Posts Tagged ‘Pitch’

Danelectro DSD-1 Shift Daddy

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

DSD1-ShiftDaddy

What is it?
Danelectro DSD-1 Shift Daddy Echo Pitch Shifter from original series of rocker pedals. Made in china around late 90’s.

I must admit that i was interested. And local music store happened to have one left behind. The unit had seen better days as it had sat in direct sunlight for years. Still unused, but with visible ageing and discolouring. The photo below may not seem much, but the flames should be in a lot deeper red. Otherwise the unit is in great shape.

DSD1-ShiftDaddy-1

Had to snap a shot of the tail lights too. Some dust around the edges, but nothing that a moist rag won’t fix.

DSD1-ShiftDaddy-2

What comes to the features of this unit, we have something not so common. Or that’s how it seems at first. Sticker with “this ain’t a wah” suggests that we are in for a treat. Sure there are a few Danelectro designs that are out there and this does apply to Shift Daddy as well. Echo Pitch Shifter. What comes to mind first is a weird digital effect with mashed up features borrowed from Boss pitch shifters and delays. But actually. No. Although some may consider these as valuable tools, and are amazed by the weirdness, i must disagree to some degree.

DSD1-ShiftDaddy-3

Why? Because once i fired this up, i knew exactly what it was all about. The rocker simply controls the delay time of a PT2399 chip. So in other words, this is nothing more but a quite standard delay design where the delay time setting has been moved to a pot controlled by foot. Rest of the pots (feedback and mix) are replaced with push button switches that look like exhaust pipes. So in fact, there’s nothing even resembling a real pitch shifting effect. Just basic delay unit.

DSD1-ShiftDaddy-4

There you have it. I had certain hopes for it, but those all got stumped when i played with the unit. And checked the insides. From the feature point of view, this is sadly the dullest one in all three rocker pedals ever made by Danelectro. You know, there are real tool like delay units that accept the use of external expression pedal for the delay time. Usually those are way better all digital designs too.

How does it sound?
Decent, but not much to write home about. It’s a delay. Nothing more. And it’s a digital PT2399 based delay, so do not expect anything else. It does what it does in a good way, but there just isn’t nothing special about it’s tone. The delay time range of the chip isn’t that great for this type of application. When the delay times goes from something like 40ms to 400ms, the sweep acts just way too fast and this makes it just plain annoying to use. It’s not a pitch shifter. Just a delay with time control on a rocker. And it doesn’t do even that feature extraordinary well. Disappointing, but there is still a bit of Danelectro magic in there. Not the worst, but not good. Proceed with caution.

Digitech WH-II Whammy II

Monday, January 5th, 2015

WhammyII

What is it?
Digitech Whammy II, made in canada. Possibly sometime in the 90’s.

It’s rather rare occasion that someone gets a chance of buying a rare western made unit for a low price. For me, the day this one came for sale was one of those rare occasions. I paid good amount of money for this, but didn’t check out any auction sites or anything to determine what there usually go for. And when i did… Boy was i glad i bought this. In reality, i paid about a quarter of what these usually sell for. Of course, the unit had seen use and the switches weren’t making connections in the best possible manner. Nothing that i can’t fix myself though. But in all, the unit was in nice condition. Sure. I had to come up with a power supply for it, but being the pedal freak that i am, there is a medium sized cardboard box full of different DC and AC supplies in my possession. The pedal is powered with 9V AC supply, which isn’t that uncommon – i had one suitable at hand straight away. I cleaned the unit a bit and the condition isn’t bad. Slight wear and tear, but nothing remarkable. What was more interesting was that the labels say “Made in Canada”. I had no idea Digitech had done any manufacturing in maple leaf flag country. But by the looks of it, a lot more brands should have turned to canadians to do their work for them.

