Before laptops were a standard in the DJ world, some DJ’s used outboard gear to add effects to their DJ setup. Traktor and Serato Scratch have now adopted effects into their software, but they work through the same sound card that sends your songs to your mixer so you can’t cut out the song without also cutting out your effects channel. This is an advantage new controller/sound cards and mixers with built in effects have, but I rock at Rane TTM 56 at home which is pretty basic. It does however have an effects insert which lets you run your signal to an outboard effects unit. A guitar delay pedal is a cheap way to get hands on with some serious dub effects. I decided to hook up each of the stereo delay pedals we have at the shop and test drive them at home and at the gig. Here’s a diagram of how I’m doing this:
Note that I’m using these pedals for something they weren’t intended for, and they all have their strengths with guitars and instruments on their own. Mainly I was looking for cool effects when passing a full stereo track through them, and something that was easy to operate and reach for in the DJ setup. Here’s what I found out.
TC Electronics ND-1 Nova Delay
The big digital BPM readout on this pedal was really handy for making sure I was in the ballpark when tapping in my tempo. You can also use it to dial in the your exact BPM. The Mix Level worked well for balancing the wet/dry so I left my mixer all the way wet and used the Nova Delay to dial in the amount of delay. The color knob can dirty up the sound a la tape a little but overall this is a pretty clean sounding delay. The delay settings are all usable (dynamic was particularly handy for droping out the song and getting a long dub trail) and I was able to get rocking with this pedal pretty quickly out of the box. My only complaint is the delay time knob ramps the delay up or down rather then responding to the exact position of the dial, so you can do speed and slow down effects on your delay but it isn’t quite as fun as grabbing and “playing” the knob in real time.
Boss RE-20 Roland Space Echo Pedal
This tape echo simulator is great for creating distorted washes of feedback delay. You can get more subtle delay effects as well but I found I had to drive the input pretty loud to get a good mix going which will break up the sound like distorted tape echo. The pedals are a little hard to push manually but tap tempo syncs well once you tap it in there. The knobs respond instantly like tape echo so you can really play with the speed up and slow down effects. The reverb muddied up the sound too much when running whole tracks through so I left it off for the most part. Nice effect overall but sort of a one trick pony sound wise.
This pedal simulates a few kinds of delays and they all sound pretty good, but it was hard to get a good wet dry balanced with my DJ mixer. The loop sampler could be good for effects, almost like a “third deck” in DJ routines. It lets you drop your loops to half speed which is also a fun option for recording in beats and getting a half time slowed down sound. The speed up and slow down effects of the delay were also fun to play with. There are a lot of delay models on this pedal but I only found a few of them useful for my needs.
Boomerang E-155 Chorus*Delay
This is a really great sounding delay and was able to add a lot to solo scratches. The clean, tape, and reverse functions all sound great and chorus added a lot of sparkle to the effect. I had some problems tapping in my tempo though so using it to dub in and out of songs was a challenge. The continuous knobs feel nice to tweak but even on the “tape” setting I wasn’t able to get speed up and slow down effects without some serious turns. The presets section looks handy but I didn’t pay it much mind as I’m mostly trying to create delay trails on the fly.
The Nova delay was my favorite to match up with my turntables and mixer. It’s a compact pedal that sits nicely in a table top setup with easy to push buttons. The BPM readout gives me piece of mind when tapping in my tempo, and I’m able to get a good balance of wet and dry channels. I almost wish I could “dirty” the sound up sometimes with some of the feedback distortion the Space Echo offers but those effects can get out of control in a live scenario and the Nova does just enough of that to tide me over.
Guitar pedals in general are a lot of fun and can lead to some unexpected crazy sounds in a DJ setup. Hope this write up has inspired you to try one of these for your own setup.