This starts with a metaphor: This device looks broken and useless to some most people. but others might see that could be under repair. I'd like to think that as broken and messy as I feel, I'm actually getting better somehow.
This was the first piece of equipment that I owned that made me feel like I was getting serious as a musician. I could be wrong, but I think this predated my first tube amp (a 4x10 Fender DeVille that I just sold for stupid cheap to my friend Jeremy). It always made me feel cool when I'd go see some of my favorite touring bands and they'd have the exact same piece of equipment that I had.
You're given a bank of over a dozen modern and vintage delay sounds that you can adjust the tones of as well as an accessible looper option. Once you get a sound you like, you can save it into one of the three presets and access it whenever with the push of a button.
Looking back, while I may have been able to justify using this back then, I certainly didn't use it correctly. One of the hang ups of the DL4 is that it's not easy to fiddle with. Even the slightest adjustments need to be saved, and it can become a tedious process. I never developed subtlety, either, so when we'd play a show at the Mews, I'd get frustrated that I couldn't ear myself and make adjustments so the delays were obnoxiously loud and repeated five or six times longer than necessary.
When I'd hear David play, his command of this seemingly untamable device always amazed me. Even his spazzy delay sounds were musical and controlled. I found out that he spent hours learning the specifics of each control and working to make each sound exactly what he wanted for each song. I just didn't have that kind of foresight, let alone patience.
Some people think that the sounds of some of the delays, especially the tube-or-tape-based echos, can't hold a candle to the real devices that they're modeled from. To this I will concede any number of points from immediate interactions to subtleties in the warble of actual tape. However, I will say that, even though the DL4 isn't inexpensive per se, it costs less money than almost any one of the
vintage units that it models. Prickett writes that when playing music, it's much more important to use what works, what's available, and what you're comfortable with. So if you have an actual tape echo, by all means use it. If not, don't think that not having one is going to prevent you from sounding great.
I recently discovered a great new company out of Oklahoma and sent them my DL 4 to get some work done. It wasn't broken, so they weren't repairing anything. They did, however, have to take the whole thing apart in order to upgrade the switches and install new LEDs. I asked them to put on some cool new knobs, too, and they look sharp. I guess the important difference between an upgrade and a modification is that a modification changes a feature, or adds a new feature, to an existing device. An upgrade allows the device to do just what it did before only better.