October 22, 2023

Current Pedal Obsession: Strymon Brig dBucket Delay.

It’s the Bucket Brigade Hall of Fame pedal.

Based on the Brigadier delay, Brig is the second in a new line of smaller, higher-quality pedals from Strymon. It’s an exploration of three legendary analog delays using Strymon’s dBucket technology. For this article we’ll approach the pedal from three familiar analog voices: Boss DM-2, EHX Deluxe Memory Man and Roland Space Echo, each with authentic characteristics and quirks.

Welcome to the BBD museum.

Brig is a tribute to classic pedals that use three different analog bucket-brigade delays through dBucket emulations. Each of the three voices sound unique and the controls behave differently. The Time knob has varying memory lengths based on the original circuits and the Filter knob can emphasize or normalize the characteristics of the vintage voices.

3205: The Boss DM-2.

Many great players made the DM-2 famous, with Eddie Van Halen probably the most notable. The 3205 voice is a 30ms-300ms delay based on the 5v, Panasonic MN3205 chip. Since it’s low voltage, it lacks fidelity and headroom, so repeats get muddier at longer times. Lower volume levels get lost in the memory and can leave repeats sounding softly percussive as they trail.

The Filter is brightest at 5p. As you roll back the knob it becomes more of a band pass filter. This cuts highs and lows to make the repeats cleaner. 10a is the normal setting for delays with this chip.

The 3205 voice’s shorter delay is useful for mimicking the reflections of a hall. Or slapback with a little modulation to add dimension. This voice creates a nice chorus with the Mix knob at 3p and both the Time and Repeats knobs at 7a. The Mod knob then controls rate and depth of the chorus.

3005: Down Memory Man Lane.

This voice mimics two 15v, Panasonic MN 3005 chips in series for a longer delay time of 100ms to 1s, essentially the EHX Deluxe Memory Man. Edge of U2 used that pedal to define his guitar playing. The 3005 voice has high headroom for repeats that sound clean for a BBD chip. This would probably be considered the most normal-sounding delay voice of the Brig.

The filter for the 3005 voice has no obvious Q, so the audio spectrum sounds flatter. Like the Deluxe Memory Man that has a subtle, slow modulation, adding modulation helps repeats distance themselves as they soften over time. And just like the original DMM, there’s some white noise in the repeats that helps add to the dreaminess. If you turn the Filter knob later than 2p the white noise can be removed.

Multi: Roland Space Echo.

The Space Echo has been used by Pink Floyd to Bob Marley. This voice may turn out to be the reason why people ultimately buy the Brig. The 3005 and 3205 voices are very useful for the reasons players need a delay, but the Multi voice has a magic all its own.

The analog Space Echo boxes used tape and gave you different head configurations. So the Multi voice is more loosely based on the Space Echo: ping-ponging two dBucket delays with repeats set to the golden ratio. The repeats multiply each pass, so they can quickly blur into washes with the rhythm no longer definable.

If you want a two-tap rhythm from Brig, it’s certainly achievable. With the Repeats knob at 10a and the Mix knob at 1p, the delay taps gallop and then tuck out of the way. If, on the other hand, you want a faux reverb, higher repeats with the Time knob at 10a give you one of the nicest. If you have a third hand, longer delays with higher repeats multiply and blur into reverie.

While the delay gets as short as 100ms, the two taps are much closer, creating a chorus effect that’s very blendable with the dry via the Mix knob. Set both the Time knob and Repeats knob to 7a and the Mod knob will control both the depth and speed of the chorus.

Tap and the Time knob.

The tap tempo on Brig is not just a feature, but a mode that lets you stretch the delay time to two seconds. Tap mode eliminates the pitch artifacts you normally get when changing the Time knob, since some players find this a distraction. In Tap mode the Time knob becomes a divisions control: From 7a to 5p you’ll get triplets, eighths, dotted eighths and quarter notes.

A cool trick is that you can tap in a longer delay, set Repeats at 3p and move the Time knob to glitch whatever is in memory with no pitch shift. With this trick you can also tap in longer and shorter delay times on the fly without the pitch change.

To engage Tap Tempo, hold the footswitch for one second. The LED blinks red and blue when engaged. To disengage, hold the footswitch for one second. Note that a tapped delay length is retained when you switch voices or divisions.

A few more control quirks.

Like the Cloudburst, the new, smaller pedal format has knobs and switches that may not function as expected.

  • A 50/50 blend on the Mix knob is at 3p, not noon.
  • The Mod knob controls both depth and speed. Up to 12n, it increases modulation depth and slowly increases speed. From 12n to 2p there’s a noticeable increase in speed. From 2p on, the depth increases while speed stays at a vibrato rate. The Mod knob also has an effect on spread when Brig is used in stereo.
  • Self-oscillation happens about 3p on the Repeats knob.
  • In Tap mode, if your taps exceeds two seconds, Brig will not take it and maintains the current setting. To get the longest delay possible, try longer taps a few times.
  • You can hold down a TRS footswitch (like the Strymon MiniSwitch) that’s plugged into the Exp jack to engage Infinite mode. While held, this boosts repeats to unity feedback. Doing this while adjusting the Time knob will give you the Space Echo warp effect in all three voices. Or with short delays in the Multi voice, it can sound like a sustain effect. Tip: Keep the repeats knob at about 2p and wait a beat before you hold the footswitch to make the escalation sound more natural. See the manual for how to configure the MiniSwitch for use with Brig.
  • Following Brig with a Belton-brick spring reverb like the Rockett Boing sounds exceptional. It adds a nice room presence to longer delays and really embellishes short ambient settings. Below is a demo on acoustic dulcitar of the Brig using the Reverby recipe and the Infinite mode and going into a Rockett Boing reverb.

My take.

Maybe we should find it ironic that Strymon’s most-advanced technology to date (like a powerful ARM processor and pristine JFET preamp) is being used to create the best impression of primitive ’80s analog delay technology. But more than 40 years on, players still love analog BBD delays and Brig maintains that sound digitally. The plus that it it lets them stretch repeats out to longer lengths not available in the originals. Strymon kept this pedal true-to-form with no modern frills like reverse or octaves that BBD chips and real tape boxes are not capable of. Brig is the best digital pedal for bucket-brigade emulations and gives you three of the most iconic. It recently won a blind delay shootout with Rabea Massad, beating out 15 of the most-popular current delays in all genres.

There’s obvious practical reason why these three voices were chosen, beyond being so iconic. 3205 provides a nice hall. I like 3005 as a “forever delay” with a long delay time and repeats almost at 3p. I use Multi as a faux reverb or with the Repeats knob at about 10a for rhythm. Brig not only sounds good, but is also a surprisingly useful delay.

For the spectators: 30ms-2sec, ARM processor, stereo through TRS jacks including expression, USB-C MIDI jack for control and presets, true bypass relay, S/N: 116dB, 250ma.

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