Archive for the ‘Mini-series’ Category

Danelectro DJ-17 PB & J Delay

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

DJ17-PBJ

What is it?
Danelectro DJ-17 PB & J (peanut butter & jelly) Delay from mini series. Made in china around early 00’s.

I thought i was getting a slightly used unit through ebay listing. Apparently not. It is in original blister packaking with only one of the corners slightly torn. Packaking indicates that this unit the early Mini series pedal. Later ones all came in cardboard boxes. As there is a little collector in me, you can take a guess if i’m tearing this one open? Hell no. So. This time i won’t be able to offer any analysis on the circuit. I may need to get another unit. One that has been already opened to do that. So this is probably one of the shortest pedal posts i’m ever going to publish.

If i ever come across a used one, i might update theis post. But for now. Just look at the ~12 year old thing in it’s original packaging. Beautiful, isn’t it?

How does it sound?
I have no idea. It has two stomp switches to change the delay time on the go, but as it is still mint in unopened blister pack, i’m obviously not able to try it out.

Danelectro DJ-2 T-Bone Distortion

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

DJ2-TBone

What is it?
Danelectro DJ-2 T-Bone Distortion from Dano mini series in tiny plastic enclosure. Made in china around 2007 (dating based on a guess).

As i got accustomed to praising the mini series boxes, i thought it was a nice deal to take this home from local music shop as a new unit. Price was pretty much the same as the shop had paid for the unit when they bought it in – a.k.a. cheap. I couldn’t find a schematic for the circuit, so one of my thoughts was to rip it immediately open and see if it was just a simple Dist+/250 adaptation with standard Dano electronic switching. Taking the bottom plate off showed me the in/out board. Minis can be split into two categories when it comes to build quality. First is neat and well soldered. This category usually applies to the units with through-hole components (not always). And the second. The ones that were build on the first day of work after drinking for two weeks on chinese new year. This unit. Sinks definitely to the latter category.

DJ2-TBone-guts1

But i continued with the same profound enthusiasm that i usually have for the unexplored units. Taking the in/out board out made me want to put the little bastard back together as fast as possible. So there’s a 14 pin SOP quad opamp on two-sided, horribly made board that mixes SMD and through-hole components together. At this point i just reassembled the thing. I simply don’t want to know more about it.

DJ2-TBone-guts2

So. For those who have been following my puny blog, even though i may have sounded like it in the past – not all mini series effects are worth the trouble, money or anything else. This unit proves the point. It is probably the suckiest unit in the whole series. The sound and feel of DJ-1 Pastrami mini overdrive did let me have faith on this one too. Faith misplaced so far that a shovel won’t be enough to unground it.

How does it sound?
Like an unwanted, disfigured son of MXR Distortion III and Morley Just Distortion. Yes. Both of the mentioned are really bad sounding designs, so you can only imagine what this sounds like. Bad mid-honk, broken sounding clippers and thin overall feel. As a positive side, the  output level is sufficient for a distortion unit. But no. I have nothing good to say about this. Nor will i even think about tracing and fixing the design flaws on this one. Reason – it will most likely not be worth it. Anyone with an internet connection should be able to find hundreds of schematics that can be tweaked to perfection. At the moment, this doesn’t even wake up the explorer and tweaker in me.

So i put the plastic bag back on and stuff the thing back inside the cardboard box. Let’s see if it sounds better after getting ten or more years of cupboard treatment. I’m certain that the treatment has worked on many designs before. So there is a tiny, remote chance that it could work here too.

Danelectro DJ-3 BLT Slap Echo

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

DJ3-BLT
What is it?
Danelectro DJ-3 BLT Slap Echo from mini series, made in china.

Most of the mini series effects are good and usable. This one is no exception. One can hear what the circuit is all about by just listening to it. It’s PT2399 delay with fixed delay time. Did this surprise you? Not me. PT2399 is widely used and trained ear can spot one easily. It has analog quality to its repeats, while remaining nearly free of unwanted noise. The reason for PT2399 being so popular chip for delays and echos is probably the simple usage. It requires way less components than any analog or any modern digital counterpart and the datasheet has an example circuit in it. That one can be slightly tweaked, and voilá, completely new delay circuit has arrived to take over the market from another PT2399 design. The example, of course, needs an mixer amp to accompany it, but otherwise.. That’s the circuit found in many, many modern delay pedals.