WhammyII-guts

The look of the build quality is very pleasing. Sturdy and strong. There is a lot of the board that has been manufactured by hand and that is always a great selling point for me. I hadn’t been too interested in any version of whammys due to simple fact that i do not know how to use one. Whammys are great toys to fool around with, but just don’t see myself having one on my board. Nor would i see myself using it regularly. But while the effect themselves are not the peak of interest, the genre is. Foot controllable pitch shifting. Good idea that has been in the shadow of many other genres since the beginning of time.

The one thing that surprised me the most was the foot control. I did assume the control was done with a pot, like for nearly all the basic wah pedals (Vox, Cry Baby etc.), but this is not the case with a Whammy. The control here is optical. Meaning that there is a LED that moves closer and further away from a light dependent component that is inside that cardboard box on the board. What do you know! There is always something new to learn!

As the features go, we have out rocker pedal, a bypass switch, and. The mode switch on WHII is a stomp too! One can change the mode of the effet by stomping on it. The later Whammies have a know switch for this. The modes are harmonies from octaves to 5th and octaves from one to two. Both down and up. The design isn’t polyphonic, so it doesn’t act well with chords, but it tracks both up and down harmonies/octaves very well with single notes.

How does it sound?
I can only compare this to Whmmy IV at the moment as these two are the only ones i have. But when i do compare them, it just seems like IV is the exactly same sounding effect, just made cheaper in asia. Whammy II sounds like a very decent foot controllable pitch shifter. It can be used as a harmonizer or an octaver by simply not touching the rocker pedal. The modes work well and sound good. Maybe the low octaves aren’t exactly as good as they are in Arion MOC-1, but still very good. As for the harmonies and shimmering up octaves.. Just beatiful. Man i’m glad i have this unit.

EHX Holy Stain

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

EHX-HolyStain

What is it?
Electro Harmonix Holy Stain from XO series.Made in united states in 2010(ish).

Once again. Put a pedal, any pedal, for sale with a broken switch and a price tag around 20% of a new unit. You bet i’ll be there, bombing your email and throwing the little money i have against the computer screen. This was one of those. Simply swapped the defected 3PDT bypass switch and did a little cleaning. Unit works as it should. Or at least close to it.

Checking out the insides shows a DSP based big board. All done in current, dull EHX manner. I’m guessing the drive/fuzz/distortion is done with transistors and the rest is digital. It’s sort of like a modern hybrid.

EHX-HolyStain-guts

Let’s talk about the features a bit. To begin with, the Holy Stain looks like a cross breed between a Muff and a Holy Grail Reverb, with a few added extras. The main stomp switch is our bypass that sets the overall effect on and off. The basic side is controlled by two rotary switches, a tone control and a volume control. The first rotary selects between clean, fuzz or drive modes. The second selects overall tone color between bright, dark and warm. Tone control acts pretty much like the one on big muff pedals and volume is rather self-explanatory. All that is used to set the base tone.

Then we have the rest. Foot switch selects the digital effect mode between room reverb, hall reverb, a pitch shifter and a tremolo. These four modes share the two controls for all of them, the mix and amount. Mix sets the blend of this extra effect against the clean/fuzz/drive tone coming from the first part. The amount acts as a decay time setting for both reverbs. It also sets the frequency of the pitch shifter mode and the rate of the tremolo. Amount can be rocked with a external expression pedal, which makes the tremolo mode a lot more interesting and the pitch shifter to have similar features to a Whammy.

Limited, but still quite a set of features. These usually come pretty cheap, even as new. But if you think about the features and compare them to what you actually use – or want to use. For me, i would probably gone for separate drive and effects sections with a stomp to engage/disengage the effects other than the drive side. Sure there is notable amount of outside the box thinking when the designer has set the features, but…

How does it sound?
I’ll start with the good and go on about the bad a bit later. The Fuzz mode is actually good with its crisp lead sounds. On fuzz mode, the color settings are usable too, even though i tend to leave it on warm. Both reverbs are ok too, with a slight note explained further…

Off to the bad. First off, to me (yup, may be heresy, but i’m talking about my taste) the clean and drive modes are just bad. First thing that comes to mind is the horrible distortion section found in Digitech RP6 multi-effect. Color and tone controls won’t save those, no matter what. Other reason why the RP6 pops up to mind is the latency. All the digital effect modes are fine if you have your mix control below 35% mark. Higher than that, the guitar signal has already gone out of the speakers before the verbs/shifter/tremolo even think about touching the signal. Similar digital lag as heard on RP6.

