Archive for the ‘Danelectro’ Category

Danelectro CD-1 Distortion

Saturday, October 4th, 2014


What is it?
Danelectro CD-1 Distortion from Cool Cat series. Made in china around 2009.

The number of good sounding units in this series seems to be on the rise. Took me a while to get one and to tell the truth, this didn’t come too cheap either. But i wanted one, so i went out and got one. Simple as that. One part of the attraction was that all there was on the internet was just a couple of guesses about what the circuit could be. Usual guesses pointed out this being a derivative of the “standard” Danelectro distortion, the Fab Tone from original series. Granted, that design may have been circulating in the brand’s catalog more than enough. But. Since there were nothing more than guesses based on nothing around, i felt it like a duty to shed a little light on this subject. I’ll say one thing before going any further. The box feels and sounds nothing like the Fab Tone.


Opening the box up, no surprises at this point. Just a standard Cool Cat series jack and switch board inside. But as we all know, the effect itself is on that other board. Four transistors and a dual opamp. At first glance, the first transistor looks like it’s a buffer, and there’s two separate pairs of clipping diodes. Nope. No clue about what’s it based on, at least not just by taking a quick look at it.


But several hours, a multimeter, a few liters of coffee and several packs of smokes. Yup. Now we know. At first the design didn’t ring any bells, even though it should have. So, we have an input buffer, followed by a non-inverting clipping amplifier with diodes in feedback loop. Then we have hard clipping stage, followed by dual gyrator-based tone section and a buffer for output.


Design is, in other words, pretty impressive distortion design. At the moment of my trace it really should have been obvious to me. Anyone ever heard of a distortion unit called Distortion Master? Here we have that, almost verbatim, with slight modifications on the tone controls and the gyrators they control. May that mean whatever, but still, we have $200 sound in $40 package.

How does it sound?
Very good. Not too far from those distortions that try to capture the feel of old Marshall amps pushed to the max. Not too high in gain, but well balanced and sufficient. Gain control goes from overdrive tones to big distortion sounds. EQ section works well and sounds like you really don’t have any need for a separate mids control. I would go so far to call this one of the greatest rock distortions. In one word, usable. But we should remember it is heavily based on an existing pedal that is currently manufactured. Still. Wonderful sound to have in one’s toolbox of sounds.

Danelectro Wasabi AD-1 Forward/Reverse Delay

Monday, September 22nd, 2014


What is it?
Danelectro Wasabi Forward/Reverse Delay. Made in china, 2003.

Another prime example of Danelectro’s ability to create unique box designs. There are five designs for this series.. Or we should possibly talk about Wasabi as a separate brand. But we won’t. Everything about the pedal simply screams Danelectro, even though the Wasabi was intented to be a new brand altogether. You may or can think or make what you want of it. I’m still calling these Danelectro Wasabis.

Of the series of five effects (Distortion, Overdrive, “Rock-a-Bye”, Chorus/Trem and this delay), i somehow felt the biggest draw to to this one. And i happened to score one for very reasonable price. Previous owner had made pretty profound attachment to the bottom plate. Apparently to have the ability of sticking the pedal to velcro’ed pedalboard without damaging the bottom rubbers. Noble effort, but it took me hours to get the sticky glue residue off from the rubber. Anyway. Forward/Reverse Delay? Maybe the status of Back Talk reverse delay was one of the inspirations sources for creating a design with both modes. But. Let’s go things through in traditional manner. Opening the bottom


Complex SMD board with components smaller than usual. Well, the enclosure could have housed bigger boards, but battery slot always takes its share of the room available. Lifting the jack board which also houses part of the design, we have several big chips close to each other. I think my desktop computer’s motherboard has lower component density than this one. Complexity grows with added features in linear manner.


