A trifecta of delay plug-ins, including two vintage emulations and a potent original design.
Arturia has released several plug-in bundles over the last several years, with each one focusing on a specific type of processor and offering three different variations. Previous releases covered preamps and filters, and the latest one, featuring three delay plug-ins, is perhaps the most impressive yet. That’s saying a lot, because the others are excellent.
The delay bundle features two emulations. Tape 201 models the classic Roland RE-201 Space Echo, and Memory Brigade models the Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man pedal. Arturia can’t use the names of the modeled hardware for trademark and copyright reasons, but it’s evident from the look, features, and sound what they are. The third plug-in is an Arturia original called Delay Eternity, a versatile two-line delay with a built-in bit-crusher, filter, and pitch modulation effects.
Levels and More
All the delays offer above-average control over the balance between wet and dry signals. Not only do they have Dry/Wet knobs (called Blend on Memory Brigade), but also separate level controls for the delayed signal.
You can open each delay in either a mono or stereo configuration, depending on the track. On a mono track, you can open a mono instance, and on a stereo track, a stereo or dual mono one. Surprisingly, no mono-to-stereo versions are available; I consider that a disadvantage. If you want to create stereo effects from a mono track, then, you can’t insert the delay directly on the track. Instead, you have to either use a stereo aux or subgroup track or insert some other mono-to-stereo plug-in before the Arturia delay in the signal chain. While the lack of mono-to-stereo versions is not a major problem, it is a bit puzzling. Virtually every delay plug-in I own or have tried has them.
The stereo versions of the three delays offer a lot more options than the mono ones. Not only do they provide standard stereo operation, but also ping pong and M/S modes. The M/S option is quite cool, as you can delay the mid and side content separately.
All three delays supplement the knobs and buttons on the main part of the GUI with an Advanced Control section, which is hidden when you first open the plug-in. A disclosure arrow on the upper right lets you open up the extra controls. For the two emulative plug-ins, the Advanced Controls reveal features that weren’t on the original hardware.
Each delay furnishes an input equalizer in its Advanced Control section, which lets you manipulate the sound’s frequency makeup before it hits the delay. All three also have LFOs you can assign to numerous parameters. Delay Eternity and Memory Brigade are equipped with envelope followers, which let you modulate various parameters with the amplitude of the input signal.
Another useful feature on all the delays is a Stereo Offset knob (called Stereo Rate Offset on Tape 201). It lets you dial in fine variations in timing between the channels in much smaller increments than is possible with the regular delay-time knobs. It’s designed to help give you wider-sounding delays.
Tape 201’s GUI is reminiscent of the original RE-201 hardware. Most notably, it features an 11-position Mode Selector that looks identical. Use it to choose the number of repeats and enable the unit’s reverb feature. You can also switch the plug-in to reverb only. The reverb emulates the original hardware’s spring reverb and is especially useful in tandem with the echo effect. Unfortunately, there’s no way to control its decay time or other parameters, so it’s kind of limited compared to a fully equipped reverb plug-in.
Getting the amount and length of repeats you want with the echo function requires finding the right combination of Mode Selector and Repeat Rate settings. The latter is the equivalent of delay time. On Tape 201’s stereo version, you can choose to make the repeat rate the same for the left and right (or for the mid and sides, if you’ve switched into M/S mode), or unlink them and set each side separately.
Other controls include Stereo Rate Offset, which lets you dial in subtle timing variations between the delays in the left and right channels when they’re linked. The Stereo Width knob controls how wide the delayed signal is. Intensity governs how much of the delayed signal gets fed back into the effect. At high settings, it creates self-oscillation that eventually builds to a cacophonous state.
Tape 201’s Advanced Controls include Flutter, Noise, and Motor Inertia knobs. The first two let you emulate sonic inconsistencies that were characteristic of the original hardware. Motor Inertia affects how quickly the plug-in switches to a new setting after you change the repeat rate. With slower settings, you hear it speeding up or slowing down, which can give you a cool tape-changing-speeds effect.
