Archive for the ‘Morley’ Category

Morley DDB Diamond Distortion

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Morley-DDB-DiamondDistortionWhat is it?
Morley DDB Diamond Distortion from so called “Jewel box” series. Made in US between 1995-98.

My passion for pedals and effects is something that i don’t quite understand myself. This series is perfect example. I seem to like stuff that may not be worth it. Morley is best known for their wahs and wah derivatives. But there are some non-rocker pedals in their back catalog too. The four units in the series all share the same project box. Thin, wide and very, very long. The measurements are far away from the sidelines, missing the ballpark completely when it comes to usability. The boxes take up a half of your pedal board, but they do look pretty cool otherwise.

Morley-DDB-DiamondDistortion-guts1

Spacious board layout shows that the same circuit could have been fitted in 1590B (or MXR-style) enclosure without issues, even using through hole components including 0,6W resistors and still there’s enough room for a battery slot. As with a few other Morley distortion designs, there is TL074 quad opamp and silicon diodes as clippers in the feedback loop of the main gain stage. Standard three controls of Level, Gain and Tone. Nothing too special in the design, just straight forward buffer -> gain stage -> recovery stage -> tone control -> buffer. The schematic is available at Morley’s site. The schematic says it’s “revised” and dates back to ’97. Wonder what, if any, differences there are between that document and the earlier one.

Morley-DDB-DiamondDistortion-guts2

As the strip side picture of the board shows, the strips are a little wider than usual. The component side shows the massive room between the components without any symmetry or other visual candies.

As a side note – if you’re about to open your box up for any reason, keep in mind that the grounds for the left and right side of the board connect only through the weakest part of the board, between the battery hole of the PCB and the bottom end of the box. This is very stupid decision for the PCB design as the thin stripe of board can be easily broken. One can of course take a wire from jack ground to another to ensure that the box stays running for ever, even if that strip of board was to crack at some point due to opening the box up.

How does it sound?
Not bad overdrivish distortion. Not too great either. For your standard driven Marshall JCM900 sound, just turn the volume and tone to the max. It is usable, but with nothing special. The overall tone reminds me a lot of original MXR Dist+. The gain knob takes you from mildish overdrive to heavier overdrive. Other controls are pretty much useless. Nice novelty item as everything in a “jewel box” should be. It just doesn’t sound great enough to leave an impression. Talk about severe meh-factor.

Morley JDB Just Distortion

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Welcoming the new year 2014. And I’m starting this year with a real oddity.

Morley-JustDistortionWhat is it?
Morley JBD Just Distortion. Real oddity. Made in china in the 90’s.

Ok. So the Morley engineer thought that it is a perfectly sound idea to create a pedal with no controls at all. The trust and belief for the design had to be strong. This must be one of the only distortion designs with no controls at all. There are some fuzzes around with only level control, but this unit here takes the grand prize. Here’s a quote from the “manual” (which is one tiny piece of cardboard):
The Just Distortion is exactly what the name implies; Just Distortion. No bells, no whistles,
just great distortion at a great price. What, no knobs?! We designed the pedal with a preset distortion setting. Great for all types of music and playing styles.

Morley-JustDistortion-guts1

Box is all plastic and i think this one is far from unbreakable. Would not dare to stomp on this with my heavily overweight slob of a body. The traces are a lot wider than what you’d expect though. So the circuit inside isn’t that bad. The design itself is something you would expect from Morley. A quad TL074 opamp with 1N4148 diodes for clippers. Although named correctly, the schematic found online can’t be for this unit as there are no trimmers for gain/tone/volume on the board – like drawn on that schematic.. That’s why i’m not including the link as usual.

Morley-JustDistortion-guts2

We’ve seen missing controls like the “gain” from Digitech DDM Death Metal, but that was simply right thing to do to take off from the design. Here.. I’m not completely convinced if no controls was the right decision. On the other hand, the enclosure is among the worst plastic ones ever made. I’ve seen some other pedals in this same style of box, but just can’t remember what the brands were. So i’m guessing that this was a commercial test to see if it will sell. No wonder it didn’t. Other than the well made board, i really have nothing positive to say. Bad design, ugly and brittle plastic box and the sound…

How does it sound?
Apparently the mid honk is the coolest thing in the world. Sounds like a bastard child of  Boss DS-1 and Ibanez TS9 with no controls. Soundwise, the pedal does not convince me much. Honking mid-gained unit. It has some personality to it and part of that comes from you not being able to tweak it. Think of Rocktek DIR-01 with all the controls maxed. That box should not have any controls even though it does. This one? Could it sound any better with controls? Not sure. Only good thing i can think of is the fact that these are pretty rare and becoming more rare everyday.

Morley CCB Crystal Chorus

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Yeah. I know. it’s december already, but this is the last uncovered chorus pedal in my collection for the moment. I want to cover it now – so that i don’t have to write about choruses for a while…

Morley-CCB-CrystalChorus

What is it?
Morley CCB Crystal Chorus from Jewel Box series. Made in US around 1995-98. Serial number maimed by velcro (grrrr!).

The aesthetics are heart warming. The box is too big, but the white sparkle coating makes amends. Knob pointers are glowing in the dark and the graphic design reminds me of something 50’s.  Stylish and very neat. Blinking LED for the indicator that shows you the LFO speed is also pleasing.

Morley-CCB-CrystalChorus-guts1

I thought i heard something that wasn’t like on most standard analog chorus designs. Taking a look at the schematic confirms my suspicion. The chip driving the 1024 stage 3207 BBD isn’t your standard timer. As always with Morley, the buffering and mixing is done with a quad opamp. Motorola MC3403 acts as a LFO and the timer for BBD is created with CD4007 and CD4047 CMOS chips. To be honest, i’ve never seen that don before. The stereo output  is just simply splitted and connects only when the first output is in use. It could have been inverted, but then the board would not have been big enough for Morley engineer.

Morley-CCB-CrystalChorus-guts2

There’s also user manual available with example setting. Those ara always fun.

Negative points come from the big box and the rate knob. And a small additional minus for the board layout. The ground strip that connects the left and right side goes under the battery hole of the board. It’s not too convincing way to ground the board.

How does it sound?
Smooth and gets quite flangerish with depth maxed. Feel of the rate knob isn’t perfect as the best part of the sweep is located at last 10 percent of the sweep. Schematic shows that pot to be a log taper one, so it undoubtedly is performing in the best possible manner. If you ever get a chance to play with one, try to place it in front of some massive distortion unit like Boss MD-2. That’ll give you something a lot closer to synth than a guitar. Soundwise, this turned out to be my favourite chorus.