Way Huge WHE702 Echo Puss

May 21st, 2015

WayHuge-EchoPuss

What is it?
Way Huge WHE702 Echo Puss. Made by Dunlop in 2010’s.

A guy offered this in a trade. And being the type of analog delay friend that i am, i had very little choice but to go for it. This is my first Way Huge box. While it isn’t the Way Huge that originally made the name, but a modern Dunlop factory pedal, i was somewhat enthusiastic. This continued all the way to the first test run. I’ll get back to that in a bit. As usual, i opened the unit up to see what was inside.

WayHuge-EchoPuss-guts

Standard two-sided Dunlop manufacturing read boards with ground fills, all the stuff board mounted and three boards connected with clip on terminals. At this point i didn’t have interest in taking it completely apart. Neat and modern, but dull, if you will.

About the design itself, we have an analog delay with modulation circuit with it. In addition to normal delay time, feedback and mix (called blend) controls, we have tone acting as a filter and two controls for modulation – depth and speed. The delay time is promised at 600ms. Quite impressive set of features for the price, right?

How does it sound?
But then comes the sound part of the unit. Sure, there ain’t that many crystal clean analog delays around. The ones that are are usually priced at higher range of the number on the price tag. And the reason is rather simple. The 600ms is your maximum delay time as advertised. But. I’d say the usable part ends with 280ms as anything over this time will result in BBD chip distortion. This distortion is rarely wanted and its texture isn’t very pleasing. The tone control can be used to hide parts of this distortion and by cutting highs i was able to go near 400ms without the distortion bothering that much. It will be present with the delay time knob over half way. This is the biggest culprit. The modulation works well and sounds very good on the repeats.

I’d say the price/sound/feature ratio is well balanced. After all, the analog delays that are actually good do not often come in this price range. Not bad. But nothing mind blowing or too good either.

Dunlop JDF2 Fuzz Face

May 21st, 2015

Dunlop-JDF2-FuzzFace

What is it?
Dunlop JDF2 Fuzz Face. No idea where Dunlop currently makes these. If pot date codes are correct, this unit may have been rolled out in 2010.

I’ve already written about the blue Jimi Hendrix model, which seemed like a decent silicon transistor remake of the unit Jimi used back in the day. That unit did look like a vintage board. But it turned out to be a borg with its surface mount components and trimmers hidden on the solder side. I was quite reluctant to open this up due to the experience provided by the Hendrix model. Somehow i’m glad i eventually did.

For these later units, the board doesn’t even try to look like vintage units. It’s your standard modern Dunlop board with ground fills and lead-free solder. On top of that, we have trimmers for bias, which are hot glued to their places.

Dunlop-JDF2-FuzzFace-guts

Jacks and pots are connected with a clip on terminal and to minimize the amount of labour, the tiny board is mounted to the stomp switch terminals. This makes me wonder if those mini Fuzz Faces introduced in early 10’s have the same board inside. It would make sense. The transistors are AC218s, or at least they try to be. Those look a lot like restamped germaniums to me. If i try really hard to find something good to say, the pots, jacks and the battery snap are quality items that should be able to take a hit or two on the road.

No DC jack, nor any other good things we usually find in modern effects. Expect for the board, obviously. In all rather disappointing use for this enclosure. One should be able to score a period correct reproduction PCB through internet and use the enclosure with that.  But then again.. This is a piece of evidence how big brand and volumes can shift the idea in a design to something completely different. This will also be a part of Fuzz Face history, there’s no disputing that. In all. Decent unit. Nothing great and definitely nothing even close to the units sold as Fuzz Faces just a decade or two ago.

How does it sound?
Like every other Fuzz Face and its straight-on derivative. Sluggish output level, all or nothing -type of controls, decent behaviour with guitar controls and well. Most of that original Fuzz Face magic in sound is present. I’d say this is very nice entry level fuzz for the youngster who want to get their hands dirty with their very first germanium fuzz. Some might consider this a keeper due to it’s tone. I find it as a keeper only because it resembles the golden oldie visually. Tone is rather close and visual aesthetics are in place. That’s about it. Very cheap to manufacture and due to its reputation, the price is also easy to keep high. Still. Recommended for a first fuzz device (never mind the Big Muff Pi for this urpose), but that’s pretty much it. Get one if you can, but don’t pay too much for this Dunlop model.

DOD FX53 Classic Tube

May 17th, 2015

DOD-FX53-ClassicTube

What is it?
DOD FX53 Classic Tube from DOD’s FX series. Made in USA, 1991.

