Delay Settings – How to Dial in the Best Delay Settings

Delay is a spacial and time based effect like reverb which simulates reflections and can be used to create space and depth in your mix. Unlike reverb, delay is clean and doesn’t introduce the low-mid thickness of reverb decay which can muddy up the mix. Outside of specific settings designed to match a single track, I like to use two delays as sends vs inserts via aux/return tracks. This allows me to blend in as much or little of that delay to every track in my mix to create width or more thickness through sustain. Let’s cover the best delay settings to use in your mix.

What is the Delay Effect

what is delay

Before we talk about settings, let’s identify what the delay effect is.

Delay creates an exact copy of your signal and plays it after the initial signal delayed by an interval of your choosing.

Like reverb, we use delay to simulate natural reflections to give our audio a sense of space, or specifically in delay’s case width.

Also like reverb, a longer interval simulates a larger space that the signal is echoing in.

Where reverb and delay differ is that a delayed signal typically isn’t colored to simulate depth like reverb does to a signal. While we can filter the delayed signal to somewhat emulate this on a delay, it’s simply an exact copy of the clean and original signal.

This is actually an advantage because, as I mentioned in opening, this delay gives you a sense of space without bringing the mud that reverb does, thus maintaining a clean mix.

There are different types of delay, some analog based which generally have a more realistic and natural decay and some digital which sound crisper in creating exact replicas with no degradation which can be more useful in certain situations.

Regardless of the type of delay, they generally always share the same delay settings, so let’s cover them now.

Delay Settings

Before we get into the best delay settings, let’s give a brief overview of each of the settings or parameters you can adjust on a delay which affect the sound.

delay settings


First, it’s important to mention how to use the “Mix” parameter on a delay.

This determines how much of the delayed signal is playing relative to the “dry” signal.

As you probably already know, there are two ways to use effects in your mix: inserts and sends, and depending which you use will dictate where you set the “Mix” parameter.

Delay as a Send

When using ANY effect as a send, we want to set the Mix to 100%.

In this case, we have the delay on an Aux/Return track in our mix. Every track in our mix has a specific “Send” dial which relates to that specific Aux/Return track. The higher we turn the send dial on a particular track, the more of that effect we’re blending in on that specific track.

As such, the send dial is essentially the Wet/Dry percentage for that track, so we want to make sure that the effect itself is set to 100% wet on the Aux/Return track so that there’s no dry signal being mixed in.

Delay as an Insert

Conversely, when using delay as an insert, meaning we’re putting the delay plugin on the track we want delay on itself, the Mix dial is affecting the split of dry to wet signal.

Setting this at the “default” 50% means that we’ve got a even 50/50 split of dry and delay being heard. If we want the effect to be more subtle, we can simply turn the wet lower so that less of that signal is coming through relative to the dry/undelayed signal.

Depending on the type of delay, turning the effect to 100% wet as an insert doesn’t always make sense. This is especially true when it’s a single, clean, unfiltered or colored echo as all this is doing in this case is effectively making our dry audio play later.

Probably more than I needed to say on the wet/dry setting on delays, but there you go!

Delay Time

This is where the “Delay” in delays is applied. The time/note setting determines how long of an interval after the signal plays that we hear the delayed signal.

Most delay plugins allow you to choose between some or all of the following options:


Time is simply the interval length you want the delay to sound after the initial sound measured in milliseconds. Setting this to 500ms would make the delay effect ring out half a second after the initial sound.


Note syncs the interval length to the tempo of your song and specifically in a particular note increment. Common note lengths include an eighth or quarter note, meaning the delayed signal is heard an eighth or quarter note after the initial sound, relative to the BPM of your song.


I went into greater detail on how the timing of dotted notes is calculated in my overview of the types of delays, but essentially a dotted delay works in an additional note at 1/2 the note value you have set.

This produces a cool effect which sounds like you’re playing far more intricate parts on guitar (for example) than you are. Think some of the most famous guitar riffs from the Edge from U2.


Each repeat comes in at 2/3 of a beat and produces a very specific sound which in the right circumstances can sound great.

Triplet delay is all over the guitar of the rock records of the 50’s when it was pioneered.

Those are the basic options when it comes to the delay “time”.


The feedback setting on a delay affects the decay or fade of that delayed signal. Depending on the time/decay parameter, setting this to zero will typically result in a single reflection.

This is great for say a slapback delay, but adding a little feedback to your delay gives it a little more depth as you get multiple reflections.

That said, using too MUCH feedback will overtake your signal, stepping on the next notes or even creating an infinite feedback loop (hence the name) if you set this at or near the maximum setting.


Most delays feature a filter setting which typically applies a low pass filter to the delayed signal.

Filtering the delay both makes the delayed signal sound more realistic (which has to do with low frequency vs high frequency sound waves).

