Archive for December, 2014

Monarch MCO-22 Compressor

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Monarch-MCO22

What is it?
Monarch MCO-22 Compressor. Made in japan around mid to late 80’s.

Got this one in a trade. Could have bought it straight off, since the price was right. There is always something interesting in these 80’s japanese cheapos. Mainly because most of them are really good sounding and usable circuits, despite their cheap and lousy plastic overall feel. A little research pointed out that Monarch was a brand that was basically just OEM’d catalogue of Aria effect pedals. And as such, this pedal is exactly the same unit as Aria ACP-1 Compressor. This particular unit has seen some use too. The knobs are not original, but for a unit that’s seen use this isn’t a surprise. Well. At least the plastic battery compartment cover is in its place. Of course i then needed to know what the electronic design held in store, so i opened it up. Typical japanese board design with pleasing looks and a mark of hand crafted trace design.

Monarch-MCO22-guts1

By testing and looking at everything else, i was pretty sure the design is the standard OTA-based compressor like so many others in the genre and from the era. The stacked control board only houses the pots and and the indicator LED. No other parts of the circuit extent to the control board. The image below shows the component side and its layout. The switch (which someone has repaired with a piece of non-slip tape) and the electronic switching components are at the bottom. The diodes are for actual switching transistors that are grouped between the switching and jacks. So the effect circuit itself is placed above the jacks.

Monarch-MCO22-guts2

And the circuit is nothing else but a 3080 OTA-based compressor/sustainer. A quick search on the susbject showed up a DIYStompboxes forum thread where good folks were sorting out issues with a Rocktron Big Crush pedal. As Analogguru states on that thread – “Funny to see the schematic of the Aria ACP-1 (and similar units) in a Rocktron pedal.” So let’s take a peek at the Big Crush schematic that user jwbink1500 has uploaded. There are some similarities with the standard Dyna/Ross compressor, but the trigger part differs to a degree. According to Analogguru, the main difference between a Rocktron and Aria/Monarch compressor is the value of one resistor. Which he believes is an error that came to be in the cloning process. Nice design. And what’s more important…

How does it sound?
This actually sounds better than many modernized versions of the OTA compressor. The controls have good usable range and and the mushiness isn’t an issue. For the attack control, the feel is a lot better than for many similar designs. Despite its overall plastic feel, the sounds are very good. This was an interesting find and i’m actually very happy with the unit. Even if it doesn’t have the original push-on knobs in place.

DOD FX96 Echo FX Analog Delay

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

DOD-FX96-EchoFX

What is it?
DOD FX96 Echo FX Analog Delay from FX series. No serial number, but component stamps suggest the unit is made is USA, 1999. The America’s pedal is once again perfect source for the version details and additional info. So check that out before continuing.

I’ve been partly in love with analog BBD-based delay units for a long time. They all do have their shortcomings and added noises, hisses and relative uncontrollability. While the sole idea of using a small chip with thousands of FETs stacked in such a small device is almost stupid, the sounds these chips are able to keep delayed is something that cannot be achieved in any other measures. Many have tried to model an analog delay in modern digital methods, but as many as there are folks trying it, there are equal amounts of people who have failed in this task. In our modern world, the analog delays are not in the cheap. Mostly due to the fact that manufacturing these chips is expensive and are currently produced in limited numbers. Sure there are a few types that are still in production, but not the ones we really want to see and hear in a effects pedal.

Everything about FX96 looks and feels like every other pedal in the series. Quality through hole components and the touch of hand labour is just glowing with pride. This unit houses the revision B circuit board, which adds a 1M trimpot to the original revision.

DOD-FX96-EchoFX-guts

I’m not too interested in the buffer/mixers or even in the SA571 compander (which is used to compress and decompress the signal sent to the delay line and decompress it again afterwards), but the delay line itself. In this model, the bucket brigade device is the almighty MN3005. A 4096-stage BBD and it’s driven by a MN3101 clock driver. In my limited experience with analog delay units, the MN3005 has most definitely been the crown jewel in the list of all BBD chips ever manufactured. Due to its high number of FETs, it can produce up to 800ms of delay time with very reasonable amount of signal distortion (as a side note, the compander is there to eliminate part of the noise and/or distortion produced by the FETs). So long delay times with little distortion. This is the s*it.