A unit that’s been mostly put down by the misconception about its design for decades. I know i was under the wrong impression for a long time too. The name may point to the direction of all the different tubescreamers and derivatives, but no. There is practically nothing from TS-family in here. If you don’t believe me, check the hand drawn, traced schematic up at FIS. I do get the idea for the name. The designer may have been after that certain accent on the mids, but that’s not the main thing for this design at all. Look at the first gain stage after the input buffer and the switching. It’s a cross breed with TS-style feedback loop clipping diodes and a 250 OD-style gain control. The diodes in the feedback loop is the only thing bearing any resemblance. This driver stage is then followed by a hard clipping stage before the volume and the tone controls.

DOD-FX53-ClassicTube-guts

Not even the tone control topology show any resemblance to TS circuits. So the design here is not like many the others. I wonder what would have happened if DOD had decided to paint these green. Since majority of players at the prime of this unit’s selling days were about to slam it as a TS-derivative anyway, the green colour would have been a nice touch. Then some folks would have possibly noticed that the TS and Classic Tube do not sound alike.

The build quality is common with all the others from this era of FX-series units and the electronic switching follows others too. And if we try to find a continuity in the design presented in the schematic, this might very well be the link between FX50-B Overdrive and FX55 Super/Supra Distortion. After all, it is brighter in red (could it be called more yellowish?) than the Super/Supra – so in a sense, also a missing colour between the FX50 and FX55. You could also check out the notes on Americas Pedal on the FX53. I believe the author in there is right about the unit trying to be a competitor to TS9, not to copy it in any way.

Even if there were similarities in the tone to the “suspected sisters”, the design does not support that claim. And again, no. Neither does the sound.

How does it sound?
There is a certain emphasis on the mid frequencies that may have led some people to think TS. To me, however, words like amp-like and smooth come to mind. Neither of these are words that i would use to describe a TS or its derivatives. The amount of gain available is quite different too.

Now i’m starting to piss myself off. Why on earth do i keep comparing this to TS, when it has clearly very little to do with that design? Because most of the world still do call FX53 a “DOD’s take on a Tubescreamer”. The design, nor the sound, have very, very little to do with it. How can i be more clear about this? Please. Stop referring to TS when you talk about this effect. I know i’m going to stop doing it. Right. Now.

Arion MTE-1 Tubulator

May 12th, 2015

Arion-MTE1-Tubulator

What is it?
Arion MTE-1 Tubulator. Made in Sri Lanka, around early 00’s

A Tubulator? Yes. Can anyone guess what the base circuit design is? By the name and three controls, Level, Tone and gain, which is named as Dist, there should not be that many questions. There is a schematic up at Matsumin’s page (switching not depicted). So let’s take a look at those extremely beautiful, acid trip traces with pretty hand drawn feel to it before examining the schematic a bit.

Arion-MTE1-Tubulator-guts1

Pretty. Isn’t it. Anyway. To read the schematic a bit, we don’t have an input buffer for the circuit input, just for the bypass path. This does look a bit strange, since it’ll mean that the circuit input is connected to your guitar at all times. It seems, however, that the input impedance of the JFET bypass buffer is higher that the gain block’s impedance. The capacitors at the input of the first gain stage (two 33n caps in series) seem a bit low in terms of letting lower frequencies in. Still on par or at least close to what we find in the design this is obviously derived from. Then for the gain block. This is very common setup for these “tube overdrives”. Noticeable and somewhat audible difference comes from 56n capacitor form inverting input to ground. This’ll shift the high pass filter created by the gain stage a hint lower, affecting the lows for the better. The value versus the value in several other “tube overdrives” is pretty close but should make a nice, subtle difference.

Arion-MTE1-Tubulator-guts2

Then for the Tone control. This part is the same as in those “tube overdrives” mentioned earlier. Yes. I’ll be using quotation on this all the way until i say it out loud.. Then we have the Volume control, shunt to ground instead of the usual VREF. And then comes the output buffering. Simple, yet effective. I just had to snap a photo of the original retail box. Notice the short spiel – Very Intense Tube Emulation Pedal.

Arion-MTE1-Tubulator-retailbox

I sure do hope all of you got the point for this design without me saying it? Yes. It is an ever so slightly modified, Yet Another Tubescreamer.