We have standard digital delay with your everyday controls, delay mix (from all dry to all wet), delay time (called “speed”?! and this one goes from 0 ms to 3000 ms – that’s 3 seconds) and amount or repeats (from one to infinite oscillating space mass). In addition to these rather standard controls we have Hi Cut, which cuts higher frequencies from every repeat. Not completely unlike the feature we find in Danelectro’s Reel Echo desktop/pedal unit. One push of a colorful button turn the repeats in reverse. Oh. Let’s not forget the tap tempo feature. Or in this case, a tap speed. This is a great addition to controls mentioned above.  There’s one more thing. The input selector. We have different input level setting for humbuckers, single coils and general “off” setting. These settings set the input level to suit the guitar used. May be useful in those cases where one wants to use the delay with active pickups or after another device with too high output level.

It’s not a competition to any high end delay box, but when these were available ten years ago, the bang for buck factor was pretty respectable.

How does it sound?
Could be better. In fact, a lot better. The features are very attractive, but the issues come with the sounds. To my ears the reverse mode is about as good sounding as the one found in Digitech’s X-series Delay. And that’s the best part. The raw, fast digital attack of the basic delay is nearly painful to listen to. Maybe even worse than the awful attack we hear on Boss DD-3. For drone/ambient folks, this makes a fine toy. And possibly for home guitarists as well. It could also be used as a shock effect when recording. But as a delay to be used daily on a pedalboard? No. Look elsewhere.

Danelectro CTO-1 Transparent Overdrive

Monday, September 8th, 2014


What is it?
Danelectro CTO-1 Transparent overdrive from Cool Cat series. Made in china, late 00’s.

It seems that CO-1 and CTO-1 from the series are becoming rare. There was a time one could snatch one of either one for peanuts through auction sites. I believe these two were manufactured in very limited numbers and follwed by their successors, CO-2 and CTO-2 respectively. Quick replacements may have been due to the ciruits being really close, if not exact clones of other manufacturers designs. So without further due, let’s check out Danelectro’s Timmy.

Once the box is opened, the standard Dano universal jack and switch board stare at you. Nothing special there.


Judging by the size of the circuit on the board, i see nothing special in why modern chinese rip offers can squeeze similar circuit in miniature box. One dual opamp, four clipping diodes and a few other parts. Mostly SMD, but as with many CC series boxes, there are a few metallized polyester caps in the mix. If you are interested in a schematic, i suggest you do an image search for Paul Cochrane Timmy and omit the switch for the second diode pair.


I got mine through an auction site with reasonable price as it was defected. Missing knobs and DC jack was torn off the board. Quick fix for the DC was just to resolder the jack. I tried to source original knobs through my country’s importer, but the answer was no. Apparently Dano isn’t in the business of selling spare parts for any of their pedals. With little a ingenuity i tweaked couple of the knobs i had to get the controls to look relatively close to the original ones.

Onc e again, the biggest downside to this effect is the concentric pot for Bass/Treble. It’s not like you need to tweak those controls all the time, but turning one usually tends to turn the other at the same time.

How does it sound?
Like Timmy. Usable and neat sounding overdrive. Shines on lower gain settings when used to push an amp. Treble and Bass controls have usable range, although the minumum settings are not that usable. There is some clear mid hump present, but it keeps the guitar’s tone pretty well in tact. Nice thing to have.

Danelectro CM-1 Metal

Saturday, September 6th, 2014


What is it?
Danelectro CM-1 Metal from Danelectro Cool Cat series. Made in china late 00’s.

Another metal distortion. While Dano’s Cool Cat series has pleasing and personal enclosure, most designs seem to be simple rip offs with very little original in them designwise. Currently i’m not sure what this particular unit based on, but everything about it is pretty much on par with all the other units in the series.


We’ll find three separate boards inside. One universal for 3PDT stomps switch, one for in/out/dc jacks. These boards are, like i said, universal and the same ones are used throughout the series. The bottom board is the effect. Construction is mostly SMD with couple of the caps being metalized polyester. Three oapms are running the show.


I’m pretty sure this is a slightly modified derivative of some other pedal. Just can’t point my finger to any directions right now. While it may look pleasing, the control knobs are horrible. Sure they are meant to be “set and forget”, but that set once part is killing me. Dual pots with stacked concentric knobs are not a bad thing if executed like in many boss pedals. Here, the turning of the either level usually results in both setting being shifted. Annoying.

