Archive for July, 2014

Danelectro DJ-15 Chicken Salad Vibrato

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

DJ15-ChickenSalad

What is it?
Danelectro DJ-15 Chicken Salad Vibrato from Mini series in plastic housing. Made in china around mid 00’s.

Where tuners and couple others in this mini series are just bad, there are a number of great units. This one is the greatest deal. Cheap vibrato effects are scarce, so when Dano released their miniature take on the classic Uni-Vibe with ridiculous price tag, it was bound to become instant classic and a hit. I do not have any idea how many of these have been sold, but i believe the number is big. I managed to grab mine as a new unit from one german retailer. It didn’t come too cheap, but for really good effect, the price can’t be an issue. These seem to sell for a reasonable prices on auction sites too, but usually there are many people bidding on them.

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If you do a web search for this, you’ll find a number of discussions on how to rehouse and true bypass the unit. This may be a good candidate for these changes, as will the Tuna Melt Tremolo. Boards and work quality are similar to others in the series, meaning that there isn’t too much to write home about. I did spot a schematic floating around the web.  I’m not sure if the changes noted in the schematic are for the factory units, but the drawing itself. If the lamp type has been changed during the production, this would make my unit the post-2004 unit as the black blob in the main board seems to be a LED.

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Looking at the schematic, there are four LDR stages that create the modulation. LFO part is made up in manner that’s very effective. But hey, that LFO looks rather familiar to me. Yup. It’s the same configuration we’ll find in original Uni-Vibe. There are some values that aren’t verbatim, but the function is more or less the same. Even the modulation stages correlate between these two designs, even though the Uni-Vibe uses transistors for those stages and Chicken Salad does the same thing with dual opamps.

So. As usual with Dano designs, the similarities are there, while the circuit isn’t exactly straight up clone. To sum it up, the Chicken Salad is your awesome chance to have Uni-Vibe sounds for a very reasonable price. It is all plastic and not too well made with its standard Dano electronic switching. But if these things do not scare you, it’s a very nice score.

How does it sound?
Wobbly and warm with slight breakup on some depth settings. Not squeeky clean, but that’s part of the appeal on Uni-Vibe sound. So yes, it sounds good. And it’s a vibe as any vibe, without any obvious flaws. Range of he controls is sufficient and goes from mild to wild. Can’t say much more. This sounds like very expensive and great effect in a small plastic housing. And it comes with a great price. How can you not love it?

Danelectro DTE-1 Reel Echo

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

DTE1-ReelEcho

What is it?
Danelectro DTE-1 Reel Echo. Made in china in late 90’s.

Talking about action packed pedal. The desktop housing is rather big, but i’d call this stylish. For the visual design, features and general build quality, this is really one of those must have Dano boxes. Even the surf green color is pleasing. I could come up with more superlatives, but let’s go forward and talk about the features.

So this pedal, or more like a desktop unit, is a tape/reel echo simulator. Big aluminum knob on the left controls the mix between clean and echoed signals. in other words, between wet and dry. Big knob on the right is our feedback, or repeat as it’s labeled here, control. Delay time is controlled with a huge slide potentiometer, and the time ranges from zero to 1500 milliseconds. These three are the basic controls found in almost every single delay/echo effect. What happens with the rest of the controls, that’s where things get interesting.

DTE1-ReelEcho-guts1

The small control in the middle is our “Lo-Fi” knob. This feature cuts a little highs from every following repeat, meaning that if the knob is maxed, the repeats will die in the same manner as on old tape echo units with worn out tapes. Warble switch offers simulation of a stretched tape. Tone switch selects the overall filtering to sound like circuit designer’s approximation of a solid state and tube based echo units.