How does it sound?
Close to the ye oldee Maxon design. Nothing new, nothing special, but still slightly more pleasing in its overall tone when compared to TS808/9. If it wasn’t housed in plastic (which in this case isn’t that big of a minus), this would probably stand out nicely form vast majority of all the other Tube Overdrive (un)designs. Maybe not much, but a bit. It acts close to TS808 and TS9 with its relatively sluggish output level and mid-honking cold, dead hand slapping you on to top of your head. Subtly more content on lows, but not much. Reasonable controls too. As with 98 per cent of all TS derivatives, the overall tone shines on vintage output pickups, but goes from horrible to completely unusable with modern pups with over 12K DC resistance. For the price, this is very decent TS-derivative.

Ibanez FLL Flanger

May 9th, 2015

Ibanez-FLL-Flanger

What is it?
Ibanez FLL Flanger from L-, or Master series. Made in Japan, 1985.

Now, there is a reason why i’m posting this one right now. I just wrote a post about the SF10, Swell Flanger. Due to that article, there is very little to say about FLL. It’s is the same effect with minor cosmetic differences, which i already disclosed on the SF10 article. I know i’m repeating myself, but these differences are the visual appearance, the stomp lid and the pots.

Ibanez-FLL-Flanger-guts1

Trying to write something truly meaningful about this after the SF10 would be like writing two completely different articles about TS7 and TS7C. Sure. In that case there wouldn’t be any other difference but the colour. Here there are a few minor things, but again. I just wrote about them. Twice.

So why don’t we just enjoy the photos this time?

Ibanez-FLL-Flanger-guts2

..and don’t even try to come up with profound differences. There is very little time between the two units manufacture dates and there is practically zero difference in the electronic design. Even though this design lasted for nearly a decade in production in couple of different forms, the main reason to even try to say something about these is…

How does it sound?
The sound. These all sound great. Versatile and more than just usable. A solid standard in analog flangers.

I’ll try to take some time between these post and the forthcoming FL9 post. Just to get a bit more out of the third Maxon designed flanger that shares the design with this and the SF10.

Ibanez SF10 Swell Flanger

May 9th, 2015

Ibanez-SF10-SwellFlanger

What is it?
Ibanez SF10 Swell Flanger from Ibanez 10-, or Power series. Made in Japan, 1987.

Swell. I have no idea where the name comes from. But does it matter? Probably not. Solid 10-series pedal with nothing off from the rest of the bunch. The series is rather large with “only” 36 titles in it. And when we take in to account that this series wasn’t manufactured for too long (from around ’86 to ’89 – less than four years), there are bound to be some recycling on the designs from earlier series. The number of different units and the vast number units being traded at auction sites makes me think that the Maxon factory had to be running on full between 1986 and 1989.

Ibanez-SF10-SwellFlanger-guts1

Board and build quality is on par with the others in the series and also on par with the L/Master series. After all, both series were made in japan. Actually, the difference between the series are minor. The rubber mat on top of the stomp lid vs. the hard plastic lid and the slightly cheaper pots. Of course the naming of the units and slight visual differences too. But for the main boards, these two series are a very close to each other. Now that i remember, i’ve actually seen more Master series units with broken pots than Power series units with the same fault. Funny. Most folks will simply repeat the mantra found on numerous forums – “the power series pots are worse than the good pots on master series”. Due to my limited empirical experience, no. That is not correct. Sure the Master series pots feel sturdier. But right now, i’m not that convinced about them being simply “better”.

Ibanez-SF10-SwellFlanger-guts2

To get on with it, this design is the newest of the bunch. Meaning that the four knob flanger design we all love to play around was first introduced as 9-series unit, FL9 in the early 80’s (this FL9 design is a derivative of FL-301 and the other older Maxon/Ibanez flangers). This circuit was then redrawn for the Master series and sold as FLL Flanger. And then we have the SF10, which uses the same exact PCB as the FLL. So it is the same effect in yellow enclosure instead of greyish black. And since this is the same effect…

How does it sound?
It sounds exactly like FL9 and FLL. Deep, powerful flanger with great set of controls. This unit goes from that glassy, brittle, static and thin tone all the way to the airplane territory. In addition to those two ends, there is everything in the middle. A chorusey flange, a vibrato-like wobble and so on. Exactly like a great flanger unit should. What more can i say? Versatile flanger that will suit most situations where flanger is needed. A classic. And a standard in great flanger units.

If you are in denial about greatness and proper use of flangers, this (or any of its sister models) is the unit to try out.

