DOD FX35 Octoplus

December 16th, 2014

DOD-FX35-Octoplus

What is it?
DOD FX35 Octoplus from FX series. Made in USA late 1995.

For the love of octave dividers! Some will always say that one can never have too many fuzzes. Well. I say one can never have too many down octave divider pedals. As with most of the effects in the genre, the signal is pushed as hard as possible to CD4013 CMOS flip-flip circuit. This will result in our good ‘ol analog down octave tones. The downside to achieving down octave tones with a flip-flop is that the tracking is hard to keep in line. As these dividers go, DOD does it slightly better than other. But i’ve talked about tracking before. So let’s get down to business and open this beast up.

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I do feel a bit solace wheneven i open up one of the FX serie DOD. There may not be much symmetry or any other eye candies around, but since the boards are always neatly made, there’s not much negative to say about them. Sure, it could be prettier, but the functionality in design is much more in portant aspect in DODs. Like in architechture of buildings, DOD FX serie represents the functionality. As i said, it may not be that pretty, but it gets the job done. There is an original schematic up at America’s Pedal, in addition to a bit of more information. There’s even a scan of mid 80’s print ad up in there! You should probably check those out as well.

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Same aesthetics as for the component side apply to the solder side. Not pretty and there is always this feeling of forced spacing on the board design. Can’t describe it any better than this, but i hope you get my feeling. At least there is some personality in these traces..

What comes to controls, we have our down octave level, tone control and clean level. As the schematic (link above) shows, the level controls determine how much of each signal gets to the output buffer and the tone control affects only the octave side. The topology of the tone control isn’t that far away from the classic one knob tone stack we’ll find in all of the Big Muffs.

How does it sound?
Like a world class analog one octave down divider. Clean level is capable of bringing a bit of boost to our attention while the octave level feels  slightly sluggish. Not that it is sluggish in terms of output, but the lows go low enough to feel like it. Even though it’s just one octave down. What comes to tracking, this is a prime specimen. Divider doesn’t go off the track as badly as many others and it tries its best to keep the divider in control even with two notes ringing at the same time. No, this isn’t polyphonic in any way, but the results are great. The tone control is rather dull and unnecessary. It can take some of the inaudible lows away from the overall sound, but for me, the sweet spot is still where this pot is at minimum level.

Working, good sounding one octave down divider circuit in classic DOD housing. You really can’t go wrong with this one. It may not be the greatest octave down there is, but is still is pretty appealing thing to have.

Ibanez DPL10 Digital Pan Delay

December 13th, 2014

DPL10

What is it?
Ibanez PDL10 Digital Pan Delay from 10/Power series. Made in japan in late 80’s.

Got this as a defunct unit from one finnish guy i did some deals and trades with. As it was not passing signal, the previous owner had borrowed the stomp lid to another pedal. Gladly, i happened to have one to spare from a defunct (completely dead) DL10 i sourced long ago in a deal of a few pedals that were not in working order. So. To the debugging. The signal died at the input buffer that was a half of 4558 SIP chip. I initially assumed that the chip was dead and it took a while to me to order a few of those in. As those, obviously, are not that common parts to be had lying around (now i do have a few if i ever need them again). As the voltages on that chip pins didn’t look healthy, my assumption was the chip being dead. The rest of the circuit seemed to be in working order, as when i injected the guitar signal to either one of the M50195P digital delay chips, the output was correct. Swapped the 4558 for a new one and nothing. Still the voltages were off by any standards.

DPL10-guts1

And of course there’s no factory schematic around for this unit. So i had to do some detective work to find out what was wrong.  I noticed there was a separate reference voltage network for the input buffer and the measured voltages on that network were off too. In other words, the reference voltage wans’t there. The chip was getting the supply voltage, but the reference. I widened my search for the cause and everything seemed to be in order. But the input buffer still didn’t get its reference voltage.

DPL10-guts2

Went on to check more and more and tested the continuity of a few key spots for this netork. Finally i found it. It’s not that common for the 10-series to have two sided circuit boards. Most of the designs are utilizing a single sided board with other side for solder and other for components. This is not the case with PDL10. And when i think it more, this is not the case for any of the more complex boards, mainly delays, in this series. So i finally found the reason for the defect and what was causing it.

