Pedal Review: Vox Delay Lab
Review by Ian Garrett
The Pedal: Vox DelayLab
The Point:A Multi-Mode Digital Delay Pedal
The Cost: $229.99
Find it at Pro Guitar Shop
If you’ve watched Andy’s video of the Vox DelayLab, he mentions at the end that he’s “only scratched the surface” of what this delay can do. He’s right you know – there’s so much more to this pedal. I’ll try to cover a little more ground, no easy feat when you have 30 different delays to expand on. I’ll highlight a few modes and how the pedal operates, as well. This is a pedal for delay freaks who love to have multiple delays at their fingertips, and love to tweak each of those delays to get that just the right sound.
30 Delay Types – Really?
By looking at the selector knob on the DelayLab, it appears there are only 10 types of delay, plus the 28-second looper mode. But the little “category” button just to the right of the LCD display does something special; for every mode you select, the category button gives you the option of 3 different types within that one mode. For example, if you choose the Tape mode, you have three sub-modes: Echo, Tube and Head. And even within that, the Head sub-mode gives you five different settings just by rotating the intensity knob. The DelayLab is not hard to use, but there is a lot of depth and options to each setting. But hey, that’s half the fun.
A Quick Look at the Controls
While the DelayLab isn’t overly complicated in appearance, I confess I had to consult the manual to figure out how to save a preset, and for good reason. Unlike a lot of delay pedals, like the recently reviewed TC Electronics Flashback X4 that gave you three presets, the DelayLab gives you ten presets for each footswitch, for a total of 30 presets. Creating a spreadsheet might be in order to remember every preset!
But most of the controls are pretty straightforward: time (the amount of delay, up to 4 seconds); feedback (number of delays), and mix (how much of the delay you want to hear compared to your dry signal, and yes it can do 100% wet). The two controls I want to highlight are the tone/speed knob, and the intensity control. These are almost the heart of this pedal.
The tone/speed control varies depending on the mode you’re in. Sometimes it acts like a conventional tone control, making certain delays brighter or darker. Other times it controls the speed of certain parameters, such as speed of a modulated signal, like chorus or phase. The intensity knob usually controls the amount of the effect being offered, like on the modulation mode, how much chorus signal you might want mixed in with your delay. You will probably need to experiment with every mode, and sub-mode to discover your own tone.
How Similar are the Sub-Modes to one Another?
You might ask, are all sub-modes similar to the main mode then? The short answer is no. For example, if you chose the Digital mode, you will find three distinct sub modes: Stereo, Lo-Fi and Pitch. You start with the standard Stereo sub-mode, which is a nice clean digital delay with separate left and right channels. (Quick tip: start with the intensity turned up all the way. Then turn it down, and after awhile you’ll notice in the display (in %) that the two channels are not in sync. The more you reduce the intensity control, the wider the two channels will be out of phase with one another– a very cool effect.) The second sub-mode, Lo-Fi, is a grungy lo-fi sound I haven’t heard on other multi-delay pedals before. The intensity controls a wide range of white noise, while the tone control adds some piercing high-end scratchiness. You can create some really unusual industrial-like tones in this setting. And finally, in the Pitch sub-mode, start with the intensity control at noon so as not to alter the pitch of the delayed notes. Move the intensity control in either direction to add pitch shifting capabilities to all of the delayed notes, either up or down. Here, each delayed note will go up or down in pitch determined by your settings. So yeah, many of the sub-modes are quite different from one another.
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things
I love using two amps in my rig, and the DelayLab is designed with this type of user in mind. There are many settings that take advantage of a stereo setup, where different things are going on with each channel. My favorite mode for stereo use, and one of my favorite settings period, is in Stereo mode, using the Pan sub-mode. Here the tone/speed knob controls the speed of the panning (going from left to right, back and forth). The intensity controls the depth of the panning. Keep both controls around three o’clock, and you get this great tremolo effect within the delay. It’s sort of like having a tremolo and a delay together in perfect synchronicity.
There were a few modes I expected to like right off the bat. The Modulation mode was very good, and if you like it on the venerable Boss DD-20, you’ll like it even more on the DelayLab. The standard mode has a terrific range of chorus/vibrato modulation than can be dialed in to be very subtle, or you can make it very seasick-like if that’s your thing. Other modulation modes include a Filter instead of chorus, giving you a flange-like feeling mixed in with your delays. And a different twist is the Phase modulation; similar to chorus, but it uses the phase effect instead. It’s nice to have this variety within one mode.
Jack of all Trades; Master of None?
Yes and no. It’s unrealistic to expect one delay pedal to replace many of the classics that are out there. For the most part, it pulls off many different delay types quite well and never embarrasses itself. There are a few modes I didn’t care for - not surprising with 30 different models to choose from that something wasn’t geared towards what I like. The Ambient modes weren’t to my taste, adding some unusual reverb and pitch shifting to create some unusual tones. Not badly done, just not my thing. The Dynamic mode has a distortion sub-mode that added some really harsh distortion to the delays that I didn’t like at all. On the other hand, there was another sub-mode within the Dynamic model that added some very nice darker tones with a nice tape-like warble going on, and I found that really good. The Dual mode also had an excellent sub-mode I liked. I could go on and on – but for every mode or sub-mode you might not be sure about, there are usually two other modes that might surprise you..
The DelayLab is a creative toolbox. It takes some effort and thought, just like playing the guitar. It looks and feels like a well-made product and has a very high quality 24 bit/48 kHz audio sampling under the hood. It features stereo ins/outs and an assignable expression pedal that gives you nearly unlimited control over what you can do with each type of delay. The DelayLab takes some time to figure out, yet it’s still easy to use. Be patient, and I think you’ll be justly rewarded. I understand Andy’s dilemma now, as I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface with this pedal. Highly recommended.
5 – Tremendous product; among the very best
4 – Great value overall; exceeds expectations
3 – Definite contender, but look closely at the competition too
2 – Average at best; probably better choices exist
1 – Not ready for prime time