Peavey CMC-1 Companded Chorus

May 8th, 2015

Peavey-CMC1-CompandedChorus

What is it?
Peavey CMC-1 Companded Chorus. Made in USA around 1987 or 1988.

I’m not sure if this series has a name. At least quick searching didn’t yield one. Not that it matters that much. It’s the series Peavey marketed in the mid-80’s and it has various effects in rather cool housing. This one’s blue, so we can be certain it’s a chorus. The box is very decent and should take a punch and years on the road with no issues.

Peavey-CMC1-CompandedChorus-guts1

I did talk about the housing a bit on the Hot Foot Distortion post before, so there’s nothing new here. Just very solid box design that i’d call sturdy. Electronics come together with three parts. One for controls, one for jacks and one for the main board. The jack and control boards are connected to each other with pins and the main board connects to the control board with pin headers and a ribbon cable.

Peavey-CMC1-CompandedChorus-guts2

Everything is fastened with screws and there will be nothing moving around without a sledgehammer. Unless we unscrew the screws, obviously. I was expecting to see a similar board as in Hot Foot, but not this time. Actually. I was rather surprised to see a surface mount board. It is neat though.

Peavey-CMC1-CompandedChorus-guts3

And full. All SMD, except for the clock and delay chips, status indicator LED and the MEC stomp switch. The main method of switching is very likely to be the same as in Hot foot, but that’s the only common thing in addition to board fastening methods and control/jack boards. As the name suggests, the circuit is companded chorus. After buffering we have NE571 dual compander chip. The other half is squeezing the signal to be fed to the MN3007 BBD delay line (which is LFO controlled by MN3101 clock). Then the chorused signal is widened back by the other half of the NE571, buffered and spewed out.

Peavey-CMC1-CompandedChorus-guts4

If some of you are not aware why would a designer use a compander before and after the delay line, the answer is rather simple. With a compander, the audible noise content of the signal disappears when it’s processed like this. And then you might ask what this means for the sound of the pedal.. Well.

How does it sound?
Very much Boss CE-2 style smooth and overtaking chorus. The companded idea takes the noise out, so the analog delay line sounds pristine. Controls range is wider than what the CE-2 offers, but not by that much. Actually the overall tone does resemble the Boss classic a lot. Even the clock+BBD are the same. So in essence this sounds close, with slightly better controls and less noise content. Not a bad chorus at all. One of my current favourites.

Vox V810 Valve Tone

May 3rd, 2015

Vox-V810-ValveTone

What is it?
Vox V810 Valve Tone. Made in china, early 00’s.

The brand name is sometimes so big and trustworthy that anything released under that brand will become a collector’s item and a classic. Were the title warranted or not. I’m more than certain this is the case with Vox. In the early 00’s, Vox released couple designs in a housing like this. The box is pretty neat looking and visually there is very little negative to say. Strong moulded metal with thin tin plate at the bottom. Reminds me a lot of the bottom plate we find in Cry Babies. Plus the screwed on tin plate at the top too. Visually, the two pedals are a lot like each other. The “Valve-Tone” text is punched to the front of the pedal.

Vox-V810-ValveTone-a

These are well built pedals and i’ve had a few units come in for repairs before. The thing that may cause issues is the switch. If the pedal is in heavy use, the mechanical switch is about to give in at one point. This doesn’t mean that the issue is that common or you should worry about it. It just means that all switches are subject to worn. Some can take 15 years of stomping while others give in in a few short years. The circuits are stacked, so the main circuit has its own board and the board mounted pots have their own. Boards are connected with pin sockets. Higher level of excellence is present than what we see is out usual chinese mass produced masses. Well built.

Vox-V810-ValveTone-guts

Point i raised in the very first sentence becomes clear once we take a look at the schematic. Valve-Tone. In other words, a YATS. For those not that familiar what YATS stands for, i’ll spell it out for you. Yet Another TubeScreamer. No modifications. Just a “millennium bypass” and slightly more stable power section. That’s it. No changes to the signal path (except for the weirdly huge value for the output cap and the missing electronic switching, of course). I’m sorry, but i find it rather difficult to understand the value folks ask for these these days. Sure the box looks cool and there a text “VOX” on it. But come on. Maybe i should have left a sub tag for all the TS pedals i come across. Must be the most copied design in the history of all effects.

