These days, mini versions of pedals are as common as their regular format counterparts. Sonically they’re pretty much the same and functionally they eat up less real estate on your pedal board. But in the modern history of guitar gear, zapping pedals with a shrink ray is a relatively recent innovation. One of the first major makers to think big by going small was Danelectro.
I’m forever a fan of all things Danelectro. There’s something about that all-American vintage visual appeal paired with throwback sounds that keeps me coming back. In the mid-1990s, Danelectro was channeling its historic sonic past not only with guitars and basses but with a popular line of pedals. These metal chassis stompboxes looked like the tail fins of a 1950s Chevy Impala and sounded every bit as cool. In their day, they were one of few pedal makers bold enough to think beyond a rectangular stompbox and took a sizeable bite out of the market.
With the success of this flagship line in place, around the turn of the millennium Danelectro had the idea of extending their effects line by shrinking it, literally. The small format Danelectro Mini Series was born. They looked like their ancestors only smaller and were built more economically with plastic enclosures. With a line that extended to a whopping twenty-two effects, Danelectro expanded their menu of effect offerings.
In fact, to tantalize players’ appetites, all the effects were named after food items you might find on a classic diner menu. At a price point that was unbeatable then, and still now on the used market, Danelectro brought mini pedals to the masses. To encourage players to orient their entire rig around the new line of effects, they even released a powered pedalboard-case that held up to five effects. Just flip it open, plug it in, and Dano away!
While the series saw a mixed reception, there are a number of effects on the menu that deserve honorable mention. So if you’re on the prowl for some economical effects that might add some modern-vintage sounds to your board, check out these top picks of overlooked favorites in the Danelectro Mini Series.
Fans of Univibe type sounds know this effect is tricky to nail in a small format. Yet the Danelectro DJ-15 Chicken Salad Vibrato does an admirable job for its size and functionality. Up top, you’ll find a set of knobs to control the intensity of the vibrato waves and speed to control the pace of their crashes.
Nothing pairs with Chicken salad like a pit of peanut butter and jelly. Well, not really, but in the case of the Danelectro Mini Series, it’s worth considering. The Danelectro DJ-17 PB & J Delay is a surprisingly solid digital delay for a mini pedal. With two footswitches for “long” and “short” delays, the pedal opens up even more functionality from the delay “speed” knob. Toss in controls for “mix” and “repeats” and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better digital delay for around $25 on the used market.
If one sandwich wasn’t enough, double down with the Danelectro DJ-10 Grilled Cheese. This processed-cheese orange pedal offers a no frills style of distortion. With controls for “volume” and “resonance” (i.e., distortion level), you only need to decide how grilled you want that cheese.
No dinner at the diner would be complete without a milkshake. The Danelectro DJ-7 Milkshake Chorus is another two-knob wonder that offers controls over the essential parameters of the effect. This time, its “speed” and “depth” that allow you to dial in the LFO wave generating your chorus sound.
Since there’s a fifth spot in that Dano mini board, to round things out have a look at the Danelectro DJ-4 Corned Beef Reverb. With a “hi-cut” control to dial in your tone and a “mix” knob to control the wet/dry blend, the Corned Beef offers up a quick take on an old school spring reverb.
While Danelectro has moved on from the Mini Series, their more recent releases of pedals didn’t come with full-sized price tags. So if you’re weighing spending your pocket change on either a guitar pedal or meal out at the diner, do the right thing. Cook at home and go Danelectro.