Archive for the ‘Danelectro’ Category

Danelectro DJ-12 Chili Dog Octave

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

DJ12-ChiliDog

What is it?
Danelectro DJ-12 Chili Dog Octave from Dano Mini Series. Made in china around mid ’00s.

For one of the coolest mini series boxes. There are quite a few that are simply 1:1 ripoffs of higher end brand designs. It seems that mainly Boss and MXR have been hit hard by the Dano design team. Granted there are others too, but for this one.. I’m pretty certain that the design is derived from Boss OC-2 Octave. Only it’s about a half in size and squeezed in with tiny SMD components to make that happen.

DJ12-ChiliDog-guts

As there are no distinct differences in sound when compared against OC-2, i felt little enthusiasm in opening the whole unit up. Circuit is big enough that Dano engineers had to use both boards to accommodate everything. On many Minis, the bottom board only houses electronic bypass switching and sometimes in/out buffers. As you can see, that number of CMOS flip-flops isn’t used only for the switching. As with many other units of the series, the downsides are plastic housing and buffered Dano bypass switching. All the rest? An underestimated diamond in the rough.

As for the controls, the layout and feel of them is exactly one to one with OC-2. There is your dry signal level, plus own mix controls for one octave down and two octaves down. To put in in one word, Sweet.

How does it sound?
Sweet. Haunting, fat and the tracking is neat with occasional wandering thought. Like the flip-flops forget the signal they are getting in and head to south instead of west. The best tracking can be achieved with playing single notes around 10-15th fret. For chords this isn’t very useful, just as its Boss big brother. It offers quite clear down octaves that could come handy in number of occasions. For its cheap price and extremely high fun factor, this unit should be at least tried out. Playing with this one at home will result in severe brain melt, probably not as severe as with DOD BuzzBox or modded MXR Blue Blue, but still. Severe.

Danelectro DJ-16 Bacon ‘n’ Eggs Mini Amp/Distortion

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

DJ16-BaconnEggs

What is it?
Danelectro DJ-16 Bacon ‘n’ Eggs Mini Amp/Distortion from Dano Mini series. Made in china around mid-00’s.

This was difinitely one of the Danelectro units that i didn’t have much interest towards. But as collector, i didn’t have much choice but to get one. This unit i got cheap from the local music store. It was cheap to begin with, but the personnel at the store had misplaced the original cardboard box, so i got it even cheaper. First thing that occured to me was that this could probably be used with the pedalboard meant for the series as a last unit. That way one could have a tuner, three effects and an amp in one easily carried box. Yeah. I know. The tuners suck, but still that could be something fun. Tried this out at home and noticed a few things that piqued my interest.

DJ16-BaconnEggs-guts

First of all, the unit acts as an amp when there is no cable at the output jack. Second, the amplification is done with single chip and with amplifaction on, one can’t turn off the distortion. That is a lot of SMD connections on a board that small. The bypass works when output cable is attached, so part of the circuit must be for that too.

As an practice amp? No way. Strange bird of all the effect pedals? Yes. Strange thing to be in existence.

How does it sound?

As an amplifier – horrible. 9V supply is doing everything it can to provide something like 2 watts of sheer power, which is then pushed on to a two inch speaker. The resultin “tone” is harsh, loud, cold and about a hundred worse adjectives. But. When used as a distorion effect pedal and the amp feature disabled, it’s not bad at all. Should it be used on your rig to give distortion? You might want to try it out, but my guess would still be no. In general, the distortion sound and feel is quite close to a control-less, maxed out MXR Dist+ with some peorsonal character in it. Not bad. Still a bit strange thing to be using in any setup.

Danelectro DJ-4 Corned Beef Reverb

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

DJ4-CornedBeef

What is it?
Danelectro DJ-4 Corned Beef reverb from Mini series. Made in chine around mid 00s.

Mini reverb? Idea sound solid. As i was closing in at finishing off my Mini collection, there was very little i could do but acquire one. There are many digital reverb designs around and usually their circuit footprint is relatively close the one of Spinosaurus. So either Danelectro had done the impossible by squeezing a reverb design in a box of this size, or there must be some pitfall in there. Opening the bottom plate shows that bottom PCB  houses only the electronic bypass switching components. Have they managed to cram a digital reverb design to the smaller top board?

DJ4-CornedBeef-guts1

No. They have not. Checking the top board shows PT2399S. I had a gut feeling about this, mainly due to low price of these units. Usually reverbs of any kind are expensive – even the ones that are from those low end series of many big brands. This sort of explains everything. Sadly, Corned Beef is not a true reverb in anywhere else but the marketing spiel.