How does it sound?
Exactly like the schematic lets us believe. It’s a mid-honking overdrive with nothing new. Works and sounds pretty with low(ish) output pickups. In other words, still just a tubescreamer. I’m tired of writing tubescreamer with a capital letter. There are just too many of these around. VOX didn’t have one before, so i guess it was about time. Sort of an disappointment, but then again. Why wouldn’t i want to have a VOX tubescreamer in my collection.

Just know what it is and do not pay the asking price. It is still nothing more but a tubescreamer.

Arion MOC-1 Octave

May 1st, 2015

Arion-MOC1-Octave

What is it?
Arion MOC-1 Octave. Made in Sri Lanka around early to mid 00’s.

This unit was my very first brush with Sri Lankan reissues. Bought it as new for the nice price tag and more importantly, out of curiosity. Arion is rather personal brand. Its pedals have certain cult reputation which isn’t based on its plastic appearance, but the tones. Sure these come cheap, but that doesn’t attribute to bad craftmanship nor bad tones. Negative things come from plastic housing with a plastic battery lid that are just as prone to get lost as the ones on old DOD FX-series boxes. Other downside is the knobs. The pots are not bad at all for small 9mm board mount pots. The push on knobs get loose way too easily. So one strike for the plastic enclosure, second for the battery lid and the third for the knobs. Already at this point one could argue that i shouldn’t praise effects with such obvious flaws. But. The plastic enclosure can handle stomping, the knobs do not  part ways with the rest of the pedal by themselves and that is true for the battery lid too. so none of those offer enough leverage to call Arion units simply bad. Then comes the areas which are way more important. Take a look at the photo below. Neat work, and the boards are exactly as they were in the original, early 80’s japanese Arions.

Arion-MOC1-Octave-guts1

Traces and solder joints are just plain work of beauty. Acidy and hand drawn feel. How can you not love this? The board design adds more to the so called “mojo” factor than many other things. I try to restrain myself from using the m-word too much as it’s been used without any warrant so much over the years. Either way, the trace side is just beautiful. Component side isn’t that sleek, but still decent. Seeing the actual board pretty much take all the firepower out of the three culprit arguments. What does the plastic housing matter, if the electronic and board designs show this level of excellence? Not sure, but these could be made on to original japanese boards. Just assembled in Sri  Lanka.

Arion-MOC1-Octave-guts2

And then there’s the electronic design. Some forums claim the circuit is straight up clone of the classic Boss OC-2. Haven’t traced this and i have yet to see an original schematic to confirm. Just by the looks of the board, i’d say no. It’s not your straight up clone. It has similar features, but still no. At least the semiconductors and number of them do not match. While the features of 1 octave down, 2 octaves down and the clean mix level are similar,  that doesn’t mean that the circuit has to be identical. Even if the most important thing would suggest that too.

How does it sound?
Clean, but powerful. One of the best analog down octaves in terms of tracking and keeping the octaves in place. MOC-1 is actual true competition for OC-2, EHX Octave Multiplexer and others alike. Very nice sounding unit that keeps the output levels in usable range. Other than being plastic (and the other slight culprits mentioned above), there isn’t much negative to say about the tone. Very decent unit to have and use. Takes easily a spot in the top five of all analog down octave dividers.

Danelectro DT-1 Dan-O-Matic

April 28th, 2015

Danelectro-DT1-DanOMatic

What is it?
Danelectro DT-1 Dan-O-Matic from Dano “Original series”. Made in china around 1996 or 1997.

This model was the very first of tuner pedals in the Dano pedal catalogue. It was replaced with the red DT-2 a bit later (which i’m still missing to complete my Original series collection at the time writing this). Due to not having the DT-2, i can’t compare the two. Anyway. To begin with, the housing is the classic big heavy cast metal as with the others in the series.

Danelectro-DT1-DanOMatic-guts

Housing is the same as in others, having the two battery slots while only one in use. It’s a digital tuner pedal, so i didn’t have the enthusiasm to take the boards out. I’m pretty certain that all Dano tuners utilize the same technology. This meaning that while the accuracy may be sufficient, the dim liquid crystal display is the biggest culprit. Using this at home in a broad daylight isn’t a problem. But once you take it to the stage, you’re f’d.

So it is pretty much the predecessor for Mini series tuners. Only in less usable metal housing and with same ailments.

How does it sound?
Like most if not all tuners. It doesn’t. It’s reasonably accurate stage tuner with standard Dano electronic bypass. Due to it’s relatively dim LCD, it’s next to useless. Sure it is decently built and a nice looking thing. But that’s where the good stuff ends. No. I do not have much good to say about it, so i might as well just stop here.