There are several reports on how to modify your BLT for full featured delay/echo. The one posted at FSB by Soulsonic will guide you through the process if you feel like doing it to your pedal. I won’t be modding mine as i seem to have a few delays that can do exactly what this would do once modded.

DJ3-BLT-guts
This unit has nothing too special going for it. Standard Dano electronic switching, modern traces and the main board (the one with controls on it) is pretty tight fit with all the surface mount components. By itself, it is nice cheap echo/delay with fixed delay time. I’m getting a feeling that many of the Dano designs are just your standard effects with one or more controls dropped. It doesn’t make them bad in any way. It just feels like the designer has made some of the choices for us.

How does it sound?
Good. Usable slapback echo with mix and feedback/repeat amount controls. It has the PT2399 chip’s signature sound, so you really can’t go wrong with this pedal. It’s fun and it can be modded to full echo/delay with relative ease.

Danelectro DJ9 Surf & Turf Compressor

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

DJ9-Surf-n-Turf

What is it?
Danelectro DJ-9 Surf & Turf compressor from Mini series.

Finally. One of these that make the original look bad. Like i”ve pointed out on numerous occasions, to refine or rediesign existing design, the result should always be better than the original. Not much poin if it isn’t. Here we have your standard CA3080 OTA-based compressor that derives from Dyna/Ross. In reality the design is so close, that there’s not that much difference to the original 70s designs. You can do the comparison yourself. Surf & Turf by Cow4prez and original Dyna by AMZFX.

DJ9-Surf-n-Turf-guts

Prime example of succesful redesign. Even if the build quality of my unit is slightly sub-par in build quality with the best ones in the mini series, it’s still good. Much better unit to spend your hard earned cash on than current Dunlop Dyna.

How does it sound?
Close, if not exactly the sound of old 70s Dyna comp in compact box. Meaning that it is not the shock effect like current Dunlop versions, but the usable, warm compression with slight vintage mush due to its operational transconductance amplifier. So in a few words – really good sounding usable compressor.

Danelectro DJ6 Pepperoni Phaser

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

DJ6-Pepperoni

What is it?
Danelectro DJ-6 Pepperoni Phaser from the Dano Mini series.

Standard mini plasticky box. Bought it for cheap and now that i have it – i can say that no-one should pay good money for this. Mine came in as horribly misbiased, so i needes to tweak it quite a bit to get it running as it should. Although i’m not using a lot of pahsers, i tend to like them. Which leads to me having a few. The schematic is posted at Experimentalists Anonymous, and it shows the design to be very similar to Phase90 and many other four stage phasers. Accompanied with your standard Danelectro electronic switching, the build quality seems ok, if not better than average minis.

DJ6-Pepperoni-guts

Note the empty pads. Those are for through-hole JFETs. I enjoy running into such curiosity. Definitely something that i didn’t expect to see.

In general the layout, all SMD construction and everything else is on par with mini other series boxes.  Could be a nice, small footprint alternative to Phase 90. Assuming you can get one of these for next to nothing. Otherwise it may not be worth the trouble.

How does it sound?
Not too good, but to my ears the overall sound is better than current reproduction versions of MXR Phase90, which is very overrated phaser. The bias trimmer may need adjustment, as for my unit the setting was off enough to kill the whole signal on certain parts of the sweep. To get it just right, the trimmer needs to be turned very, very carefully. I do suspect that the SMD JFETs are not as perfect match for each other as they should be. So taking a use of empty pads and using your own matched quartet of JFETs could be a nice improvement.

Danelectro DJ1 Pastrami Mini Overdrive

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

DJ1-Pastrami

What is it?
Danelectro DJ-1 Pastrami Mini Overdrive. First in Dano’s mini boxes. Got this from a friend. Thanks Mr. Järvi!

