Danelectro’s design philosophy has always been about breaking with the contemporary by connecting with the classic. In both form and function, their gear always draws inspiration from the past yet does so in a way that is entirely new. My own pedal passion (obsession?) began with a Danelectro stompbox, so these little effects always catch my eye and ear.
The catalog of Danelectro effect pedals is both deep and diverse and includes both modern classics and a few flops. To honor the scope of that tradition, here’s my entirely subjective top three Danelectro pedals from the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The Danelectro Dan-Echo Digital Delay
Let’s face it, it’s a bold move to come out with a line of pedals that look like the back of an late 1950s Impala with period correct paint to match. It’s especially bold when you consider this design decision was made in the 1990s when most of the customer base was donning dingy Doc Martens and grimy flannel shirts. But that’s exactly what the Danelectro Original series did. While not all items in the lineup were smash successes, one pedal stood out then and remains a classic now.
The Dan-Echo is a digital take on a vintage tube delay. The pedal has a luxurious vintage warmth to it, but you might have guessed that from its baby blue edifice complete with a chrome hood ornament. Esthetics aside, the Dan Echo is brilliantly simple to use, with a secret or two up its sleeve. My personal favorite, the midship “hi-lo” switch, which carves off some EQ and tone on the repeats.
The Danelectro Spring King
At a time when most companies had not only ditched analog and nearly forgotten about physical effects, Danelectro did what Danelectro does: they went back to the beginnings of classic effects. We all know that spring reverbs sound brilliant but can be a bear to keep in shape, and that’s when they’re housed in an amp, no less. Born just after the year 2000, the Spring King is a legit, full on spring reverb in pedal form.
The crew at Danelectro knew that part of the magic of a spring reverb is the inadvertent pangs made from either physical bumps or sonic interference. To make this somewhat controllable, the pedal includes a “kick pad,” which is pretty much a rubber oval on the front of the pedal you can pound with the sole of your shoe to get that inspirational warble and growl in your cavernous sound.
The Danelectro Sitar Swami
Some would call this a near miss, others would consider that too generous a description. This pedal is arguably the least successful of the Hippie lineup of pedals aimed at recapturing the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s.
As the name suggests, the pedal aims at emulating all the sitar string sounds you’d need for a love in. With a “mix” knob controlling how much of the effect to blend in, you decide just how much Swami you can handle. Conjuring the complex and rich sound of a sitar out any pedal would be a feat; the Swami gets in the ballpark, but the sound is closer to a mix of phase and octave than eastern charm. Be that as it may, the pedal has a sound all its own and is almost mythical on the used market.
While all three of these throwbacks were retired from the Danelectro catalogue, they’re part of the company’s ongoing heritage of pushing the bounds of the contemporary by leaning on the classics.