Top 5 Most Iconic Boss Delay Pedals

Boss delay pedals have been in production for decades, and for good reason — they’re amazing! In this extensive blog, we’ve rounded up five of the most iconic Boss delay pedals that we believe every guitar player should know about. These magnificent musical milestones are bound to inspire you!

Elliot Stent

Elliot Stent

If you’re in the market for a new delay pedal, then we wouldn’t be surprised if you felt overwhelmed by the amount of choice that there is out there. Analogue or digital? True bypass or buffered? Simple or sophisticated? Yup, that’s option paralysis for you! But if you’re looking for a rock-solid echo unit that’ll always deliver the goods — you simply can’t go wrong with any of Boss’ delay pedals.

Boss have produced compact guitar pedals for more than 45 years, releasing well over 100 different effects units in that time. They are considered by many to be the “industry standard” pedal brand, not just because of how long they’ve been around for, or how diverse their product catalogue is for that matter, but because of how reliable and “tour-proof” their stompboxes are too. Trust us or any professional musician — Boss pedals are built like tanks!

If you’re unfamiliar with Boss delay pedals and want to learn more, then you’ve definitely landed at the right place. Boss’ game-changing stompboxes have always been a sonic benchmark, and we’re going to uncover some interesting details about five of their most influential delay effects (and a few others too) that will continue to echo through the ages. If you’re already clued up on Boss delay pedals, then you still might learn something new. Or, you might just figure out which is the best Boss delay pedal for you!

SDE-3000: The ‘80s Legend is Back!

Boss SDE-3000D & SDE-3000EVH Digital Delay Pedals

Let’s start off with one (well, two) of the most exciting releases from Boss in recent memory, with a little bit of context too. The SDE-3000, originally manufactured by Boss’ parent company Roland in the ‘80s, was one of the first widely-used digital delay rackmount units. This was back when guitar rigs were the size of refrigerators — the bigger, the better! Used by a wealth of well-known players including Steve Vai and Eric Clapton, the SDE-3000 most famously found favour with Eddie Van Halen, who used two of these processors to create an incredible wet/dry/wet stereo setup that sounded simply huge.

Fast-forward to 2023, and Boss has brought the SDE-3000 back in compact form with their SDE-3000D pedal. But this smart-looking stompbox goes far beyond being just a like-for-like copy of the original with a smaller footprint. The advanced SDE-3000D pedal is essentially two SDE-3000s in one package; boasting full stereo capabilities along with MIDI, multiple presets, and many more modern refinements.

Boss have also released an Eddie Van Halen edition too (the SDE-3000EVH), which pays tribute to the Roland SDE-3000’s most famous advocate. Designed in collaboration with the EVH brand, the Boss SDE-3000EVH has even more bells and whistles than the standard SDE-3000D — allowing you to replicate Eddie’s unique wet/dry/wet amp rig and even emulate his specific SDE-3000 sounds, with presets precisely modelled on his original units. The Boss SDE-3000D and SDE-300EVH pedals may be the new kids on the block, but we know that they’re instant icons!

DM-1: Boss’ First Delay Pedal

Boss DM-1 Delay Pedal

Next up, we’re going to go even further back in time. Boss’ first dedicated delay pedal, the DM-1, was released in 1978. That’s right, it was that long ago! Designed as an affordable and more robust alternative to the large, expensive and difficult-to-maintain tape delay/echo units from that era (like the Roland Space Echo, Echoplex or Binson EchoRec), the Boss DM-1 Delay Machine pedal could produce rich-sounding repeats and up to 500 milliseconds of delay time. The Boss DM-1 also uniquely used a charge-coupled device (CCD), which is an electronic component that went on to be widely used in digital cameras.

While the Boss DM-1 wasn’t a match for any of those aforementioned tape delay units in terms of flexibility or frequency response, it was still an important product that became popular with many guitarists of that generation who sought inspiring delay sounds without the hassle. Today, you’d struggle to find an original Boss DM-1 for less than £1000 on the second-hand market, with the unit coveted by collectors of vintage gear. DM-1s are particularly scarce as they weren’t in production for very long (less than two years); replaced by the vibrant-coloured pedal that’s next on our list. Will Boss bring back the DM-1? Well, they kind of have…

Released in June 2023, the Boss DM-101 Delay Machine offers “the ultimate analogue delay” experience in a compact pedal. Reminiscent of the original DM-1 with its retro-inspired chassis, the DM-101 is a totally different beast that’s driven by eight BBDs under smart CPU control (more on BBDs later). It offers 12 unique modes, stereo operation, and a wide array of tonal colours — all while maintaining 100% analogue signal processing throughout. And with 127 user memories, tap-tempo, carry-over, MIDI and much more, the Boss DM-101 brings you the features and versatility of an advanced digital pedal but with the vibrant, characterful sound that’s only possible with authentic analogue BBD (bucket-brigade device) circuitry.

DM-2: Bucket-Brigade, Baby!

