Inspired by a trip to Berlin’s trailblazing music hardware trade show Superbooth, Coldcut’s Matt Black and longtime friend Dr Walker (Liquid Sky artist collective / Air Liquide) envisaged the exciting possibilities of a custom hardware effects unit. The result is the creation of the Zen Delay — the first-ever hardware effects unit produced in collaboration with an electronic music label.
Bringing together the best of the digital and analogue worlds, the Zen Delay is a BPM-synched stereo delay line, combining extreme feedback ranges for dub and experimental lo-fi effects with a multi-mode 24 dB synth filter and valve overdrive.
Created and manufactured by Erica Synths, the unit is housed in a metal case with Erica Synths’ signature bakelite knobs and a valve circuit for extra analogue warmth. While sonically versatile, it is incredibly easy to use — each function has a physical knob that you can play around with without diving into manuals or scrolling through menus on a tiny screen.
Crafted in close collaboration with DJs and producers, the Zen Delay was uniquely developed with both live and studio in mind and is suitable for many different performance situations, musical styles and instruments. While most delay devices are designed as ‘stomp boxes’ for guitarists, the device is equally powerful in the hands of electronic music producers, artists and DJs, adding a unique, warm and powerful sonic character to drum machines, loops, vocals, synths, samples or any other source. Even full tracks or a live stereo mix can be enhanced by the combination of analogue and digital circuitry, breathing new life into iPad performances and giving traditional digital synths and drum machines a huge kick.
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Ninja Tune artist The Bug praised the prototype, saying: “the Zen Delay is the analogue delay unit I’ve been waiting for. Stereo warmth, tone and texture. Perfect for live abusage, and studio madness… love it”. You can see him using it in this short video.
Commenting on the Zen Delay, Matt Black said: “The Zen excels at the sort of extreme dub possibilities Coldcut love. Feed it back!”
Dr Walker added: “For years I have dreamed of a state-of-the-art stereo valve dub delay for my MPC that perfectly masters all sound aesthetics from “badass” to “psychedelic hypnotically trashed” — and now, have a look! There it is… the Zen Delay!”
Ģirts Ozoliņš, Visionary at Erica Synths noted: “The ZEN Delay is a product of our expertise on vacuum tube designs, our powerful, custom DSP platform and the great sound of our filter ICs made and developed in Latvia. It by far exceeded expectations in terms of how it sounds and feels when played.”
Find more Zen Delay quotes from fellow Ninjas below…
“This is the kind of modern update I was looking for, and it’s instantly replaced my older circuit boxes. It’s a black box and it sounds incredible.” – Actress
“It’s a dangerous little tool. Fun to play with, nice feel. Really versatile and great sound.” – Helena Hauff
“Only had the Zen Delay for a week and keep reaching for it for my mixes. Great for giving life and another dimension to all sources. The build and sound quality is premium and is a joy to use. Highly recommend it to anyone looking for a high quality multi fx unit.” – Eric Lau
“As soon as I saw Erica Synths and Ninja Tune had built a delay unit, I bought it sight unseen. The Zen Delay is really an instrument disguised as an outboard unit – there’s so much firepower between the insane feedback and tube distortion that you can play with it for days and still be discovering where it can take you. And the fat bakelite knobs are so satisfying to the touch. It’s become a mainstay of my studio and you’ll be hearing it across my records going forward.” – David Ansari (Vallis Alps)
“Delay pedal is sick, filter function is very helpful for what I use it for.” – Joe Armon-Jones