On top of these features, we have S.O.S. stomp switch. S.O.s. in this case stands for Sound on Sound. This feature enables the pedal to act as a poor man’s loop recorder. With repeats set to sufficient level and the Lo-Fi set on minimum, one can play a loop and leave it on infinite repeats. Then just jump on the S.O.S. switch and play on top of that “recorded” phrase. I know i shouldn’t write like this. But it’s rather rare i get this excited over a unit…

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On the technical side, the design is all SMD and digital. This time i wasn’t even expecting any super-analog-wow. For the price these units sell and with the features they pack, it surely can’t be any analog-based design. And it isn’t. Those bigger chips are pretty much unintelligible to me.

The main board houses the effect and there is another slip of board for the switches. Modern board that simply screams Dano. Although i do find those cap and resistor placings rather appealing. Features could have been easily squeezed in a one fourth of the enclosure size. Enclosure size will be a big turn off for many. And i can’t think of any real use for the sound on sound feature. Other than for rehearsing or fooling around at home. These are the biggest negative issues i can come up with.

How does it sound?
Great. Simply put. Unit offers a lot of delay tones that have a nice vintage feel to them. Even though it’s a digital design, it doesn’t shine through. Only slight downside to this is the clean tone. True vintage sounds need that crappy low fidelity to them. This also breaks down to taste. From short slapback to second and a half delay times, from really clean to fun lo-fi warbles and tube sound emulation without any added  unnatural, ugly sounding distortion. This manages to do it. Very high bang for a buck factor. Pedal board friendly? Maybe not. But that aside, as a high quality delay/echo unit? Next to priceless.

EHX Big Muff Pi with Tone Wicker

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

EHX-BMPwTW

What is it?
Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi w/ Tone wicker. Made in NYC, USA. According to the serial number, this unit has been manufactured in 2013.

A Big Muff with added features? Sure i had to get me one. It’s not that often that i buy pedals as new, but when my interest is piqued and the price is right, who am i to argue with the collector inside my head. And as always, i needed to rip it up as soon as i had a chance. After a epic battle with the DC jack, here it is.

EHX-BMPwTW-guts1

Otherwise all SMD, except for the aluminum electrolytics, diodes, main transistors and most interesting part of them all, the tone stack capacitors are ceramic. This could be a result of trying to recreate the feel of the old BMPs. This unit has BC550Cs for transistors. The same type we’ve seen on other modern reissues as well.

So the basic BMP is in tact, but what are the added features? First off, we have a tone bypass switch. A feature that was present in late 70’s / early 80’s IC version (also known as version 5). As the name suggests, the tone control is completely bypassed and full range of frequencies are pushed through. The old tone bypass switches had a resistor in the path of the bypass to compensate for a level boost coming from dropping the tone stack off the circuit. On this unit, there isn’t one. So the volume boost you’ll get by bypassing the tone is noticeable. The second switch is called “wicker”.

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The “wicker” switch is quite peculiar thing. There is a CD4066 CMOS switch added on board and it’s controlled by other half of the “wicker” switch (the other pole of that switch is unused). What this switch does? It takes the small value hiss taming capacitors off from the first three gain stages. This results in increased noise floor, but it also gives a noticeable amount of more spike to the feel. Since there weren’t a schematic or anything definite about the wicker circuit online, i traced my unit. Check out the traced chematic here. I’d also suggest reading Kitrae’s notes and info about the unit on his awesome Big Muff page.

Box features EHX modern standard true bypass. To be honest, i’m not a big fan of current EHX board design or box/chassis grounding methods, but i am digging some of the sounds…

How does it sound?
Very nice addition to the BMP family. It can be used as a standard big muff with both, tone bypass and wicker switches in off position. In that mode it doesn’t differ a lot from any other Muffs. Or not at all to be exact. Once the Tone bypass is engaged, it reminds me a lot of the V5 BMP clone i built for myself (although my IC version clone tends to sound a bit more synthy, which is not a bad thing at all). And once the wicker is switched on, it basically takes the standard muff to a new, noisier level with added bite. So basically, we have four BMPs in one box. The standard sounds are intact, the tone bypassed, roaring Muff is in there and lastly we have something new to add to our palette. Seems like too many pedals get this “versatile” word out of me. On this occasion it is well deserved. The pedal, it simply sounds good.