Archive for the ‘Danelectro’ Category

Danelectro DDS-1 Sitar Swami

Friday, December 13th, 2013

DDS1-Sitar-Swami

What is it?
Danelectro DDS-1 Sitar Swami “Sitar Emulator” from 60’s series, made in china in late 90’s.

I noticed one for sale for a very good price, and the Danelectro enthusiast i am, i just couldn’t let the opportunity slide. These are quite rare and special too. Forget the “Sitar Emulation” part. If you’re judging this one as a sitar emulation, you’re going to hate it. I’ve played with a real sitar and this does not have any resemblance in its sound. But just by listening to  this box gave me an understanding of what’s going on.

Opening the box up made it very clear why there’s no traced schematic available. Two sided circuit boards filled with the tiniest SMD components around. And the size issue doesn’t end there. In addition to standard two board setup these enclosures normally house, there are two daughter boards soldered in 90 degree angle to the motherboard.

DDS1-Sitar-Swami1

If you are interested about this pedal, you should definitely read the Electrosmash’s article on the issue. The article doesn’t analyze the design itself, but it gives you good clue what’s goin on with its semiconductor listing. First of all, the pedal sounds like there’s low octave CMOS divider, an echo circuit and continuous set flange sweeping in the background all the time. All this with a mild upper octave cleanish fuzz that isn’t too far off from the Green Ringer.  Sadly the only controls are level and EQ. This would be something very desirable with more controls (for flange speed, low octave mix and time/feedback parameters for the delay) – but then again, it’s Dano’s interpretation of a sitar emulation. It’s still sick and i can already think of things to use this with. Would have been super to see the breadboard this one was developed on. Must have been a sick mess.

DDS1-Sitar-Swami2

“The droning, resonating tones of the 60’s!”. Now that’s more than correct.

I did notice one thing when tying the pedal out. The flange stays on all the time with noisy power supply. When using a slightly dead battery, the flange comes on only when strings are hit. This is probably good thing to keep in mind when trying to fit this to any sound your after. Another thing. Try placing a fuzz in front of the unit. Instant 60’s psyche lead sounds.

How does it sound?
Sick and good. Like i said, one should not judge this as sitar emulation as it doesn’t do that well at all. To be honest, it doesn’t do that at all. It does it’s own 60’s style sick fuzzed lead sound with special spices in it. And it does that very well. That’s basically nothing you can’t achieve with Boss OC-2, any PT2399 based delay, a Green Ringer and a flanger. But you can get that same droning psychedelia with a single box with no controls. I’m loving it, but the at the same time i think it’s a monster that should not be alive.

Without a further due, the award for sickest multieffect with zero controls go to Dano Sitar Swami.

Danelectro DC-1 Cool Cat Chorus

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

DC1-CoolCat-ChorusWhat is it?
Danelectro Cool Cat Chorus, later 9V version, made in china around 1999-2000.

Earlier versions were fed with 18V supply and supposedly sound even better. My unit is the later one with standard 9V input, making it very common and easy to obtain chorus box.. Got it for a reasonable price a long time ago. Comparison between the two versions would be very nice thing to experince. Oh well. I guess i’ll just have to keep an eye out for the old one. The 9V supply is way more popular and easier for people to use. So i see Dano’s point in changing the supply for later models. By my experience (and due to not having played with original 18V version), this is the king of all choruses. Built to take a large hit from a large beaver. On the negative side, the box is big.

DC1-CoolCatChorus-guts1

The traces are sturdier than on most factory pedals in the same price range. Soldering is also neat with just a tiny hint of sloppiness around here and there.

The Danelectro way of building these things is admirable. Circuit boards stacked and cut to fit the enclosure perfectly. Techinally the designs is your standard 3102/3207 timed chorus with standard controls of LFO speed and width/depth, that is now called “chill”.

DC1-CoolCatChorus-guts2

By today, i still have not seen one of these units with a broken or non functional switch. Maybe i just don’t know about those cases, or they just last time way better than other similar plastic solutions. I have heard complains about the plastic jacks, but i’ve personally never ran into problems with those either.

