Archive for the ‘Vintage Series’ Category

Danelectro DSD-1 Shift Daddy

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

Danelectro DW-1 Dan-o-Wah

Thursday, March 26th, 2015


What is it?
Danelectro DW-1 Dan O Wah. Made in china in around 1997.

I sourced this one a long time ago. If i recall correctly, i got it in a trade and there was (and still is) very little traces of use. Gee. I wonder why. That being my first thought about all Dano rocker pedals, i didn’t have too high hopes. I do recall this not working at all when it first arrived. After checking it, the only issue was just loose solder joint at the DC jack. Unit worked fine with a battery and that’s how the seller deemed it as “working”. Quick and simple fix later i was ready to do some more studying.


The outside of the unit is per the rest of the rocker pedals. Looking like a car and having it’s rubber feet looking like wheels. As the controls are not conventional pots, the idea of having the user manual printed in the bottom is not a bad one.


The number of features pictured in the manual shows that there must be more to the circuit than just a standard wah. After all, we are talking about six different wah voicings, all with and without added distortion and up octaves.


Opening the bottom plate confirms my suspicions. Yeah. This hasn’t been drawn over a coffee break. This amount of components and features is something that comes by once in a while, but it’s not your average “let’s just copy the cry baby and leave it at that”. I’m not going to dig too deep into how it is made. I do have my suspicions about the electronic design(s), but i’ll talk about those a bit later.


To begin with, the electronic design has number of switch circuits to select between the modes and banks. The idea of using “banks” in simple analog effect isn’t that common. The “exhaust pipes” act as push buttons that choose the wah mode and if the octave is added or not. Bank, wah and distortion can be turned on with the stomp switches on the front end. This means that the octave can be used in the other section of 60’s/70’s style modes and the second can be without it. Distortion can be engaged from the top buttons separately.


Through hole components on the wah/octave board seem nice. Mostly metalized polyester caps. If the enclosure was metal or just sturdier, this might have been a big hit. Other than  the enclosure, there is very little wrong with this effect.

How does it sound?
At first, pretty standard wah with couple of different voicings on the switches. Add the octave up and the good vibes are coming closer. Add the distortion, and we’re at tonal beach sipping ice cold pina coladas with no hurry to go anywhere. Wah tones are, well. Standard. Not too far off from your basic Cry Baby and/or Vox wahs. The distortion feels generic, but it works great with the wah. Now, when the distortion and octave are both added it’s almost like we have fOXX Tone machine paired with vintage wah. Not bad. But the platicky feel and utter unroadworthiness give their weight for the unit. Due to these shortcomings, DW-1 won’t ever reach the status the design would deserve. Close, but no cigar.

Danelectro DW-2 Trip L Wah

Monday, March 16th, 2015


What is it?
Danelectro DW-2 Trip L Wah. Made in china between 1996 and 1999. This is one of three rocker pedals i’ve categorized as belonging to “Vintage Series”.

Enclosure design. The biggest thing that separates Danelectro from the rest. Same thing goes to their guitars and amps too. I’m under the impression that the old ones are good. The relaunch of the brand in 1996 made things fun, but with everything being cool, the quality control was trumped by low prices and volume of manufacturing. The Trip L Wah sure does look interesting. The unit looks like a car with zebra paint. This is the greatest and the most unique feature here.


The enclosure is made of cheap plastic and the designers have inarguably been after a special look instead of a usable, roadworthy pedal. Thickness of the plastic for the enclosure and as well as for the rocker board feel nowhere near sturdy. This feature drops the interest and user value to the mud for most. Me included. In other words, these pedals are entry-level toys, not real tools. The image below shows the real deal. The enclosure, including the metal bottom plate, is too lightweight to use. So Danelectro solved this by adding weight in form of metal bars.


Usually, if the Danelectro visual design is completely different, the insides offer weird features too. For this one, not so much. The name Trip L Wah made me think of something strange in vein of the “60’s series” hippie boxes. You know, like what the talk box, reverse delay and “sitar emulation” offer. But no. We have three different wah voicing modes in a single pedal. Disappointing? Yes.


Pretty standard and rather boring bass wah, treble wah and middle wah modes. So sadly, it isn’t TRIP l-wah, but just triple wah.Due to following, i had little interest in figuring out how it works or how it’s electronically made.

How does it sound?
Rather dull. Three voicing modes, but this still offers nothing that you can’t get out of any other cheap wah. And those usually come in big metal boxes that can take years of use on the road. This wouldn’t last a weekend minitour. But it does make a real cool looking practice pedal for those who want to, well. Practice with their socks on. Decent tones for bedroom wahhin’. But if we’re honest, this serves the best as a decorative item. Sort of like a prelude for the Fab series in terms of enclosure plastic thickness. Cool looking thing to have, but next to useless.

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 DSR-1 Spring King

Thursday, March 20th, 2014


What is it?
Danelectro DSR-1 Spring King spring reverb. Made in china around 1998.

Pedals using real spring tanks inside them seem to be quite rare. There are tons of different digital variations that try to emulate the original spring sound from many brands around. The biggest reason for the absence of springs inside any pedals must be the size. The length of the springs affect their sound and anything shorter than 20cm will most likely be too short of a reverb. So this time i wasn’t surprised that the circuit board itself was quite small inside the massive box. And it is with all SMD construction. Taking a closer look at the SMD ICs, there’s a PT2399 digital delay/echo chip in there. So, to compensate the shortish spring length, the design is a hybrid – utilizing a digital delay chip to get clear slap back effect in addition to analog spring sound. The three controls take care of the attenuating and slight boosting overall sound with the Volume control. The Tone seems to boost highs when maxed and the Reverb is a mixer control that blends the digital chip and the spring unit with the signal.


If i wouldn’t have taken a look at the chips, i would have expected this to be all analog design. So the overall “meh” was a bit of a letdown. Nevertheless, it is a good and clever design. And it does have the springs in there, which do affect the reverbed sound. But no. It is not 100% analog spring reverb. The springs are Accutronics/Belton BS3AB2C1E, a “tank” with three springs.


There’s also one more, very cool, but simple feature. The kick pad. While it’s not connected to anything, it’s simply a rubber pad glued on the top of the enclosure. Kicking it or stomping on it makes the box naturally shake. Which leads to the tank shaking and giving out the uncontrollable spring action – like heard on many surf records. Nice feature in addition to quite unique and, like i already said, clever design.

Modding the PT2399 part for fully controllable delay in addition to springs should be doable. But. I think i’ll keep the unit as it is.

How does it sound?
Good. Very good. At first i would not have noticed the digital delay that was present. So i was already patting myself on the back for an amazing deal of the analog spring reverb pedal. So the disappointment may be biasing me a bit. Without that fact i would have probably declared this unit the greatest sounding gift from the Danelectro catalog ever produced. But that aside, the sound is definitely wet enough and the controls are sufficient. Very nice, big box.