Delay into distortion, or the reverse?

Discussion in 'The Stomp Box' started by Thoughtfree, May 9, 2020.

  1. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 25, 2003
    Santa Barbara, California
    I am old enough to remember the good old days. Guys like EVH and Jimmy Page and my best friend used delay into distortion because that was the only option. You got your distortion from your Marshall amp, and you plugged your Echoplex tape echo between your guitar and your amp because amps didn't have an effects loop. It sounded great. On the other hand, the distortion was not nearly as distorted as many modern distortion tones, and the analog tape Echoplex was a forgiving unit that had its own special mojo. So Pete Thorn is sort of onto something.

    On the other hand, it's worth trying it both ways and seeing what you like. My preference these days is not to bother with an effects loop, to run a pretty darn clean tube amp, and get all my dirt from pedals that are earlier in the signal chain than any modulation effects-- chorus, delay, phase, trem, univibe, reverb, etc. I used to do the 4-cable method (modulations through the effects loop) when I liked using my amp distortion, but I can't be bothered with that anymore. I can get such killer dirt tones using pedals into a clean tube amp, with more choices for dirt tone shaping than I would get from a simple 2-channel amp. Some guys use fancy 3 and 4 channel amps, but I prefer simpler amps.
    noname_dragon likes this.
  2. King Creole

    King Creole Friend of Leo's

    Jan 24, 2011
    Delay into a distorted amp can sound really good. Keep the mix down low.
  3. noname_dragon

    noname_dragon Tele-Meister

    Jan 13, 2010
    North east coast
    I use delay at the end of my chain. But one of the best live sounds I ever heard was Les Paul into Echoplex into 70's distorted Marshall half stack.
  4. doghouseman

    doghouseman Tele-Meister

    Dec 18, 2014
    in your head man....
    Notice in Pete Thorn's video he is using the echoplex. I point this out because it really depends on the delay you are using.

    Also, I saw a video of EJ recently and he had figured out how to run his original Echoplex AFTER the distortion. So I think that is your answer.

    Also, I have experimented with both, and you really can't hear the difference until you play LOUD. THen you will hear that the delay is basically getting squeezed by the distortion, if the distortion is after the delay.

    Back to my original point, you can get away with this using some types of delays. What kind of delay are you using?
  5. wulfenganck

    wulfenganck Tele-Holic

    Aug 18, 2015
    Seligenstadt, Germany
    I use rather mild overdrive and fuzz-tones, but I don't like to run delay or reverb before overdrive.
    I feel it muffles the sound and the tone loses definition and attack. I also use the effect-loop of my amp, as I use the drive-channel. Works for me and since I had a multicore made, I am ready for playing about 5 minutes after someone showed me a power outlet.
  6. Fretting out

    Fretting out Friend of Leo's

    Jun 13, 2019
    Land of Mary
    I want my distortion to be delayed not delay my distortion!
  7. Jeremy_Green

    Jeremy_Green TDPRI Member

    May 4, 2020
    Toronto, Canada
    To answer the question delays go after the distortion. Usually second last in the chain (reverb being the last). Both of these are best in the effects loop. This is the standard industry sort of accepted answer.


    You gotta remember once upon a time amps didn't have effects loops. So everything was placed before it hit the amp. So yes all old school tones used distortion after delay. I have used it like that many times on and off over the years.

    But to my thinking, a delay is really designed to emulate a natural echo - which wouldn't be distorted. So to me, they sound much more natural in the loop of the amp - so after the preamp (distortion) section. But there is a vibe about distorting it... So it really is up to your sonic taste buds.

    You don't have to make a final decision right? You can move it whenever you want. It's great to experiment.
    codamedia likes this.
  8. codamedia

    codamedia Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 4, 2009
    Western Canada
    Both have their places!
    • Delay before dirt... this is extremely dynamic because the delay is "most often quieter" than the guitar, therefore it drives the dirt less and is "cleaner" than the original signal.
    • Dirt before delay.... exact repeat of the of the original tone...
    ^^^ this ^^^

    IMO... The higher the gain, the less successful you will be running a delay into it. For me the JCM800 would be my turning point for gain...
    Last edited: May 16, 2020
  9. superjam144

    superjam144 Tele-Holic

    Jan 19, 2020
    I researched this a little and found some information online that said to put modulation first from the amp in your chain.


    Worked for me.
  10. J-bass&Tele

    J-bass&Tele Tele-Meister

    Mar 16, 2012

    Some will argue that there is only one correct way to arrange a pedalboard. I would argue otherwise.
    It depends on what kind of modulation and what sounds one is going for.
    For example, the "new" Wampler Terraform have a loop, specifically to enable the player to choose pre- or post dirt for each specific modulation.
    superjam144 likes this.
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