Archive for the ‘Danelectro’ Category

Danelectro CO-1 Drive

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

CO1-Drive

What is it?
Danelectro CO-1 Drive from Cool Cat series. Made in china, late 00’s.

Last one i had missing from my Cool Cat series collection. Pretty rare specimen actually. Finally found one from polish auction site and a friend delivered it. I’ve seen only couple of units on sale, mostly in US and with no shipping to europe. This makes me think the number of unit manufactured before switching to V2 were modest to say at least. The rumour was (and still is i guess,) that the CO-1 Drive is supposedly straight up clone of certain OCD and due to OCD trademark owner’s active protection of his intellectual property, Danelectro was somehow forced to revise the design. All this is just a speculation i’ve seen on the web. Truth is that the unit is pretty nice pedal. Even if it was a straight up clone, (which it obviously isn’t,) the original OCD is not exactly original either.

CO1-Drive-guts

The release of V2 sure did keep this assumption of plagiarism alive. Well. There is a Cowprez traced schematic up on FSB (link may require user an account), which shows the circuit being rather close to the one mentioned above. Plus the CO-1 doesn’t have a switch for so called hp/lp modes, so the similarities end at the base sound and parts of the topology, mainly around the main driver circuit. But then again.. How many TS style circuits are out there with minimal chages to the original?

Or i could simply take this to another direction. The electronics inside the CO-1 Drive are extremely close to classic Voodoo Lab Overdrive, with added tone control. This could probably take your mindset away from the later boutique brands.

As for the rest of the pedal, we have our standard 3PDT true bypass and two small, stacked boards in a sturdy housing. In all, this is very decent driver/distortion. Pretty much exactly like with the others in the Cool Cat series.

How does it sound?
Open boutique styled drive pedal with nice amount of gain on the knob. Output level is also sufficient to actually drive your amp instead of just clipping the signal. Tone control range is also quite usable. It may very well save you from too bright amp/speaker combinations, as well as help you boost your top end. There’s very little negative to say.

Danelectro DC-1 Cool Cat Chorus

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

Danelectro-DC1-18V-CoolCatChorus

What is it?
Danelectro DC-1 Cool Cat Chorus, the original 18V version. Made in china, 1996.

Again? Didn’t i write about this already? Well. I did, but with the later 9V version. This is the first edition that runs on 18V. Are there a lot of differences between these two? Well. Not that much, but i thought this would still warrant the overview. On the outside, the differences are minute. The only noticeable thing is the “18V” note next to the power supply jack. Once the bottom plate is removed, there are two battery snaps in place.

Danelectro-DC1-18V-CoolCatChorus-guts1

This is definitely the most interesting thing about the whole series. As the enclosure is the same for all “original series” boxes, there is this dual battery slot present in every single one. The reason must be that the 18V DC-1 was designed first and i’m assuming there were plans to use the 18V supply voltage on later models as well. Other 18V units never happened, but the dual slot remained in every pedal. Which is quite funny considering that the Dan-Echo uses only 5V for its entire operation. Due to two batteries and the doubled supply requirement, the jack board is slightly different too.

Danelectro-DC1-18V-CoolCatChorus-guts2

Rest of the circuit remains closer to the latter 9V version. As Dano pedals come, this is the most beautiful board design in them all. Completely filled and there is something that reminds me of Ibanez L-series boxes with extremely crowded boards a bit. Tight squeezing also resembles some of the old japanese boards i’ve seen. Although this isn’t as packed as, for example, the Pearl Electro Echo. No standing resistors.

Danelectro-DC1-18V-CoolCatChorus-guts3

The factory that was chosen to build these had their quality high gear on with this first run. This doesn’t mean that the later pedals are done in a sloppier manner, but the plant was obviously not in a hurry when they produced these.

Danelectro-DC1-18V-CoolCatChorus-guts4

Either way. It’s very close to the latter 9V version by all the other standards. And by design. I’d go as far as saying this is the Danelecto equivalent of Maxon/Ibanez FL-301/FL-301DX. Same box with same design. Just different power supply requirement. And that does affect one thing…

How does it sound?
Great. Fat and lush. Extended headroom and simply beautiful swirls. Definite competitor to Boss CE-2. I do not pull this card out too easily.. But. I think it’s warranted here. Very good sounding chorus that shows dedication to detail from the design crew. I’m fairly certain the world was expecting a lot from Danelectro when these came out in 1996. Sadly, it’s been quite a steep downhill ride from there. But this unit is really top notch. No way around it. Possible the best Danelectro pedal ever.

Danelectro DT-1 Dan-O-Matic

Tuesday, 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.

Danelectro DSD-1 Shift Daddy

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

DSD1-ShiftDaddy

What is it?
Danelectro DSD-1 Shift Daddy Echo Pitch Shifter from original series of rocker pedals. Made in china around late 90’s.