Most importantly, Tape 201 sounds warm and authentic. It improved the sonic quality of every track I tried it on.
Eternity and Beyond
The Delay Eternity plug-in is quite powerful, particularly when instantiated in stereo. In the stereo version, you can choose from five different delay modes: Single, Ping Pong, Pan, Dual, and Dual Serial.
In Single mode, you can access only one of the delay lines, so it’s pretty straight ahead and works great for bread-and-butter delay effects. Ping Pong mode also offers a single line, but the delays alternate left and right.
Pan is a single-line delay, but its repeats pan out from the middle to the outside of the stereo image. What’s usually the Offset knob becomes a Pan Speed control in pan mode. The panning effect is subtle but adds a little more motion to a signal.
Dual mode uses both delay lines. With left and right (or mid and side) unlinked, you can have a total of four different delay times, giving you some really complex rhythmic effects.
What makes Delay Eternity so powerful is having the Bit Crusher and Filter sections. The bit crusher lets you independently reduce both the bit depth and sampling rate of the delayed signal, making it easy to create delays that vary significantly in audio quality from the source signal.
The Filter section includes lowpass, bandpass, and highpass filters with -6 dB, SEM, and -36 dB modes. You also get Cutoff (frequency) and Resonance controls that are available only in SEM mode.
In addition to the input equalizer, Delay Eternity’s Advanced Controls provide an envelope follower that lets you specify two separate effects parameters to modulate. A pair of LFOs allows you to further modulate the delayed signals with a choice of six different filter shapes.
Overall, Delay Eternity provides a fertile environment for creating complex and textured delay effects as well as basic delays for instruments and vocals.
Audio example above: You’ll first hear four measures of an African drum loop. Starting in measure 5, Delay Eternity adds additional rhythmic taps, which are bit-crushed and modulated by the envelope follower and one of the LFOs. From measure 9 to the end, you hear just the delay taps.
The Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man, the pedal that this plug-in was clearly modeled from, was an early analog delay unit that featured BBD (bucket-brigade device) chips. Those chips created delays whose sound degraded progressively on each successive tap. The result was the classic analog delay sound you often hear simulated in plug-ins and modern pedals.
Because of the nature of the chips, bucket-brigade delays don’t offer super long delay times. True to that heritage, Memory Brigade provides a maximum of 1,000 ms, or 1 second. Delay time can be halved with the flick of the BBD Size switch, which simulates an identical switch on the original unit. The switch is handy for trying settings that are doubled or halved from your original setting. As far as I could tell, the switch doesn’t affect sound quality.
Also like the original, Memory Brigade has a modulation effect that’s switchable between chorus and vibrato, and you can also turn it off. Both effects are pleasant and warm, and they’re helpful for adding a little more character to the delayed signal. In its Advanced Controls, Memory Brigade offers an envelope follower and a single LFO in addition to the Input Equalizer.
Perhaps what’s most impressive about this plug-in is its sound, which is rich and full of character. In addition to its delay capabilities, it’s useful for adding vibe to a sterile sound source.
Audio example above: A synth bass plays two measures without delay. When Memory Brigade is inserted, it adds delay, chorus, and modulation.
You Will Actually Use Them
I haven’t been this enthused about delay plug-ins in a long time. Each offers a distinctive sound quality, and between the three of them, you can probably find a way to create virtually any delay effect you can think of. My only disappointment is the lack of mono-to-stereo versions. I don’t really understand why that couldn’t be done. Perhaps there’s a technical reason for it.
Overall, though, this bundle lives up to its name, big time. You will use these delays—a lot—if you buy them. I can’t wait to see what Arturia’s next processor bundle will be.
Supported platforms: Mac/Win (VST 2.4 (64-bit), VST 3 (64-bit), AAX (64 bits with PT 11), Audio Unit (64-bit), NKS (64-bit DAWs only))