The Boss DD-20 Giga Delay is a versatile and relatively high-end product from the well-known Japanese pedal manufacturer. It’s designed for guitarists who want to explore a range of tonal options with their delay pedal. It’s been on the market for a number of years now but it still packs plenty of punch. The DD-20 offers 23 seconds of delay and 11 delay modes. It has a dual-pedal format, adding to its versatility and also increasing the amount of pedalboard real estate required to run the unit.
First we’ll look at where the pedal sits within the company’s line-up. Relatively straight-forward single-pedal delays such as the DD-3 and DD-7 are frequently seen on both pro and amateur boards. Their discontinued siblings the DD-5 and DD-6 can still be seen on the used market. Boss claim that the DD-20 is the powerful delay pedal in their line-up, although confusingly, they also make the same claim for the DD-500. In reality, the Boss DD-500 is their current flagship delay, with 12 modes, three footswitches and deep editing options. It seems intended to compete with boutique delays such as the Strymon Timeline. Ultimately the DD-20 sits in the middle ground of the Boss line-up, with a more complex design than its older cousins, yet it is not quite as customisable as the newer DD-500.
11 modes on Boss DD-20
The 11 delay modes offered by the DD-20 are Standard, Tape, Analog, SOS, Twist, Warp, Dual, Pan, Smooth, Modulate and Reverse. At the time of release ‘Smooth’ and ‘Twist’ were new modes not offered on other Boss products. Not all the modes will be useful unless you are into very unusual sounds, but the core sounds are quite good.
Standard is the regular digital delay and it’s very usable. ‘Tape’ is based on the vintage analog Roland RE-201 Tape Echo unit. The left pedal can be depressed to simulate two tape heads, the second of which will play at half the speed of the first. ‘Analog’ is modelled on the Boss DM-2 Compact Delay. Both analog and tape are warm-sounding and among the most useful modes on the pedal. SOS (Sound on Sound) turns the pedal into a looper. It allows you to record 23 seconds of material and play it back as well as recording unlimited overdubs. The looping options are quite limited compared to dedicated looper pedals. ‘Twist’ creates an oscillating effect when you depress the left pedal. It sounds quite bizarre and many players would not have a use for it. ‘Warp’ is another effect that can be modified via the left pedal. It controls the delay’s feedback and volume level. It can be used to repeat the delays indefinitely. ‘Dual’ features short and long delays connected in series. The length of both can be modified, although the short delay can only go up to 100ms, which is somewhat restrictive. ‘Pan’ alternates the output from left to right via the stereo A/B output connections. ‘Smooth’ adds a subtle reverberation effect to the delay sound. ‘Modulate’ adds a wavering effect to the sound, which can provide a different tonal texture. The sound of Reverse is self-explanatory. You can use effect level to drop the original signal out and create an entirely reversed signal, which sounds quite otherworldly.
Sensible user interface
The pedal is complicated compared to some delays, but Boss have made the interface as straight-forward as possible. The left pedal turns the effect on and off and can be used to change the functions of certain effects. The right pedal controls the tap tempo function and allows switching between manual control and stored “memory” presets. There’s also two buttons and four LEDs to manage the unit’s memory function. Only four custom presets can be stored in the unit, which is quite limited compared to modern delays. For example, the Boss DD-500 has 297 presets. Not everyone needs that amount though.
Footswitch option available
Like the Boss DD-7, the Boss DD-20 can be paired with a footswitch. The recommended footswitches from Boss are the FS-5U (silver) or FS-5L (black). The footswitch can be used to turn effects on and off, control the tap tempo and switch stored presets. The footswitch is not included and must be purchased separately. The DD-20 doesn’t have the option of including an expression pedal, which seems like a missed opportunity to me, especially as its little brother the DD-7 has that option. With the additional functions available on the DD-20, it would benefit more from the use of an expression pedal.
The pedal features a backlit LCD display to help you keep track of delay time, tap tempo, external pedal functions, output mode and the short and long delays when in dual mode. The main parameters are controlled via knobs on the face of the unit. They are delay time, effect level, feedback, tone and mode. The delay time knob can be pushed in and out to control in fine or coarse adjustments. I’ve seen other delay pedals (such as the Strymon Timeline) incorporate two separate knobs for fine and coarse adjustment and believe that set-up to be preferable to a single push-pull knob.
Road-worthy build quality
The construction of the Boss DD-20 is very solid. The pedal has a metal chassis, rubber feet and rubber covers on the broad dual footswitches. The parameter knobs are made of hard plastic and are partially recessed. It has the typical Boss road-worthy design. The unit weights 1.2 kg (including batteries) and the dimensions are 173mm (w), 158mm (d), 57mm (h).
The pedal can be powered by six AA batteries or an AC adaptor. It ships with included batteries, but no power supply. This is a bit of a hassle and many users will need to cough up the extra cash to get the reliability of a power supply. The Boss DD-20 is not the finest pedal in the crowded delay market. The sounds are quite good though, and judging by reviews and discussion online, many users are quite happy with it.
The asking price seems a bit steep nowadays, as the pedal is somewhat limited compared to many modern delays. It was Boss’s flagship delay for a number of years though, so there’s plenty of units available on the used market. If you can pick up a used DD-20 in good condition, that may increase attractiveness as a purchase significantly.
Output Impedance: 1 k ohms (OUTPUT A (MONO), B), 33 ohms (PHONES)
Recommended Load Impedance: 10 k ohms
Residual Noise Level: -93 dBu or less (IHF-A typ.), * E. LEVEL/F. BACK/TONE knobs are set to the center position
Display: Custom LCD (with backlit)
Controls: ON/OFF Pedal, MEMORY/TAP Pedal, DELAY TIME Knob, E.LEVEL Knob, F. BACK Knob, TONE Knob, MODE Knob, TAP Button, TEMPO Button, MEMORY WRITE Button, MEMORY SELECT Button
Connectors: INPUT A (MONO) Jack (1/4 inch phone type), INPUT B Jack (1/4 inch phone type), PHONES Jack (stereo 1/4 inch phone type), CTL PEDAL Jack (1/4 inch phone type), OUTPUT A (MONO) Jack (1/4 inch phone type), OUTPUT B Jack (1/4 inch phone type), AC Adaptor Jack
Power Supply: Dry battery (R6/LR6 (AA) type) x 6: DC 9V, AC Adaptor (DC 9V)
Current Draw: 200 mA (9 V max.), * Expected battery life under continuous use; Carbon: 2 hours, Alkaline: 7 hours. These figures will vary depending on the actual conditions of use.
Accessories: Owner’s Manual, Dry battery (LR6 (AA) type) x 6.
Options: AC Adaptor (PSA-series), Footswitch (FS-5U/5L)
Boss DD-20 Giga Delay
The Boss DD-20 is a very good delay pedal. Some of its features are outdated but there are some great sounds included. It has the typical solid Boss build quality.