What is a ping pong delay?

There are many types of delay effects that guitar players can use to liven up their sound. So many, in fact, that it can be quite confusing. Among the most impressive types of delay is the ping pong delay. The name itself is even quite alluring, but you might wonder what it even is…

Ping pong delay is a digital, stereo delay effect that bounces the delayed sound from left to right with the use of panning in stereo channels. This effect is useful for ambient guitar tones and for adding dynamic depth and space to the tone of a guitar, especially in studio work.

Understanding ping pong delay and how to use it can provide a unique guitar tone that is not possible by any other method. Let’s take the time to explore ping pong delay, identify some of the best ping pong delay pedals, and learn a little more about this unique guitar effect. 

What Is a Ping Pong Delay?

Ping-pong delay is a type of delay effect that functions in stereo to “bounce” the delay effect from left to right. It is typically used in recordings to add dynamics and contrast to the guitar tracks.

The emulation that ping pong delay relies on is dependent on stereo channels. The delay repeats evenly, but it is panned from left to right in an alternating pattern to create the sound of the delay moving back and forth. 

Without stereo channels, ping pong delay does not sound like it is bouncing from left to right and will simply sound like a standard delay. This means that this type of delay is not useful when using a regular guitar amp but becomes very effective when playing through dual speakers, or when used in the studio. 

While ping-pong delay sounds really cool, you’ll want to be mindful to use it strategically. This type of delay can sound very muddy very quickly and tends to wash out any single notes that are mistimed. 

Ping-pong delay can only be used effectively by powerful pedals or emulation VSTs, as the signal must be panned from left to right with accurate timing and can become unclear when rapid delays are used. 

Aside from timing your delay well, you’ll find it sounds best when used sparingly. As with a lot of things when making music, a little can go a long way.

Learning to use ping pong delay effectively can be a challenge, but for those guitarists who learn to use it well, it is a fantastic tool in their arsenal of guitar effects that can instantly transform the way their instrument sounds. 

Here’s a great example from Antoine Michaud on using Ping Pong Delay (be sure to use headphones for full effect):

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Best Ping Pong Delay Pedal

By now, you understand that a ping pong effect will require a stereo delay. There are many pedals that you can use to achieve stereo delay, but there are a few that are far better suited for ping pong delay than others. 

The best ping pong delay guitar pedals will have individual control over each of the channels, allowing the guitarist to fine-tune their delay in multiple ways. 

The top pedals to use for this effect include the Strymon DiG and the NUX Duotime:

(Also, check out the best practice amps for running pedals in this article…)

The Strymon DiG

Strymon DIG Dual Digital Delay

Strymon’s DiG Pedal (found here on Amazon) is a dual digital delay with a wide range of functionality. It can be used in stereo or mono, with both stereo channels having individual controls. This makes it ideal for creating ping pong delay effects.

A built-in MIDI output also makes it perfect for use in recording sessions. The DiG is full of great features, and it is one of the best-sounding modern delay pedals overall. 

The NUX Duotime 

NUX Duotime Stereo Delay Pedal with Independent Time,Analog Delay,Tape Echo,Digital Delay,Modulation Delay and Verb Delay

The Duotime multi-delay pedal (found here on Amazon) from NUX is among the most powerful delay pedals available right now. It sounds great, and it has a comprehensive range of controls, making it number 2 on our list for ping pong delay. 

The Duotime has two stereo channels with individual controls over time and repeats for each channel, 5 delay types and a 40-second phrase looper.

Ping Pong Delay VSTs

Using a guitar pedal is my preferred method to create stereo delays, but if you’re in the studio, there are some great VSTs that offer awesome ping pong effects. 

Really, there are many VSTs of this type available, and most of them work very well. I often find myself using the delay built right into Cubase. Here is a short list, however, of the best free VSTs for you to try when exploring ping pong delays on your guitar tracks:

Conclusion 

Using a ping pong delay requires a delicate touch and comprehensive control. Only the best delay pedals and VSTs can create ping pong delay effectively in a way that sounds good, without letting the effect become too muddy or overbearing. 

Understanding how to use stereo delay well takes time and practice, but with the right hardware, the right technique, and a good ear, any guitar player can learn to create some highly unique effects and sounds. It might just be that finishing touch on a track that you’ve been looking for!

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