Archive for May, 2015

Peavey CMC-1 Companded Chorus

Friday, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Sunday, 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.

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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

Friday, 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.