One very good mode with almost usable multi-effect section – if you keep the mix down enough for it to work right. Otherwise… no.

Boss PS-5 Super Shifter

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Let’s do a month with Boss pedals only. Why? Because i can. Starting the Boss august with PS-5 Super Shifter…

Boss-PS5

What is it?
Boss PS-5 Super Shifter from Compact series. Made in taiwan in april 2008.

To begin with. As usual, i ran the serial number through the Bossarea.com serial number decoder. This is something i always do whenever i get a new Boss pedal for my collection. Of course i keep a list of all the Boss pedals in separate text file. Now this wouldn’t be anything interesting, but as the current collection is, i placed the PS-5 next to PH-3 on my list. I must have been slightly tired, but i couldn’t make a clear difference between the rows for PS-5 and PH-3 (ok, i always read/edit the list with an editor that uses fixed font). The reason i got confused for a second was that these both units are made in Taiwan and in april and in 2008. Plus when you think about the list with nicely tab formatted text, you’ll know the rows will have a lot in common. Super vs. Phase, PS-5 vs. PH-3 and the dates.  Anyway. Got this in a trade about couple of weeks later of when i first realized that i don’t have any dedicated “Harmonizer”, or “Pitch Shift” effects in my collection. Wasn’t actively looking to get one, but it just happened. The guy trading it told me that he thought it was a nice effect, but he didn’t seem to use it much.

Boss-PS5-guts1

Opening the bottom plate showed nothing of any surprise. A board filled with tiny SMD components and so many “via”s that i lost count after the first 15 seconds. (For those not familiar with what i’m talking about – the vias are tiny holes on the board that are meant to take the connection to the other side of the PCB.) Flipping the board over continues with the same. A few big digital chips and a few operational amplifiers. Not my closest target for affection, but clean and neat nevertheless.

Boss-PS5-guts2

Which means that i’m not able to discuss the design at the moment. Yup. I simply don’t understand it well enough. There isn’t a schematic available, but the user manual is rather interesting read.

The unit is very feature packed. At first i thought the features just look like a lot and the up shifting is the main deal. No. That’s not it. I’ve been only playing around with this unit for a few hours since i got it, but mixed lightly on the balance pot and finding the tuning and a scale. That’s how it starts. It’s basically Boss’ answer to Digitech’s Whammy if you take a expression pedal and attach it to the PS-5. That plus all the static settings.  There are two features worth mentioning, even after all that. The “T. Arm” mode. The stomp acts as a momentary switch when this mode is on. This way one can get a digital reproduction of a tremolo arm function that comes naturally with Stratocasters. The last mode is “Flutter”, which is another digital reproduction of the thing most of us do with a tremolo arm. The features are pretty complex, so i’ll just leave you with that. And the link above to the manual.

Sadly, these features leave a slightly bitter taste. The question that rises, is this supposed to be a real, usable professional tool or just a toy to play around with? Other than that, it feels rather solid.

How does it sound?
The reason that guy didn’t use this much? I too was a bit put off by the number of features at first. There is a harsh digital feel to the most sounds this spews out. But i found the pitch shifter feature to be gold. Once the right extra pitch for the scale and the reasonable balance is set, this circuit sounds very good and nearly natural – despite all the digital harshness. Placing a fuzz after this will take a lot of the digital signature away and well, it’ll sound next to awesome.

In all, there are way too many different types of sounds to say exactly how this sounds. Some of the features sound very good and they have a purpose. Others are just picture clear resemblance of some plastic Tomy My First Effect Pedal toy. Toy aspect doesn’t feel too good, but there are a lot of usable range on the controls. If the user knows the pedal well enough, it may be a nice tool on a studio desk. Maybe the designing engineers tried just a bit too hard on this one.