Archive for the ‘Excalibur’ Category

Excalibur Holy Grail Distortion

Saturday, June 6th, 2015

Excalibur-HolyGrail

What is it?
Excalibur Holy Grail Distortion. Made in china, late 00’s.

Got this one with the Tubescreamer derivative and the fake analog delay from the same “manufacturer”. The quotes are there for a reason. Since the brand is just OEM’ng stuff from chinese brand with questionable prestige, i wouldn’t exactly call Excalibur a manufacturer. Due to have been inside the two units mentioned above, i knew exactly what to expect. Not by the design, but for the manufacturing methods. The overall feel of these boxes is somewhat sturdy. Not that great, but ok. The highest points come from screws that fasten the board to the enclosure. It’s not much, but i can’t come up with much more positive to say.

Excalibur-HolyGrail-guts1

Pretty standard cheap china build quality. Made for extremely cheap and fast. And of course, with cheapest solutions there is. See the jacks in the photo above? Yup. Those are not fastened to the enclosure at all. Sort of reminds me of the method found in Ibanez L- and 10-series, with one exception. Ibanez has bigger part of the jack shafts outside, so the  pressure applied when inserting a plug isn’t that hard.  Also, on Ibanezes the board fastening screw is placed so, that the board doesn’t come by too much strain when jacks are inserted. Here, the jacks jus float behind the enclosure wall and the board is fastened tight. This means that there are bound to be jack failures in the future. If the pedal sees lots of use.

Excalibur-HolyGrail-guts2

The component side  Continues with the boring china stuff. While the mechanic switch tries to mimic as a basic, sturdy switch with a metal stomp, the actual switch is something quite different. LEDs for clippers and on the more positive side, the design doesn’t seem to be 1:1 clone of Boss DS-1. If i was to take a guess, the roots for this design would be closer to the 90’s Marshall distortion units. Not sure where the design comes from, and i have very little interest in finding out. Not because this would sound bad, but because everything around the schematic is just utterly bad.

How does it sound?
Not that bad. Capable of delivering decent amount of boost and the controls work well. Overall tone doesn’t cut lows too much, so in all, the overall tone is ok. Decent, reasonably clear, but powerful sounding distortion. For a unit that costs 20$/€/£ used, you can’t go wrong too badly. It’s not a great (nor even that good) distortion unit, but definitely not the worst i’ve seen. The best of the bunch. But that isn’t much said since the rest of the Excalibur pedals are very bad indeed.

Excalibur TS-4558 Tone Screamer

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Excalibur-TS4558-ToneScreamer

What is it?
Excalibur Overdrive TS-4558 Tone Screamer. Made in china as an OEM for german brand Excalibur, around 2007.

As i got a bit burned with my not-doing-my-homework and hoping for something decent from the delay sold side by side with this one, i must say that my enthusiasm was not very high to deal with this. These come relatively cheap and as the color and the name suggest, it’s a screamer. Didn’t even bother to open it up to show the flux residue of the chinese toaster oven.

Excalibur-TS4558-ToneScreamer-back

Why would i. It’s nothing more but a JRC4558 hearted, ever so slightly modified tubescreamer that acts exactly like all the other 1500 TS derivatives out there. Add this to floating plastic board mount jacks and you got your Tone Screamer. If there ever was a pedal to give out extreme case of meh, this makes the top three by any standards. Funny how the word “Germany” is retained on the bottom rubber. It’ s not “made in”, but simply “Germany”. At least the lying and cheating mode on this one isn’t nearly as high on this one than on the delay. At least on this one they say it straight to your face by calling the unit a Tone Screamer. This way there won’t be any doubt about what the unit does and what it sounds like.

How does it sound?
Like a Tubescreamer. Is there anything more to add? In the vast ocean of the units built around this late 70’s circuit, i see very little point in getting this one. It tries to look like a german made high end product, while it is nothing more than your average chinese, mass produced unit with questionable quality. Soundwise the difference is slightly more output and a hint of more gain. Nothing to write home about. There are a lot of good TS derivatives out there. Get any of those instead. I’d go for Nux green overdrive instead of this in a heartbeat. Same tone in more affordable package. And no bullshit.

There is very little positive i can say about this unit. Again. Do your homework before you buy into “The quintessential overdrive pedal.”

Excalibur AD-350 Analog Device

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Excalibur-AD350-AnalogDevice

What is it?
Excalibur Analog Delay AD-350 Analog Device. Made in china around 2006.

Someone i know was selling the lot of these Excalibur brand pedals. Local musician’s forum had no bad words, just a few descriptions about tone and such. The price for the three pedals was ok, including this (which was the most interesting one), the Tone Screamer and the Holy Grail Distortion. These three are apparently the only pedals in the Excalibur catalog. At first everything seemed ok with the slightly customized 125B-style enclosures and the original retail packaging.  Initial testing left me a bit puzzled. Why the representation in my are had seized and why the brand had never released more designs (slight edit/update: there have apparently been at least two design from the Biyang catalog, sold as Excaliburs in late 00’s). The testing and bang for buck ratio seemed nice, but i had still a few questions left in me. The box has several references to analog delay, but the first impression on tone left me feeling like something was a bit off. Brand promotes itself as a german brand and there are just overdrive, distortion and delay. If i’m worrying about nothing, then i’d definitely praise these things to the world’s end.

Excalibur-AD350-AnalogDevice-guts1

Had to open it up to see what was going on. The first impression was not that pleasing. Yup. This is not made in germany. Flux residue tells us everything we ever need to know about the board and component origin. If this isn’t chinese, i know nothing about pedal electronics. But that’s not all. Notice how the board mount plastic jacks are just floating behind the holes in the enclosure. And flip the board over…

Excalibur-AD350-AnalogDevice-guts2

And all i see is a regulator, one opamp, one through hole FET and a chip that is not an analog delay bucket brigade device. Let’s look a bit closer…

Excalibur-AD350-AnalogDevice-guts3

Yup. F this. It’ s nothing more than a standard PT2399 based delay that is slightly tweaked to sound more vintage, or in other words, bad. Not too great SMD construction and there we have it. No. I’m not pleased. I feel swindled. Not by the guy i got this from, but the Excalibur brand itself.

If we count the pedal itself and the box, there are 8 references to “Analog”. And since the PT2399 is definitely NOT an analog chip with its built-in high (or at least reasonable) quality AD/DA converters. After reading about this a bit more, the unit is apparently the same circuit we find in Belcat branded “Analog Delay”, another cheat in the market. There are others too, like the cheapo Artec Analog Delay, which all are PT2399 based digital delays.

Conclusion? Do your homework before you buy anything. You don’t want to end up like me with these three… Unless you just want to find out what these things are made of. That’s basically the only good reason to get one.

How does it sound?
Decent modelling of an analog delay. In a sense it’s worse than most PT2399 pedals, but that’s what you get when you try to use this chip for recreation of a true analog device. Stays clean on short delay times and dirties up on longer. No endless feedbacks or any other out-there features. Just basic delay. Not that bad sounding, but the lies just taint it up and bad.

No i don’t recommend any Excalibur brand pedals to anyone. Cheapest china crap peddled by a german business men. If you want the same tone, just grab the Blecat cheat for an “Analog delay” instead. You’ll get the same amount of street cred from me in both cases.

And no. This is not an analog delay.