I must admit that i was interested. And local music store happened to have one left behind. The unit had seen better days as it had sat in direct sunlight for years. Still unused, but with visible ageing and discolouring. The photo below may not seem much, but the flames should be in a lot deeper red. Otherwise the unit is in great shape.

DSD1-ShiftDaddy-1

Had to snap a shot of the tail lights too. Some dust around the edges, but nothing that a moist rag won’t fix.

DSD1-ShiftDaddy-2

What comes to the features of this unit, we have something not so common. Or that’s how it seems at first. Sticker with “this ain’t a wah” suggests that we are in for a treat. Sure there are a few Danelectro designs that are out there and this does apply to Shift Daddy as well. Echo Pitch Shifter. What comes to mind first is a weird digital effect with mashed up features borrowed from Boss pitch shifters and delays. But actually. No. Although some may consider these as valuable tools, and are amazed by the weirdness, i must disagree to some degree.

DSD1-ShiftDaddy-3

Why? Because once i fired this up, i knew exactly what it was all about. The rocker simply controls the delay time of a PT2399 chip. So in other words, this is nothing more but a quite standard delay design where the delay time setting has been moved to a pot controlled by foot. Rest of the pots (feedback and mix) are replaced with push button switches that look like exhaust pipes. So in fact, there’s nothing even resembling a real pitch shifting effect. Just basic delay unit.

DSD1-ShiftDaddy-4

There you have it. I had certain hopes for it, but those all got stumped when i played with the unit. And checked the insides. From the feature point of view, this is sadly the dullest one in all three rocker pedals ever made by Danelectro. You know, there are real tool like delay units that accept the use of external expression pedal for the delay time. Usually those are way better all digital designs too.

How does it sound?
Decent, but not much to write home about. It’s a delay. Nothing more. And it’s a digital PT2399 based delay, so do not expect anything else. It does what it does in a good way, but there just isn’t nothing special about it’s tone. The delay time range of the chip isn’t that great for this type of application. When the delay times goes from something like 40ms to 400ms, the sweep acts just way too fast and this makes it just plain annoying to use. It’s not a pitch shifter. Just a delay with time control on a rocker. And it doesn’t do even that feature extraordinary well. Disappointing, but there is still a bit of Danelectro magic in there. Not the worst, but not good. Proceed with caution.

Danelectro DD-1 Fab Tone

Monday, April 6th, 2015

DD1-FabTone

What is it?
Danelectro DD-1 Fab Tone Distortion from Dano original series. Made in china around 1997.

Distortion from original series.. Since all the others have certain vintage vibe to their tones, i had no expectations one way or another. On the other hand, i’ve had this unit for years now and it’s not that easy to write about it as this was my first encounter. There have been rumours about the design being a slight derivative of Boss MT-2 Metal Zone. Sure. Both are guitar effects. There is a floater schematic available. Huge image, and there are some similar parts in there. But i would not call this a Metal Zone. Nor even a derivative for that matter.

DD1-FabTone-guts

The box is solid and weights a ton. The boards are your average chinese make with reasonably good soldering. These will never be scarce in used pedal market and thus, the price will probably stay in pennies for the next decade or two. The most disliked feature in the box design must be the plastic board mounted jacks that are kept in place by the two screws. The same two that hold the jack board in place. There is nothing else fastening them. I for one have only seen a few broken jacks on this enclosure type. That’s nothing when compared to usual faults, the dead capacitors…

How does it sound?
Very decent high gainer, with good EQ controls. These units should give you usable lead tones for decent price. For the brave one, this could serve as a good mod surface too. Lower gain and not as shrilling highs would be something i would go for. But. Since i don’t have a double and this unit is in nice condition. Nope. Not modding mine.

Either way. Think of something between a Marshall Shredmaster and a Boss Metal Zone or Heavy Metal. This is way more of a distortion than an overdrive, but there is plenty of tweakable usability in there. Not a bad pedal.

Danelectro DW-1 Dan-o-Wah

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

DW1-DanoWah

What is it?
Danelectro DW-1 Dan O Wah. Made in china in around 1997.

I sourced this one a long time ago. If i recall correctly, i got it in a trade and there was (and still is) very little traces of use. Gee. I wonder why. That being my first thought about all Dano rocker pedals, i didn’t have too high hopes. I do recall this not working at all when it first arrived. After checking it, the only issue was just loose solder joint at the DC jack. Unit worked fine with a battery and that’s how the seller deemed it as “working”. Quick and simple fix later i was ready to do some more studying.

DW1-DanoWah-1

The outside of the unit is per the rest of the rocker pedals. Looking like a car and having it’s rubber feet looking like wheels. As the controls are not conventional pots, the idea of having the user manual printed in the bottom is not a bad one.

