Ernie Ball Ambient Delay Guitar Effect Pedal
Learn to Control Your Swell
by Chris Loeffler
A few weeks ago, I reviewed the Ernie Ball Expression Overdrive, one of the new Ernie Ball Expression Series effects that incorporates an expression pedal on top of the pedal (similar to a wah or volume pedal) for on-the-fly blending of the overdrive circuit with the direct signal. This functionality carries through to the overdrive’s sibling, the Ernie Ball Expression Ambient Delay, with a combination of delay and reverb effects designed to give users hands-free control of the blend of ambience (reverb and delay).
The Ernie Ball Ambient Delay features road-worthy ruggedness, with a flashy metallic rose finish that's certainly eye-catching. The pedal runs on a standard 9V adapter and features controls for Reverb Level, Delay Feedback, and Delay Time, as well as a tap tempo jack for compatible accessories.
What You Need to Know
The Ernie Ball Expression Ambient Delay’s controls are nearly identical to a standard delay pedal, with control over delay time and feedback, as well as a reverb knob. The delay time goes from 50 ms to one second, and the top-mounted expression pedal controls the mix of the effect from completely absent to matching unity gain with the direct signal. A trimpot beneath the pedal sets the maximum level of wet/dry mix in the toe-down position for players looking to limit the sweep and depth of the effect.
The tone of the Ambient Delay’s repeats are tape-like in flavor, with a bit of saturation and dynamic decay in longer trails. The pedal is pleasantly EQed to occupy a wide amount of sonic space without stepping on the direct signal, thanks largely in part to the right mix of grind and rolloff that blurs the repeats without getting muddy or dark. While not a direct comparison, the closest analog I could find is a Roland 301 Tape Echo.
On its own, the reverb effect has a plate reverb tone, warm and spacey without being too up front in the mix. Because the delay is the primary circuit, there’s always a touch of delay (50 ms) when using the reverb only, but the delay sits well enough that the reverb could truly be used as a standalone effect anywhere short of a clinical studio setting. The reverb is especially lush and full with fuzz and higher gain, but it was no slouch when run between an acoustic-electric guitar and an acoustic preamp.
The expression pedal opens up new levels of control over delays in real time, but it’s a subtle control that requires a bit more thought than a typical delay pedal. The ability to control the wash of the reverb and delay dynamically between and during passages is a revelation for shoe gazers, and I found it required a slight shift in thinking from the typical expression-pedal driven effect in how it's applied. Transitioning among arpeggios, single notes, and chords while riding a wave of delay and reverb that’s just about to overtake suddenly becomes entirely manageable with a little practice, and I found I was able to cut a lot of fat from my repeats to enhance the overall sonics.
The delay and reverb effects are fairly set in their tone, and they have a bit too much character to accomplish pristine, studio transparent delays and reverbs.
The Ernie Ball Expression Ambient Delay is an effect that’s meant to add ambience, and as such, it has character that many players will cherish. It has the right amount of warmth and presence to give it a distinct sonic signature while still being a relatively subtle effect in most settings. The expression control over the blend is a genius idea I’ve seen only in multieffects with parameter assignments, and a little practice goes a long way toward commanding everything from subtle slapback to full-on walls of sound. With a great core tone, ability to play it straight or get wild, and added flexibility of hand-free blending, the Ernie Ball Expression Ambient Delay is ideally suited for players looking for complete control over their delay effect.
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.