Danelectro has always been something of a cult favorite among musicians, a company responsible for dreaming up loads of good sounding, inexpensive gear with a distinct fifties flair. Musicians not afraid to step outside of the rarified boutique world have discovered a range of cool, usable tones from boxes named after diner dishes like French Toast and Chicken Salad. For the rest, the combination of cute model names and an abundance of cheap plastic parts left the impression of Danelectro as a strictly budget-minded product. Fortunately for fans of the company’s distinctive style, the latest line of miniaturized effects pedals, dubbed the Cool Cat series, have set out to redefine that image – without raising the price tag. Perhaps one of the most exciting things about the Cool Cat series is the physical upgrade. Danelectro has stepped up to the plate with new, heavy duty metal cases and jacks, and I’m proud to say their effects have never felt sturdier. Every pedal is true bypass, and a quick look inside confirms it – even the guts look well planned and executed, something that cannot be said for all price point effects. The footswitch, while not a Switchcraft, feels solid and clicks with the same tactile satisfaction as one. The only physical point of worry I would have would be the battery compartment, located on the underside of the pedal. The battery latch seems to be made of a fairly flexible plastic that might not survive the long haul, but considering it exists in its own world underneath the rest of the pedal, it shouldn’t be too big of a concern (if you’re truly paranoid, you could always just plug in a 9V adapter). Unfortunately, there remain a few design decisions that don’t seem completely thought through. The knobs sit on the front face of the pedal, with their descriptions printed on top of the box; if you imagine the knobs on Roger Mayer’s famous rocket enclosures, you’ll have the right idea. And while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in its own right, the knobs are partially covered by what can only be described as a little ledge extending off the top of the enclosure. While this is likely in place to prevent accidentally tweaking the settings, it inadvertently makes purposely turning the knobs more of a hassle than it ever should be. It’s near impossible to set your knobs precisely unless you’re looking directly at the front face, and forget about trying to make adjustments with your foot. A handful of the pedals including the transparent overdrive and the chorus also include stacked knobs, making the task even harder; the manual acknowledges adjusting these can be “tricky,” but that seems akin to saying that a Dumble sounds “good.”

Download Example 1
Fuzz at 3:00, Volume at 1:00, Tone at noon

All clips recorded with Tele Deluxe with SD Fat Cat humbuckers and Volume and Tone knobs on full. Recorded with a modified Epiphone Valve Junior Stack (Volume set at 5) featuring an Eminence Red Coat 12”, through a Shure SM57 and into a ProSonus Audiobox interface. Guitar by Randall Davis.

Cool Cat Fuzz
My adventure with the entire Cool Cat series actually began with the Fuzz and a recommendation. In the midst of a brief but deep vintage fuzz phase, I found myself jonsing for the buzz saw intensity of a Foxx Tone Machine, albeit at a little more reasonable price. PG’s own Dirk Wacker recommended the Cool Cat Fuzz, and my search ended almost as soon as it began. As soon as I plugged in the Cool Cat Fuzz and cranked everything to 11 (including the Volume, Tone and Fuzz controls crossing the front face of the unit), I heard that same psychedelic grind, that electric wire, hive of bees sound that I heard in vintage and reissue units, all for a fraction of the price. Now, I should clarify before I receive a mailbox full of angry letters from boutique purists that the Cool Cat Fuzz is not the same as a Foxx, even if they do both conjure animals in their names. The Cool Cat isn’t powered by germanium, nor does it feature any sort of Octave/Sustain switch, like its ancestor the French Toast did. But the Cool Cat Fuzz does have a lot of power hidden underneath its unassuming orange metal housing. There’s more than enough gain on tap for psychedelic fuzzheads and the Tone knob is versatile enough to move from dark, woolly sounds to cool transistor radio tones. Ratchet up the gain, turn the Tone back and you’ll even find yourself in Big Muff territory, even if it’s not an exact impression. Needless to say, at its craziest and loudest, there’s enough sustain to play a note and check back on it days later. Of course, as a relatively inexpensive, germanium-less fuzz, something’s gotta give, and that shows up in some of the softer moments. Turning the Volume on the Fuzz down resulted in sounds that were muddy, and some of the pedal’s great touch sensitivity gets lost, too. But considering that the pedal doesn’t add a lot of noise to the signal, and that it actually cleans up nicely with the help of your guitar’s Volume, you’re still getting a lot of bang for the buck – a big hats off to Danelectro for doing their homework. The Cool Cat Fuzz is literally a no-brainer if you have even a passing interest in fuzz.
Buy if...
you have $39 dollars
Skip if...
you’re only looking to use your fuzz at wimpy levels
MSRP $39 -Danelectro- danelectro.com

Hit Page 2 for the Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive...