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In Pursuit Of The Best Delay Pedal
Is there any greater pleasure in life for a guitarist than sitting in front of an amp with a delay pedal cranking the feedback dial until your riff transcends this dimension and becomes a futuristic mess of a soundscape?
Yes, delay pedals are tonnes of fun whether you’re going for crazy sci-fi tones or just to add a bit of depth to your solos.
If you’re thinking of purchasing a delay pedal then the DD-500 and Strymon Timeline are no doubt on your radar.
Boss, as we all know, produce some of the staple sounds that guitarists and bassists have grown to love over the years but although only founded in 2008 Strymon aren’t too far behind. In fact, over recent years it’s become more and more difficult to find a pedalboard WITHOUT a Strymon firmly velcroed on.
But is one superior to the other? We weigh up the pros and cons of each.
The Strymon Timeline is definitely unique and if you’re wanting dreamy and innovative delays then it could well be worth spending the extra cash. The DD-500, however, does offer flexibility and customisation of sound (a big selling point for audiophiles).
In an ideal world, cost wouldn’t factor into any purchasing decision but for most of us on a budget, a big price difference can make or break the sale.
Retail price considered, the Strymon Timeline comes in around 25% more expensive than the DD-500.
So the DD-500 wins on price, but in this case there isn’t a massive difference and certainly not enough to break the bank.
Winner: Boss DD-500
Take a look at both pedals and you’ll see that the layout is fairly similar between the two.
You’ll find ‘standard’ controls which are tweakable via rotary knobs on the face of the pedal as well as options to switch between delay types on both (ranging from tape echo to more intense reverse effects).
Both include an onboard looper, again with almost identical layout when it comes to recording, stopping and overdubbing as well as simple ‘bank up/bank down’ options to switch between presets.
There isn’t much to argue between the two when it comes to an easy to use interface, however, the up/down/write/edit/exit buttons we’ve seen on other Boss pedals and loopers can be a little fiddly.
This isn’t a problem per se, however we’d like to see an upgrade to these in future models.
As we’ve mentioned, generally the pedals share a similarity when it comes to their features however the Strymon does have a few extra tricks up its sleeve that the DD-500 doesn’t.
The Timeline includes options such as ‘Grit’ which creates a more lo-fi sound, progressively adding distortion, and ‘Filter’ which controls the shape of the repeats filter.
The display can switch between Bank and Time and is simply a case of ‘push to save’.
The DD-500 comes in a similar package with more standard parameters that you’d imagine from a delay pedal.
Each delay however has a 4 band EQ, modulation and other parameters allowing you to precisely program each setting (whereas the Timeline’s filter options are much more simple and therefore less ‘accurate’).
Both have a midi in/midi out connection for those with a more complex setup and those wanting to sync the delay with midi clock.
Both also allow a stereo in/stereo out setup as well for immersive stereo delay sounds but we do particularly like the added USB option that the DD-500 has, allowing you to remotely edit and create patches.
While it’s fun to sit and experiment with delays sometimes it is easier to load up the software and find the perfect setting that way instead. This is a great option for those who really want to fine-tune their sounds.
We can definitely see this being used before a live show or even as a way of editing on the fly in a studio setting without the need to set up a guitar and amp.
Winner: Strymon Timeline
Both the DD-500 and the Timeline have 12 delay modes so unfortunately we can’t give either points on the basis of having more options!
Again there are definite similarities between both however we’ve found that the DD-500 is great for percussive, ‘cleaner’ delays whilst the Timeline provides more warm soundscape-type delays that are more suited to the experimental player.
The ‘Ice’ setting on the Timeline is particularly interesting.
This (as Strymon put it) ‘slices and dices your input and plays the pieces back with a selectable Interval shift amount’. The result is a unique colouration to the delay that the DD-500 can’t really replicate.
On the other hand the DD-500 ‘Tera Echo’ setting gives a unique, modulated delay sound with touches of lush Vibrato and Chorus.
The DD-500 also offers adjustable panning, something the Timeline is missing.
While this may not affect the bedroom guitarist in a big way, those who are wanting to use delay to add an extra depth live or on recording may find this a hindrance.
Winner: Strymon Timeline
Both pedals offer a sample rate of 96kHz and whilst its a hot topic of debate as to whether the average listener can actually tell the difference between 96kHz and the ‘standard’ 44.1kHz, either way you don’t need to compromise on quality.
It is worth noting that the sample rate does affect the loop time however.
The Timeline has a standard 30 second loop time whilst the DD-500 offers 60 seconds at 96kHz (or 48kHz stereo) and 120 seconds at 48kHz.
With the popularity of loop pedals growing this could swing the opinion of those who are intending to heavily use the loop function but for most the 30 seconds available from the Strymon would probably suffice.
You’ll also find that there isn’t much diffusion to the delay sound in the DD-500, something which the Timeline does really well. This is quite obvious on certain settings where the effect of ‘smearing’ the delay really adds extra depth that the DD-500 doesn’t have.
Both pedals are almost identical in size – the Timeline being 171x130mm and the DD-500 170x138mm – meaning both will fit on a standard pedalboard snugly.
The Timeline requires an external power supply however, whilst the DD-500 can be run on power or with 9v battery.
Whilst its not recommended to exclusively use batteries for gigging it is good to know that the DD-500 has that option should power be an issue.
It also adds an extra portability point should you want to throw it in your gig bag and go to a jam session without worrying about taking your power brick or hoping there is a power socket nearby.
Winner: Boss DD-500
OK so we’d never recommend purchasing audio equipment based on looks, but we have to admit that the Timeline does look cooler than the DD-500.
At this stage of their business, it’s near impossible for Boss to break away from the ‘Boss look’ of their pedals, when you see the DD-500 you instantly know the manufacturer.
We can’t help but think that the Strymon seals the deal when it comes to aesthetics!
Winner: Strymon Timeline
In many respects the Timeline and DD-500 are very similar so choosing between the two is difficult, however, it’s worth considering your playing style and the sound you want to achieve.
The DD-500 sounds amazing and the flexibility and customisation of sound is a big selling point for audiophiles searching for that perfect delay sound.
The modulation functions give real extra value for money and are great for adding texture to your tone.
The unit is perfect for percussive style delays and we do think the option to edit patches remotely is a big selling point especially if you’re playing live to a click track or don’t have the option to midi clock the pedal.
The Timeline, on the other hand, doesn’t offer the same opportunity to really sculpt your sound, however, the tradeoff is that you have access to some huge, lush and deep delay tones.
We think this pedal would definitely be at home on the pedalboard of those looking for more experimental sounds and would be a great asset for studio sessions to add layers and texture to a recording.
The Strymon Timeline is definitely unique and if you’re wanting dreamy and innovative delays then it could well be worth spending the extra cash.