Not bad at all. Like many in this series, the soldering leaves me wanting more quality, but otherwise there’s not that much bad to say about this. The schematic can be found on FSB. There’s nothing new or super special in there, just succesful mash of basic gain and recovery stages with LED clipping.

Designwise this is definitely a great overdrive with personal character. With this simple design, i’m really not interested if it is supposed to be a copy of some popular design. It doesn’t sound like any of the big names, so i’d leave it at that.

DJ1-Pastrami-guts

I’ve built a clone with my own mods to this as it bothered me that the level control mixes the makeup/recovery gain stage input with gorund. This method doesn’t leave enough room for low gain and volume maxed. Also, bigger resistor to set lowest possible gain higher than stock will be a good idea. My mods have the original level control transformed into a SWTC2 and the new level control taken to more conventional place – the output. LED clipping is at home on this design.

How does it sound?
Think of your weekend morning rice crispies. Crunchy medium gain with moderate output. Usable and recommended crunch. The LEDs give out their trademark sound for clipping on this one. After playing with one of these intensively, one can spot the sound of LEDs being used as clippers on other designs too.  Easily the best OD/Dist unit in this series.

Danelectro DJ10 Grilled Cheese Distortion

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

DJ10-GrilledCheese

What is it?
Danelectro DJ-10 Grilled Cheese distorion.

Had no information on the design whatsoever when i got this unit. Should probably have done some reading before paying 20€ for it. As distortions go, there is one sub-genre that i find no joy in playing with. This one sinks to that genre. Fixed wah distorion. As the ones i’ve played with, the Ibanez CD5 Cyberdrive is the least sucky in the bunch. And that too sucks quite a bit. That may be suitable for some special lead sounds usually employed by men in tights. So i may be a bit biased when judging this pedal.

Couldn’t find a schematic and to be honest, this unit does not interest me enough to even dig deeper. The comments on the internet say that there are 3 dual opamps and a inductor that make up the circuit. Bypass seems to be standard of the mini series.

DJ10-GrilledCheese-guts

One of the rare cases of complete meh. Which means i have no interest in seeing how or why this one does what it does.

How does it sound?
Like all fixed wah designs with mid scooped distortion, not completely unlike DS-1 or alike. Personally i wonder who would need or want a sound like this. It’s not my place to judge, so if you find fixed wah distortions useful, go ahead. This one will remain in mint condition in my collection.

Danelectro DJ7 Milkshake Chorus

Friday, September 6th, 2013

DJ7-Milkshake

What is it?
Danelectro  DJ7 Milkshake chorus from Danelectro mini effects series.

Not bad at all. The series is notorious for what it is – the cheapest possible way to come up with a guitar effect pedal. What Dirk Hendrik states on his site about plastic Soundtanks applies here too. I’ve never come across Dano Mini with broken enclosure. While one can criticize the series all he/she wants to, there are still  a lot of great designs available. This may not come as a surprise, but this one is one of the prime suspects for a rehousing job. Not too much of good information to go on. Maybe i need to tear this completely open one day.

DJ7-Milkshake-guts

I’m not going to rehouse this, unless i get another unit. But as Dano minis go, i wouldn’t make it true bypass either as there’s no real advantage in doing it. Now that i’m heading back to the heresy section, i can say that i’ve never had a problem with buffering eating up my tone with any of the Danelectro designs. Like with most minis, i’m left with mixed feelings. I can see why someone would disregard the whole series because of the box. I’ve even heard rumours that some folks may have had issues with grounding on these. Minis are without a doubt the ugly ducklings of the cheap pedal world. Switching seems durable. Most of the designs sound great. Bypass doesn’t suck. Prices of the new units are very high considering..  ..if you can find a new one these days.

How does it sound?
It’s reasonably good chorus. By the sound itself and not going deeper into tracing the unit, i would say it’s close enough to Boss CE-2. May it be far or close by design, you’ll still be able to get good chorus sounds with vintage feel for a fraction of what CE-2 costs.

Danelectro DJ22 Black Licorice Beyond Metal

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

DJ22-BlackLicorice

What is it?
Danelectro DJ-22 Black Licorice, Beyond Metal from Danelectro Mini effect series.