DPL10-guts3

At one point, this unit has gotten a jolt from reverse polarity power supply. Due to burnt out parallel polarity protection, the diode has been replaced after the incident. The person who serviced the pedal soldered a new 1N4007 diode in place and since that didn’t fix the pedal, he must have deemed it totally broken. But no, it wans’t totally broken. The issue was that the cathode side of this polarity protection diode acts also as an via, which connects the supply voltage to the other side of the board too.

DPL10-guts4

And this via is the spot that takes the supply voltage for the voltage divider of the input buffer’s reference voltage network. And since the diode wasn’t soldered properly on the component side, but only on the solder side, the network wasn’t getting its supply voltage. I then reflowed the solder around the diode and boom. Working PDL10.

DPL10-guts6

Repairing this unit was a great challenge and i’m more than happy that i could do it. This Pan Delay is already enjoying a “rare” status and the prices are what you would expect from a rare mid-80’s Ibanez pedal. The design is pretty cool, but since it is what it is, a hit it was not. Sure. One can use this in a similar manner than the DL10, which has the same digital delay line inside, but in that case, 50% of the effect is unused. Pan delay in this case means that there are two delay lines constantly out of sync with each other. The input signal is splitted to both lines’ input and the outputs are separate. Meaning that the outputs are meant to be used for stereo. This way the other delay line pumps its repeats in one phase to to the left output and the other pumps its repeats, out of sync, to the right output. And this creates our ping-pong style panning delay.

Not that many panning, or ping-pong delays out there. And at least to me, the reason is pretty simple. Most of us use out pedals with guitars. Guitars tend to have one output and amps tend to have one input. So the stereo use is best to leave with studio experiments.

Either way. It is a beautiful unit with crowded board and neat board design. Definitely a one trick pony, but a rare specimen of this particular trick. Amazing unit to have.

How does it sound?
Good. It can be used as a single delay line, and in that scenario it doesn’t differ much from the sleek and smooth hi-fi digital delay tones of the DL10. Actually is sounds exactly the same. I think one could achieve the same sounding effect by splitting a signal for two DL10s and somehow creating a separate sync for those. It is clean and nice sounding delay with nothing too special in its tone. The ping-pong output is the speciality on this one. Great unit for studio work.

Boss BF-2 Flanger

December 10th, 2014

Boss-BF2

What is it?
Boss BF-2 Flanger. Made in taiwan. No serial number and no enclosure date stamps.

Even the electrolytic capacitors have no date codes. So it’s nearly impossible to determine the date accurately. My best guess would be 1993, since dual opamp codes point to that direction. The japanese units apparently have all black knobs and the change to white top knobs happened around the time manufacturing moved to taiwan in late 80’s. All the 00’s units i’ve seen have enclosure stamps on the stomp lid insides, but this one doesn’t. I’m going to let myself believe the unit is from ’93 and stop thinking about it.

Boss-BF2-guts1

Board design in on par with earlier Boss pedals. This means that every little part of the design is japanese and the manufacturing only is done in taiwan. There are some of that super cool acidy feel on the traces and no sight of machine routing. It’s a pretty thing, that’s what it is. As a tiny history lesson, the circuit of BF-2 Flanger did take a long time in being a current device. The design was first introduced in 1980 and it discontinued as late as 2001. This and a few other facts are up at Boss Area. Check that out too. The schematic is up at Hobby Hour dot com.

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As the electronics go, my unit accepts the notorious Boss ACA power supply only. I’m not sure (and the Boss Area doesn’t say), but i think the later units were modified to be used with more standard-like PSA supply. This means that there is a zener diode dropping the unregulated supply voltage to what the effect needs. There will be issues if this unit is powered with modern standard power supply all by itself. Daisy chained with other – then there’s no problem. Anyway. The buffering and mixing is handled by two 4558 dual opamps. TL072 in some units (IR9022 in mine) is the LFO and the delay line is done with MN3207, a 1024 stage BBD and a MN3102 clock. So yes. Nothing special about it. Makes a great, solid, and versatile design though.

The controls are Manual (affects the LFO operation), Depth (intensity), Rate (the speed of the LFO) and “Res”. “Res” is short for resonance. Or in this case, we get a bit clearer picture of its function if we would just simply call it feedback.

