We all need wallop and wobble, but can a pair of reissues of ’70s devices really match up with the trickery of today? Review by Richard Purvis
Details: Overdrive Preamp 250 Overdrive Pedal. Made in China
Phasor 201: Phaser pedal. Made in China
Contact: Sound Technology – 01462 480000 – www.dod.com – www.soundtech.co.uk
Too young to remember DOD pedals from the first time around? Congratulations, that makes you nu-skool and the perpetual misery, disappointment and bitterness of middle age still lie ahead. Actually, it’s not that long since the DOD name disappeared from guitar shop windows, but most stompbox historians would surely agree this US maker’s heyday was a good three decades ago. The slogan back then was ‘America’s pedal’, but production had been switched to China by the end of the last century.
Now the brand is owned by DigiTech, which is in turn owned by Harman, and someone, somewhere in that hierarchy has decided that it’s time for some vintage reissues once again. These new versions of the company’s best-loved overdrive and phaser are available for a limited time only, according to the website, so we’ll have to wait and see if they lead to a more substantial DOD renaissance.
Both pedals have been updated for modern use but only minimally – most notably with the addition of true bypass and blue ‘on’ LEDs – and the original enclosure designs have been sprinkled with some metallic sparkle for a fresh but vintage-flavoured look. It doesn’t say anywhere on the pedals or the paperwork where they’re made, so we had to check with the distributors; well, it’s perhaps understandable that DOD should be coy about the continued Chinese involvement in the light of that lapsed slogan.
More important than all that, though, is the name: do we say ‘DOD’ as in three initials, or ‘Dod’ as in Ken Dodd, the buck-toothed comedian and inspiration behind the greatest band name ever, Ken Dodd’s Dad’s Dog’s Dead? The letters are indeed initials – those of David Oreste DiFrancesco, the engineer who co-founded the company in 1974 – so we’d best go with the former.
Overdrive Preamp 250
Even with the twinkling gold finish that stripey design looks distinctly old-fashioned – it’d go nicely with black leather trousers and a pink headband, but you wouldn’t call it embarrassingly ’80s in itself. The simplicity of the two-control design is timeless, and the knobs are knobbly enough for on-stage tweaking with the side of a dextrous boot. Gain and output Level are the essentials for just about any overdrive or distortion stomper; what you don’t get here is any kind of tone control. There’s a standard 9v adapter input at the top, and you have to remove the baseplate to change the battery. It feels light for a metal-cased pedal, but everything has been put together tight and true.
We’re told the new 250 has more output and headroom, so we’ll start our inspection with Gain down to zero and see if there’s any undistorted boost on offer. There is: with the Level control at halfway it’s just about impossible to tell the ‘overdriven’ signal from the bypass sound except for a light mist of added hiss, and cranking it up from there just makes things louder – loud enough, at the very top of the dial, to give the input stage of your amp a right old pounding.
Now we’ll cool things back down and start winding up the Gain instead. The overdrive comes on almost imperceptibly, at first just roughing up the edges and adding some thickness and compression to single notes, while power chords are smooth and chunky all the way past noon. By now we’ve stumbled into a playground of vintage rock and pre-grunge metal tones, and it’s spectacularly good fun. Lead lines are creamy but snarly, chords are huge with single-coils or humbuckers, and the only thing you might need to do when you’re really pushing it – apart from apologising to the neighbours, maybe with flowers – is stick to the bridge pickup to maintain clarity.
On the subject of clarity, the simplicity of this pedal brings two extra advantages: first, it cleans up nicely when you back off on your guitar’s volume control; and second, the overall timbre is never too far away from the bypass sound, so it really doesn’t need a tone circuit.
Unless it bothers you that DOD spells ‘phaser’ wrong, there’s not much to say about the look of this pedal – it’s like the other one, but blue. The basic build is the same, but now we’re only dealing with only one knob. This may seem like extreme minimalism but it’s worked for plenty of other tasty phasers down the years, including the classic MXR Phase 90 and Electro-Harmonix Small Stone – both of which were launched in 1974, DOD’s first year of existence.
Starting in the middle of the dial, the 201 offers all the liquid swirliness of a classic phaser and manages to avoid scooping out the core of your guitar’s natural voice. It’s pretty intense, but it doesn’t climb up and down through the sweep as clearly and naturally as you might expect. The first word that comes to mind is ‘throbby’… or even ‘pumpy’, which probably isn’t a word either.
In fact this is almost more of a Leslie simulator than a phaser, with a strong pulsating effect that you wouldn’t want to hear while suffering from seasickness. The range of the Speed control is very conservative: maxing it out makes the effect wibbly fast but not robotically weird, and at the other end of the dial it still goes through the whole cycle in about a second and a half. This one’s not going to break the scoreboard for versatility.
As there’s nothing else on here to twiddle, that just leaves the question of placement, so we’ll to break out the Overdrive Preamp 250 again. Putting the phaser first means the slightly odd dynamics are flattened out by the OD’s natural compression, giving a smoother sound; as with many phasers, the frequency extremes can be a bit painful if they’re added after the overdrive.
Both of these reissues deserve to pick up new fans as well as cheering up some old ones. The Phasor might not hit the spot for everyone but it makes some bold and distinctively woozy noises, while the 250 is a straightforward yet surprisingly versatile overdrive whose appeal goes way beyond nostalgia.