While many designs in the notorious mini effects series are surprisingly good and most of the designs have some really nice tweaks or upgrades to some other, known classic circuits, this one disappoints in so many ways. If you didn’t know already, i’m somewhat a freak when it comes to octave down effects. As some of you may know, the most common way to create down octave divider sounds is to drive the hell out of  CMOS flip-flop IC. This one is not an exception to that rule. Design reminds me of also notorious MXR Blue Box. There’s something very wrong with the distortion design and the way it handles lower and mid frequencies. Board also feels way too crowded to bother with modding it for more pleasant frequency response.

DJ22-BlackLicorice-guts

Standard mini plastic enclosure, crammed with substandard soldering. Toggle switch bypasses the octave dividing circuit, which acts pretty much in the same manner as Blue Box’s blend control. Next paragraph will tell you why i didn’t dig any deeper to what it does and how.

How does it sound?
Bad. Honking, plasticky and thin, despite the basic octave divider circuitry. Where Dunlop’s Blue Box sucks with its way too low output, this one sucks with everything else. Divided octaves sound reasonable good, but the distortion part is just bad. Worse thhan Fab Metal (more on that later…). Definitely one of the worst (re)designs in this series. Wouldn’t recommend it, unless you are a true down octave aficionado. And even then. This may be good only for trying it once. My first encounter in this series that sounds exactly like it looks. Too cheap. This may be the one Danelectro effect that won’t ever let you get your pennies back.

Danelectro DJ5 Tuna Melt Tremolo

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

DJ5-TunaMelt

What is it?
Danelectro DJ5 Tuna Melt Tremolo from Dano’s mini effects series.

This is one of those that should not be overlooked no matter what opinion you may have about the box/jacks/switch/whatever. Definitely one of the best and most desired boxes in the mini series in addition to Chicken Salad and a few other units. This will always have much more of user than collector value. Opening the  bottom plate reveals the basic electronic switching board, common to the mini series effects.

DJ5-TunaMelt-guts2

But taking that lower board off reveals the effect board. As always, the pots are just bigger trimmers with knobs attached to them, Hard/Soft switch is your standard submini on-on and so on. But wait. What’s the black blob next to lower opamp? Analog optoisolator (or also known as vactrol)!

DJ5-TunaMelt-guts5

So it is optical tremolo and it sounds like it. There are a few different ways to create good tremolo effect. Using analog optoisolator is one of the best. Optoisolators consist of two parts, the LED and LDR. LFO pushes the LED part to blink, which alternates the resistance of the LDR according to LFO speed. Which then causes the signal to go up and down in amplitude. Like i said, there are other good ways too. Here we have two TL072s for the modulation mixer amp and LFO driver. The modulation is applied to inverting input of the amplifier.

Quite simple design, now that i think of it. Mr. Clay Jones has drawn a traced schematic back in 2005. Found on FSBhere. The schematic shows that there are two switchable LFO wave forms. Other uses one half of other opamp and other has a transistor for faster decay.

DJ5-TunaMelt-guts4

Soldering work looks like the person soldering the components doesn’t really care for his/her job. Looks quite bad actually. Sad thing, but what do you expect from pedals in this price range?

I’ll post one more shot of the traces. Those looks pretty neat now don’t they!

DJ5-TunaMelt-guts3

Edit: The design has a “flaw” that i’ve run into earlier, but for some reason i’ve dismissed it. The depth control works only for the soft setting of the LFO wave switch. The control does nothing when the hard mode is engaged. The schematic mentioned above will confirm this.There’s no chance the depth control will do anything when using the hard mode. Also, i’ve seen photos with Tuna Melt units with three knobs instead of two and the switch, but i’ve never seen an actual unit with three knobs. I think there will be more updates to this post at some point…

How does it sound?
Very good. Both controls, depth and speed have a wide variety of useful stuff on the sweep. It sounds very mellow and soft, even with hard settings switched. Not as choppy as it could be, but this is still very nice tremolo. If you can score one for cheap – go for it.