Matt Black, founder of Ninja Tune and one half of the electronic music duo Coldcut, headed to Berlin’s trailblazing Superbooth show earlier this year with longtime friend Dr Walker (Liquid Sky Artist Collective/Air Liquide). Inspired by the eclectic range of hardware, the pair began to envisage the possibilities of a custom hardware effects unit suited to both performers and producers alike. Enter Zen Delay – the first-ever hardware effects unit created in collaboration with an independent electronic music label.
Created and manufactured by Riga-based Erica Synths, the unit is housed in a metal case with bakelite knobs and a valve circuit for extra analogue warmth; signature elements of Erica Synths designs. Ninja Tune tell us that while sonically versatile, Zen Delay is incredibly easy to use, with physical knobs for each parameter, negating the need to refer to manuals or scroll through menus on a screen.
Aiming to bring the best of analogue and digital, the Zen Delay is a BPM-synced stereo delay line, with extreme feedback ranges (from 1-5000ms) perfect for dub delays. A multi-mode 24dB synth filter and valve overdrive look capable of achieving experimental and warm lo-fi sounds.
Zen Delay was designed in close collaboration with DJs and producers, with studio and performance capabilities being taken into deep consideration. Other delay devices may be designed with guitarists in mind, yet this machine appears to be equally as powerful in the hands of all artists and DJs, adding a touch of “unique, warm and powerful sonic character” to any source of audio, says Ninja Tune. The Zen Delay unit could also enhance an entire mix with its blend of digital and analogue circuitry, breathing new life into iPad performances and giving traditional synths and sequencers a kick.
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 the video below.
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!”
The Zen Delay is now available for pre-order at ninjatune.lnk.to/zendelay and has a price tag of €499 + VAT. “Early birds” can purchase at a rate of €454 + VAT from Ninja Tune and Erica Synths websites, with a free limited Zen Delay t-shirt included.