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Erica Synths Zen Delay Virtual

Erica Synths Zen Delay Virtual

This software adaptation of Erica’s desktop delay unit boasts plenty of substance, flexibility and attitude.

Released back in 2019, Erica Synths’ Zen Delay hardware was a great example of the Latvian Eurorack veterans’ ability to seemingly diversify at will. A collaboration with venerable electronic‑leaning record label Ninja Tune (home to the likes of Bonobo, Thundercat and Young Fathers), the desktop ‘black box’ was touted as “the first‑ever hardware effects unit produced in collaboration with an electronic music label,” and that’s not as strange a boast as it might at first sound. Many hardware‑favouring electronic artists mount guitar pedals on the table to cater for effects like delay, of course, but, with their heavy‑duty footswitches and interfaces designed for viewing at leg’s length, stompboxes can prove incommodious. The Zen Delay, on the other hand, was purpose‑designed for tabletop operation. MIDI and CV compatible, with neat little bypass and tap‑tempo buttons, and a detailed panel replete with versatile and tweakable parameters, it features a multi‑mode filter and an array of delay models and, to cap it all off, flush in the middle of its panel there’s a real vacuum tube, for that extra dose of ‘analogue kick’ in what’s otherwise a digital domain.

The Zen Delay Virtual’s panel presents an exact replica of the hardware unit — a simple, intuitive layout that doesn’t leave you wanting.

Finding Your Zen

In many ways the Zen Delay’s move into software was unsurprising — a natural progression, in fact, since most of the signal path on the hardware Zen Delay is digital anyway. The Zen Delay Virtual’s panel presents an exact replica of the hardware unit, with a simple, intuitive layout that doesn’t leave you wanting. On the left side are the delay controls: time, feedback, dry/wet balance and delay mode. And on the right are the tonal controls: filter cutoff, filter resonance, filter mode and drive. Along the bottom are a tap‑tempo button, an input level control and a bypass button.

The delay ‘circuit’ can also be turned off altogether (using the delay mode control) to render the Zen Delay a simple, drivable multi‑mode filter. That’s a role in which it excels, too: it measures up well even against the Moog MF‑101S low‑pass filter, which I generally consider to represent the gold standard in standalone filter plug‑ins. Having said that, sonically it’s more akin to something like the (markedly wilder!) two‑mode filter of the Korg MS‑20. The filter can also be bypassed, so Zen Delay Virtual can also be used as a simple drive plug‑in. Comparing it in this role with Softube’s single‑knob Saturation plug‑in (a freebie, but a nice one!), Zen Delay Virtual once again performed well, creating anything from subtle break‑up to its own brand of ‘angular’ harmonic distortion.

Its versatility means the Zen Delay concept suits the software format very well, since its potential uses are legion: splash it across a bus, dial it in on a send, engage it as an insert effect on an individual channel or stack any number of them for fluttering polyrhythmic echoes or feedback‑based chaos.

In light of all I’ve written above, you won’t be surprised to learn that Zen Delay Virtual replicates its hardware counterpart with good accuracy. The valve in the centre of the plug‑in’s virtual panel illuminates nicely the more you drive it. I must admit, I find myself instinctively sceptical of plug‑ins with carefully mimicked wear and tear on the panel or animations of ‘analogue’ moving parts — I always imagine that the time spent creating these would have been better spent focusing on the sound. So I’m glad to note that Erica have paid proper attention to recreating the sound of the thing!

The LFO page delivers some useful additional functionality compared with the hardware.The LFO page delivers some useful additional functionality compared with the hardware.

Of course, being a plug‑in, Zen Delay Virtual builds on the original’s functionality, and this goes beyond the expected facilities such as preset storage. Notably, there are improvements in the modulation and signal routing department, and these are accessed by a handy LFO page. First, there’s wave‑variable time modulation, with both frequency and amplitude cross‑modulation, and this is capable of imparting some wild, morphing textures. Next, the Digital Mode section offers variable bit depth (word length), noise and sample rate, and is a great way to introduce some very gritty, bit‑crusher‑esque, lo‑fi textures and digital artefacts into the sound — this is something I’ve grown more and more fond of over the years (possibly in rebellion against my increasingly sleek and high‑fidelity computer‑based production system!). Lastly, there’s a matrix to modulate the filter cutoff frequency, complete with the ability to switch the position of the filter stage before or after the delay. This page also allows the feedback signal path to be adjusted in relation to the filter, which is very handy for anything from sophisticated feedback‑based tone shaping to creative noise generation.

As you’d expect, you get a range of good presets to demonstrate the plug‑in’s potential.As you’d expect, you get a range of good presets to demonstrate the plug‑in’s potential.

Zen At Work?

I can easily imagine Zen Delay Virtual becoming my go‑to delay plug‑in — or almost anyone else’s, so versatile is its sound. It’s also doubtless going to appeal to many existing owners of the hardware unit, particularly those of the aforementioned electronic persuasion who might want to perform using the hardware but often make the bulk of their recordings using laptops with minimal I/O. Reliable at the very least, maverick at the most, Zen Delay Virtual is a job well done.


  • Delivers the sound of the hardware.
  • Intuitive interface.
  • Some useful extended facilities.


  • None.


Zen Delay Virtual is a deceptively powerful plug‑in with an endless list of potential applications — highly recommended.


€118.80 including VAT.

€99 (about $99).