DJ4-CornedBeef-guts2

So the “reverb” is in fact a fixed delay that is made to mimic reverb sounds with short feedback and delay time. It may not be a true reverb, but it’s still a nicely designed PT2399-based SMD board. Controls do not control the reverb characteristics at all. There are simply mix and hi-cut knobs. Mix is obviously mixing the “reverbed” signal in with the clean and the high-cut seems to be a simple low pass filter with roll-off point controlled by a pot.

I could be a lot more disappointed. Cheap price is one factor that keeps the depression away. I think Dano wouldn’t have gotten away with charging real digital reverb prices for this one. I do think this is the closest to a reverb you can get with a single PT2399. Points for that. However, i’d rather call this one a pseudo-reverb…

How does it sound?
True. It sounds a bit reverbish, but not much. However, it’s not eve remotely close to any of the real digital reverbs around. Anyone familiar with the PT2399 sound can probably spot it being used just by hearing what it sounds like. As a short delay-like pedal, this could be useful. As a reverb? Nope. You need to cough up those bigger bucks for an unit to satisfy that need.

Danelectro DJ-11 Lemon Pitcher Tuner

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

DJ11-LemonPitcher

What is it?
Danelectro DJ-11 Lemon Pitcher Tuner from Danelectro Mini Series. Made in china around early 00’s.

Okay. I’ve been harsh on only few Mini series pedals. Most of them are not bad enough to deserve any harsh words. Then there  is this. In my experience – any brand that produces usable tuner pedal won’t ever fail on that design. So why this one failed and needed a revision (DJ-25)? Size is ok, no denying that. But in reality, what are you going to do with tuner pedal including an old school LCD display and dim lights?

DJ11-LemonPitcher-guts

Nothing. Even if we disregard all the plastic unroadworthiness, we are still left with a tuner pedal that is not sensitive enough and hard to use in anything else than daylight. Gee. I wonder why this design flopped in sales. This and DJ-2 distortion are definitely two worst designs in the series. Stay away. I do not recommend this for any purpose. If it was even a bit more accurate and sensitive.. But it isn’t. It is pedal version of those bad, plastic little tuners that some might use for tuning their acoustic guitars. And due to the fact that it is a pedal with no microphone, one can’t even use this on acoustic guitar..

How does it sound?

As it is a tuner, it doesn’t exactly sound like anything. Maybe it just slightly cuts your highs due to standard mini series bypass buffering. To sum this unit up – bad. That’s the only word to describe the unit truthfully.

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 DSR-1 Spring King

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

DSR1-SpringKing

What is it?
Danelectro DSR-1 Spring King spring reverb. Made in china around 1998.

Pedals using real spring tanks inside them seem to be quite rare. There are tons of different digital variations that try to emulate the original spring sound from many brands around. The biggest reason for the absence of springs inside any pedals must be the size. The length of the springs affect their sound and anything shorter than 20cm will most likely be too short of a reverb. So this time i wasn’t surprised that the circuit board itself was quite small inside the massive box. And it is with all SMD construction. Taking a closer look at the SMD ICs, there’s a PT2399 digital delay/echo chip in there. So, to compensate the shortish spring length, the design is a hybrid – utilizing a digital delay chip to get clear slap back effect in addition to analog spring sound. The three controls take care of the attenuating and slight boosting overall sound with the Volume control. The Tone seems to boost highs when maxed and the Reverb is a mixer control that blends the digital chip and the spring unit with the signal.

DSR1-SpringKing-guts1

If i wouldn’t have taken a look at the chips, i would have expected this to be all analog design. So the overall “meh” was a bit of a letdown. Nevertheless, it is a good and clever design. And it does have the springs in there, which do affect the reverbed sound. But no. It is not 100% analog spring reverb. The springs are Accutronics/Belton BS3AB2C1E, a “tank” with three springs.

DSR1-SpringKing-guts2

There’s also one more, very cool, but simple feature. The kick pad. While it’s not connected to anything, it’s simply a rubber pad glued on the top of the enclosure. Kicking it or stomping on it makes the box naturally shake. Which leads to the tank shaking and giving out the uncontrollable spring action – like heard on many surf records. Nice feature in addition to quite unique and, like i already said, clever design.

Modding the PT2399 part for fully controllable delay in addition to springs should be doable. But. I think i’ll keep the unit as it is.

