It’s interesting that analog delay seems almost as popular today as it was back when it was the only option, before it had to compete with digital delays, multi-effect pedals, rack units, MIDI-controllable delay stations and all-in-one processors like the Axe-FX. Many players seem to really connect with the organic nature of analog delay at the moment: its rounded down, smoothed off, often more compressed, richly harmonic charms. The MXR Carbon Copy has proven the popularity of analog delay pedals with inbuilt modulation effects, and the Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail takes this to a new level while retaining its analog credentials.The Vapor Trail is a true analog delay pedal which uses Bucket Brigade Devices (BBDs) to generate its echo repeats. The delay time varies from 15ms to 600ms, dialled in fromy the Delay control, a transparent knob housing a blinking blue LED which gives you a visual indicator of the delay time. The Repeats knob controls the number of echo repeats while the Mix knob varies the volume of the repeats. It’s interesting to note that it’s designed so you can go from subtle background echo to louder-than-the-original-note delays, with up to 3dB of extra output compared to the dry sound.
There’s also a modulation section with small Rate and Depth controls. These knobs are top-mounted so you can adjust them pretty easily (unlike the Carbon Copy where you have to unscrew the bottom to access them), and the smaller knob size makes it virtually impossible to move them unintentionally. These controls give you a chorusy, phasey, flangey undulous shimmer to the delay repeats while leaving the dry signal untouched.
In addition to input and output jacks located on the top of the unit, there’s also a TRS insert jack on the side which lets you use a Y cable to add effects to the wet signal. You can also use a regular cable to send the echo repeats to a separate amplifier to your dry signal.
The Vapor Trail is powered by a 9v battery or external 9V-18V regulated power supply. The battery door is on the underside of the pedal and feels pretty durable – plus you can see your pedal’s build date in there, which is pretty neat. Delay pedal birthday party!
As a straight-up analog delay, the Vapor Trail has all the warmth and vibe you’d expect. The repeats aren’t overly lo-fi and hairy like some analog delays: they’re just smoothed-over enough to be clearly analog. Some players might wish for a longer maximum delay time than 600ms but that would be at the expense of the fidelity of the sound. The modulation controls give you everything from a subtle sense of movement to a much more vibrant shimmer, and they come in really handy when you slip into ‘sonic explorer’ mode and start tweaking the Delay and Repeats controls to coax the Vapor Trail into self-oscillation mode; the classic vintage-sci-fi ray gun and rocket noises that the delay circuit would sell some players on pedal all on their own, but when you throw in the potential of the modulation controls you really push it over the edge. It’s also lots of fun to use a subtle modulation setting and a very short delay time to create that Pink Floyd “Money” auto-double-track sound, which I feel is an under-utilized tone and it’d be great if this pedal helps remind folks of it.
The TRS jack is a really fun addition. As well as simply allowing you to have a wet/dry rig, it opens up all sorts of creative possibilities. For instance, you can use an overdrive or distortion pedal in the loop, turn the Delay time down to miniumum and blend the two signals. Or you can use dynamic effects like an envelope filter to trigger wah-like sweeps on the repeats only. Or apply a reverb pedal to add the perception of depth and distance to the echo. Another way you can use it (other than loading it up with a whole signal chains’ worth of chorus, flanger and phaser pedals, or adding another delay for complex rhythmic tricks) is to use a volume pedal in the loop to give you foot-operated control of the volume of the repeats. Basically the Vapor Trail crosses the line from an effect that ‘happens to’ your sound and becomes one that you interact with and which becomes a physical part of your performance.
If you’re in the market for a true all-analog delay pedal with modulation effects, the ability to get totally out-there with wild self-oscillations and the flexibility to let you rout the repeats to another amp or through another signal chain, there’s nothing else out there quite like the Vapor Trail.