The controls are Mix, or Dry/Tape, which sets the output ratio of buffered clean signal and signal processed by the BBD. Delay/Time is used to set the time the signal is stored in the BBD chip before releasing it. This ranges from a few milliseconds to respectable 800 milliseconds. Regen/Repeat sets the amount of signal being passed from the output of the delay line back to its input – resulting in feel of continuous echo. This control ranges from single slap back to infinite “self-oscillating” repeats. I use quotes for “self-oscillating”, since this feature found in most delay effects isn’t exactly an oscillation. And finally the Tape/Quality knob controls the higher treble frequencies that are being passed in the feedback. More cut on the highs and the repeats will die quicker. Not in completely different manner than what we may hear some old tape echo machines to produce. If the high cut is minimal, then the sound will remind us more of a modern digital delay, while still being all analog.

How does it sound?
From rockabilly slapback to super space wars. I said before that this unit is little distortion. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t any, it’s just that the amount of noise/hiss/distortion is at lower level than with some other analog delay units. It isn’t squeeky clean, but the noise floor level on high delay times is just giving it a bit more character, while it doesn’t hurt tone. At least not that much. Very good range in controls, which let you set the the tone to be anything from real vintage sounding to modern. Sure. It does not sound like those pristine modern digital devices, but it sounds very, very good.

If you are after a studio grade noiseless delay, then look elsewhere. But if you are after the tones from the past and beyond, all the way to reality of space, then this unit is for you. I’m nearly in love with it. If i was to sell my collection, this one would be the very last to go. Once i played with this, i was immediately convinced that this is the unit that is a dictionary example of a keeper.

Ibanez PM7 Phase Modulator

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

PM7

What is it?
Ibanez PM7 Phase Modulator from 7/Tonelok series. Made in china, 2005

As the truly modern guitar effects go, there are usually those that designers have spent hours to design an effect that sounds great on guitar. Better than the previous takes on this same subject. Then there are these designs that try to create something completely new and something that’s never heard before. These two imaginative design methods rarely combine well. That said, the Maxon engineers behind the PM7 Phase Modulator have reached a line that’s not often crossed. The controls are loaned from flanger designs and the versatility of Speed, Depth, Manual, Feedback and three LFO waveform modes, in addition to four/six stage switch and two in/out of phase modes for the 6-staged phase, is just more than convincing. Manual can be seen at Midimanuals.

PM7-guts1

Everything is still through hole construction on five board system that is familiar from all the other effects in this series. No surprises in build quality or component selection. The phase utilizes three dual 13600 OTA chips. SO every phasing stage has it’s own half of the chip.

The factory schematic is up at Ibanez.com. Yes, since it’s 7-series factory schematic, it is a pain to read.

PM7-guts2

Buffering and mixing is done with obvious Ibanez/Maxon weapon of choice, the 4558. LFO is created with NJM2904D. I’m guessing that the choice for this chip as LFO has been made due it’s stability in case of taking more wobble out of the LFO than what we usually see in any, or at least most, LFO controlled circuits.

PM7-guts3

Solid construction and designed to withstand a hit. Thick metal housing for everything electronic that is fastened with screws. Nothing floating or other wonky in there. These will be able to take years and years of abuse on the road.

How does it sound?
From mild sweeps that remind us a little of the original MXR Phase90 to absolute noise madness that can be described better with a word monster pseudo-ring-modulator. Well, this is to be expected. If one takes out a 6-stage OTA-based phaser and equips it with more feature packed LFO than most design have, this is what you’ll get. The palette is very versatile and the sounds range from mild to extreme, while still hanging on to term usable. Overall, this is a very good pedal.

Boss DF-2 Super Feedbacker & Distortion

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Boss-DF2

What is it?
Boss DF-2 Super Feedbacker & Distortion. Made in japan, november 1985.

At first, the DF-2 has a history that is worth mentioning. The unit was originally called  Super Distrotion & Feedbacker, but since DiMarzio owns the name”Super Distortion”, Roland was forced to change the name. Similar thing happened with DOD’s “Supra Distortion”, which was originally also called Super. Anyway. Due to this legal battle, there are two cosmetical versions of DF-2 in the wild. The original with infringing name, was only manufactured for a short period of time (approx. four months) and that version has become remarkable collector’s edition. As usual for Bosses, the manufacturing moved to taiwan in 1989. The circuit had a revision in 1991 when the ACA power supply requirement was dropped. Design was discontinued in early 1994 and later replaced By FB-2 Feedbacker/Booster. There is a schematic for DF-2 floating around the webs, so you should be able to find it if you need it.

