Most of us can remember the first piece of gear that made a lasting impression—whether it was an old Strat in a pawnshop or a classic Marshall calling from across the room. For me, it was an old Ibanez AD9 Analog Delay—its warm sound and funky look drew me in immediately. But it was a temperamental beast, and that’s an understatement. The delay time was way too short because of its older “bucket brigade” chips, which were also used in the other analog delays of the period, like the Boss DM-2 and Electro- Harmonix Memory Man. The bucket brigade term came about because of how the echoed signal was produced. The signal was passed from one capacitor to another like buckets being passed man to man in early firefighting brigades. Even though these chips sounded great, the delay time was usually very short because, as the signal was passed from one capacitor to another, clarity was lost. Adding more capacitors would have alleviated this issue, but at the cost of fidelity.

Strymon seeks to correct these headaches with a combination of modern and old-school technologies. Their aim was to design a digital chip that recreates the entire analog bucket-brigade chip—tonal nuances and all—and that drastically increases delay time. Strymon calls the technology dBucket, and they’re using it in three of their five pedals in an attempt to combine the best of the analog and digital worlds. Here we’ll take a look at all three dBucket pedals—the Brigadier Delay, the Orbit Flanger, and the Ola Chorus & Vibrato—as well as the gorgeous-sounding Blue Sky Reverberator. Each features an attractive, anodized-aluminum case, front panel jacks, and a 9-volt DC adapter socket.

Brigadier dBucket Delay

Download Example 1
Long Delay, No Bucket Loss, Min Mod
Download Example 2
Short Delay, 3/4 Bucket Loss, Max Mod
Clips recorded with PRS McCarty DC245 20th Anniversary into a Matchless Avalon 35 combo.
The Brigadier was designed with the best analog delays of the past in mind. Strymon’s dBucket chip is in two of the other effects reviewed here, but the Brigadier is where it really shines. But for a pedal with so many features, the control layout is very simple. There are two footswitches—one for Tap Tempo and the other for Bypass—three-way Mode and Tap switches, and five knobs labeled Time, Mix, Repeats, Mod (modulation), and Bucket Loss (which is a tone filter for the delay repeats). Mode selects between short, medium, or long delay times, and Tap selects quarter, dotted quarter note, or triplet delay patterns. When Mode is set to Long, the pedal is capable of generating a whopping five seconds of delay time. Connector jacks include input, stereo outs, and an expression pedal input.

To test the Brigadier, I used a Nick Huber Orca singlecut and a Vox AC30 reissue with the reverb switched off. With all knobs at noon, Mode set to medium, and Tap set to quarter notes, the Brigadier immediately showed what it was capable of, tonally. The pedal’s delay tone isn’t a dead-on representation of an old analog delay, but it has strengths beyond its analog ancestors. One of the biggest frustrations of older analog delays is how dull they can sound in a mix. The Brigadier has that cool, lo-fi vibe, but with a much stronger, healthier projection in its repeats. Even with the Bucket Loss control cranked to maximum, the delay tone was much more vibrant than most vintage and vintage-reissue analog delays I’ve come across. In their quest to craft a delay that captures prized analog tones while remedying their faults, Strymon seems to have come across a distinctive new sound. And the more I dug into the strings to push the envelope of clean fidelity, the more I was convinced that was the case. There are lots of analog delay modelers on the market, but most of them don’t provide the feel of playing a true analog delay. The Brigadier nails it. you’re in the market for a fantastic digital delay with a unique analog voice.
Buy if...
you’re in the market for a fantastic digital delay with a unique analog voice.
Skip if...
you’re after a softer analog delay tone with a mushier voicing.

Direct $299 - Strymon -