I’d be rather interested to find out what this is based on. If you have any solid information, drop a line in the comments. I may study the connections at one point. If i happen to get interested enough.  To sum it – Standard metal distortion. Not bad, but not too great either.

How does it sound?
Like so may other motal distortions. EQ section is powerful and gain plus level setting are sufficient. The overall tone reminds me a bit of Boss HM-2, but here we have separate mid control. I do find this usable metal distortion, but it’ll always stay behind HM-2 and HM-3. I’d say this goes to the same category with DOD American Metal and Death Metal. Again, not bad, but not too great either.

Danelectro DJ-20 Rocky Road Spinning Speaker

Monday, July 21st, 2014


What is it?
Danelectro DJ-20 Rocky Road Spinning Speaker from Danelectro Mini series. Made in china around mid 00’s.

Leslie simulators are one sub-genre of effects that i haven’t had a lot of interest on. Is it a tremolo? A vibe? A Chorus? No. It’s a Leslie simulator. Which translates to it being a tremolo, vibe and delayless chorus. In essence, it is a amplitude modulation effect, designed to give you a feel of a spinning speaker-like illusion. Sort of like a stereo tremolo/vibe that goes ping-pong. In fact, a Leslie simulator is nothing more than a marketing scheme. Rarer the idea for the pedal, the better chance to sell them.


On the technical side, the effect is created with a HE83015 8-bit micro-controller. There is a schematic for the complete circuit on the builder forums (you’ll need to log in to FSB to see it, so no link at the moment). Basically we have a overdrive/distortion that’s given to the programmed digital controller for amplitude modulation in stereo (or that’s how i read it). And once again, my shortcomings in the area of digital micro-controllers prevent me from digging any deeper. For now. So it is a lot more complicated than what you would expect from a stereo tremolo.

Design has peculiarities like only Dano can deliver. The Ramp up/down feature  only works in fast setting. And the distortion, or the Drive as it’s called…

How does it sound?
Um. I don’t know what to say. The drive part sounds pretty awful with its broken sounding clipping. As a huge disadvantage, we also have a volume boost when effect is activated. Only good feature is the ramp. This offers fun and wild modulation speed changes that are gradual, not instant.

This unit has gained some status, but why.. Beats me. Nice novelty toy, but not by far a good, usable effect. If a real Leslie sounded like this, i have a hard time believing anyone would have ever used one for anything. To sum it up – this definitely has something inside that we don”t see every day in pedals. But that doesn’t make it any more good than what it actually is. A novelty toy.

Danelectro DJ-15 Chicken Salad Vibrato

Saturday, July 5th, 2014


What is it?
Danelectro DJ-15 Chicken Salad Vibrato from Mini series in plastic housing. Made in china around mid 00’s.

Where tuners and couple others in this mini series are just bad, there are a number of great units. This one is the greatest deal. Cheap vibrato effects are scarce, so when Dano released their miniature take on the classic Uni-Vibe with ridiculous price tag, it was bound to become instant classic and a hit. I do not have any idea how many of these have been sold, but i believe the number is big. I managed to grab mine as a new unit from one german retailer. It didn’t come too cheap, but for really good effect, the price can’t be an issue. These seem to sell for a reasonable prices on auction sites too, but usually there are many people bidding on them.


If you do a web search for this, you’ll find a number of discussions on how to rehouse and true bypass the unit. This may be a good candidate for these changes, as will the Tuna Melt Tremolo. Boards and work quality are similar to others in the series, meaning that there isn’t too much to write home about. I did spot a schematic floating around the web.  I’m not sure if the changes noted in the schematic are for the factory units, but the drawing itself. If the lamp type has been changed during the production, this would make my unit the post-2004 unit as the black blob in the main board seems to be a LED.


Looking at the schematic, there are four LDR stages that create the modulation. LFO part is made up in manner that’s very effective. But hey, that LFO looks rather familiar to me. Yup. It’s the same configuration we’ll find in original Uni-Vibe. There are some values that aren’t verbatim, but the function is more or less the same. Even the modulation stages correlate between these two designs, even though the Uni-Vibe uses transistors for those stages and Chicken Salad does the same thing with dual opamps.