How does it sound?
Very good. This unit is capable of mild chorus and vibrato to near airplane swooshes. It does not do anything special or have a distinct personality in its tone, but it is a very good sounding analog flanger. As a cardinal sin of Boss modulation effects, the rate range could be wider, but even that is better here than it is on Boss chorus effects. A classic.

Colorless writings, part 18 – Buyer’s market

December 7th, 2014

So scratching more area of collector’s world?

In part, yes. As some of you may already know, i do buy a lot of factory made pedals. As both new and used. I do trade a lot too, but let’s just focus on the buying part today. Why i named today’s writing as “buyer’s market” is a part of that. As with economy of supply and demand, there are pedals that are cheap and there are pedals that are not. As a collector, to find the sweet spot in pricing versus quality is a walk on a tightrope. Some brands are cheap to begin with, while others, it will be an understatement to call them expensive. Both, and everything in between will lose a bit of their street value the second they are driven out of the  shop. Think of cars as a analogy. This analogy isn’t as far fetched as it might seem at first sight. You buy a Toyota, it will lose most of it’s value once you drive it off the shop. But. If you buy a Ferrari, the losses as percent are not as significant as with that Toyota. But you will drive that Toyota to the market, take your missus to work and it will offer you a lot of mileage before it turns into trash. For the Ferrari, you will only drive it a little to keep the value up. A Ferrari isn’t a tool. Now let’s look at the same thing with effects. I got perfect examples to offer for this thought. You buy a Digitech Tone Driver to boost your highs. It too will lose most of its value the second you take it out of the box. The losses aren’t as significant in percentage if you buy a *insert your top end boutique brand’s effect name here* as new and open that box up. But you will boost your highs with that Tone Driver in all the joints you can get yourself a gig. It will get its share of beer spills and its paint will chip from use, but it will keep boosting a long time before it turns to trash. For the high end boutique pedal, you will only use it a little and keep it out of harm’s way to keep its value up. That pedal isn’t that much of a tool as it is a status symbol.

Let’s face it. You really think 98% of the audience you’ll ever get will notice if you play with a Tone Driver or an overdrive that’s hottest hot at the guitar player forums? Or if they do, you are doning something else wrong that’s taking all the interest out of the music itself) Sure, the high end pedal will be a huge thing when you’re in studio, but is it really worth the money that gets you more than 20 Tone Drivers? Think about those questions for a second.

The examples above give you two separate viewpoints. First, the price vs. usability. Then, the price vs. collector’s value. For me, i always do everything in my power to find the ones that follow the middle of the road. As low price as possible with as high collector’s value as possible. This means that i’m partially stuck with lower end brands (my enthusiasm with the electronic design and the learning aspect do play a big part too). But then again. What’s wrong with these lower brand name boxes? No that much. There are some serious gems in that range which may never gain the recognition they would deserve. The title of this writing goes deeper in to this. The number of Marshall BB-2 Bluesbreaker IIs manufactured vs. their price on the used market is a good example. I think i can safely say that for at least next twenty years there will always be more used and new units available than there is a demand for them. Which translates to Bluesbreaker IIs selling for ~25 €/£/$. That’s a lot of weight in metal and electronics for the price. And it is, in fact, a whole lot better device than the price would let you believe.

These are the units that will be on the good purchase side of things for a long time. That 20 years will pass, but since there isn’t anything resembling a scarcity for these units in sight even then, these will not ever become highly collectable. As another example, let’s take the Danelectro Cool Cat series. The most common ones can still be found as new and for cheap. But there are units like CTO-1 and CO-1 which were manufactured for a short period of time and sold for peanuts when they were released. I’m still missing the CO-1 from my collection at the time of the writing. This pedal should be easy to find and it should sell for cheap. But it isn’t and it doesn’t. Without taking any stance on the electronics inside, the Danelectro Cool Cat series is already a collectable series. Launced in late 00’s and i’m under impression the tese aren’t made anymore. At least none of the big european resellers have any the these on their lists. That’s a way to create a series that isn’t praised on its release, but just five years later will become understood and wanted. For the most of Cool Cat series pedals it is still a buyer’s market. Especially for the units that have their sounds right. Lower end Ibanezes (5 and 7 series) are another good example of low price vs. collectability. 5-series will enter the “vintage” status soon, when the magical 30 years of age creeps on them. The 7-series is still cheap to acquire and the quality of these units will keep their value where it is now, or possibly even take it on the rise in following decades. All these are common and it’s a buyer’s market for all of them. There may be a few units that are more rare, but still. You should have to pay real big money for any of these. It may be just my opinion, but these factory made units are usually higher in build quality and design than many high end brands. These higher end brands do hold their value better, but then again.. Do they sound all that much better? Or is it just that we want to look like we know something that others don’t?