DW1-DanoWah-2

The number of features pictured in the manual shows that there must be more to the circuit than just a standard wah. After all, we are talking about six different wah voicings, all with and without added distortion and up octaves.

DW1-DanoWah-3

Opening the bottom plate confirms my suspicions. Yeah. This hasn’t been drawn over a coffee break. This amount of components and features is something that comes by once in a while, but it’s not your average “let’s just copy the cry baby and leave it at that”. I’m not going to dig too deep into how it is made. I do have my suspicions about the electronic design(s), but i’ll talk about those a bit later.

DW1-DanoWah-4

To begin with, the electronic design has number of switch circuits to select between the modes and banks. The idea of using “banks” in simple analog effect isn’t that common. The “exhaust pipes” act as push buttons that choose the wah mode and if the octave is added or not. Bank, wah and distortion can be turned on with the stomp switches on the front end. This means that the octave can be used in the other section of 60’s/70’s style modes and the second can be without it. Distortion can be engaged from the top buttons separately.

DW1-DanoWah-5

Through hole components on the wah/octave board seem nice. Mostly metalized polyester caps. If the enclosure was metal or just sturdier, this might have been a big hit. Other than  the enclosure, there is very little wrong with this effect.

How does it sound?
At first, pretty standard wah with couple of different voicings on the switches. Add the octave up and the good vibes are coming closer. Add the distortion, and we’re at tonal beach sipping ice cold pina coladas with no hurry to go anywhere. Wah tones are, well. Standard. Not too far off from your basic Cry Baby and/or Vox wahs. The distortion feels generic, but it works great with the wah. Now, when the distortion and octave are both added it’s almost like we have fOXX Tone machine paired with vintage wah. Not bad. But the platicky feel and utter unroadworthiness give their weight for the unit. Due to these shortcomings, DW-1 won’t ever reach the status the design would deserve. Close, but no cigar.

Danelectro DE-1 Dan Echo

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

DE1-DanEcho

What is it?
Danelectro DE-1 Dan-Echo from Danelectro original series. Made in china, late 90’s.

I had one of these back in 2000, but sold it at some point. Once i had a chance to get one back for reasonable amount of cash, i grabbed it. These are in no way rare or scarce and anyone should be able to get one if one feels like getting it. The design has remained the same since 1996, but i believe these have been manufactured for a long time. I’ve not heard anything new from Dano since the Cool Cat series. According to Wikipedia, the Evets corporation,  which revived the brand in the 90’s, is currently focusing in limited edition guitars. I’m thinking the well selling units are still in production, while R&D has been dropped.

DE1-DanEcho-guts1

As with all the other units with this type of enclosure, there are two circuit boards. The bigger one holding the PT2395-based delay circuitry, switching and controls, while the smaller one has the in/out jacks and power connections. Switching is our standard CMOS electronic switching found in almost every Danelectro pedal (except for Cool Cat series, which has mechanical true bypass in place. But for others..)

DE1-DanEcho-guts2

The designs seems to be somewhat close to the application example found in PT2395 datasheet. Sure enough, the chip will not function in any other manner and the board size does give some limits to what the unit can have inside. Solid construction with slight flux residue. While construction is solid, it is still looking a lot like an average work found in mini effects series. Done fast and cheap.

DE1-DanEcho-guts3

One thing that surprised me was the power. As with just about every pedal with  digital chip in them, we have the supplied 9V for the signal path and a regulated drop to 5V for the digital chip. Not in here. The 9V doesn’t connect to anywhere else but to a regulator input, marked as C201 in the jack board. The 9V does not get to the main board at all. Just the regulated 5V, which is then used for operating the switch, buffers and mixing – in addition to supplying the power for PT2395. JRC4558 used in mixing does work fine with 5V, but all this still surprised me a bit.

DE1-DanEcho-guts4

What comes to controls, this puppy has quite versatile options. Maximum delay time is somewhere around 700ms and the high cut control can dial the classic tape-style sounds. Delay time mode is set with a toggle switch, like the datasheet suggested. The delay time control is named “speed”, which suggest a modeling of tape echo units. The repeats control is tuned to act like pristine effects. No noisy, endless feedbacks. Just decent guitar echo. In general, i’d call this feature rich standard delay with just a few minor caveats.

How does it sound?
Overall – good, if not great. The high cut, mentioned above, makes a huge difference between Boss DD-3-like sharp, metallic digital delay and soft vintage-like tones. But for me, i find it rather useful to have both worlds in a single box. The controls are good and while the digital chip offers low noise operation for the delay itself, the 5V for the opamps tend to distort the signal pretty badly when the unit is used with high output pickups. For vintage and moderate output pups there is nothing wrong with the tone. Solid sounds and good controls, the best feel is present when used for vintage delay sounds.. Good unit, and when we take the current street prices of used units into account, we really can’t go wrong with this pedal. Just keep in mind that the headroom is what you can get with 5V and the operation sucks with modern pickups. There is a good reason for the level of popularity.