Got mine in a trade with usual “faulty” label. The faulty part was just a feature with the (idiotic) ACA power supply not playing nice with the modern standards.

Boss-DF2-guts1

The older japanese board designs are always impressive. Even more so for the complex board designs, such as this one. Just look at the number of solder joints and the acid trip traces in there. Definitely not the simplest circuit we’ve seen. As the fetures go, we have our distortion that reminds us slightly of DS-1, with basic gain/tone/level control. Then we have our Overtone knob. This knob controls the amount of distortion for the feedback one can activate on choice by holding the bypass switch. More distortion for the feedback gives out more harmonic overtones for the rising squeels.

Boss-DF2-guts2

So in essence the unit is a distortion with active electronic feedback that can be activated when needed. It is an idea that was something new and innovative back in mid 80’s. The method how this effect was achieved isnt’ too simple, but it did change something in the mindet of effect designers. Designers weren’t bound by just copying the ten to twenty classic circuits and improve on them anymore. In other words, and in my opinion, these kind of breakthroughs paved the way for all digital effects. Progress isn’t always good or bad. But it is always progress.

How does it sound?
The distortion tone has a similar feel as the DS-1 Distortion, but whilethere may be similarities, the DF-2 has more balls. Maybe it’s just a bit more low end and possibly a bit more gain, but that is enough to sound better, meaner and fatter. When one holds the lid, the rise of the feedback acts very much like standing in front of a Marshall full stack would. So the feedback sounds and feels more organic than one would expect.
This unit sounds like a milestone. Mainly, because it is.

Axtron OCT-5 Octaver

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Axtron-Octaver

What is it?
Axtron OCT-5 Octaver. Made in japan, possibly in the late 80’s or early 90’s.

The sucker for down octaves that i am, i just had to get this pastic thing. It wasn’t even that cheap, but these japanese plastic oldies do not come by that often. So i went for it. There aren’t that many of these moving around, even in the other brand names these were offered back in the day. The same circuit in the same enclosure was apparently sold also under Axtar, Pickboy, Columbus, Profile+ and Vision brands. The same effect. In the same enclosure. Not that uncommon for japanese units back then. This series apparently had ten different pedals in its catalog. Haven’t seen many others for sale anywhere. Possibly the folks having them are still convinced they are worhtless garbage. That assumption is not that far fetched.

Axtron-Octaver-guts1

The build quality is cool. Hand drawn traces and neat solder joints. The sin of japanese designers in the 80’s was the plastic housing. If these units were housed in a metal case, the sales would most likely have been higher. Nevertheless, the work looks good and the pedal utilizes the classic japanese two stacked board layout we’ve seen in many other units. The elctronic switching seems to be similar to old Boss and Maxon/Ibanez flip-flop switching done with two BJTs and the actual switching by FETs. The effect circuit seems to be created with two Sony branded 4558 dual opamps and a 4013 flip-flop for the octave divider.

Axtron-Octaver-guts2

There are three knobs that control the clean signal level, octave down level and the distorted octave down level. So it’s not exactly like the big sellers, OC-2 from Boss, MOC-1 from Arion and so on. The circuit seem to have something personal going on for it. But even though it may be well made and the design of the boards look promising, there are some caveats.

How does it sound?
This being the biggest one. It’s a well tracking down octave, that’s created in a same way others have divided octaves since the days MXR Bluebox was first out (there may be earlier examples, but Bluebox is good to mention). The distortion side of the effect also has a nice structure and texture. Nothing wrong with those. But. The overall level, even with all the knobs maxed is below unity. This renders the unit more or less unusable. For a collector and a freak for down octave dividers, this may offer some value, but for anything else. Nope. Not that much. If you are not a collector, do not spend more than 25 buck for one. It most likely will not be worth anything more than that. May the brand be any of the ones mentioned above.

DOD FX35 Octoplus

Tuesday, 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.

DOD-FX35-Octoplus-guts1

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.

DOD-FX35-Octoplus-guts2

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

Saturday, 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

Wednesday, 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.

Boss-BF2-guts2

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

Sunday, 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

Thursday, 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.

DOD-FX22-VibroThang-guts2

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.