I love analog delay unabashedly. Along with a good fuzz, it’s probably the only effect I couldn’t live without. Over the years I’ve put up with the hassles of maintaining a Maestro Echoplex and a less-than-optimally-space-efficient Deluxe Memory Man to indulge my analog echo fixations. So when cool compact analog delays like the Carbon Copy, MF Delay, and DM-2w hit the market at reasonable prices, I rejoiced. Ibanez’s new Analog Delay Mini takes those reasons for celebration—low price and small size—to even more affordable and tinier extremes. The even-better news? It sounds fantastic.
I don’t know about you, but once I get over the cuteness of tiny pedals, I start to imagine accidentally crushing them in a state of performance overzealousness—or worse, turning an ankle stumbling over one in some spectacular stage injury incident. The AD Mini is still small enough to feel unsteady underfoot if you don’t have it securely Velcroed or otherwise tethered to a board. But you can forget about other incidental damage. The Japan-built AD Mini feels as tough and solid as brass knuckles. The only points of vulnerability might be the small knobs used for the repeat and mix controls, although they are basically quite sturdy. Mostly the little Ibanez feels destined to last as long as one of its tough-as-nails forebears.
Rough and Ready Retro Repeater
Bucket-brigade-driven analog delays looked like an endangered species when big manufacturers of BBD chips started to wind down production. Thanks to companies like Coolaudio, though, good BBD chips are available again, enabling reissues of classic delay and modulation circuits as well as entirely new devices. Coolaudio’s work helps drive the AD Mini in the form of V3208 BBD chips. But while these chips are found in many new analog delays, that doesn’t mean the AD Mini sounds just like the rest of the pack.
Like any of the most desirable vintage analog delays, the AD Mini generates repeats that degrade as they are regenerated from one BBD chip to the next. This effect, typically heard as a progressive “darkening” of repeats, is a big part of analog delay’s appeal. To many ears, it sounds more natural and organic, tames the harsher side of vintage-style fuzz, and adds a cool haze to modulation effects.
The AD Mini’s repeats degrade in all the most preferable ways. There’s a smooth contour to each fade that never sounds excessively distorted or clipped—even at the longest repeat settings. But the AD Mini also has a very tasteful sheen of extra top-end clarity that, while miles from digital’s sterility, adds air and definition that’s an asset in the context of spacy, meandering leads and rhythmically driven delay passages. Like many newer analog delays, the AD Mini effectively doubles the 300 ms maximum delay time of vintage stalwarts like the Ibanez AD9 and Boss DM-2. The extra delay time dovetails nicely with the extra air and top-end presence—especially when gain pedals are in the mix. It also highlights the very nice sensitivity and taper of the controls, which enable fine-tuning of delay times and repeats (great for dialing in rhythmic delays) and smooth, controlled oscillation swells.
Whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool analog echo devotee or new to the effect’s charms, the Analog Delay Mini is a supremely satisfying way to experience the nuanced, organic, and musical possibilities of an analog circuit. It’s beautifully built, sounds amazing, is fun to use, and is a flat-out steal given what vintage dealers ask for original analog delays. If you can get past its diminutive footprint, it’s worth every penny—and then some.
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