More than that, filtering the delayed signal creates a nice contrast between the initial sound and the delayed signal.

Mix/Wet Dry

The mix or wet/dry delay setting is the same as with any plugin; this determines the blend between the dry and wet/processed signal.

In the case of delay, it determines how much of the delay is heard relative to the initial sound.

Setting the wet/dry to 50% means that both the initial signal and delayed signal are at the same volume. Going below 50% favors the initial signal in volume, and going above it favors the delayed signal.

Mode (When Applicable)

My favorite delay plugin is EchoBoy due to its versatility.


In addition to the above mentioned typical delay settings you’ll find universally on a delay, EchoBoy gives you additional parameters to really tailor the delay sound to the situation.

This begins with a choice of four different modes.

Single echo is essentially a mono echo which is ideal when you want a simple delay, like a slapback, simply utilizing the parameters I mentioned above.

Dual echo creates a delay in both the left and right channels. Each channel has its own echo timing dial, so you can vary the delays between the two to really make the stereo field work and give that signal some width and separation.

Ping-pong is a specific delay effect which alternates the delayed signal between the left and right channels. A specific effect for very specific purposes but it can make for some interesting aesthetic effects/a little ear candy.

Lastly, there’s Rhythm which allows you to adjust an envelope to affect the reflections/echos with a lot of mathy control.

Coloring (When Applicable)

I just give this a general term of “coloring”, but some delays have further parameters to affect the tone of the delayed signal.

With EchoBoy it’s the style setting which has a number of presets which give the delayed signal limitless flavors to best match whatever you’re going for.

echoboy style

These include specific aesthetic tones like the thinned out AM Radio vibe to more subtle and practical flavors like Studio Tape which just adds a little warmth and saturation to the signal.

As you can see above, clicking the “Style Edit” button drops down further EQ, Diffusion, Wobble, and Saturation options to further tailor whichever starting preset you like to fit your specific need.

Best Delay Settings

While your needs will vary depending on the context of the mix and what you’re applying the delay to, generally speaking the best delay settings are subtle and sound good across multiple tracks.

Outside of the context of very specific aesthetic effects, I generally use delay to give an instrument a bit more presence in the mix.

Getting into specifics, the best delay settings are typically:

Best Delay Time

Using “Note” over milliseconds is generally favorable as it keeps the delay square with your tempo and as a result much tighter in the context of the mix.

The exact note will vary depending on what I’m doing. For instance, in my overview of the best vocals delay, I recommended using two delays as sends to give your vocal width and thickness:

vocals delay

As you can see, I recommend extremely short and therefore subtle delays of 1/32 and 1/16 intervals on vocals for a bit of width and depth, respectively. This keeps it tight yet short so it doesn’t step on the next word or note on the vocal.

Dotted and triplet as an interval is more niche in its use. While dotted and triplets arguably sound best on guitar, try applying them to any lead in your mix like a synth or piano.

Best Delay Feedback

Feedback is all about finding the sweet spot between that delay is too bland or short and that delay is overstaying its welcome.

Generally you’ll want to keep your delay’s feedback at 25% or less as this creates some quiet yet present additional decaying reflections after the initial delayed signal.

Experiment with this to thicken out your intended track(s) without stepping on the next note.

Best Delay Filter

The filter helps to simulate depth on the decay, almost like a reverb.

Low passing your delay will give it a darker sound which will help it contrast with the vocal.

This is done to taste and it doesn’t have to be much, but it sounds better and more natural int he mix than just creating a carbon copy delay like you’d get with a digital delay.

Best Delay Mix

As I mentioned earlier, in the case of using a delay as a send (see sends vs inserts), you’d want to set the mix to 100% wet, then blend in as much of that delayed signal as you wanted via the send knob. This comes with the benefit of being able to send multiple tracks to the same delay which helps to create a sense of cohesion in your mix.

Of course if we’re using a delay as an insert directly on the track, the dry/wet mix parameter directly controls that balance.

Outside of very specific circumstances, you don’t want the dry/wet above 50% as this will mean the delayed signal is louder than the initial signal.

Reflections are never as loud as the initial sound as they are the sound of the sound waves bouncing off of surfaces and returning.

With all of this in mind, we generally want the mix around 40% (as an insert) for a natural but subtle drop in volume for the delayed sound, with the reflections of the feedback at around 25%, a slightly filtered delay of around 300Hz (above the fundamental) to 5000Hz to contrast and sculpt the delayed signal, and a short enough delay to avoid stepping on the next note.

It’s the delay interval which will really vary, depending on the BPM of the song and complexity of what you’re applying the delay to.

These are good general guideline settings for delay to start out with in most instances if you’re unsure of how to set it.

You should now have a much better familiarity of how to use a delay and how the various settings affect the tone, so get to adding some width, depth, or just a bit of ear candy to your tracks and mix!

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