DC1-CoolCatChorus-guts3

All in all, there are lots of similarities between the “original” series and later mini series, including the switching (which is not bad), the pots (not that bad either) and the jacks (not great, but not too bad). So the main difference between these and some of the mini series boxes is the metal vs. plastic enclosure.
This. Definite workhorse.

How does it sound?
Like a landmark for soft analog choruses. Doesn’t bend to extreme settings, but does the thing i expect it to do and does it really well. If i was to use a chorus on my board, this would be very high on the list. Did i already mention it sounds soft and pleasing on all possible settings? Guess not. But it does.

Danelectro CC-1 Chorus

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

CC1-ChorusWhat is it?
Danelectro CC-1 Chorus from Cool Cat series, made in china around 2004.

Got this unit used for a very reasonable price. That reasonability ended once i openend the parcel. Bottom was velcroed and the type plate was long gone. Those do not contribute to the sound in any way, but i’m usually after pedals that are in good or better condition (unless they are more rare and more collectible). As this series is not at the highest spot on my collector’s list, i think i can live with the faults. It is quite interesting how and why most manufacturers choose blue as a colour for their choruses. Dark or light, but most of them are blue. If not blue blue, then light or dark, but still blue.

CC1-Chorus--guts

The Danelectro method of creating effects has mostly been interesting. If you take a look at any board from the “original” series or from mini series, you’ll notice that the boards are designed and cut per the enclosure. Rather than making the enclosure to house the circuit. In this case the two stacked boards are really small and leave a room for a battery in the middle.

Next issue i’m  going to need to raise with these boxes is the switching. Danelectro had a long experience in electronic switching which wasn’t that bad at all. Only couple of the mini series boxes were reported to be sucking the bypassed tone, but when we leave the plastic momentary switch solution aside, the switching was (and still is) not bad. So the choice to go for sometimes unreliable 3PDT standard true bypass leaves me puzzled. Will it make the effect better than its electronically switched, buffer bypassed peers?

How does it sound?
Good with quite wide range of settings.  it has your standard depth and speed controls in addition to “mix/eq” control which acts more like a mix than eq. Nice cheap pedal. Nothing to shout about, but well working and reasonably good sounding chorus. Small footprint for pedalboards can be counted as a plus.

Danelectro DO1 Daddy-O Overdrive

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

DO1-Daddy-O

What is it?
Danelectro DO-1 Daddy-O overdrive, built in 1996.

Got mine through ebay for a very reasonable price. Some natural road worn, sratches and paint chips. It’s good only either in this condition or as a mint. Quite happy with aesthetics. Inside, there are two boards screwed on the very sturdy design enclosure. I think these could easily outlast humankind.

Neat and well designed board. According to russian trace of the unit from 2003, topology goes as follows: Input buffer taking care of the bypass splitting -> variable gain stage -> another gain stage -> hard clipping LEDs -> three band tone control -> volume control -> output buffer. Pretty standard stuff. Vref voltage is divided with 4K7 resistors, so i think that draws more current than it would need.

DO1-Daddy-O-guts

Schematic is not too far off from some Marshall designs like Drivemaster and Bluesbreaker, but there are differences. Traces are modern, but still look eye pleasing and neat. The construction and soldering also look like it’s done the way these should be done. Don’t know why these units have such a bad rep as they do. They are well made and they sound…

How does it sound?
Really good. Due to it being close to designs mentioned above makes it very usable with its 3 band eq controls and nice range of gain from mild overdrive to distortion. It is a redesigned Marshall, and it is at least as good as its predecessor. And what kind of distortion? Think of original Marshall Drivemaster making out with Mad Professor Sweet Honey OD with added 3 band EQ.  Very underrated overdrive pedal. One of the greatest examples why Danelectro pedals appeal to me.

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 D4 Fab Echo

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

D4-FabEcho

What is it?
Danelectro D-4 Fab Echo. Cheapest thing made in china. Came in a trade for next to nothing.