How does it sound?
Good. Very good. At first i would not have noticed the digital delay that was present. So i was already patting myself on the back for an amazing deal of the analog spring reverb pedal. So the disappointment may be biasing me a bit. Without that fact i would have probably declared this unit the greatest sounding gift from the Danelectro catalog ever produced. But that aside, the sound is definitely wet enough and the controls are sufficient. Very nice, big box.

Danelectro LM-1 Black Paisley Liquid Metal

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

LM1-BlackPaisley

What is it?
Danelectro LM-1 Black Paisley Liquid Metal distortion with optional down octave. Made in china around early to mid 00s.

Danelectro is a fun and sometimes quite surprising brand that truly appeals to me. For some reason i’m sort of an sucker for those floral patterns, so the graphics on the pedal have their own piece. of attraction as well. Where some of the Danelectro units are meh, kinda ok or well designed (or sometimes just redesigned), there are some that really blow my mind. This unit is one of those. In addition to very successful graphic design, just take a look of the photo below. Check the placement of the SMD resistors and caps. symmetry is astounding. No schematic around. I think that this is not a prime suspect for tracing due to heavy component count and pretty complex overall design. After all, it is a super high gain distortion with good EQ controls and an added flip-flop based down octave.

LM1-BlackPaisley-guts

All the controls deliver what they promise. To begin with, there’s your volume pot, in addition to distortion and two band EQ with separate controls for bass and treble. Next, there’s the mids control on a switch that goes from flat mids to scooped to boosted. Lastly there’s a down octave slide switch between the jacks. All the controls work well and offer quite a large palette of tweakability.

How does it sound?

The sound has its own character when it comes to distortion. Down octave feels quite wild, even though this doesn’t get even close to overwhelming DOD Buzzbox kind of wild. The personality in the sound reminds me easily of many classic metal distortions, like Boss HM-2 and MT-2. Boosted mids on this one are probably a game saver for many HM-2 fans. Output level is sufficient and the EQ plus the mids switch offer a lot of versatility for overall tone. Very versatile and still it manages to have a personality. Very recommended Danelectro unit, and not just for down octave enthusiasts.

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 CV-1 Vibe

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

CV1-Vibe

What is it?
Danelectro CV-1 Vibe from Cool Cat Series. Original version, no level trimmer under the battery slot.

I did get pretty far with my collection without having a single vibe-only pedal in it. This unit finally changed that fact. Danelectro made a number of itself with the vibe from its mini series. And for a good reason. It was very cheap and very good sounding vibe that many people simply true bypassed and rehoused. The success of mini-series univibe clone set pretty high hopes for this unit too.

This is also an good unit, but it has couple of reported faults. The first issue is with the delay of wet signal. I do get the idea of disconnecting power from the circuit when bypassed. But it is a very stupid idea on a circuit which operates on four LDR (light dependant resistor) stages that all need notable amount of current. Yes, that’ll save you from swapping the battery every 4 hours, but then again – who uses batteries anyway? Now, when we cut the power and push it back on when bypass switch activates the circuit, there’s bound to be a short, less than half a second delay before all four LDR stages are running properly. That is a fault. Not that it would bother me in any way, but that still is a fault.

CV1-Vibe-guts

Second issue reported is the rise in output level when activated. Later units have a trimmer pot under the battery slot, which lets you adjust the level to perfect. The original units don’t. The issue comes from the dual opamp seen on the gut photo’s main PCB on lower right corner. That simply applies slightly too much gain for the output signal. This is another issue that doesn’t bother me at all. But someone who would use this vibe as a everyday effect on his/her board, would suffer from these faults. Two “errors” on one design has never been a good thing for the pedals (nor for manufacturer’s) reputation.

Both issues can be addressed with relatively small effort. Just take the power continuously to the circuit, bypassing the switch. And change the value of one resistor to get the unity level back. Both are simple procedures, but i personally don’t see a reason to perform either. One can and should probably use this for recording instead of live performing. The issues mentioned do not bother you in studio and there’s a very good reason to use this for recording…

How does it sound?
And this is that reason. The overall sound is very close to the classic Uni-Vibe, but here we have added personality and overall feel of the sound is slight darker. Three controls can tune it from mild phaser-like atmospheric slow sweeper to super-wobbly wild child. Both extremes take the whole signal and put it through the blender with your morning smoothie.

For the price and construction (disregarding the two faults), this is in fact a very good catch. One should still look for revision two, rather than the original. For me, i’m keeping this as is.