ValhallaDSP ValhallaDelay by Diogo C
The scope: At this point Valhalla DSP’s approach to plug-ins is widely known - plugins that are simple on the surface but offer plenty of flexibility through different “modes” of a given effect, flat 2D interfaces which takes cues from NASA design manuals, a preset system that facilitates sharing and last but not least, the friendly ($50 USD) price tag, which certainly helps with to make them even more appealing. It’s a formula that seems to be winning, confirmed by the many threads ushered by these plug-ins and by the countless posts and reviews that overwhelmingly recommend them. Valhalla’s forte so far has been reverb, and although they have done a few time-based effects in the past (such as FreqEcho and UberMod) it’s their space-creators that have captured the audience’s attention, offering quality algorithms that are affordable enough for the masses to enjoy, with Vintage Verb and Room becoming widely appreciated. Sean Costello, the man behind these plug-ins, now flexes his muscles towards an effect which alongside reverb is quintessential to modern music production - I’m talking about delay. So now we are presented with Valhalla Delay, a plug-in that presents the brand’s take on the subject.
Sound quality: Simply put, this is one stupendous delay plug-in with some of the best sounding effects of the category. In fact, I shouldn’t delay as we must speak in plural here as there are many delays inside it, from vintage to cutting-edge and everything in between. BBD, Ghost, Pitch and Tape are really something, and along with the other modes makes Valhalla Delay stand out in a category that is crowded with excellent plug-ins, which by itself is a feat to be proud of. This is perhaps the most convincing challenge to Echo Boy’s lengthy reign as the go-to delay that sonically covers-it-all while still keeping some good operational simplicity. Although Echo Boy still has the upper hand when it comes to features (more on that later), Valhalla brings new elements to the table that certainly makes it worthwhile such as the Ghost and Pitch modes — the latter which gets into the Crystalizer territory if we want to keep the Soundtoys comparisons going. Nevertheless, this feels like a brand-new plug-in and certainly can sound like one if the user wants it, but it can easily cover classic delays as well.
Ease of use: As explained earlier, we know what to expect from Valhalla when it comes to their approach for GUI and usability. Flat interface with strong colors and contrasting knobs, a handful of drop-down menus for some core features such as delay mode and era and lastly there’s a simple preset browser with the user-favorite “paste” preset feature that allows for easy preset sharing. In case you get lost there are explanatory tips on the bottom when you hover the mouse over each control, which is super handy and ensures the user is always aware of what’s going on. Overall Valhalla Delay is easy to operate and most importantly it is easy to get great sounds out of it, so our excuses for bad delays are basically gone now.
Features: Delay follows the Costello’s textbook and plays by his rules for plug-in design, which usually means lots of flexibility (exceptions made to his freebies) but without overwhelming the user with tons of menus and sub-menus. This means that Delay is vast yet concise, and that’s thanks to its clever layout and to the “mode” system that enables it to delivery an array of different delay styles (Single, Dual, Ping-Pong, Ratio and Quad Tap) and sounds qualities. Each mode could well be a plug-in on itself, and given how different they are it means that Valhalla Delay is actually six delays — Tape, HiFi, BBD, Digital, Ghost, Pitch and Reverse Pitch — each with its own character, interface color and two variable parameters that specific to each one of them. If there’s one thing that I’d like to see here is a “Rhythm” style a la Echoboy, but that’s hardly a complaint since this plug-in actually brings new elements to the table such as the “Ratio” style and “Ghost” mode, which I’ve never heard before on other delay plug-ins.
Bang for buck: At fifty bucks it’s basically impossible to miss, even if one already has a bunch of cool delays, which is probably the case with the bulk of our user base and readers. If that’s not the case and you’re confined to the stock plug-ins of your DAW of choice then open a new browser tab, type “Valhalla Delay” and thank me later.
Recommended for: quite literally everyone, unless you’re only doing music that is a hundred percent natural and acoustic that needs no effects at all.
- Superb sound quality throughout all delay modes.
- Immensely versatile.
- Mostly easy to use, with a clean interface and onboard explanatory tips.
- Extremely affordable.
- Hardly any, but the multi-tap delay style feels a bit underwhelming when compared to other equivalents out there.
Things to try:
- Tiny amounts of “diffusion” (1-5%) can go a long way into blending a delay into a mix by softening the tap sounds.
- Mapping the “feedback” parameter to your hardware controller is always an excellent idea that shouldn’t be underestimated despite of how obvious it is.
- Make sure to try all delay modes and styles on all occasions instead of instantly reaching for the cookie-cutters. You may find some pleasant and unexpected surprises!