I usually have nothing againt using plastic enclosures. And as i stated on Fab Metal post, the build quality here is astonishingly bad. This particular unit doesn’t quite reach the horrifying things inside Fab Metal, but it is still nothing i want to spend my time on. The boards are a lot neater than on the Metal distortion though. Also the components are SMD all the way, which leaves a slightly better impression.

D4-FabEcho-guts1

Still i don’t find the boards eye pleasing in any way. No symmetry, nor any master plan at all. Don’t know what the designer has been thinking when doing a layouts for these. The design itself isn’t too bad. It may have looked and sounded reasonable on the designer’s breadboard before it made its way forward in the construction chain. As in all Fabs, the shilding is done with paper with foin on the other side and that piece of paper is screwed to ground. Designwise…

D4-FabEcho-guts2

Yup. That’s PT2399 digital echo processor with fixed delay time. This could be modedd to full delay by just swapping one of those left hand side SMD resistors for a pot. Personally i don’t think the mod is really worth the trouble, as you can score similar sound from other china brands for pretty much the same price. That way you’ll get better shielding for your box too.

This will be my last post of the Fab series. Last weekend, i sold both of these as there was just not anything interesting in either of these and the build quality doesn’t please me. At all. While i do like Danelectro’s boxes in general, this serie will not be collected. These will continue to give a bad name to Danelectro effects. I can clearly see why.

How does it sound?
Not too horrible. Sound exactly what PT2399 chips with fixed delay time should sound like. I’d still recommend checking out china brands for a delay instead of this…

Danelectro D3 Fab Metal

Monday, September 9th, 2013

D3-FabMetal

What is it?
Danelectro D-3 Fab Metal. Fab series, made of plastic and probably the cheapest thing you’ll ever see.

For some reason i seem to gather metal distortions even i’m not a big fan of metal music or the guitar sounds commonly affiliated with it. I do think it’s fun to play with metal distortions at home though. So while i’m gathering more of the missing Danelectro boxes that i want, these tend to arrive in the meantime. Where mini-series boxes vary in build quality, these are very consistent. Consistently bad. As new units currently sell for 15-20€, it is no wonder the build costs have been cut in every single step of the way. Not to say that these wouldn’t work. They will, probably until the end of time. But the board is shielded with a piece of paper that has a layer of tin foil on the other side. Magnet for radio frequencies and manifestation of bad business orientated thinking.

D3-FabMetal-guts1

There’s flux residue all ovet the board and soldering looks astonishingly bad. I always have hard time looking at component selection that’s mixing SMD and thru-hole components. Plus the board design looks like a winner of “who can whip up a quickest PCB design” contest. Auto-router is another possibility here. Not eye pleasing at all.

D3-FabMetal-guts2

I can say with certainty that Fab series isn’t designed for active guitarists, but those who are starting to learn guitar – a perfect way to kill the starting enthusiasm for tone hunting is with these pedals. It could be argued if Danelectro should have released these at all. In my opinion, they shoudn’t. These hurt the brand and spread misconception that all Danelectro boxes are made with same (lack of) integrity.

D3-FabMetal-guts3

The design itself is your standard distortion with gyrators and multiple gain stages. Mr. Jones has drawn a schematin in 2006. This doesn’t have component values listed, but i suspect this may not be prime suspect for cloning or modding…

Like stated, the build quality alone make these very much undesirable boxes with no value at all. May the designs inside be how bad or good ever, you’ll be a lot better off with modern chinese cheap brands than these. These may be slightly cheaper, but still. Wouldn’t recommend this series to anyone. This may be the point where i draw the line. I have nothing against Mini series or plastic Soundtanks. These have been created to make money. If the retail prices are as low as 17-22€, you can imagine how much time, effort and quality gets in to the final product.

Danelectro. Please stop killing yourself.

How does it sound?
Awful. Didn’t have very high hopes for the unit, but as a metal distortion, it sucks. However. Once the gain is maxed, this turns into digital sounding fuzz rather than metal distortion. Which isn’t good, but it may have some use in certain situations. As a guitar effect? Avoid this like a plague. As a power electronics noise tool? Maybe.

And no. I won’t be finishing my Fab collection. Ever.