Boss DM-2W Analogue Delay Pedal

The bright pink Boss DM-2 delay pedal succeeded the DM-1 in 1981 — adopting the iconic, compact pedal housing design (introduced in 1977) that most Boss effects still adhere to today! It can be argued that this particular stompbox was even more influential than the DM-1; being the first ever all-analogue delay pedal and utilising a BBD (bucket-brigade device).

But what is a BBD? A bucket-brigade device is a desirable component that has become synonymous with analogue delay pedals. It is essentially an analogue circuit squeezed into a small chip, designed to delay an audio signal fed into it by using a series of capacitors that can carry the signal — like firefighters passing buckets of water down a line (hence the name “bucket brigade”). In that scenario, you can imagine how much water can be lost along that line, and this “spillage” occurs within a BBD chip too — adding noise to your signal along with the ticking effect caused by the internal clock.

Boss managed to shrink down their DM-2 from the comparably larger DM-1 by using a BBD, but the DM-2 had some limitations as a result — capable of reaching up to 300 milliseconds of delay time only. However, the aforementioned noise produced by the BBD caused a bigger issue, and Boss had to therefore add filters into the DM-2’s circuit to eradicate that distortion. By sacrificing some of the frequency response like this though, Boss created the DM-2’s signature sound that has been adored by so many musicians for more than four decades! It’s warm, dark and organic — a perfect tone-thickener for guitarists as it doesn’t compete with the sound of their original signal but audibly enriches it. The Boss DM-2 is imperfect by design, but that’s what makes it so special!

In 2014, Boss brought the coveted DM-2 back as part of their Waza Craft series of premium, Japanese-crafted pedals. Featuring two modes, the DM-2W’s Standard setting replicates the sound of the original DM-2, while the Custom mode expands the delay time to 800 milliseconds and produces repeats that are a little bit cleaner. The Boss DM-2W can also send dry and effected sounds to two guitar amps (inspired by the DM-3 from 1984), and it even has a separate jack that allows you to manipulate the delay time with an external expression pedal — for wacky, self-oscillating echo textures!

DD-2: A Digital Delight

Boss DD-3T Digital Delay Pedal

You’d struggle to walk into any guitar store and not find a Boss DD (Digital Delay) series pedal. These widely-used stompboxes have been around since 1983, and by this point, we’d presume that hundreds of thousands of them have been made across their various iterations. They are trusted pedalboard staples for a reason!

The original Boss DD-2 was particularly significant, as it was not only the first digital pedal of any kind from Boss, but also the world’s first compact digital delay. Offering 800 milliseconds of delay time and more clarity than its analogue DM-1 and DM-2 counterparts (a common sonic trait of digital delay pedals), the DD-2 gave guitarists the essence of a powerful rackmount delay but in a much smaller and affordable package. In fact, the Boss DD-2 even came equipped with the same custom IC chip from the high-end Roland SDE-3000 — putting it lightyears ahead of the competition. The DD-2 became an instant classic!

In the decades since, various DD series Boss delay pedals have been released. None of the compact models have strayed too far from the original formula, with the current Boss DD-3T digital delay virtually indistinguishable from the DD-2 (albeit with a tap-tempo feature). The DD-8 is a lot more versatile though, packed with ten different delay types, a whopping ten seconds of delay time, and a built-in 40-second looper.

If that still doesn’t sound sophisticated enough for you, you could take another step up with the DD-200 or the flagship DD-500 Boss digital delay pedal. Offering presets, deeper parameters, MIDI connectivity, stereo capabilities and much more — these pro-grade delay workstations give you a “greatest hits” selection of legendary Boss delay pedals!

RE-2 & RE-202 Space Echo: To Infinity & Beyond

Roland Boss Space Echo RE-2 & RE-202 Delay Pedals

Last, but certainly not least, we have the mighty Space Echo to explore. Don’t worry, dressing up as an astronaut isn’t necessary! Created by Roland in 1974, the iconic Space Echo line predates all of the other delay units on our list. These genuine tape delay machines weren’t new technology at the time of their release, but they were considered sturdier and more reliable than similar products from that era, with the RE-201 model becoming a particular favourite for its built-in spring reverb and innovative mode switch with 12 different settings.

Okay, so the Space Echo is not technically a Boss product. But stay with us. In 2007, Roland’s Boss division attempted to distil the spellbinding, organic sound of the Space Echo into a digital stompbox — culminating in the impressive RE-20 double pedal. This product remained in the Boss catalogue for many years, that was until the release of the updated RE-2 and RE-202 Space Echo units in 2022. With the RE-2, Boss managed to squeeze the big sound of the Space Echo into renowned their compact pedal chassis (no mean feat!), while the RE-202 is a far more sophisticated workstation of sorts — with an enclosure that’s highly reminiscent of the early DM-1 Delay Machine. Like the SDE-3000D and SDE-3000EVH pedals we mentioned at the start of our list, these units are pretty new. But they’ve been best-sellers since their release, cementing their ‘icon’ status in our minds!

Featured Boss Delay Pedals

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Elliot Stent
Elliot Stent
Elliot is a Senior Digital Product Marketer at Andertons, and at least the 7th best guitarist in the company's Web Team. He's exactly one day younger than Harry Styles, and believes that this "head start" is the only reason why Harry's more successful than him.

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