DOD FX22 Vibro Thang

December 4th, 2014

DOD-FX22-VibroThang

What is it?
DOD FX22 Vibro Thang from FX series. No serial number (blue velcro on botton plate and rubber+sticker missing), but judging by the graphics, this unit is made in USA, around 1997.

Only few of DOD FX series boxes have received as wide recognition and fan base as Vibro Thang. A few more should have reached the status, but it’s no surprise why Vibro Thang is nowadays so highly praised. It’s a great, solid design that does everything from mild phasing to absolutely crazy, deep vibrato. There is some additional info on America’s Pedal, which suggests that the initial sales after the release weren’t that hot. I personally recall these units were selling for peanuts in the mid 00’s. I got mine around then. The appreciation wasn’t there at the time. Since then something has changed. The prices for these units are still very reasonable. Possibly due to high(ish) number of manufactured units.

DOD-FX22-VibroThang-guts1

Opening it up shows a board that’s on par with all the other US made FX series boxes. Neat design and solid construction. Now, if we take a look at the electronic design itself, we  have two LM13600 dual OTAs, equaling in four phasing stages. JRC chip is the LFO. There’s a copy of factory schematic donated to Freestompboxes forum, but you’ll need an account for the forum to see it. As a side note, the D6 thing on the America’s Pedal page is wrong. This LED is crucial part of the the LFO and it is exactly where it’s supposed to be.

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The design isn’t that basic or something we’ve all seen thousand times before. The idea of having OTA stages for phase/vibe isn’t all new, but controlling how the LFO affects the phase and vibe is another story. So we basically have controls for phase stage feedback, in this case known as Regen, or Image. RPM, or Speed controls the LFO rate. Control named as Width/Drop is our vibrato depth and control called Phase/Intensity controls the phase depth. Not too obvious, but referring to the schematic it all sort of makes sense. With any given combination of Drop and Intensity, we’ll achieve beautiful and different phase/vibe tones. And what’s even more important..

How does it sound?
Any given settings sounds just awesome. It  can be wild and it can be mild. But there’s very little unusable area on controls. Sounds like a perfect vibrato and a perfect phaser. Or a perfect mix between the two. And since the design with four OTA stages hasn’t been done over and over by everyone (before like couple of the other methods of creating a phase and a vibe), the personality in tone of this effect is notable.

Usable. In the biggest meaning of the word. And for me, this pedal is important. For its sound, good controls and, well. Everything.

Ibanez AW7 Autowah

December 1st, 2014

AW7

What is it?
Ibanez AW7 Autowah from 7/Tonelok series. Made in china, 2005.

Where Ibanez AW5 from soundtank series left me a little on the cold side by its sound and overall feel, the follower for the Tonelok series does things differently. To begin with, all  the control slots on the enclosure are in use. Two slide switches and four pots. Before checking the features, let’s take a quick look under the hood.

AW7-guts1

Board looks like all the rest of designs in this series, so no surprises there. There’s a factory schematic up at Ibanez.com. Which shows us that the design is a hybrid with a 13600 OTA envelope filter and a distortion. Slightly over engineered feel to it, but the board isn’t too packed and still looking pretty pleasing with all through hole construction.

AW7-guts2

Envelope driver and distortion are powered by those three JRC4558Ds.As usual, the pedal is made with five different circuit boards and those boards are connected by wires on clip terminals. The control board and the main board connect with terminal pins directly.