Danelectro DW-2 Trip L Wah

Monday, March 16th, 2015

DW2-TripLWah

What is it?
Danelectro DW-2 Trip L Wah. Made in china between 1996 and 1999. This is one of three rocker pedals i’ve categorized as belonging to “Vintage Series”.

Enclosure design. The biggest thing that separates Danelectro from the rest. Same thing goes to their guitars and amps too. I’m under the impression that the old ones are good. The relaunch of the brand in 1996 made things fun, but with everything being cool, the quality control was trumped by low prices and volume of manufacturing. The Trip L Wah sure does look interesting. The unit looks like a car with zebra paint. This is the greatest and the most unique feature here.

DW2-TripLWah-1

The enclosure is made of cheap plastic and the designers have inarguably been after a special look instead of a usable, roadworthy pedal. Thickness of the plastic for the enclosure and as well as for the rocker board feel nowhere near sturdy. This feature drops the interest and user value to the mud for most. Me included. In other words, these pedals are entry-level toys, not real tools. The image below shows the real deal. The enclosure, including the metal bottom plate, is too lightweight to use. So Danelectro solved this by adding weight in form of metal bars.

DW2-TripLWah-2

Usually, if the Danelectro visual design is completely different, the insides offer weird features too. For this one, not so much. The name Trip L Wah made me think of something strange in vein of the “60’s series” hippie boxes. You know, like what the talk box, reverse delay and “sitar emulation” offer. But no. We have three different wah voicing modes in a single pedal. Disappointing? Yes.

DW2-TripLWah-3

Pretty standard and rather boring bass wah, treble wah and middle wah modes. So sadly, it isn’t TRIP l-wah, but just triple wah.Due to following, i had little interest in figuring out how it works or how it’s electronically made.

How does it sound?
Rather dull. Three voicing modes, but this still offers nothing that you can’t get out of any other cheap wah. And those usually come in big metal boxes that can take years of use on the road. This wouldn’t last a weekend minitour. But it does make a real cool looking practice pedal for those who want to, well. Practice with their socks on. Decent tones for bedroom wahhin’. But if we’re honest, this serves the best as a decorative item. Sort of like a prelude for the Fab series in terms of enclosure plastic thickness. Cool looking thing to have, but next to useless.

Danelectro DJ21 Black Coffee

Thursday, 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.

Danelectro CTO-2 Transparent Overdrive V2

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

CTO2-TranspOD

What is it?
Danelectro CTO-2 Transparent Overdrive V2 from Danelectro Cool Cat series. Made in china around late 00’s to early 10’s.

This unit was the very first of Cool Cat series pedal i ever bought. Got it as used unit from one great local guitarist who had just tried it  out. The price was right so i grabbed it. For the pedals in this series it’s usual to see number of upgrades in V2 or just later versions of the pedals. For this particular unit, there are added DIP switch under the battery door. This switch lets you to change the clipping options added to the second version.

CTO2-TranspOD-guts1

Construction, board quality and design decisions are very close to all the other units in the series. The special usage of two sides, that’s not something i’ve seen too often. The board is otherwise SMD, but there is one transistor and a couple of capacitors on the other side of the board. Apparently the board is designed in a manner that it can handle these components in either through hole, or surface mount components. Idea or reasoning behind this method is unknown to me.

CTO2-TranspOD-guts2

While i can’t be sure at the moment, the design seems like slightly modified version of CTO-1, the renowned Danelectro Timmy. With added clipping options of course. These options seem to switch between four LEDs (red and blue) and four MOSFETs. The switching can also take them all of, which leaves us with opamp clipping only. And tons of output level. I must point out that while i may seem like a fan of Danelectro boxes, their board designs have not made me feel at home since  late 90’s. There is something in the looks that make it look forced somehow.

CTO2-TranspOD-guts3

Otherwise the controls are quite standard. You got your volume control, bass/treble EQ section and your gain control. Once again, the treble/bass controls as a concentric pot isn’t the best of ideas (as the knobs tend to touch each other when turning). Sufficient controls and sufficient levels of volume and gain. All this in small, thick aluminium box and armed with 3PDT true bypass. And for the price? How could this go wrong?

How does it sound?
This time it doesn’t. Very nice sounding Timmy-derivative with good controls and a sound that is very much usable. The tweakable clipping take the sound from all out booster via compressed to open distortion. Nice sounding overdrive. And for this price range, i suggest you try it out. You won’t lose much is you decide you don’t like it.