Delay is an effect that's been around for ages, first seen in analog devices such as the Echoplex. It's where a copy of the sound is created and then repeated based on the speed and the amount feedback. It's a versatile effect with many applications, and has most likely been used in a favorite song of yours.
A delay effect can help fill empty spaces in a mix, creating a bigger, more reverberant sound and a fuller sounding mix. It can also be used more aggressively to create cool rhythmic effects, glitches and repetition.
Like most VST instruments and effects, delay plugins aim to digitally emulate what was once analog. Rather than using a physical effect pedal, you can now route your guitar through a delay plugin directly in your DAW. Below are my three favorite 3rd party delay plugins. Remember that stock delay plugins such as “Echo” in Ableton and “Delay Designer” in Logic are also very useful.
Soundtoys is a software development company that create a lot of effects plugins used by all of your favourite producers. You may have heard of some of their products such as Decapitator, Litter AlterBoy, FilterFreak and more. All of their plugins are very high quality, and although they aren’t cheap, you do get your bang for your buck.
As it says on the Soundtoys website, the Echoboy plugin “wraps decades of echo device history and new forward-thinking features into one versatile effect that will find its way into every corner of your mixes”. There are many different expression and rhythm parameters that will give your delay sound a vintage tone, with added chorus and saturation effects as well as other customizations. It also has complex preset patterns that can give your delay an interesting rhythm. If you have this plugin, you don’t really need any other delay plugin.
ValhallaDSP is a software development company known for their expressive reverb plugins such as Valhalla Shimmer and Valhalla VintageVerb, but they make great delay plugins too.
ValhallaDelay is a fairly standard delay plugin that will cater to all of your needs. It has a wide sound, with various knobs to adjust the style, colour, drive, pitch, and more. Like other Valhalla plugins, it is easy on the eyes and it is very user friendly. At a $50 price point, it’s very affordable.
Bonus: ValhallaDSP also have a plugin called FreqEcho, a frequency shifter plugin with analog echo emulation. Also, it’s FREE!
Waves Plugins have been an industry standard in the music industry for a long time. Almost every producer that I know uses Waves plugins for the effects or for mixing and mastering. Their plugins are extremely high quality and versatile, and they won’t break the bank.
H-Delay is another fairly standard delay plugin with rhythmic parameters, as well as other effects such as filters and modulation. It gives the delay a warm, analog tone and even has a “LoFi” switch.