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Neat, but nothing too exciting. But then, what comes to features.. Board may not be that packed, but the design is. Feature-wise. The envelope has two modes, wah and LPF (low pass filter). Wah mode takes the envelope to wider frequency range than the LPF, which takes some of the brightest highs away from the sweeps. Sensitivity and manual control the envelope. After those we have our drive control and a switch associated with that. On distortion off, the pedal acts as a basic envelope filter/autowah and disables the drive control. Two other modes of the switch activate the distortion. These modes let you choose the distortion to be in front of the wah or after it. This, in addition to wah/LPF switch gives out a lot of options for the tone.

A noticeable amount of features. In many ways the design and features squeezed in are impressive.

How does it sound?
Light years a part from its predecessor, the AW5. The optical envelope used in AW5 has its advantages, but so does the dual OTA based design on this one. The envelope part is decent sounding, but nowhere near the greatness of nine series classic, the AF9. AW7 doesn’t roll out nearly as much lows from the signal as AW5, but still more than AF9. This tri-comparison may feel a bit much, but bear with me. AF9 is a real milestone that is very hard to beat. On this one, i’m thinking the designer has added more features on modernization of AF9, trying to genuinely make it better. As an envelope filter (or autowah) the AW7 still stays light years away from AF9, but it has the firepower to take the AW5 out at any given minute.

Biggest culprit is the the distortion an the tone it has. Which is ok, but not great or not even particularly good. Slightly on the thin side and slightly boring. One can get decent late 80’s and early 90’s lead tones out of this, but it’s all still a special effect that i’d describe as novelty pedal. To sum it up, this sounds way better than AW5, but still not as good AF9.

Korg PB-01 Pitchblack Chromatic Tuner

November 29th, 2014

Korg-PB01-Pitchblack

What is it?
Korg PB-01 Pitchblack Chromatic Tuner. Made in china around early to mid 00’s.

Another chromatic tuner? Yes. One can’t have too many tuners. Ok, that’s not as good thing to say as one can’t have too many fuzzes, but tuners do have differences. And i do enjoy trying different ones out and comparing them in feel, accuracy and usability. I may have said on some other tuner related post that i use my “ol’ faithful” Boss TU-2 as my workshop tuner. But why not use some other one? The bad ones with obvious faults are not an option, like all the different ones from Danelectro’s catalog and the DOD Tuna, but there are good, usable units in numbers. While i’m still using the TCE Polytune (1st version) on my personal board, the wokshop may need a change every now and then. I wasn’t actually looking for a new tuner, but i had an offer from someone who had a boxful of pedals that were submerged at one point during a water damage to the building the pedals were in. After three years of drying them up, the guy decided to sell them. I was puzzled with this offer. Good pedals and most of them missing from my collection. If the water had been salty or otherwise filled with impurities, the circuits would be unsaveable. Or, if the pedals have had batteries of power supplies attached to them at the time, the circuits would have been totally gone. But if the water had been pure sweet water, the damages to the circuits could have been minimal. I just went with my guts and bought the whole set. The photo below shows some minor decay on the cheapest metal parts. But simply cleaning the boards up was enough. It is working fine. Even though it has been submerged in water.

Korg-PB01-Pitchblack-guts

Korg is a brand that’s known for high quality digital designs. So it’s reasonable to assume that the tuner from this brand should be a safe thing to buy as a new unit (or why not used). In my tests and comparison against Boss TU-2, i think this is more than just a solid product. It is simply good. The box isn’t your standard aluminum, but some sort of composite metal that has a slight plastic feel to it – without being plastic. Overall judgement would be that the unit as a tuner is accurate and doesn’t react to intereference too much.

How does it sound?
It doesn’t. But it works remarkably well. Black overall and big lights that show you the way. Hey Danelectro engineers! Check this out! This here is the exact reason why your tuners did not sell. Designer of a guitar tuner should focus on creating an useful product, not to tinker around with LCD displays. The big mild lights on the Pitchblack are simply good. Bright enough for you to see what the tuner tells you, but not too bright to blind you in the process (yup, Behringer engineers, i’m talking to you!). If one gets over the slight plasticky feel of the box, the prices on the used market suggest that you should be able to afford one of these. And it won’t go wrong. Pitch perfect.

Danelectro DJ21 Black Coffee

November 27th, 2014

DJ21-BlackCoffee

What is it?
Danelectro DJ21 Black Coffee Metal Distortion from Mini series. Made in china around mid-00’s.

