Delay pedals are a staple for most guitarists. There are a lot to choose from these days. It seems like most pedal companies have thrown a delay into the pool. Many do the missionary position of delay. We have our meat and potatoes tape delay, analog delay and digital delay. There has been a recent resurgence in the desire for tape delay in recent years so currently we’re seeing a lot of that. As a tape delay nut, that doesn’t disappoint me.
What do you do if you’re looking for something a little left of center though? A delay your parents wouldn’t approve of. A delay that your neighbors would glare at. A delay your third grade teacher would call an abomination.
Thankfully, there are a few companies that can fill this gap. A good case in point is Earthquaker Devices from Ohio.
They make one of my favorite delays, the Disaster Tranposrt SR. It may look complicated at first, but It is pretty simple to get a great sound going.
The Disaster Transport SR strengths lie in ambient textures. It’s a delay that is almost a reverb that is a delay that’s a reverb with modulation that is a.…You get it. It adds character. Lots of it!
You can set it up to do traditional delays, but then you’re missing out on the real beauty of this pedal. It would be like visiting NYC and ordering a bagel from Starbucks. Nooooooo!
The Disaster Transport SR has two delay paths that can be parallel or run in series. You can also run parallel and series a the same time. Say what?!?!?! Yup, you heard me. And if that’s not cool enough you can add reverb to delay B. Holy cow Batman!
They also went as far as to add an LFO. Isn’t that nice of them? Earthquaker Devices are not the type of guests you invite over your house that show up with one bag of those experimental flavor Lays chips and drink all your beer.
With some tweaking, I can conjure up some omni chord like tones. I admit, I have a soft spot for omni chords tones or anything that implies it in any way.
When Earthquaker built this pedal they definitely considered live tweaking. You have to options for expression pedal control allowing you to play the delay like an instrument.
Via an expression pedal you have access to either the repeats or bleed knob. Or both if you have an expression perl with two outs or two expression pedals. Wow, I really expressed myself there.
I have played a lot of delay pedals in my time. There are a handful that remain in my collection. What do they have in common? There was a pretty immediate wow factor when I plugged in. They immediately had a vibe and were inspirational. A great pedal can open up a door to creativity and allows you to imagine and realize new sounds.
Some delay pedals feel more like a tool. They don’t augment you’re playing. They’re just there hanging out. Kinda like the bassists girlfriend at a band meeting. The Disaster Transport SR certainly sends me on a path of creativity.
The Deepest Cut
I have had the experience in the past where some delays get lost in a mix in the studio or a live setting. The Disaster Transport cuts in a flattering way but doesn’t sound digital. It’s present and warm at the same time.
Although it is easy to get a good sound from, it takes a little courtship to open up all the possibilities of the pedal. The routing isn’t hard to understand in theory. It is slightly different then most delay pedals allow.
It is perhaps a steeper learning curve. Especially in a live setting. Don’t let that scare you though. It is nothing like trying to program a digital fx processor.
I don’t consider the slightly higher complexity to be a big deal as I believe Earthquaker created the Disaster Transport SR with the intention of guitarists (or keyboardists) shacking up for longer then a weekend fling. They’re in it for the loooooove.
Tappity Tap Tap
There is no tap tempo on the Disaster Transport SR. Do I hear a gasp from the modern guitarist? Fear not my millennial guitarists. There are pastures where you can roam free without a BPM tzar.
I don’t fear the lack of tap tempo. This is partly because I’m pretty used to lugging around a Fulltone Tube Tape Echo. I mark my settings if I need to. It’s not really a big deal. I’m not a black and white kinda guy.
Some people like to always dot their i’s and correct you on your pronunciation of caramel. This pedal will not automatically add a date to a shared google calendar for a meeting at 1:18pm Wednesday morning.
Remember before when I said this isn’t meant to solely be a traditional delay? I believe the core market of guitarists that are looking for a delay of this nature aren’t obsessed with tap tempo. Why? Because tap tempo isn’t as important in the ambient world. We’re not as married to locking a delay with a tempo. We float around it. We flirt with it. We go commando.
By now you get that I really dig the Disaster Transport SR. It’s so cool, blah blah blah. It sounds so great, blah blah blah. I know…Get a room already!
This doesn’t mean I’m throwing out my other delays though. The Disaster Transport SR doesn’t replace my Fulltone TTE or my Strymon El Capistan or my Pigtronix Echolution. It does it’s own thing. It dances to the beat of a different drum.
I would compare it to the difference between overdrive and fuzz. Sure, they are both gain devices. But, the way they achieve gainular activity is different. And even to the average ear the variances are noticeable.
Don’t trust me? Drive grandma over to the rehearsal studio, warm up the Marshall Super Lead and do some A/B comparisons. My granny especially hears the difference between germanium and silicon transistors (I’m lying).
The difference between an Strymon Dig and a Disaster Transport SR is similar to the difference between a Tube Screamer and a Fuzz Face in theory.
The Disaster Transport SR isn’t the smallest size. I don’t see how they could have reduced the pedal footprint and keep all the features. It’s not a JHS or Analog Man sized box. Considering this to be a creative delay rather then a meat and potatoes delay, this isn’t that upsetting. You’re most likely buying this pedal to tweak and make cool sounds. I think of it as an ambient delay workstation.
The build quality is great and I must say the packing is really creative. Definitely the best box I have ever received from a company. Yeah, I know its a box. Whoop de do. Hear me out…They pay a lot of attention to details and it’s artistic. I like that. Only now I have a box I don’t know what to do with. I don’t want to throw it out, but I don’t want to keep it. Thanks Earthquaker Devices for complicating my life.