True analogue delays are not typically the cheapest of pedals. The Bucket Brigade Device (BBD) chips traditionally used in analogue delays, and modulation effects like flangers, choruses, and phasers are very hard to come by these days, and only one company (Coolaudio) is making new reproductions of old BBD chips.
So to find a true BBD loaded analogue delay for far less than $100 is quite a surprise. Surely a pedal so cheap can only be rubbish, but not necessarily in this case.
Daphon are a Chinese company that typically make equipment for a range of major music gear companies. They also make their own range of gear, including pedals and amplifiers. Their range of pedals are interesting, not for the fact that they are pretty much clones of famous pedals, but because they are quite well built, and easy to modify for electronics DIY types. This, combined with bargain basement prices make them a viable option for budget conscious musicians.
The Daphon E20DL Analog Delay is a true BBD analogue delay pedal, with a pretty standard three knob control layout. The delay knob controls the time between original and delayed note. The repeat knob controls the amount of repeats, and depth controls the volume of the wet signal. It’s nice and easy to dial in what ever delay effect you want with these three controls.
The construction of the E20DL is top notch for the money, with an enclosure that rivals the ubiquitous Boss compact pedal enclosures. Jacks, pots and switches all seem quite sturdy compared to many cheaper pedals too.
With the BL3208 BBD chip the E20DL comes stock with it is capable of delay times of around 102 milliseconds. This is only a short time compared to most modern delay pedals, but may be more than enough for some delay users.
The E20DL is based off the vintage Boss DM-2 and DM-3 Analog Delays. Nowadays these pedals are quite expensive on the used market, so to find a pedal so close to the original Boss creations at a bargain price is quite a find.
While this all sounds good, it’s not without some caveats.
For starters, some E20DLs may sound quite acceptable, whereas others may sound pretty average. This is due to one of the cost cutting measures at the factory. BBDs need to be fine tuned, and trimpots are typically used to dial them in. The resistance varies from chip to chip, so a little work is needed to get them performing at their best. Daphon chose to cut costs by just installing resistors where trimpots should have been installed. In fact, the PCB actually shows that a trimpot is marked for installation, so sorting this out isn’t too difficult for the home DIY-er. I was lucky enough to get one that seemed to sound ok, but I’m sure it could still do with some dialing in.
As mentioned earlier, the delay time for the E20DL is quite short compared to other modern analogue delays. 205 milliseconds doesn’t really allow for really spaced out slow echoes. This may not be preferred by some, but it can easily be remedied.
Daphon were nice enough to put an IC socket in place where the BL3208 BBD resides. Replace this with V3205 BBD manufactured by Coolaudio and you can double the delay times.
Other than that the E20DL is a pretty cool vintage analogue delay.
There is a bit of noise generated by the pedal, but this is pretty normal for proper BBD analogue delays. I personally haven’t found it to be too bad, but it once again be improved with a bit of DIY. The cheaper capacitors can be upgraded with better quality film ones, and it’s said that one or two of the other chips on board can be swapped out for quieter units. Since mine doesn’t seem to be too noisy I don’t think I’ll worry about this.
I run the E20DL through the effects loop of my Blackstar HT-5, and it blends in nicely with my dry sound, and isn’t too loud or soft. Some have said that when bypassed (the E20DL is buffered bypassed) the pedal alters your amp’s tone, I didn’t find this to be the case though.
The wet signal from the E20DL is just as one would expect from a BBD-based analogue delay. The repeats are nice and organic, and you can really hear each repeat decay more than the previous one. Tone-wise the E20DL is a fairly dark sounding delay, but what I thought sounded quite cool was when the delay speed was maxed out (most space between repeats) the the pitch of the notes changed. The notes would increase in pitch, almost sounding like the tone of an old vintage analogue synthesizer.
One of the cool things with BBD analogue delays is their ability to self-oscillate. Crank the repeats to the maximum setting and the E20DL goes completely bonkers. Turn the Delay knob back and forth and all sorts of psychedelic noise comes out of your amp.
Overall the Daphon E20DL Analog Delay is an interesting pedal for the money. If you are lucky when you purchase one you will get a cool vintage sounding pedal, otherwise this pedal really is a modifiers paradise. Easy to work on with nicely spaced through-hole components, and a BBD chip that is socketed, allowing you to swap it out with a chip that will provide longer delay times if you so choose. The E20DL is as solid as a rock, so it should last quite some time, which is fantastic considering how little this pedal costs. At the end of the day the E20DL costs very little, so it’s definitely worth a try.