danelectro cool cat fuzz transparent overdrive vibe pedal review budget cheap effects

Danelectro Cool Cat pedals offer tone on a budget. We look at the Fuzz, Transparent Overdrive and Vibe.

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.

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