So. As usual with Dano designs, the similarities are there, while the circuit isn’t exactly straight up clone. To sum it up, the Chicken Salad is your awesome chance to have Uni-Vibe sounds for a very reasonable price. It is all plastic and not too well made with its standard Dano electronic switching. But if these things do not scare you, it’s a very nice score.

How does it sound?
Wobbly and warm with slight breakup on some depth settings. Not squeeky clean, but that’s part of the appeal on Uni-Vibe sound. So yes, it sounds good. And it’s a vibe as any vibe, without any obvious flaws. Range of he controls is sufficient and goes from mild to wild. Can’t say much more. This sounds like very expensive and great effect in a small plastic housing. And it comes with a great price. How can you not love it?

Danelectro DTE-1 Reel Echo

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014


What is it?
Danelectro DTE-1 Reel Echo. Made in china in late 90’s.

Talking about action packed pedal. The desktop housing is rather big, but i’d call this stylish. For the visual design, features and general build quality, this is really one of those must have Dano boxes. Even the surf green color is pleasing. I could come up with more superlatives, but let’s go forward and talk about the features.

So this pedal, or more like a desktop unit, is a tape/reel echo simulator. Big aluminum knob on the left controls the mix between clean and echoed signals. in other words, between wet and dry. Big knob on the right is our feedback, or repeat as it’s labeled here, control. Delay time is controlled with a huge slide potentiometer, and the time ranges from zero to 1500 milliseconds. These three are the basic controls found in almost every single delay/echo effect. What happens with the rest of the controls, that’s where things get interesting.


The small control in the middle is our “Lo-Fi” knob. This feature cuts a little highs from every following repeat, meaning that if the knob is maxed, the repeats will die in the same manner as on old tape echo units with worn out tapes. Warble switch offers simulation of a stretched tape. Tone switch selects the overall filtering to sound like circuit designer’s approximation of a solid state and tube based echo units.

On top of these features, we have S.O.S. stomp switch. S.O.s. in this case stands for Sound on Sound. This feature enables the pedal to act as a poor man’s loop recorder. With repeats set to sufficient level and the Lo-Fi set on minimum, one can play a loop and leave it on infinite repeats. Then just jump on the S.O.S. switch and play on top of that “recorded” phrase. I know i shouldn’t write like this. But it’s rather rare i get this excited over a unit…


On the technical side, the design is all SMD and digital. This time i wasn’t even expecting any super-analog-wow. For the price these units sell and with the features they pack, it surely can’t be any analog-based design. And it isn’t. Those bigger chips are pretty much unintelligible to me.

The main board houses the effect and there is another slip of board for the switches. Modern board that simply screams Dano. Although i do find those cap and resistor placings rather appealing. Features could have been easily squeezed in a one fourth of the enclosure size. Enclosure size will be a big turn off for many. And i can’t think of any real use for the sound on sound feature. Other than for rehearsing or fooling around at home. These are the biggest negative issues i can come up with.

How does it sound?
Great. Simply put. Unit offers a lot of delay tones that have a nice vintage feel to them. Even though it’s a digital design, it doesn’t shine through. Only slight downside to this is the clean tone. True vintage sounds need that crappy low fidelity to them. This also breaks down to taste. From short slapback to second and a half delay times, from really clean to fun lo-fi warbles and tube sound emulation without any added  unnatural, ugly sounding distortion. This manages to do it. Very high bang for a buck factor. Pedal board friendly? Maybe not. But that aside, as a high quality delay/echo unit? Next to priceless.

Danelectro DJ-14 Fish & Chips 7-Band EQ

Sunday, June 29th, 2014


What is it?
Danelectro DJ-14 Fish & Chips 7-band graphic EQ from Mini-series. Made in china around mid 00’s.

