to-reel style echo and magnetic drum echo effects. Each mode can be tweaked using the extensive selection of controls that are found on the pedal’s front panel.
The Strymon Volante can store up to 300 user presets, which is more than any other delay pedal featured in our list. That means that when you create the perfect slapback sound, you can save it for later recall.
Not only is this pedal useful on the stage, but it is also a valuable tool in the recording studio. With instrument and line-level outputs, it can easily be connected to a preamp, mixer, or audio interface for direct recording.
Despite its digital makeup, the Volante adds subtle layers of vintage, analog-style saturation to your guitar signal.
- 3 digital delay modes
- Tap tempo footswitch
- Looper function
- Includes a huge range of analog-style delays
- Pristine sound quality
- Realistic tape-style looper effects
- Complicated, detailed control layout
The compact Flashback 2 by TC Electronic is highly versatile. It features four main controls, one of which is used to toggle between the 8 onboard delay modes which include a mix of digital and analog sounds.
This pedal can produce slapback delay in a variety of forms. Simply select the mode that you’d like to use, then dial in the Delay and Feedback controls to create the perfect rockabilly guitar tone.
It also has a looper feature, which provides you with up to 40 seconds of maximum looping time. That’s enough to record a long chord sequence or melody, which you can then play over after triggering the repeat using the footswitch.
Rather than relying on either true bypass or buffered switching, TC Electronic has included both options on this pedal. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about signal strength or the dreaded tone suck occurring.
- 8 onboard delay types
- 7 seconds maximum delay time
- Switchable buffered and true bypass switching
- Diverse range of delay tones for rockabilly
- Extensive connectivity
- Compatible with the TonePrint app
- Feedback control sounds extreme
Slapback Delay Pedals for Rockabilly Buyer's Guide
The delay effect is often most closely associated with a long series of repeats that continue for a considerable time after a note is played or sung. Although this type of delay can be helpful in many situations, shorter delays like slapback are equally as effective.
Slapback delay has been used since the days of analog recordings and is still a very popular effect used by guitarists, vocalists, and other musicians today. That’s why many excellent slapback delay pedals for rockabilly and other styles are available.
Understanding how slapback delay pedals work, along with the features and qualities that differentiate them from one another, is necessary if you want to ensure you add the perfect stompbox to your effects signal chain.
The following information will provide you with some important things to be aware of when choosing between the excellent slapback delay pedals we’ve listed in this guide.
Things to Consider When Buying Slapback Delay Pedals:
Consider the layout
The layout and design of slapback delay pedals vary from model to model. Some guitarists prefer simplicity, while others may enjoy having a wide range of adjustable parameters and controls at their disposal.
Think about effect compatibility
Delay pedals are most commonly placed at the very end of the signal chain, which means they must be able to interact with the other pedals that make up your guitar rig.
Consider rhythmic controls
A vital aspect of slapback delay, and any other type of delay for that matter, is the rhythmic controls. Tap tempo will allow you to shape the timing of the delay effect precisely, so if this is important to you, look out for pedals that offer this feature.
Decide between analog and digital
The vintage sound of analog delay is perfect for rockabilly, but digital pedals usually have more presets and modes built into them.
Slapback Delay Pedals for Rockabilly - Essential Qualities
Some genres of guitar playing are timeless – and rockabilly falls into that category. Without the classic slapback delay effect, something would be missing from the rockabilly sound, which is why it’s so important to choose the right pedal.
Some delay pedals have a slapback preset, selected using rotary controls or a dedicated switch.
Other models may require you to manually create the slapback effect by adjusting the various parameters accordingly. Slapback has a very short delay time, so you’ll need control to modify this aspect.
Suppose you only intend to use the delay pedal to produce slapback echo rather than exploring the many other delay varieties. In that case, a minimalistic control layout will help to keep things simple.
The number of ways that the delay effect can be altered is seemingly endless, and it’s easy to get carried away by the possibilities.
For rockabilly, you’ll only need a slapback delay effect and some controls to adjust the timing and tonal aspects, so you don’t need to look for a pedal with an abundance of adjustable parameters.
Onboard Controls & Paramters
When slapback delay was first popularized by rockabilly musicians in the 1950s, the effect was applied to the guitar using analog delay machines.
Now, you can access slapback delay on your pedalboard and change how it sounds by altering the various controls installed on the stompbox.
The most simplistic control layout you’ll find on a slapback delay pedal for rockabilly and similar styles consist of:
- Delay Time
The level control is self-explanatory – it is used to adjust the overall volume of the slapback delay effect. Then you have the feedback control, which alters the number of times the signal repeats before it stops. This control will be set very slow for slapback.
Finally, the delay time control is used to adjust the time between the original note played on a guitar and the first repeated signal generated by the pedal.
Using this trio of essential parameters will allow you to create a diverse mixture of delay sounds, but if you’d like to have even more control, you should look for a slapback pedal that offers more options.
Delay pedals sometimes also include EQ controls which can be used to change the color of the effect. This isn’t necessary for the classic rockabilly slapback effect, but some guitarists might want to customize the sounds.
Analog vs. Digital Slapback Delay
Analog and digital delay pedals are available to guitarists, and both offer distinctive qualities that can make it hard to choose between them.
Rockabilly is a vintage style of guitar playing, so choosing an analog stompbox would make logical sense. However, digital technology has come a long way, and some guitarists prefer the reliability of this type of pedal.
If you’re more of a purist when it comes to guitar tones, I’d recommend an analog slapback delay pedal. If you’d rather have a smoother operation and more sounds to choose from, a digital pedal will suffice.
Slapback Delay Pedals for Rockabilly FAQs
Which Type of Guitar is Best for Rockabilly?
Gretsch guitars are synonymous with rockabilly, as these were the popular brand used by the pioneering guitarists in the 1950s. Semi-hollowbody guitars are an excellent choice for this style.
You can play rockabilly on any guitar, as it is more about the feel and the techniques you use. A warm-sounding tube amp is an excellent choice for rockabilly, and having an overdrive pedal and slapback delay will get you the right sound.
What Is The Delay Time for Slapback?
Slapback delay has a short delay time which falls somewhere between 40-100ms. Compared to most other delay types, this is a very short time for the signal to be repeated after the original has been played.
Due to the shorter delay time, slapback can be used with any instrument because it doesn’t mess with the rhythmic aspects too much.
Can You Use Slapback Delay on Vocals?
Slapback delay can be used on vocals, which has been heavily used for this purpose. It’s great for adding warmth to vocal recordings and can even disguise pitch problems.