Finishing up with the Dano mini series with the last unit. With this one i’ve finally covered each and every one of these plasticky things. Some were surprisingly good, some very decent to say at least and some were.. Well. Not that great. It’s been an interesting journey, neverthelessx. Black Coffee is the straight on metal distortion of the series. Straight on and nothing else. Like many others in the series, construction is all SMD on two stacked boards.

DJ21-BlackCoffee-guts1

Design consists of thee dual opamps and couple of transistors. Quick search on it shows that user Bernandduur has a traced schematic up at freestompboxes.org forum (you require an user account to see it). The main thing about the design is that the circuit is pretty close to Fab Tone from the original series. No gain control when compared to its predecessor, it’s just fixed at maximum setting. That equals to a lot of gain. Tone controls are gyrator for lows and variable low pass for highs. Decent design and it doesn’t hurt that it’s not a straight on copy of some other brand’s design.

DJ21-BlackCoffee-guts2

So we have our level, lows and highs controls with standard Danelectro electronic bypass switching. EQ is rather powerful, but it has nothing on Boss HM-2 and HM-3. Even mentioning those two in this post feels wrong.. Biggest downsides come from the plastic housing, switching and..

How does it sound?
Sadly, not that great. I think the value differences and other slight changes between this and the Original series Fab Tone are enough to put some distance between the tones. Gain content and decent metal style hard clipping or wave folding elements are where they should be, but something makes this just sound and feel hollow and empty. Lack of true low boom is the biggest culprit in its sound. That doesn’t appear to be missing from the Fab Tone, so i think it’s safe to assume that all of the component values aren’t the same between the two. This sounds like a fine plastic toy, but it is still a rather dull one trick pony. Not totally awful. But there are number of better sounding death metal tones for the same price around. And those aren’t plastic nor do those feel like it. I’d say this one has collector value only.

DOD FX76 Punkifier

November 24th, 2014

DOD-FX76-Punkifier

What is it?
DOD FX76 Punkifier from FX series. Made in USA late 1995.

I find the back catalog of DOD FX series to be very interesting. There are a lot of great designs and original ideas in there. And there are a number of boring and dull designs. FX76 Punkifier is not dull. At all. Got mine for a fair price in original box and papers. And additional bottom plate with velcros on it. This way the original plate with rubber mat and serial number wasn’t harmed. For that, i want to express my biggest thank yous for the seller.

The main feature of this design is blendable fuzz/distortion. Not too many of good ones in this dual effect genre around. So my initial feeling was that this may be good, but epectations weren’t too high. I rarely check demos out, because those may skew my view of sound and feel. I need to play with a box to know how it behaves. Demos with unknown players, unknown guitars with unknown pickup setup and unknown amplifiers doesn’t really cut it for me. Even if you knew the name of all the variables above, you’d still have to be acquainted with all the gear to make a educated estimate of how everything works. Sure, the youtube demos will show you the ballpark, but not where you are seated.

DOD-FX76-Punkifier-guts1

Build quality is per all the other FX serie boxes of the era. Neat and somewhat beautiful. Carbon resistors, mylar caps and so on. Quite standard thing to look at. There is a floater schematic online, but it may be incorrect (at least it seems that way to me when comparing it against the actual board), so i won’t be posting it or even a link to it. I hate erroneous schematics. You can find it using your favourite internet search engine. I believe it has most of the topology correct, but devil in the details. Anyway. The base topology (minus the electronic switching) goes as follows; From the input – Input buffering, splitter amp to send the signal two ways. Path one is for a controlless fuzz that could have been designed by Devi Ever, but with a few elaborate and weird ideas on it. Most interesting part may be the reference voltage fed to the transistor bases via 22M resistors. Path two takes the signal to OD250 on steroids style overdrive/distortion circuit that has its own gain control. The outputs of these two paths are then blended together with a pot and this signal is passed to a tone control. Which is followed by volume control and output buffering.

DOD-FX76-Punkifier-guts2

This design has many great ideas on it and it is far from just recycling standard fuzz/distortion ideas. If i was to redesign this, i would probably hook up a fuzz texture control for the fuzz circuitry and have that as a dual pot in conjuction with the OD/Dist side distortion control. That could make it even better, but this is f*n amazing as it is.