The first thing that comes to mind is the Boss GE-7. Could this be one of those simple redesigns that feel and work like the design that it mimics? Sure does feel and work like it. Yes. This is a very close approximation of your big brand 7-band EQ pedals. Sure enough. Anyone could compose a graphic EQ with little engineering skills through a careful studying. So even if the frequencies are close to any other brand’s design, i would still not call this a complete ripoff.


All SMD boards with unusual battery-in-the-middle box layout. There are other with this arrangement too, but the sideways battery slot is more common for the series.

From playing around with the effects for the time i have, i’ve noticed that biggest use for EQ pedals is when i want to cut out frequencies from the instrument (may that be what ever). For some reason, i’ve never considered using a graphic EQ as a booster. Every single one i have (or had) are more than capable of boosting the desired frequency or frequencies in clean and neat way. This could be a road that needs some exploring. Although there are number of booster designs that are meant for.. Boosting…

How does it sound?
Clear and clean. Cuts and boosts when and where needed. Usability for this unit is very high. Pedal board-wise, the footprint is small and the standard Dano electronic bypass isn’t that horrible either. Good, clean sounding EQ with good range for the controls. This is one of those Dano Minis that should not be overlooked.

Danelectro DJ-13 French Toast Octave Distortion

Thursday, June 19th, 2014


What is it?
Danelectro DJ-13 French Toast Octave Distortion. Made in china around mid 00’s.

This one is one of the more classic designs in the series. The internet reveals that the design is 1:1 with a classic fOXX Tone Machine with added standard Dano Mini series electronic bypass switching. In other words, it is a four transistor fuzz that features a switchable octave up. There are a few schematics available, here’s one from Gaussmarkov.


Looking at the schematic shows an gain stage at the input, followed by a transistor stage that is responsible for the octave up. This stage uses two germanium diodes to mangle the signal in octave mode. Diode arrangement isn’t completely different to one found in latter version of Roger Mayer’s Octavia, while the setup leading to those diodes is. On this point we have our “gain” control. Yup. You can call it what ever you want, but it is simple volume control setting the level for the next stage. After that there’s one more driver stage pushing the tone control, which isn’t completely different to one found in Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi. Not completely alike either. Finally, there is one more gain stage before pushing the signal to the the final volume control.

There have been numerous boutique clones of the Tone Machine around for years, but seeing one coming in this price range by big brand was new and exciting to me. This, in addition to Chili Dog Octave (and a few others), are the greatest offerings in Mini Series. Definitely recommended pedal – if you can look beyond the plastic housing..

How does it sound?
Wild and great. Amazing redesign if the Tone Machine. Mean, piercing up octaves. It’s in no way clean or dull, but lively with tons of harmonics, for both non-octave and octave modes. For the price – this is the closest you’ll get to having a classics Tone Machine sound.

Danelectro DJ-25 Blueberry Muffin Chromatic Tuner

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014


What is it?
Danelectro DJ-25 Blueberry Muffin Chromatic Tuner from Dano Mini series. Made in china around mid 00’s..

So this is the “fixed” revision of the Lemon Pitcher tuner pedal, the first one i called utter crap in the series. The colour of the unit is pretty close to DJ-11. The main visual difference is the “#” on the display. Well. Does the chromatic remake save the tuners for the series?


You guessed it. No. It doesn’t.

It’s similar to its predecessor, offering slightly higher accuracy and half note support. Still the dark illuminated old school LCD display still makes the unit completely unroadworthy. The greatest single thing that offers any interest is the use of the same PCB for the lower buffer board. Tuning results feel are more accurate and the needle seems more stable when compared to  Lemon Pitcher, but none of those do not address the biggest issue of dim LCD display.

So yes. Danelectro tried to make up for the mistakes with Lemon Pitcher. But failed again on this chromatic revision. On the brighter side, this one stands pretty well against DOD Tuna.

How does it sound?
As a tuner it doesn’t, but for usability? No. There isn’t enough of that to mention either. I can only think of one reason to buy one – You’d need to be collecting the series. For a tuner you want to use full time? Try anything else, or make your life easier by coughing up the needed amount of cash for a Boss or TC Electronic tuner.