Hey everyone, Brian from World Music Supply here again to deliver your usual dose of guitar and gear reviews. In today’s blog I get to take a look at some neat pedals from our friends over at Danelectro. Danelectro is probably most well known by guitar enthusiasts for their lipstick pickup equipped instruments from the 60’s and 70’s, with their masonite bodies, and their cases with the cool little built in amp. My generation however probably knows them most for their cool little FAB pedals from the early 2000’s which sold for next to nothing and didn’t sound half bad to boot.
Today I’m going to cover some of their more retro styled effects, which includes their Spring King Reverb, the Reel Echo Delay, and the Free Speech Talk Box. So lets kick things off with the Spring King Reverb, which is the only real spring reverb I’ve ever seen packaged as a guitar pedal. Inside the Spring King are three actual springs, inside of a real reverb tank, and a short slap back delay circuit that is designed to help boost the depth and realism of the three springs.
The resulting tone is perfect for that 60’s surf rock sound, with the cool smooth swampy tone that has made spring reverb such an endearing effect over the years. You do have to have some knowledge about how to use this pedal or else you can run into some problems, first and foremost, is this is a spring reverb, and it can vibrate sympathetically at times, so make sure you keep some room between it and the amplifier. Second off is, you have to place this correctly in your chain, or have to deal with terrible sounding clatter, for example, if you are the type of guitarist who just runs all of their effects into the front end of their amp, and then uses their amp for distortion, you will hate this pedal. This pedal acts like a typical reverb, meaning that you probably will have to place it in the effects loop of your amp, or make sure you place your distortion pedals before the Spring King.
However, when used correctly, this is one powerful piece of equipment, and the verb it creates easily bests any emulation I’ve ever heard from a pedal, because you just can’t recreate that organic sound of a real spring reverb. For the vintage vibe, and tone that you get from this pedal, the Spring King earns itself a deserved 9 out of 10, only because a real spring reverb might be a little finicky for some guitarists.
Next up is the Reel Echo which is designed to emulate the sound of a real vintage tape echo like an echoplex or a Roland Space echo. As a guitarist who has actually gotten to play with a real tape machine before, I can attest that the tone and saturation of the tape adds a very warm edge to their sound. Granted the unit I got to play belonged to my old highschool, and it looked like someone had made it out of spare boom box parts, the sound was still there. The only problem was, that the tape had a tendency to snap, corrode, or start warbling uncontrollably. I know that even top of the line machines had this problem, as I’ve gotten to talk to plenty of guitarists who had gone as far as to tour with tape delays in their rigs, and had to hear the horror stories ranging from the tape warbling so bad that they sounded out of tune, all the way to once when one of these machines motors seized up, and the unit itself caught fire half way through a song.
As you can tell, its no wonder that when the Bucket Brigade circuit came out, and delays suddenly were transistor based rather than tape based, that almost every guitarist swapped out their giant tape machines, for a tiny stomp box. However, over the years the want for the smooth tone of tape has never wavered, but the problem of finding tape for these old machines, to the fact that these machines break down consistently, has kept many guitarists from finding the tone they crave. Enter the Reel Echo, which is as close as you really can get to the sound of a reel to reel echo machine.
The controls are simple and intuitive allowing you many of the same controls and features you would find on a real tape machine, there is of course mix and repeat, which function like a typical delay pedal, but there is also the lo-fi knob which allows you to adjust how much high end is filtered out with each repeat, as well as switches that allow you to mimic the sound of either tube or solid state delay, and whether the simulated tape creates that signature wow and flutter. This effect is really accurate sounding, with all of the same warm response I could expect, and the slider that you use to adjust the rate of the delay is pretty cool to use too. The sound on sound feature took some getting used to, but after you know how to use it, its easy to figure out when and how to use it.
Overall the Reel Echo is a great solution for guitarists who are looking for a sound that not many other pedals can satisfy, and despite a few draw backs, like the sheer size of this pedal, and the fact that changing the rate doesnt cause it to pitch shift, this pedal is still an amazing sounding effect, loaded to the brim with vintage vibe, and its because of these reasons, that the Reel Echo gets a solid 8 out of 10.
Last up on today’s list is the Free Speech talk box, which is a really cool little pedal, although it definitely takes some getting used to. I’ve only used a talk box once before this review, and was really confused how it worked, first off, it needed an entirely seperate amplifier to function, and even then, the sound was rather quiet and it was difficult to make it work the way I wanted it to. The Free Speech tries to fix a lot of the problems that I had with talk boxes, and it does a pretty good job of that.
First and foremost it needs to be mentioned that this pedal does come with a tiny set of microphones that clip onto the tube, the problem with microphones like this, is they tend to feedback at anything more than bedroom volume, meaning they are great for studio work, but not so much when it comes to the stage. For my test, I decided instead to use a proper microphone, and use an A/B box to split the line and run the pedal direct into a P.A. This set up worked amazingly, and the problem with feeding back dropped substantially, its also important to note that you typically have to turn down the “growl” knob which acts like a built in Fuzz circuit, as having this running in conjunction with another distortion pedal, or running into a distorted amp is just looking for trouble.
After you get used to how the pedal works, its easy to get everything from “living on a prayer” style wah noises, Frampton style singing guitar, to even weird ELO robot talking sounds. Sure the effect sounds rather gimmicky, but that’s what it’s designed to do. The power that this pedal contains is amazing, and though it takes a good deal of getting used to, it really is worth it once you have the hang of it. For it’s ability to reproduce an effect that once cost many guitarists an arm and a leg, the Free Speech talk box earns itself a 10 out of 10, because really, who doesn’t want to be able to make their guitar sing?