Controls are name in the DOD’s 90’s methods. Making them next to unintelligle. Punk, Spikes, Slam and Menace. Yup. Way to go. There were others in that time who did similar things when naming their controls. Creative, yes, but not very useful. Little use gets you accustomed to these names though. So it’s not that big of deal. There’s a bit more reading about this unit on America’s Pedal website. Check it out.

How does it sound?
Just perfect. It doesn’t sound much like any other box you’ll ever hear. I’m giving absolute all praise for personality in tone. When distortion side is maxed and fuzz side toned down, there is something reminding me of OD250, but not much. The fuzz side has it all. It is loud and the tone is the same what you get from blowing a nuclear warhead in your bedroom. While the fuzz is just sick, it still has some aspects that act like vintage Tonebenders. No. I’m not comparing it to Tonebenders. That wouldn’t be right at all. It is modern and powerful, with its roots on vintage tones. In addition to those features, the tone control is usable and can peak the highs in ear piercing manner.

This is not the pedal for blues players. This is a pedal for those who want a personal, weird, piercing tones. One of my all time favorites for a dirt box. Superb. I don’t know what more to say.

Acid Age Electronics Pale Mare

November 22nd, 2014

AcidAge-PaleMare

What is it?
Acid Age Electronics Pale Mare Fuzz Device. Made in USA and judging by the serial number, the unit is most likely made in 2013.

Seems like Acid Age electronics came to be after the brand Earthbound Audio seized to exist. And Acid Age Electronics seized to exist later and currently there is a brand called Earthbound Audio. Confusing, isn’t it? Either way, the pedal landed on my desk in a trade. Sure i was interested in the box, but not enough to have spent the money foolks were asking for it. Little did i know. The marketing texts online are pretty straight forward and honest about the design. According to that text, the design is a derivate of old Roland BeeBaa fuzz. That’s something you don’t see too often. And next point for my “little did i know” phrase comes real when the bottom plate of this beautiful, screen printed, black prism colored, powder coated enclosure is removed.

AcidAge-PaleMare-guts

When i get my hands on a small brand pedal, this is what i want to see. A quality build with no corners cut and no money or time saved on stuff that really matters. Sadly, this isn’t what i usually see. The usual hack jobs give a bad name for small brands, but seeing something like Pale Mare restores a bit of hope for the humanity. I don’t have any deeper insight for the circuit yet. I may have to study this unit with a magnifying glass soon. Still. The board looks very well made and the hand wired parts look like the guy who build this is truly passionate in creating pedals.

I must say that i’m not a fan of two stomp switches on a vertically aligned 125B sized box, as that takes extra effort for aiming. And that’s not something i want to do on gig. Basic controls are level, tone and gain. First switch is the bypass. The second switch activates the Voice control, which seems to affect the fuzzy gain of the middle frequencies. In other words, this feature adds a boost that can be used to kick the tone a bit louder. Nothing earth shattering about the controls, but i still can’t get my mind off of the neat build quality and overall greatness of the design. What’s worse, now that i know AAE, nowadays Earthbound Audio, produces this kind of high end builds for very decent prices, i can easily see myself getting another one from his catalog. And what’s even worse…

How does it sound?
This sounds just beautiful. I myself have tinkered with BeeBaa circuit and have loved it from the first second i heard its tone. This does not sound like a clone of Roland BeeBaa, but there is some of that magical mush fuzz in in there that definitely has its roots in the BeeBaa. Overall, this sounds just thicker and more modern than its idol. Fair and usable upgrade to the vintage design. In my opinion it’s always better to redesign and recycle obscure old circuits than to tweak the Big Muff and the Tubescreamer, and to claim those as a new and an original designs. Back to the subject at hand.. The controls have full working range, meaning that there is usable tones in every possible setting. And the Voice control/switch adds more content to the tone when activated. Just amazing fuzz. It has very little to do with the fuzz faces or big muffs, but it lands a lot closer to mushroom cloud blasts that are usually associated with stranger sounding 60’s and 70’s boxes.

For its sound, design and build quality. This is the shit. Probably the greatest small brand pedal i’ve ever had.